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Why Don’t My Speakers Work?


After a recent round of updates, I noticed that I had no volume on my computer…including iTunes. I checked everything I could think of and didn’t come up with any problems on my system. I then used System Restore and the volume came back. The next day, Windows installed the updates again and the same thing happened. After using System Restore, all was well except that the updates had been deleted.

How do I get my sound and my updates?

Updates are one of several things that causes speakers to suddenly stop working and make your computer appears unable to produce a sound.

I’m not saying that this will solve every case, but it’s one of those things that a lot of people aren’t aware of and it can resolve the problem quickly with just a couple of clicks.

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Multiple audio outputs

The problem can arise when your computer has multiple output devices for sound.

For example, in some laptops, the headset jack is just a couple of wires connected to the internal speakers. In other computers, however, it’s a completely separate audio device that needs to be selected in software. This often happens automatically, so you’d never know the difference.

On many computers (more with the rise of video, other forms of display, and entertainment that we use our computers to view) hardware manufacturer’s have added multiple output options. For example, the PC that I use with my television has three such output options: speakers, HDMI, and optical.

The sounds of silence can happen when the wrong one is selected.

Selecting the right device

Right-click the speaker icon. This is typically located in the lower right area of the Windows taskbar:

Right clicked volume indicator

Then, click Playback devices:

Windows playback devices

You may have more than one. The entry with the green checkmark is the playback device that your system is using by default when programs play sound.

To set the default, right-click the one that you want to have used:

Setting default audio

If the device is not the default audio device, a “Set Default” menu item will be included. Click that. The example right-click menu above doesn’t include that as the device is already the default.

In most cases, within a second or so (as sound buffers are emptied), your audio will begin playing out of the selected device. In rare cases, you may need to stop and restart whichever application was attempting to play audio before the switch will take.


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Posted: October 18, 2013 in: Audio and related devices
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95 comments on “Why Don’t My Speakers Work?”

  1. Yep, this exact thing happened to my laptop after the updates. I am happy to report, I did figure it out myself. In a round about way…I could have used your tip here a few days ago. But it is fixed. (Ok, I used the trouble shooter….) It took a while.

  2. At times, for no apparent reason, my sound disappears. In the control panel, I find that my “sounds and audio devices” are muted. When I remove the “mute” checkmark, my sound returns.
    My system is Windows XP SP3.
    I would love to get this problem fixed.
    Thanks, Bill

    • Bill,
      That sounds like an accidental mouse swipe. You’d be surprised how often that can happen. Kind of watch for that while you are working and see if you can’t identify the movement that’s doing it.

      • I have a new keyboard that has a mute key right under the suppr key, which I often accidentally hit until I got used to it being there!

  3. Sometimes the playback or recording devices disappear from the check box list and you have to right click in the device box and check”Show disabled devices” and click “Show disconnected devices”. Once you are able to see them, then you can enable them.

  4. Leo, I have found this to be true (sound issues); thanks for your column, I find it useful and usable, to the point w/o lots of wasted info.

  5. CNN was playing on the television as I read the header to this article “Journalism is broken, speakers may not be…” and I thought you were writing about people, specifically the journalist who was on my television screen, mangling my beloved native language. I often think of you when I hear native English speakers, especially those who are being paid to speak, not quite giving their employers full value for payment received. It is probably true that journalism is broken, but I will tolerate the speakers, because between you and I, nobody’s perfect.

  6. My problem also, xpl pro. My sound quit, but looking it says no device installed, so finally deleted the driver, then back to add hardware, clicked on the sound device, and let it install new driver. Worked every time. Its done it 4 times in the last month, right after Microsoft has upgraded something.

  7. Same thing happened to me several weeks ago and I knew what to check but still no sound.I have Windows Vista 32-bit and use Realtek High Def Audio which you need to check for updates. Updated the audio driver and and sound was restored just as JR Maxwell stated.

  8. A somewhat similar thing has been happening to me for quite awhile. One of the screen readers I use is System Access to Go manufactured by Serotek. For whatever reason many of us users were experiencing speech crashes. The odd thing was though that the sounds still worked, including those from System Access itself. However, the problem has since been resolved. I’m still experiencing the occasional speech crash with that screen reader and at times Non-Visual Desktop Access which is my other screen reader of choice. It seems as though these may have something to do with my Windows Vista machine itself. I have a separate question about that which I’ll post elsewhere on your site. I will of course do a search first though.

  9. I have a 2 yr. old Altec Lansing 2 tweeter & 1 plugin woofer which has been giving me great sound until the rt. tweeter just stopped days ago. It still sounds OK but I have lost the stereo effect. Probably just a broken rt. speaker, no?

  10. I have a strange problem. I have speakers and headphones. Some games reproduce sound for a few moments when I start them in speakers and then disappear from speakers mixer, like they are closed, and stop making sound. But when I connect the headphones they work properly. What is wrong??

  11. my problem is identical to Victoria’s . In all settings pages message “device is working normally” – but “it ain’t” !

  12. I have a problem with my speakers.I am using Asus windows 8.My speakers stop working when my system goes to sleep or shut down.It starts working if I restart it but again all the settings seem OK. I am facing this problem from past few days. I couldn’t figure out the problem. Suprisingly, after restarting it sometimes I find my speakers muted.

    • Sleep is often problematic. When it works, it’s great. I use it all the time. But some machines just don’t seem to handle it correctly. I’m assuming the variety of combinations of hardware out there makes it hard for Windows to get it right on all machines.

  13. My Realtek HD Audio Stopped Working. I Downloaded drivers and installed. No Results. I Downloaded from Realtek the program and drivers and installed, still not working. When I right click on the speaker icon, then playback device, it says “No audio devices are installed”.
    Can you help?

  14. Awesome! thanks for the troubleshooting steps. The speakers were disabled in Playback devices & were not showing. Your post helped… Sai.

  15. Really am having a problem, system restored my windows xp, its old, but still does a job. Well, after that, had no sound and the icon disappeared on the desktop, also did a couple of things tried to move the audio buttons no go. don’t know what to do next?!

  16. Thanks Leo! I clicked the icon in my taskbar and sure enough, my speakers were muted. Not sure how that happened but you helped me fix the problem! Cheers!!!

  17. I have read the above….but i am pretty computer illiterate. My sound hasn’t been working on my laptop for months. Sometimes on someones facebook post it will work and it surprises me. I can’t figure out why it works on some and don’t on most of the rest. Its not just muted or turned off. It says speakers and headphones 100%. It says drivers are up to date, but there is a site that that says i need 22 drivers, but i have to pay 29.00 a year.
    Do you have any suggestions for me? I need step by step.

  18. Trying now to download Realtec High Definition audio codec to my Windows 7 Taking forever and i have no idea what im doing. My computer will not back up, so i’m afraid to do recovery. It has had an error in backing up for about a year and i couldnt get time to figure it out. Do i need to turn the updates off once i ever get sound back??? Help Someone!!!

  19. It may be as simple as resetting your computer’s Browser. If you happen to have Windows XP, or even something else, try this:
    Start–Control Panel–Network & Internet Settings–Internet Options–Advanced(This is usually a tab)–Reset Internet Exployers Settings–Reset
    This may be all there is to it. I have had to do this a couple of times. This will also fix your email at times if it acts sluggishly.

    • My speakers keep turning off too. I have an Acer laptop. The options are a little different. After getting into Network and Internet, then I have to go to Wi-Fi, and there is no “advance”. So, therefore I have no reset for internet explorers options. Can anyone help me?

  20. I believe I may have deleted something that is now causing my speakers to not work. I have windows 8.1. I would really appreciate your help. I have tried doing what some of these articles says but because I have windows 8.1 I cannot use them. Thanks, Jojo

  21. I accidently deleted the sound driver (I think that is what its called) for the HDMI the one with the T.V. and now I don’t have sound playing through the T.V. only the computer and the head phone jack. Is there anything I can do? Is there a driver I can get to fix it? I have an HP Pavilion touchsmart 15 Sleekbook. Thank you for your time.

  22. I am having a strange problem with my speakers,if you look at the screen shot example “sound” above it shows the speaker connected with a green tick,which means the computer recognize the speaker,now for me you will see the green tick and it will play then it goes grey and it will stop playing if you troubleshoot sound, it tells you the speakers are not connected which of course it is, and this will go, on and off,on and off .What can be the problem?I know it is not the jack which is the problem could it be a contact in side the sound card, or the sound card itself, or can it be a software problem with Adobe Flash Player.

  23. wiped off my HP windows 7 laptop now no sound comes from it
    checked mute button on key board, no on or off light is shining (usually is) on speaker keyboard sound key, pushed it several times, still no sound
    checked volume buttons, pushed keys for louder and softer and no change
    speaker icon on task bar has red x
    right clicked icon and did trouble shoot…message is “peripheral does not appear to be plugged in. Check the connection. Proceed to next step to finish.” Reads “speaker, headset or headphone is unplugged.” NOT FIXED with red X
    so I took a set of new speakers which works fine on every other laptop in house and redid trouble shoot with these plugged in, tried all 3 ports. speakers have the brief hum as I plug them in but no change in sound of laptop.
    right clicked icon and opened SOUND window. only one device is listed… “Speakers. blue tooth hands-free audio disconnected”
    clicked SOUND tab and windows start up window music is enabled
    clicked COMMUNICATING tab, “do nothing” box checked

    virus protection has been done several times since this happened
    okay, now what do I do?

  24. I’ve done every one of these. nothing works. My computer says device is working properly. but it come up as disconnected. I believe it’s the result of an update, however it’s not in the list of updates to remove. I have windows 7 on an Acer laptop. Thanks for any help.

  25. i have read all of this but nothing seems to help… my sound is not muted, drivers are up to date and the troubleshooter detects nothing! when i try to play audio the computer says that audio is playing but i cant hear anything PLEASE HELP!

  26. i am not getting sound from my laptop speakers but while i attach my headphones i m getting sound.. …what could be the problem

  27. I Install Windows 8 after that speaker doesn’t work but hands free work, I forgot which sound driver install before, what can I do my laptop speakers work done very well. I think remember just one word driver name Ricoh, how I can install again where is that actual location of that driver

  28. Can someone help me? Up until yesterday my laptop was playing sounds wonderfully. Music, movies, and Skype chats with my brother stationed overseas. Then my Fiance did a lot of updates which my laptop badly needed and now no sound from my laptop. I did what it said here, but it didn’t work. The laptop isn’t detecting any problems with the speakers. The laptop is saying that sound is coming out but I can’t hear anything.

  29. I fixed the speaker problem with my vintage Altec Lansing Subwoofer speaker system that was purchased in 1999. It stopped working years ago when so updated Windows. Recently, I took it out of storage. I fixed it. Go to Device Manager. Find the audio, games and consoles. Then ignore that the device works properly. Look on top and select the second tab for Device. Then ignore that it is updated. Go to horizontal tab on top to update. I tried a few times but when I updated the driver through Windows it worked. Windows which will search to update the drivers. Wait. Then Windows will direct you to restart for speakers to work. Ignore more messages. Restart. After I did these steps to search for updates driver’s, then I restarted, the sound came on like it was new. The old Altec Lansing subwoofer works just fine.

  30. Leo, I have a Gateway Computer FX 6831 with ATI Radeon 5850 with windows 7 sp 1 and have updated all drivers and programs. Just 2 days ago I purchased LogiTek C270 webcam for my daughter who is needs it for school. I loaded it and my computer went on the blink – NO SOUND. I literally spent many hours redoing and unloading and updating. I removed the logitek and returned it. I also checked the computer on the inside and dusted. I have an X on sound bottom right and it says NO AUDIO OR HEADSETS ARE PLUGGED IN. I’ve been reading up on what to do next. I also checked Windows Audio and it was STOP So I checked the dependency files and it’s okay and rebooted, unplugged, etc. But the X and NO Audio is still a problem. What are your recommendations? I don’t want to go back to a previous time with a backup. The computer runs faster since I spent many hours and actually purchased a cheap Logitec speakers thinking it was my speakers. Will putting another sound card work?

  31. Have a brand new Dell state of art window 7 CPU. Bought a new AUSUS on board sound moniter and have HDMI hookup. Sound is so low it is virtually useless
    This is the SECOND NEW ASUS moniter that has failed to perform. Am I missing something? Also have made the default mode HDMI Video is fine – the sound is total useless crap!


  32. My speakers worked untill today when it says that no device is installed,red X on the speaker in the right bottom corner,speakers plugged into pc and they seem to turn on but you can’t hear anything. :((

  33. Just bought the Altec Jacket H20 Bluetooth speaker. Pairs perfectly with my iPhone, but I can’t find a driver for my Lenova ThinkPad with Windows 7. It pairs, but says there is no device driver. Altec’s website doesn’t have any drivers (weird) unless they’re stealth. I’m losing my mind!!! Thanks for any help.

  34. Leo I purchased an HP Monitor about 2 years ago, and I have always had a problem with high volume. We have a laptop that just blows this desk top away. How do you know when you purchase a monitor that your getting a good speaker(s)? I’d like to know for the next time I buy one…Thanks, Bud

    • Generally speaking speakers built into monitors aren’t that good to begin with. But if it’s a problem of just being too loud … can’t you just turn down the playback volume in Windows or the app you’re playing?

  35. My computer (Toshiba Satellite) is unexpectedly losing sound from time to time and the troubleshooting does not identify any problem. It is only when I restart it when it gets the sound back.

    • This may not work for you but it recently worked for me when I couldn’t get any sound. I uninstalled my sound driver under Devices in the Control Panel. Windows located and installed the correct drivers and it worked perfectly. If that doesn’t work, you should be able to get the appropriate driver from the Toshiba Website.

  36. my computer has lost sound but this morning it worked but when i went on it lost its power of producing sound and i have looked at your answers to the problem done everything and still i have no sound. i don’t know what to do!!!!!

  37. im using hp envy protect smart windows 8.1 and i cant hear any sound when i connect an external speaker when i play a music i can see the the sound bars moving but i cant hear anything when i troubleshoot it. it says the device is not connected.
    please help.

  38. Thank you! Microsoft’s website didn’t even have this information. At least, not that I could find. I can finally listen to music again. Yay!

  39. I did this and had the green tick on my speakers but on the right with lines they are white whereas your lines were green? I am still getting no volume 🙁

  40. My High Definition Audio Device Speakers have a white check with a green circle
    but don’t have a blue bar on the side like your showing in the playback and I do have
    the white x an a red circle on my volume icon.

  41. You’re a life saver, I had disabled the devices awhile back and panicked when it didn’t work at all and disappeared today. Thank you for posting this. Such a simple solution too~.

  42. My computer monitor looks like have speakers built in. I do not have sound. something wrong with the computer or this are not speakers at all?

  43. Windows Media Player was not closed properly. A damaged or incompatible plug-in might have caused the problem to . occur. As a precaution, all optional plug-ins have been disabled. Guess how long it took me to FIND that notice? I’d like to do some disabling myself. I’m on Windows 10.

  44. I have problem with the playing sound in my laptop,while I move laptop and handling near the headset jack it sounds like disconnected automatically from the headset jack and sounds comes out. It causes all the time.

  45. I often have a problem where my bluetooth speakers disconnect, and there is nothing I can do to reconnect them except reboot. They show as “connected” in Settings > Bluetooth, but the “pairing” light on them constantly flashes (it’s supposed to go out when paired and connected. Playback Devices indicates that they are disconnected, and right clicking and hitting Connect does nothing. I’ve tried removing pair and re-pairing, turning Bluetooth off and on, updating drivers, uninstalling and reinstalling the speakers … literally none of this works. But once I reboot, the speakers re-connect as normal and work fine … until the next time this happens. It’s driving me spare. Any ideas?

    • Very often the simplest solution works. I could be that the individual application has its own volume button or lever. That would be the first thing to look for. Another place to look would be in the settings of the applications that are not picking up the headset. Certain ones (Garageband as an example) have settings for input and output devices that will need to be set individually.

  46. I had had an update, which caused me to lose my speakers. The problem was repaired precisely as described by Leo! Thank you.

  47. After putting our dell laptop in for repair of a charging port the sound has no output. I’ve checked and the computer thinks sound is coming from the speakers but nothing is coming out. I have checked the obvious and reinstalled the audio device but not solved yet. Could the speakers have been damaged during the repair or even disconnected??

  48. I still need to know why I have no sound after all the information given and actually hearing my speakers work. What should I do? Then they didn’t work at all!


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