Headphones Not Working in Windows 10? Here Are Some Fixes

Headphones Not Working Windows Featured

Setting up sound devices on Windows can be a messy business. Drivers can clash with each other, Windows might misread 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.

First, Isolate the Problem

Before moving on to all the software-based fixes we’ve listed below, it’s important to check that the issue isn’t hardware-related. If it is, then the below fixes probably won’t help you.

The two notable bits of hardware that could be faulty when your headphones aren’t working are the headphones themselves and the port you plug them into. First, plug the headphones into a different device to see if they work there. If not, then it’s probably time to get new headphones.

If they do work on a different device, then try plugging the headphones into a different audio port on the PC on which they don’t work. If they suddenly start working, then it suggests that the problem is with the original port. You can just stick with using your headphones from the new port or read on for our list of fixes.

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.”)

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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’s default security software, Windows Defender, is enough to protect your online security.

Image credit: Headphones on notebook by DepositPhotos

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Robert Zak Robert Zak

Content Manager at Make Tech Easier. Enjoys Android, Windows, and tinkering with retro console emulation to breaking point.

7 comments

  1. This is actually the very first page that has helped me after a whole year. I started battling with my audio jack after the April 2019 update and no matter how many other updates that came after that it never worked. The fix that worked for me was the following:

    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.”

    So that uninstalled the realtek one and I then updated the drive again but this time clicking on the search online option. This reinstalled the realtek one ad voila after that all I had to do was restart my computer and everything went back to normal.

  2. Omygosh! Thank you very much! I have searched and tried a lot of tutorials on how to fix my audio, the Update driver and selecting “High definition Audio drive” is the only one that worked! You are God-sent! Thank youuu! <3

  3. ok, so what my problem is, my headphones work on my chrome browser, but when i go on a software such as Adobe After Effects, my audio isnt going through? And when I check the sound input it says “Headphones” but it isnt going through.

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