How to Turn Off (or Customize) Sound Effects in Windows

Windows plays a startup sound and other sound effects regularly, and they can get obnoxious. They’re especially annoying on Windows 7, where Windows plays a click sound every time you switch folders in Windows Explorer. You can disable them entirely—or even set custom sound effects, if you prefer.

How to Disable All Sound Effects

To open the Sound control panel, right-click the speaker icon in your system tray and select “Sounds”. You can also just navigate to Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Sound.

On the Sounds tab, click the “Sound Scheme” box and select “No Sounds” to disable sound effects entirely. If you also want to disable the sound that appears when you sign into Windows, uncheck the “Play Windows Startup sound” checkbox.

You can also choose to disable sound effects for specific events. For example, you might want to disable “Notification” sound effects while leaving “Critical Battery Alarm” sound effects enabled. To do this, select a sound effect in the list, click the “Sound” box at the bottom of the window, and click “(None)”.

Click “OK” to save your changes when you’re done. You can always return here and set the sound scheme back to “Windows Default” to restore the default sound effects.

How to Disable the Windows Explorer Click Sound

If you’re using Windows 7, you may be particularly annoyed by the sound effect that plays when you navigate to a new folder in Windows Explorer. This particular sound effect is disabled by default on Windows 10, and for good reason.

To disable only this sound, scroll down in the list and select the “Start Navigation” sound effect. Click the “Sounds” box at the bottom of the window and select “(None)”. Click “OK” to save your changes.

How to Customize Sound Effects

If you like the sounds instead, you can customize them from here. Select an event and use the “Sounds” box to choose a sound file for it. You can click “Test” to hear a preview of the different sound effects here.

To use a custom sound file, click the “Browse” button. Your custom sound effect file must be in the .wav file format.

To save your settings as a sound scheme, click the “Save As” button at the top of the window and provide a name. You can then choose your saved sound scheme from the list here in the future.

Why Do Sounds Keep Turning Back On?

You may find that sound effects automatically re-enable themselves when you customize your desktop. This occurs when you change your desktop theme using either the old Control Panel interface on Windows 7 or the new Settings interface on Windows 10. That’s because desktop themes can include sound schemes as well as desktop background images, colors, and mouse cursor themes. However, most themes just specify the “Windows Default” sound scheme, re-enabling it if you’ve disabled it.

After changing to a new theme, you’ll have to head back to the Sounds window to disable sound effects, if you don’t want to hear them.

Changing your system sound settings will disable them in some—but not all—desktop applications. If an application continues playing sound effects even after you disable them in the Sounds control panel, you’ll need to disable sound effects in that application’s settings window.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.