Headphones Not Working in Windows 10? Here Are Some Fixes

Setting up sound devices on Windows can be a messy business. Drivers can clash with each other, Windows might mis-read one kind of sound output as another, and you may have to dive into your sound settings to figure out exactly what’s going on.

Of course, all going well, you should be able to plug a sound device in and have it just work, but if that doesn’t happen, this guide is here to swoop in and save you.

Make Sure Headphones Are Set as Enabled and Set as Default Device

The other crucial place where you may need to make some changes to get your headphones working is the Sound window. The best way to get here is to right-click the speaker icon in the notification area in the corner of Windows, then click “Sound Settings.”

In the Sound Settings window, click “Manage sound devices” and see whether your “headset” or “headphones” are under the “Disabled” list. If they are, click them and click “Enable.”

Fix Headphones Not Working Windows 10 Enable

To set your headphones as your default audio device, switching to them automatically as soon as they’re plugged in, go back to the Sound Settings menu.

Here, click the “Choose your output device” drop-down, and select your headphones from the list.

Fix Headphones Not Working Windows 10 Set Default

In the future, you’ll also be able to change your default sound device by simply clicking the speaker icon in the taskbar notification area and selecting your preferred audio device from there.

Update, Reinstall or Replace Sound Drivers

If you plug your headphones into your Windows 10 PC and get that reassuring “Ding” sound, the good news is that they’re being detected at a hardware level. The bad news is that something’s going wrong at the software end in delivering the sound from PC to headphones.

To fix this, go to “Device Manager -> Sound, video and game controllers,” then select your audio driver. (In our case, it’s “Realtek High Definition Audio.”)

headphones-not-working-windows-10-device-manager

Start by right-clicking the driver, selecting “Update driver,” then “Search automatically for updated driver software.”

That failing, right-click the driver, then “Disable device,” before re-enabling it again. Finally, you can also try rolling back the driver by selecting ‘Properties’ from the driver’s right-click menu, then clicking the “Driver” tab and “Roll Back Driver.”

headphones-not-working-windows-10-roll-back-driver

Some users have also reported the following as a fix. On the “Update driver” window, click “Browse my computer for driver software,” then “Let me pick from a list” and select “High Definition Audio Device.” You may get a warning message that the driver may be incompatible. Ignore the message, then go ahead and install the driver.

Change the “Default Format” of Your Headphones

In the Sound window still, click the Playback tab. Right-click your headphones (they may appear as “Speakers” if plugged in or as a “2nd Audio output” or similar), then click Properties and the Advanced tab.

Try playing around with the “Default Format” of the headphones, clicking “Test” each time you change it, to see if you start hearing audio.

headphones-not-working-windows-10-separates-headphones-default-format

Choose HD Audio Over AC97

AC97 are HD Audio are two audio standards that generally connect to the front 3.5mm jack port on plenty of desktop computers. Whether your PC uses one or the other will ultimately depend on which header connects your motherboard to your front sound ports.

Assuming everything is correctly hooked up on the inside (i.e. using the more recent HD Audio header, which detects devices automatically), you should go into your audio driver tool and ensure that your “Connector Settings” are correct.

Our audio driver tool is Realtek HD Audio Manager (found in the Control Panel). Open it, click the Settings cog in the top right corner, and ensure under “Connector Settings” that “HD Audio Front Panel” is selected.

headphones-not-working-windows-10-hd-audio-ac97

While you’re here, you can also use headphones as a second audio device instead of replacing your speakers by ticking the box we highlighted in red below.

headphones-not-working-windows-10-separates-headphones-speakers

That wraps it up. Looking for more pointers with Windows 10? How about our guide on how to benchmark the graphics on your Windows 10 PC. Or our analysis of whether Windows’ default security software, Windows Defender, is enough to protect your online security.

8 comments

  1. When I do plug in my headphones or earphones, I do get a notification and the sound, then the headphones/earphones leave no sound. Also anywhere on my laptop has any indication of a device being plugged in, in your device manager fix, an headphone icon shows up, but in my case only the speakers of the laptop itself can be seen. Any recommendations?

  2. Headphones are ancient technology. You’d think that Microsoft could get it right. I think they’re too busy creating new updates to fuss with headphones.

  3. did not help me

  4. Me neither. Failed in the headphones.

  5. One day I was playing and all my audio and mic were working, I did a windows update to use a specific app and now my audio quality is horrible
    What do I do ?

  6. My headphones are not listed as a device even though it’s plugged in and is working. I wanted to check my sound settings to see what was different from my coworker’s because audio was not playing through her headphones which do work on my computer but not hers. Our settings are the same and the headphones are not listed as a device for either of us.

  7. Just before, my headphones were working and now all of a sudden they are not. When I plug in my headphones, it seems to somehow recognize them as a microphone? I think? My headphones do work with my phone so I am not sure what the problem is.

  8. My headphones don’t even show up as a device (disabled or otherwise) in sound settings and device manager. There’s no ding when I plug them in and no way to update the drivers anyway, since the device doesn’t seem to exist.

Leave a Comment

Yeah! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic! Check out our comment policy here. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation.