How to Fix It When Your Headphones Aren't Working on Windows 10

Get your PC and your headphones working together again

Windows 10 has known issues with sound, specifically with headphones. If you experience no sound through your headphones or your headphones aren't detected by Windows 10, there are several things you can try to get things working again.

Causes of Headphone Issues in Windows 10

The physical connections of the headphones commonly cause most sound issues with Windows 10 and headphones. Headphone jacks get dusty, pins get bent, and wires get frayed. The internal mechanics of some headphone devices, like mute buttons, can get knocked loose and cause problems.

Software and driver issues are another common cause, as with any computer peripheral. Outdated or buggy drivers, incompatibilities, and missing software can result in a similarly frustrating experience.

How to Fix Headphone Issues in Windows 10

Solving any headphone issue relies on understanding what the cause of the problem is. Once you determine whether it's a hardware or software problem, it shouldn't be long before you have working headphones again. These tips walk you through solutions from easiest to most difficult, so if you're not sure what's causing the problem just start and step 1 and move through the list.

  1. Check the audio jack. On the back of your laptop or desktop, look for the audio output port, often labeled with a headphone or speaker icon, and make sure the headphones are plugged in. You might also want to unplug and plug the headphones back in since it's possible the plug wasn't pushed in all the way. You'll feel it click when the plug is fully inserted.

    Most modern computers label the audio output in green.

  2. Check the external speakers. Some external speakers have a headphone jack built-in. The main difference is a separate power source. Many speakers require one. Make sure it's plugged in, and the speakers are on, as the speakers may not provide enough power for the headphones.

  3. Check the headphones. Some headphones come with an inline audio control that works independently of the Windows 10 sound controls. Make sure the volume is loud enough for you to hear it.

  4. Check the volume controls. In the lower-right corner of the screen, right-click the speaker icon, then select Open Volume Mixer. Adjust the slider for your headphones up to hear the sound better.

  5. Unmute the headphones. In the Windows volume controls, a red circle with a slash through it indicates something is muted. Select the speaker below the mixer volume to unmute the headphones.

  6. Set the output device. The headphones may not be your output device. Right-click the speaker icon in the lower-right corner of the desktop. Then, select Open Sound Settings. Select the Choose your output device drop-down menu, and choose your headphones, if not selected.

    If you have sound playing for a test, you'll see the volume levels move.

  7. Set the individual app volume. In the Windows sound settings, scroll down, and select app volume and device preferences. Here you can re-confirm what your output is set to and the volume.

    You can also control individual sound volumes for various apps that are running.

  8. Check the sound playback devices. Right-click the speaker/sound icon in the lower-right corner of the desktop, and select Sounds > Playback to see if your headphones are listed. If it doesn't have a green check mark next to it, Windows 10 may not detect it, and you may need to install new drivers.

  9. Check the Sounds device usage. In Sounds, right-click your headphones, select Properties, and set Device usage to Use this device (enable).

  10. Adjust the sound balance levels. In Sounds, select the Levels tab to verify the volume setting for your headphones. Select Balance to adjust the Balance levels.

  11. Disable sound enhancements. Some sound cards will not function if any of the enhancements are enabled. In Sounds, go to the Enhancements tab and select Disable all enhancements. Then, select Preview to test your headphones.

  12. Try Windows 10 Troubleshooter. To run the troubleshooter, follow these steps:

    1. From the desktop, right-click the speaker/sound mixer icon, then select Troubleshoot sound problems.
    2. If you have to select which device you want to troubleshoot, choose your headphones and select Next.
    3. If asked, select No, Do not open Audio Enhancements.
  13. Update the sound drivers. You can usually accomplish that from the Windows Device Manager. Sometimes, outdated drivers can become incompatible with an update to Windows, or you may be lacking a new feature required to play the audio properly.

  14. Download drivers from the manufacturer. If the Device Manager method didn't work, turn to the manufacturer of your headphones, sound card, or both. Ideally, update everything you can, including Windows, to ensure that everything is compatible and operating with the latest features and bug fixes.

    To install drivers from your sound card developer, go to their website and download the latest driver for Windows 10. Make sure you remember where you downloaded the files, as this will be important for installing the drivers later.

    If you select Let me pick from a list of available drivers on my computer, Windows reinstalls the current driver, which rarely fixes sound issues.

If your headphones still won't work, it might be time to invest in a new pair. We've tested quite a few to come up with our recommendations, so check them out!

  • What do I do if my Bluetooth headphones have a sound delay?

    Sound delays are most likely either a playback or a signal issue. If you're streaming something and the audio seems out of sync, try pausing and resuming the video. If that doesn't work, reload it. If it's a signal issue, move closer to the device your headphones are connected to and look out for other devices or obstructions that could cause interference to see if things improve. If not, disconnect and reconnect your headphones.

  • How do I get rid of static sounds in my headphones?

    If you're using a physical wired connection, check that your cables are firmly plugged in—or disconnect and reconnect them to see if the problem clears up. Make sure you're using the most up-to-date audio drivers, and check to see if the drivers you do have are corrupted (then replace them if so). The audio format itself could also be causing static, so try changing it if possible. Look around for local sources that could be creating static or interference and move away from them or turn them off.

  • Why am I hearing an echo in my headphones?

    It's most likely that your headphones have a microphone attached or built-in, and they're set as an input device. Open your PC's Control Panel and select Sound > Recording > Microphone > Listen. From there, turn off Listen to this device, then select Apply > OK to confirm.

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