How to Fix It When Windows 11 Is Not Detecting Headphones

Troubleshoot why Windows can't find your headphones

Having trouble getting your headphones to work with your Windows 11 PC, laptop, or tablet? This guide will break down all of the more common causes of Windows 11 headphone bugs while also offering a large number of proven solutions and fixes to help you get your headphones registered, connected, and playing audio properly.

Why Is My PC Not Detecting My Headphones?

Headphones not being detected by a PC running Windows 11 can be the result of a number of factors ranging from Bluetooth conflicts and operating system glitches to the incorrect settings being selected and even physical damage to the headphones themselves.

Out-of-date drivers and firmware are also common causes of headphones not registering properly in Windows 11.

How Do I Fix Windows Not Detecting My Headphones?

In most cases, Windows 11 headphone issues can be resolved relatively quickly by working through the following checks and fixes in order from simplest to more complex. Here’s what you need to do to get your headphones working with your PC again.

  1. Check your volume settings. Use the physical volume buttons on your Windows 11 device, the volume keys on the keyboard, or the volume controls in the taskbar to increase the volume. You may have had the sound muted without even realizing it.

  2. Turn on your headphones. It’s surprisingly easy to forget that many modern headphones have their own built-in power button or switch that needs to be switched on before the device can connect to your Windows PC.

  3. Turn off other speakers, headphones, and earphones. Windows 11 might have trouble connecting to multiple audio devices at the same time so try disconnecting any other audio hardware that you have connected whether they’re plugged in via USB or connected with Bluetooth.

  4. Inspect the headphones' cable. While wearing your headphones and having them plugged into your computer with sound playing, gently run your fingers from one end of the cable to the other, straightening out any bends. If you hear sudden static or bursts of sound, this means the cable is damaged. If possible, try using another cable for the connection.

  5. Use Airplane mode to turn off other connected devices. Your headphones may actually be connected to your smartphone, tablet, smart TV, or gaming console. Turn them off or temporarily disable their wireless settings or activate Airplane mode. 

  6. Close and re-open the app. Keep your headphones connected to your PC, close the audio app, and then re-open it again. Sometimes Windows apps only detect audio devices like headphones when they’re opened, not while they’re already running.

  7. Check the in-app audio controls. Media players and web browsers may have their own settings and controls that affect audio output.

    If you have AirPods or other earphones that turn on automatically, they may be connecting to your Windows 11 Surface, laptop, or PC. Always store them in their charging case so they don’t activate by accident.

  8. Use the Windows 11 volume mixer. Open Settings > System > Sound > Volume mixer and select your headphones from the Output device dropdown menu.

  9. Charge your headphones. If you’re trying to use Bluetooth or other wireless headphones but aren’t getting any sound from them, try charging their battery. They might have no power.

  10. Try a different USB port. If connecting your headphones via USB, try plugging them into another USB port on your Windows 11 laptop or computer.

  11. Disconnect other USB devices. It’s possible that your Windows 11 device doesn’t have enough power to run all of your various USB accessories.

  12. Restart Windows 11. A quick restart may fix your problem.

  13. Update Windows 11. A Windows operating system update can fix a variety of tech issues and also improve performance.

  14. Update your Windows apps. Open the Microsoft Store and check for app updates. Your Windows 11 apps may be causing conflicts with each other.

  15. Remove the headphones and then re-add them. If using Bluetooth headphones, open the Windows 11 Settings app and remove them from the list of Bluetooth devices. Then re-add them.

  16. Update the headphone’s firmware and drivers. Some headphones with advanced features such as noise-cancelling require firmware updates that need to be downloaded and installed either via the manufacturer’s website or an app.

    The update website for Bose headphones is notoriously buggy on Windows devices. It’s best to avoid this and use the smartphone app to install updates instead.

  17. Run a troubleshooter. Open Settings > System > Troubleshoot > Other trouble-shooters and run the Playing Audio and Recording Audio troubleshooters. These will scan your PC for audio-related issues and correct them.

  18. Update your Windows drivers. Check to see if there are any updates available for drivers relating to your headphones or audio devices.

  19. Check your headphones with another device. See if your headphones work with another computer or a tablet or smartphone. If they don’t work with anything else, they may be broken or damaged and in need of either repairing or replacement.

Why Are My Headphones Not Registering?

Basic wired headphones usually just have to be plugged into a Windows 11 PC to work but registering wireless Bluetooth headphones often requires several additional steps and checks.

Things can become even more complicated when using more premium wireless Bluetooth headphones. When setting these headphones up in Windows 11, it’s well worth going through the specific manufacturer's instructions (which can involve more complex steps than other brands).

  • Why is Windows 10 not detecting my headphones?

    If your headphones aren't working in Windows 10, check the audio jack and make sure there's a clean connection. Make sure the external speakers are plugged in and turned on, and check and adjust your headphone volume controls. Make sure your headphones aren't muted and that you've set the correct output device. There may also be an issue with an individual app's volume or your sound balance levels.

  • What is Windows Sonic for Headphones?

    Windows Sonic is a spatial sound element added to Windows 10 that gives the effect of multiple speakers scattered around the room when you're wearing your headphones. It's a way for users to have a surround-sound experience without additional hardware and expense.

  • How do I connect Bluetooth headphones to a Windows 10 PC?

    To connect Bluetooth headphones to a Windows 10 PC, make sure your computer has Bluetooth, then make sure your headphones are in Discovery Mode. On your computer, press the WIN+i key to open Settings and then go to Bluetooth and other devices and choose Add Bluetooth or other devices. Follow the prompts to complete the pairing process.

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