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Why My Speakers Or Headphones Won’t Work

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Why My Speakers Or Headphones Won’t Work


I’ve read a cry for help on several sites relating to the problem of PC sound systems not functioning correctly if at all. The problem seems be universal and relates to both internal and external speaker and headphones. All I can say is, "how many times have I had a similar problem", the answer of course being, many times.

So to help answer this problem I’ve written this article which gives my most common solutions. If you have any suggestions, please post your method at the end of the article and don’t forget to leave your name and website address so I can link back to you.

I have a Windows XP based system, so this is the standpoint from which I will be writing this sound troubleshooting article.

5.1 Home Cinema Surround Speaker System

Typical 5.1 Home Cinema Surround Speaker System Arrangement.


Potential Causes

There are many potential reasons for your computers speakers or headphones not to work, the following are just a few of the many:

  • Speakers are not connected properly.
  • No power to the speakers.
  • Volume on speakers turned down.
  • Volume on sound card turned down.
  • Sound card does not work.
  • Bad hardware such as cables, plugs, sockets, etc.

We’ll cover these and many other aspects in our journey.


Make Sure Your Speakers Are Plugged in

This may seem a little too obvious to be a problem but it’s very easy on some systems to either not plug the speaker jack into its socket correctly or plug the speaker jack into the microphone socket. The speaker socket and microphone sockets are usually placed side by side. Make sure that all connections to all speakers are fully seated. Usually, the plugs click twice before they seat fully.

Make Sure Your Speakers Are Turned On

If you have external, powered speakers, make sue you have power to the speakers and that both the power supply and speakers are turned on. This is another silly but easily overlooked problem, especially if you have speakers like mine which do not have a power LED indicator.

Check Your Speakers Are Working

If possible plug your speaker into another source such as another computer, radio, TV, CD player, etc. If the speakers don’t work you probably have a problem with the speakers themselves.

Check Windows Audio Service

The Windows Audio service manager controls audio devices for all your programs. If this service is stopped all audio devices and effects will cease to function. If this service is disabled, any services that explicitly depend on it will fail to start.

Start > Settings > Control Panel
> Administrative Tools > Component Services
> Services (local) > Extended > Windows Audio

  • To change the setting, right click on the item, select "Properties" and set "Startup type" to Automatic.
  • To start the service right click on the service and select "Start".

Do the same for, "Windows Media …"

Sound and Audio Device Properties

Check Sounds and Audio Devices Properties

With the Sounds and Audio Devices Properties window open, select the "Volume" tab and ensure the "Mute" checkbox is unchecked and the Device volume is High.

Start > Settings > Control Panel
> Sounds and Audio Device Properties
> Volume

Sound audio device properties

Whilst you’re here do the following as well:

  • Select the "Sounds" tab and set the default sound scheme.
  • Select the "Audio" tab and set the default devices.
  • Select the "Voice" tab and set the default devices.

Adjust Your Volume to An Audible Level

Is the volume level set too low to hear? If you have volume controls on the speakers make sure they are turned up. To check the computers volume settings open the volume control and ensure Mute all is not selected.

Start > Settings > Control Panel
> Sounds and Audio Device Properties
> Volume

Click the "Advanced" button and adjust the volume and balance controls to the preferred levels. If you cannot see the, Master Volume, Wave, Front, Rear, etc. controls open the audio properties window and select the controls you require.

Master Volume > Options > Properties > Mixer Device

To see the controls you may need to switch, Advanced Controls on.

Master Volume > Options > Advanced Controls

Note: If you are just having problems with the front or rear sockets this is where your problems could lie. The outputs may be muted.

Master volume controls

Hardware And/Or Software Compatibility

If the problem started after you added hardware of software to your computer, remove the hardware or software and restart your computer. If the problem disappears you will need to investigate the compatibility problem with the hardware and/or software. If you still have the problem, try using the System Restore feature to return the computer back to a time before the issue began.

Check the Sound Device Drivers

Make sure you have the most recent sound drivers for your computer.

Open the device manager window,

Start > Settings > Control Panel
> System > Hardware > Device Manager,

and expand the "Sound, video and game controllers" heading to show your current setup.

  • If you have a major driver problem there will be an exclamation point (!) shown by the listing.

Find your sound card in the list. The name will depend upon the sound card you have installed but will probably have the word, "audio" in the name. My driver is, "Realtek High Definition Audio". You may also have "Audio Codecs" and "Legacy Audio Drivers" listed.

  • If you don’t have your sound card in the list, you will need to install it.

Sound device drivers

Double click on the name of the sound card to open the audio properties window or right-click and select properties from the menu. Select the "Drivers" tab and then the "Update Driver" button.

  • If there is no "Drivers" tab you’ve chosen the wrong sound device, try again.

Realtek audio properties

This will display the, "Welcome to the Hardware Update Wizard" window. Just follow the Wizards instructions to update your driver.

  • If you can, get the most recent audio driver from the manufacturer, most are online these days.

If the Wizard says you already have the most recent driver then click the, "Uninstall Driver" button and restart your computer. This action will automatically reinstall the sound driver. If this fails, just install it manually.

Hardware wizard

Windows Troubleshooter

Try asking "Windows Troubleshooter" for help. I know it’s a long shot but every little helps and you never know, you might get lucky.

Open the device manager window,

Start > Settings > Control Panel
> System > Hardware > Device Manager,

and expand the "Sound, video and game controllers" heading. Select your sound card in the list and double click on the name to open the audio properties window. Select the "General" tab, click the "Troubleshoot" button and follow the instructions in the Windows Help and Support Center.

Check the Sound Card

The aim of this step is to ensure the computer sound card is seated in its slot correctly.

Before you do anything else, TURN THE POWER OFF TO YOUR COMPUTER. Personally I always disconnect the power cable from the computer as well (better safe than sorry).

Discharge any static on your body by touching a grounded metal object, a metal radiator or metal water tap for example, before you open the computer case.

Open the computer case and locate the sound card. Gently remove the sound card and check the gold connector fingers are clean (but don’t touch them, grease from your fingers can cause them to corrode). If necessary they can be cleaned with a soft cloth and alcohol. Gently put the sound card back into the computer.

Replace the computers cover, reconnect any cables you removed, boot the computer and see if it worked.

  • By the way, that’s boot as in restart the computer and not boot as in kick the thing to death (even though we would all like to sometimes).


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  One Response to “Why My Speakers Or Headphones Won’t Work”

  1. Nice blog, great review. Thank you. 🙂

    Note: Invalid URL removed.

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