How to Fix Sound Not Working on a Mac

Sound and audio playback issues on Macs are fairly common. You may encounter audio bugs after updating your operating system when you install a new audio device or even when you switch between applications. Fortunately, most of these problems have solutions that are as simple as pressing the un-mute button or adjusting your sound settings. Here are a few quick fixes that can help you get your audio working again.

First, make sure you haven’t just muted your system. It may seem pedantic, but you can potentially save yourself from hours of audio troubleshooting by identifying this early. Tap the mute/un-mute button and then increase your volume before testing the audio again. If you’ve plugged in headphones or external speakers, this is also a good time to check whether they’ve blown out.

If you can’t hear anything after plugging in your headphones or connecting your computer to an external audio device, chances are you’ve uncovered one of the Mac’s most common audio bugs. While the exact reason isn’t clear, sometimes Macs select the wrong output audio device when you install or plug in a new one.

1. Go to the Apple menu and choose “System Preferences -> Sound -> Output.”

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2. Select the correct output device for your audio.

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3. If the device you want to play audio is already selected, choosing a different audio device and then re-selecting the one you want may remedy the problem. If it doesn’t, you can try unplugging and reconnecting your audio devices. Don’t forget to uncheck the mute option and adjust the output audio.

If your audio problems continue, there may be an issue with one of your Mac’s audio interfaces which can result in various bugs including missing or distorted sound. Resetting the low-level Mac audio API, Core Audio, often resolves these problems.

1. Click on the Spotlight search icon and search for “Terminal.”

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2. Launch Terminal and type:

in the input window, and the press Enter. Type in your password if asked.

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3. Once you reset the API, test your sound to make sure it’s working properly.

Sometimes the solution to an audio problem is as easy as turning off your computer and turning it on again. If you can’t hear audio or your audio quality is poor, it may be a good idea to completely shut down your Mac. Unlike a restart, shutting down your computer ends all processes and clears your RAM, which should also resolve most lingering audio issues.

Non-volatile random-access memory (NVRAM) or parameter RAM (PRAM), is a special type of memory your Mac uses to store information that it needs before loading the operating system. This information includes audio and display settings, time zone preferences, your current startup disk, and details about any recent fatal system errors. NVRAM/PRAM issues are rare but can cause any number of odd Mac behaviors. Resetting or “zapping” the NVRAM can potentially solve your audio problems.

1. Shut down your Mac.

2. Press the Power button until your Mac turns on.

3. Press and hold Command + Option + P + R until your computer restarts.

mac-keyboard-reset-ram

4. If you choose this option, keep in mind that zapping your NVRAM/PRAM will return your startup disk, time zone, and audio preferences to their default settings.

Audio issues on the Mac usually have quick, easy fixes and are rarely linked to serious hardware problems. However, if you have to reboot your Mac several times or repeatedly reset the Core Audio API to get your sound working, you should probably take your computer in for a check-up. If you’ve tried the above solutions and still have problems with audio, contact Apple support for further assistance.

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