That’s actually a composite of questions that I get very, very often. Sometimes it applies to only specific applications; other times it applies to the entire machine.
The problem is, it’s a single silent symptom that can come from several sources.
So, let’s run down a bit of a checklist.
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Let’s start with what many people would consider the most obvious things. Probably about half the people I hear from find their answer in this first list.
Mute: Make sure sound isn’t muted in Windows. Click the speaker icon (found in the Taskbar) and make sure the Mute indication isn’t present. It actually should show in the sound icon as well, but sometimes, I’ve seen it get out of sync.
Connected: Are the speakers connected properly? Double check. An un-plugged speaker wire can, and often does, cause exactly this symptom.
Power: Do the speakers require power, and if so, are they plugged in/turned on, and is their volume turned up? This gets me every time I rearrange my desk, as the speakers I have get their power by being plugged into the monitor to which they are attached. I forget every time.
Next, we’ll look at factors controlled by software and Windows itself.
Volume: Check the volume control. Once again, just click that speaker icon in the Taskbar tray and make sure the output level is set to something above zero.
Mixer: Check the mixer. This is easily overlooked. Right-click the speaker icon and click on Open Volume Mixer. The master volume control manages the output of all possible sound sources at once. In the mixer, you’ll find several different sound sources that each have their own volume control.
Application Volume: Many applications will have their own volume control displayed here; for example VLC Media Player is included above. Check the application from which you expect to hear sound and make sure that its own volume control is set appropriately.
Output Device: Is the correct output device selected in Windows? Just as you can have multiple inputs, Windows also supports multiple outputs, as in multiple speakers or output devices. Right-click on the speaker icon and click on Sound Settings. Make sure that the correct one is selected.
Application Output: Is the correct output device selected in the application you’re trying to play? Much as Windows allows you to select the default output device for sound, many applications also allow you to select which device they’re going to use. If you’re using such an application, make sure the correct device is selected. (How and where you make this choice depends entirely on the application itself. Start with the applications options or settings interface.)
Drivers: Are the drivers up-to-date for the sound hardware? This is rare, but I include it for completeness. Sometimes the drivers are at fault. That can be repaired by updating or re-installing the drivers associated with your computer’s audio hardware.
Speaking of hardware, many people are quick to assume it’s a software problem when perhaps something more fundamental is wrong.
Cable condition: Is the cable to the speakers in good condition? I’ve had at least one person report back to me that the sound had stopped because her cat had chewed through the wires. Even if you don’t have pets, many audio cables used for inexpensive computer speakers are themselves fairly inexpensive and easy to damage.
Cable connection: Is the audio cable plugged in securely? And to the right place? Once again, I ran into this one after moving my computer. Not only was the connector not completely pushed in, but I tend to plug it into the wrong socket. Make sure yours is correct.
As you can see, there are many, many possibilities when your computer goes silent. Careful detective work with this checklist usually clears things up.