The Sound on my computer is not working. What should I do?
I can’t hear any sounds from the speakers or play any music on my computer. What is the problem?
There can be more than one reason, why the computer can’t play any sounds. These are discussed below.
If you have a desktop computer, it may or may not have a separate sound card. But in case of laptops, the sound card is integrated into the motherboard and cannot be removed, so some of the solutions may not apply to laptops. Also, laptops come with built-in speakers, so the external speakers and cabling problems may not apply here, unless you use external speakers or headphones.
So, where do you start, when you can’t hear any sounds from your computer? Try the steps given below, one by one.
1. Reboot the computer
Before we start with the solutions, did you try the simplest solution first? Rebooting or restarting the computer is the simplest solution and should be tried first. If you didn’t already reboot, try it now. The sounds may just work after a reboot.
2. Enable the System Sounds
Can you hear the Windows startup sounds from the computer? If you can hear the Windows startup and shutdown sounds, the sound card is working fine. If you can’t hear any startup sounds, enable the System Sounds from the Control Panel, if they are disabled.
- Enable System Sounds. (Click for a larger image)
If you aren’t able to enable the system sounds and they are grayed out, you may need to reinstall the sound driver.
3. Is the problem only with an audio CD?
Are you trying to play an audio CD, and not getting any sound? If you can hear the System Sounds, but can’t hear anything from the audio CD, even though your audio player software shows that it’s playing the disc, the problem is most likely with the digital cable (see image 1 below) that goes from the CD/DVD drive to the sound card (image 2 below) (or to the motherboard).
One side of this cable goes into the back of the CD/DVD drive and the other goes into the sound card or on to the motherboard (in case of motherboards with built-in sound).
- Digital Audio Cable IDE CD/DVD Connectors
4. Are the speakers properly connected?
Are the speakers connected to the proper sound port / jack, at the back of the computer? Are they powered ON? External speakers generally have a separate power adapter, which plugs into the wall socket or any other power source. Is the speaker volume control, set to a comfortable level? If not, turn it to the middle position.
If in doubt, test your speakers by connecting them to another sound device like CD/DVD player or a radio/tape player, or any sound source. If you can hear sounds from the speakers, they are fine.
Check that the speaker pin is connected to the green jack at the back of the computer.
- Sound Card Jacks
Also, check that the sound (check speaker icon in the system tray) isn’t muted. Such a simple thing, which can happen accidentally, can confuse some people when they can’t hear sounds from their computers. This can get overlooked because the speaker icon may be lost between many other icons. Click it and un-mute the sound, if it’s muted.
Note: If you can’t see the speaker icon in the system tray, you may need to enable it from the Control Panel. From the Control Panel, double-click "Sound and Audio Devices" and check the box that says "Place volume icon in the taskbar" and click OK.
- Add volume Icon to Taskbar
5. Test with a pair of headphones
Try plugging in a pair of headphones in place of the speakers, to check whether you can hear anything. Play a song or music CD or any sound file, which you may have on the computer. If you don’t have one handy, you can run a command to test your sound:
Click the Start button, and then click Run (or Search, in Windows 7 / Vista). Type the following command and then press the Enter key:
- DirectX Diagnostic Tool
If you can’t see the name of the sound driver, or aren’t able to hear the sound by using the ‘Test DirectSound’ button, or you get an error, the problem may be with the sound driver. Reinstall the sound driver.
6. Try doing a System Restore
If the sound worked sometime ago and now it isn’t working for some reason, the simplest solution for re-installing the sound driver is to do a System Restore. Restore the system to a date that you know, when your sound worked. Check out the following links for a YouTube video and short tutorials on System Restore.
Note: Current documents, files and e-mails are not affected by System Restore. If you get an error like “Restoration Incomplete. Your computer cannot be restored", undo the last action by selecting “Undo my last restoration”. If you restored the system recently, the “Undo my last restoration” option is displayed in the System Restore list. You can use it to undo your most recent restore. This option is available only after you do a restore.
Here’s a YouTube video on how to restore a system with System Restore.
For more information about System Restore, visit the following link:
Sytem Restore FAQ
For Windows 7 or Vista:
7. Manually, diagnose the sound driver
If System Restore didn’t help or you get a message that System Restore couldn’t be completed, try the following:
Start the Device Manager (Start -> Run -> devmgmt.msc and hit the Enter key). In Device Manager, Click the + sign next to "Sound, video and game controllers". See that the sound driver that you noted from dxdiag above, is listed.
Double-click this sound driver. Device Manager should give a status message that the driver is working fine. If the driver isn’t there or if it shows a yellow exclamation mark, shows under other devices, or gives any other kind of status message, or there’s no sound driver at all, reinstall the driver. In any case, it doesn’t harm to reinstall the sound driver.
From this sound driver properties page, you may also click the Troubleshoot button, to open the Sound Troubleshooter in the Windows Help and Support Center.
- Sound Troubleshooter in the Windows Help and Support Center
You can also visit the following link about tips for fixing common sound problems:
8. Enable/disable the built-in sound support in the BIOS
If your motherboard has built-in sound support, make sure that it’s enabled in the System BIOS/CMOS. However, if you have a separate sound card, and your motherboard’s built-in sound is also enabled in the BIOS/CMOS, there can be a conflict between the two sound cards. In this case, disable the built-in sound support from the BIOS/CMOS, if it’s not already disabled.
- Enable/disable the built-in sound support in BIOS
Here’s a video on how to enter the System BIOS/CMOS:
And here’s another one:
Here’s a three-part video about everything you would want to know about the System BIOS/CMOS settings:
9. Reinstall Windows
If your motherboard’s built-in sound isn’t working, even after re-installing the sound driver, doing a System Restore, you can try reinstalling Windows.
Here are some YouTube videos about how to re-install Windows:
For installing/reinstalling Windows XP:
For installing/reinstalling Windows Vista:
If you have to re-install Windows, you may want to backup any critical data files on to CD/DVD discs or USB flash drives/portable hard drives, before starting the installation. Click here to search for prices on flash drives and here for portable (external) hard drives.
10. Add a separate sound card
If your motherboard’s built-in sound isn’t working, even after re-installing the sound driver, doing a System Restore and re-installing Windows, you need to add a separate sound card. The easy option for non-technical people is to get a USB sound card. Such a card is also helpful, if your motherboard has no free expansion slots for an add-on sound card.
What are USB Sound Cards? USB sound "cards" are actually external boxes that plug into the computer via USB. The sound is produced in the software which runs on the computer. These boxes only provide for connectivity from the pc via the USB bus to an external device like a microphone or line in/out connector. It’s more appropriate to call them as audio interfaces.
- USB Sound Card / Audio Interface
Click here to search for prices on Sound Cards.
11. Update the sound driver
Here’s an easy way to download and install/update your sound card driver.
12. Inspect the sound card
If updating the drivers didn’t help and if you have a separate sound card (not a built-in one on the motherboard), it’s possible that the drivers are correctly installed, but the sound card was displaced a little bit from its slot. This may be because there’s no screw holding it, or the card’s face plate misaligned with the computer case, which caused a loose contact between the card and the slot.
If you suspect this, you should power the computer off, unplug the power cord from the wall outlet, open up the computer and pull out the card. Then, re-insert it firmly into the slot or insert it into another slot, if you have another one free. Make sure to tighten the screw, which fixes the card to the case, and put one there, if it’s missing. Here’s a YouTube video about installing a sound card.
13. Test the sound card with a Linux Live CD distro
If none of the above methods worked, power off, unplug and open up the computer. Then, pull out your sound card and test it in another computer.
You can also download and boot from an Ubuntu Linux disc (about 700 MB), or the very light DamnSmallLinux (50 MB only), just to test the card, in case you can’t test your card in another computer.
You’d need to burn the ISO file with the “burn image to disc” option, in your CD writing software. To know more, how to burn ISO files, visit this post.
14. Downgrade to Vista or XP, if using Windows 7
If you tested your sound card and it worked with another system, and you have Windows 7 on your computer, it’s most likely that Windows 7 doesn’t support your sound card yet. Here, you have two options – downgrade to Windows Vista or XP, or get a sound card which is supported by Windows 7.
Here’s a list of Windows 7 supported sound cards from Microsoft.
This page lists Windows 7 compatible hardware and software.
Check the compatibility status of your software and devices, here.
If the card didn’t work even with another system, try
15. Test by using a different USB port
If the card is a USB sound card, try connecting it to a different USB port, especially the ones at the back of the computer, if you tried only the front USB ports. If you can’t get the card to work, try it on another computer. If it works on the other computer, the problem may be with the USB ports on your computer.
Test your USB ports by connecting other USB devices. You may also try removing the USB drivers from the Device manager and let Windows re-install them upon reboot. If your computer doesn’t recognize any USB device, try the solutions in “Troubleshooting USB connections”.
16. More information
For more information, visit the following links:
Here’s a video about troubleshooting sound issues. If you can’t hear any sound on your computer, you should watch it on some other computer where sound works, so you can hear the guy.