No sound from a Windows computer

There are several places to look if your Windows computer has gone mute

Lots of volume/speaker settings need to be correct for sound to come out. If any of these is turned off or if physical components are disconnected then the result is silence. If you check that ALL of the following are correctly set then you will probably get your sound back.

I’m not going to go into the more technical possibilities (such as a software device driver becoming corrupt or a Windows service needing re-starting) as my experience tells me that checking these more simple settings will solve the problem in 95% of cases. These checks are not listed in any particular order. They are more-or-less the same in both Windows 10 and 11.

Figure 1 - taskbar speaker
Figure 1 – taskbar speaker
1. Look at the speaker icon on the taskbar (at the bottom right of the screen, unless you’ve moved your taskbar). The speaker icon is the one circled in Figure 1. If there is an “x” after the icon (as in Figure 1) then the speaker is off.

Figure 2 - output control
Figure 2 – output control
Left-click on the icon and then left-click on the same icon in the popup window that’s just appeared (Figure 2). The “x” will disappear and sound may now miraculously return. Note that there is also a sliding volume control in the popup window. Make sure that it is not set to the extreme left (ie the lowest volume).

Figure 3 - sound keys on Dell XPS
Figure 3 – sound keys on Dell XPS
2. Most keyboards also have volume control keys on them (typically sharing keys with the F1, F2, and F3 keys). These keys do the same thing as the icon on the taskbar and the sliding volume control. If you are trying to output the sound of anything other than a video then it may not be apparent that you have “paused” playback by accident. Have a look for a key similar to the one shared by my F4 key (in Figure 3). This is theplay/pause switch.

Figure 4 - sound output in Windows 10
Figure 4 – sound output in Windows 10
3. Your system may have several different possible sound outputs (places to send the sound). In Figure 4, clicking on the taskbar speaker in Windows 10 pops up a window showing that I am currently connected to the “Altec Lansing” speakers. Clicking on that speaker name reveals my other sound outputs. I can click on a different one to select it. The output in Windows 11 is selected as shown in Figure 2. Note that you can select the volume level separately for the different outputs.

4. This may seem blindingly obvious but, if you use external speakers then make sure they are connected to the computer (usually via a green 3.5mm jack plug connected to a green 3.5mm socket on the computer). Check also that they are connected to a power outlet (that is also turned on!), that the speakers themselves are turned on (if they have their own on/off switch), and that the physical volume control on the speaker (if any) is not set to the minimum.

5. The software (program or web page) that you are using may also have a mute switch and/or a volume control that is/are distinct from the taskbar mute switch and volume – in BBC iPlayer or YouTube, for instance. You can also expect video software such as Zoom or Teams to have their own sound controls. Make sure these are turned on and that the volume is not set to the minimum.

6. If you are trying to output to a bluetooth device, then it needs to be both paired and connected. And just because it was connected yesterday, doesn’t mean it’s connected today (that’s Bluetooth for you). In Windows 10 or 11, click on the “Start” button, type in “bluetooth”, select “Bluetooth and other devices settings” and check that your output device is both paired and connected (click on the “connect” button in Windows 11 or click on the device name and then “connect” in Windows 10).

7. Finally, there is just a chance that a laptop will have a small physical sliding switch to turn the sound output on and off. This is much less likely than in the past, but it’s worth looking for one if nothing else turns your sound back on.

These controls are all links in a chain. If any one of the links is broken (ie switched off or the volume is turned right down) then you won’t hear any sound. So, keep working through the list until your sound comes back. If none of these work then it could be a driver or service issue, and that will require a more technical approach.

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