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You launch a PC game or stream a movie, but you don’t hear any sound. On the surface, there’s no apparent reason for the lack of audio. This guide shows you how to fix sound problems in Windows 10.

Unfortunately, sound issues can be tricky. Problems could merely reside in third-party software, requiring a patch. Issues could also stem from within Windows 10 itself or the underlying hardware. Possible fixes include installing new drivers, tweaking settings, or even revert to a previous restore point.

This guide begins with the easy steps and moves deeper into Windows 10 if you continue to face audio issues.

Check for Simple Fixes First

There’s nothing more embarrassing than yelling at the PC over sound issues stemming from an unintentional press of the microphone’s mute button.

First, verify that the sound isn’t muted on the PC end. If your keyboard has volume controls, press a key or turn a slider to see if the on-screen volume bar raises and lowers. You can also bring up the taskbar to examine the “speaker” icon parked next to the system clock.

As shown below, an “X” next to the virtual speaker icon means your audio is muted. Simply click the speaker button to expand the volume panel.

Windows 10 Muted Sound

Next, click the speaker icon to the left of the slider to unmute.

Windows 10 Muted Sound Part 2

You should also verify that the sound isn’t muted or turned down on the hardware end. For instance, your speakers may have volume buttons, or they may be accidentally unplugged from the PC or power outlet.

Likewise, your headset or microphone may include in-line volume dials that are turned down, or they may just be unplugged from the PC.

The example below shows a Logitech headset’s in-line controls for sound (dial) and a built-in microphone (toggle).

In-Line Volume Controls

Another simple fix is to verify that the problem isn’t related to a specific app or program installed on your computer. There may be something wrong with the app or program itself that needs patching or audio is turned down or muted from within.

This example shows muted audio on YouTube.

YouTube Volume Control

Other fixes you can try include installing all Windows 10 updates or restarting your PC.

Restart Windows 10

Verify the Default Audio Device

Generally, you should only have one installed audio device. However, the list stacks up once you begin piling on external devices like the HTC Vive, a wireless Xbox controller, a headset, and so on.

There may be situations where you switch from a headset to a laptop’s built-in speakers, but Windows 10 still outputs audio through your disconnected headset.

You can verify the default audio device in one of two ways: from the taskbar or through the Control Panel.

The Taskbar Route

Click on the “speaker” icon next to the system clock. You’ll see a name listed above the volume pop-up panel. Click the name to reveal a pop-up list labeled “Select Playback Device” and choose a different audio device until you hear a sound.

Windows 10 Select Playback Device

If none of those work, move on to the “Run the Troubleshooter” step.

The Control Panel Route

Hit the Windows key, type “Control Panel” in the taskbar’s search field, and select the Control Panel desktop app in the results. Next, select “Hardware and Sound” on the main Control Panel menu, followed by “Sound” on the next panel.

Hardware and Sound Control Panel

The Sound pop-up window appears on the screen. Make sure your audio device is set as default. If not, single-click on the device listing to select and then click the “Set Default” button. Next, click the “OK” button to finish.

Sound Set Default Device

Run the Troubleshooter

Windows 10 offers a built-in troubleshooter that scans the system and offers potential fixes.

Press the Windows key, type “Audio” in the taskbar’s search field, and select “Find and Fix Problems with Playing Sound” in the results. This opens a troubleshooter in the Control Panel.

Find and Fix Audio Problems

You can also access this troubleshooter by going to Start > Settings > System > Sound > Troubleshoot.

After the troubleshooter scans for audio devices, select the device you want to troubleshoot and click the “Next” button.

Select Audio Device to Troubleshoot

Windows 10 scans for issues. Follow any available directions to resolve your audio problems.

Reboot the Audio Services

Tap the Windows key, type “Services” in the taskbar’s search field, and select the Services desktop app in the results.

Launch Windows 10 Services

In the Services window, you’ll need to restart three services:

  • Remote Procedure Call (RPC)
  • Windows Audio
  • Windows Audio Endpoint Builder

For each service, single-click to select, right-click to open the service’s menu, and then select the “Restart” option. If “Restart” is greyed out, try the “Refresh” option instead.

Restart Audio Services

Turn Off Audio Enhancements

These “enhancements” provided by audio hardware vendors and Microsoft aim to deliver the best experience possible. However, they could be the underlying issue.

Type “Control Panel” in the taskbar’s search field and select the resulting Control Panel desktop app.

Find and Launch Control Panel

Select “Hardware and Sound” on the main Control Panel menu, followed by “Sound” on the next panel.

Hardware and Sound Control Panel

Select your audio device listed under the “Playback” tab and right-click to open a menu. Select the “Properties” option at the bottom.

Sound Panel Audio Device Properties

Once the Speakers / Headphones Properties window appears, click on the “Enhancements” tab. Check the box next to “Disable All Sound Effects” (or “Disable All Enhancements”). Confirm the change by clicking the “OK” button.

Windows 10 Disable Sound Effects

If this doesn’t work, you may not have the right audio device set as the default. Follow the Control Panel route instructions to set your default audio device. If that still doesn’t work, move on to the next step.

Change Audio Format

The current audio format may not work correctly with your PC’s hardware. To see if this is the case, type “Control Panel” in the taskbar’s search field and select the resulting Control Panel desktop app.

Find and Launch Control Panel

Select “Hardware and Sound” on the main Control Panel menu, followed by “Sound” on the next panel.

Hardware and Sound Control Panel

Select your audio device listed under the Playback tab and right-click to open a menu. Select the “Properties” option at the bottom.

Sound Panel Audio Device Properties

Once the Speakers / Headphones Properties window appears, click on the “Advanced” tab. A drop-down menu appears in the “Default Format” section. Select a different format and click the “Test” button to see if a different format works. If it does, click the “Apply” button, followed by the “OK” button.

Windows 10 Change Audio Format

If changing the audio format doesn’t work, move on to updating your audio driver.

Update the Driver

There are two ways to update your audio driver. Many pre-built PCs from Dell, HP, and more install a “command center” application that scans your device and installs updated drivers.

For instance, Alienware PCs ship with SupportAssist that scans for outdated drivers, hardware issues, and so on. Run these applications to check for driver updates.

The second approach is to update the driver through Device Manager manually. To begin, right-click on the Start button and select “Device Manager” on the pop-up menu.

Windows 10 Open Device Manager

Select and expand the “Sound, video, and game controllers” entry to list all available audio devices. Click once on your primary device—this example uses Realtek Audio—then right-click to open a pop-up menu. Select the “Update Driver” option.

Windows 10 Update Audio Driver

Select “Search Automatically for Updated Driver Software” in the following window.

Windows 10 Auto Search for Drivers

Alternatively, you could search the sound card manufacturer’s website for new drivers and download them to your PC. If you take that route, choose the “Browse My Computer for Driver Software” option instead. Simply direct Windows 10 to the download location.

Windows 10 Browse for Drivers

Another “Browse My Computer for Driver Software” option is to install compatible drivers from a list. Thus, instead of entering a download location, click the “Let Me Pick from a List of Available Drivers on My Computer” option.

Windows 10 Let Me Pick From a List

Make sure the “Show compatible hardware” box is checked and select one of the listed drivers in the following window. Click the “Next” button to finish.

Windows 10 Select Driver from List

Uninstall and Reinstall Your Audio Device

Remove your audio device altogether and let Windows 10 detect and reinstall the appropriate driver.

Right-click on the Start button and then select “Device Manager” on the context menu.

Windows 10 Open Device Manager

Once Device Manager appears on your screen, select and expand the “Sound, Video, and Game Controllers” entry. Click once on your primary device—this example uses Realtek Audio—then right-click to open a pop-up menu. Select the “Uninstall Device” option and reboot your PC.

Windows 10 Uninstall Audio Device

Windows 10 should reinstall the appropriate audio driver after the reboot. To check, return to the Device Manager and see if your audio device appears under “Sound, Video, and Game Controllers.”

If it’s not there, single-click to select the category followed by a right-click to open a pop-up menu. Select the menu’s “Scan for Hardware Changes” option.

Scan for Hardware Changes

If your audio device still doesn’t appear, you likely have hardware issues a driver update/refresh can’t address.

Perform a System Restore

Lastly, if all else fails, hope that Windows 10 created a restore point before your sound issues began.

Type “Restore” in the taskbar’s search field and select “Create a Restore Point” in the results.

Windows 10 Create Restore Point

Click the “System Restore” button on the following System Properties window to launch the service.

Windows 10 Start System Restore

A System Restore window appears on the screen. Click the “Next” button to continue.

System Restore Next Button

In the next step, click the box next to “Show More Restore Points” and select a restore point dated before you began experiencing audio issues. Click the “Next” button to continue.

Windows 10 Select Restore Point

Click the “Finish” button, and Windows 10 will proceed to restore your PC.

Windows 10 Confirm Restore Point

Kevin Parrish Kevin Parrish
Kevin is a first-generation gamer and a former mall rat that grew up in the arcades. He began writing online in the mid-1990s after his uncle dropped a box of computer parts at his feet, saying "have fun." Developer id Software released Quake shortly thereafter, which began supporting a new thing called a GPU. That kicked off Kevin's (costly) obsession for better graphics and better performance in his PCs and games. After writing about games for over a decade, he switched over to mainly hardware and devices in 2008. Published articles previously appeared on Tom's Hardware, Tom's Guide, and Maximum PC. Recent articles spanning news, reviews, how-to guides, and op-ed pieces are currently available on Digital Trends and Android Authority.
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