What to do if headphones are not working on a Windows PC?

By ivan.diskin | October 7, 2019 |

greater than 7 minutes

Are you struggling to get your headphones to work on a Windows PC? We are here to help. Windows 10 problems are known to spring up when you least expect them. Normally, you should be able to plug in your sound devices to your computer without issues. However, sometimes when you connect your headphones, the system may fail to detect them and instead, you get the “Windows 10 won’t recognize headphones” error message or you may hear sound still playing from the built-in speakers.

This can be quite a frustrating error since it prevents you from enjoying your music, movies, or games, especially when you’re in a public place. In today’s post, we take a closer look at what to do if headphones are not working on a Windows PC.

Why Your PC Might Fail to Detect Headphones

The main reason why your PC may suddenly fail to recognize your headphones could be driver-related. This is especially true after a Windows update where drivers clash due to compatibility issues. Additionally, using a faulty USB port or the wrong jack connector type may lead to sound issues. Luckily, there’s a way out. Here’s how to fix the Laptop not detecting headphones issue for Windows 10 users.

How to Get a Windows 10 Computer to Recognize Headphones

Troubleshoot Hardware Issues

Before getting deep into the solutions, you might want to perform some basic troubleshooting steps first. Have you tried connecting the headphones to a different PC? Did they work? If not, then the headphones could be faulty. However, if the headphones worked, then your PC could be having issues. You could also try connecting different headphones to your PC to check if they function. If the problem persists, then the PC is evidently to blame.

If the headphones use a USB connector, try using a different port. If they use a jack, make sure the jack connector type that you’re using is compatible with your PC.

If the headphones are faulty, the only way out is to replace them. However, if the issue lies within your PC, then there could be several reasons behind it. On the one hand, there could be driver conflicts caused by the installation of new software. On the other hand, the wrong default device might have been selected by mistake. Either way, you can still solve the ‘Windows 10 won’t recognize headphones’ issue with the fixes below.

Fix 1: Run the ‘Playing Audio’ Troubleshooter

The troubleshooter is a Windows feature that automatically finds and fixes some of the common PC errors, such as sound errors. To troubleshoot sound issues, follow these steps:

  1. Press the Windows Key + I, and then go to Update & Security > Troubleshoot.
  2. Locate “Playing Audio” and click on it.
  3. Select “Run the troubleshooter”, and let Windows automatically detect and fix any sound issues. Follow the on-screen prompts, if any, to apply the fixes.
  4. Once the process is complete, restart your device and reconnect the headphones. If they still won’t work, the issue lies elsewhere. Keep trying the solutions below until you resolve your problem.

Fix 2: Make Your Headphones the Default Playback Device

If you have different soundcards through which you connect your headphones and speakers, Windows might reset the default playback device whenever you connect and disconnect the headphones. So, you might want to set the headphones as the default playback device to check if it resolves the issue.

To do so, follow these simple steps:

  1. Click “Start”, find “Control Panel” and open it.
  2. Select Hardware and Sound > Sound.
  3. In the “Sound” window that pops up, make sure you’re on the “Playback” tab. Now, plug in your headphones, and they should appear among your devices. If they don’t, right-click anywhere within the “Sound” window and enable the “Show Disabled Devices” and “Show Disconnected Devices” options.
  4. If you notice that any of your devices (headphones or speakers) are disabled, right-click on it and select “Enable”.
  5. Next, select your headphones and click the “Set Default” button at the bottom of the window.
  6. Click “OK”.

This fix should get your headphones back to working condition. If not, try the next solution.

Fix 3: Configure Realtek Audio Manager Settings

If Realtek HD Audio Manager is installed on your PC, adjusting certain settings could get your headphones back to working properly again. Here’s how:

  1. Press the Windows Key and look for “Control Panel”.
  2. In the “View by:” drop-down list, choose “Large icons”.
  3. Locate and select “Realtek HD Audio Manager”.
  4. Connect your headphones, select the speaker icon and then click on “Set Default Device”.
  5. Click “OK”. Windows should now be able to recognize your headphones. If this fix doesn’t work, you could try disabling the front panel headphone jack detection. To do so, click the “Device advanced settings” link in the top right corner of the “Realtek HD Audio Manager” window.
  6. Select the “Separate all input jacks as independent input devices” radio button and enable “Multi-stream mode”.
  7. Click “OK” and then select “OK” again to accept the changes.
  8. Restart Windows.

Did this solution resolve your headphone issues? If not, move on to the next solution below.

Fix 4: Update Your Audio/Sound Drivers

If your PC fails to detect your headphones continuously, the errors could be driver-related. Usually, drivers are upgraded periodically and you have to install the updates to enable seamless communication between your PC and your devices. With Windows 10, drivers are updated alongside Windows with the regular Windows updates from Microsoft. However, sometimes the new driver versions may be incompatible with your system, leading to sound issues.

In that case, installing the latest audio drivers could fix the sound issues. You can install the driver updates using two methods:

  • Using Device Manager
  • Using a Third-Party Tool

Here’s how to go about it:

Method 1: Using Device Manager

  1. Press the Windows Key + X, and select “Device Manager”.
  2. Find the “Sound, video and game controllers” option and expand it.
  3. Right-click your audio device (for instance, Realtek HD Audio), and select “Update driver”.
  4. Pick the first option that says, “Search automatically for updated driver software”. Windows will try to search for the latest drivers online and automatically install them on your computer.

If this operation fails, you can try to disable and then re-enable your audio device. To do so:

  1. Still in the “Device Manager” window, right-click your device and select “Disable device”. Restart your PC and then go to “Device Manager” and re-enable your device.
  2. If all these steps don’t work, try rolling back the drivers to a previous version. However, if the option to roll back the driver is grayed out, then it means there aren’t any recent updates installed.

Method 2: Using a Third-Party Tool

The thing is, Windows doesn’t always install the latest drivers. For this reason, you need a more advanced and dedicated tool like Auslogics Driver Updater. Not only does the program install the latest official driver versions directly from the manufacturers’ websites, but it also ensures that only the drivers compatible with your system are installed.

How does it work? Once you install and run Auslogics Driver Updater, the tool starts scanning your system right away to detect the type of system running on your PC. Next, the program performs a full diagnostics of all of the available drivers on your PC and then gives you a detailed report on the status of each driver. You can then choose to update all the drives at once or only the ones that you prefer. The good thing about using this software is that it first creates a backup of your old drivers before installing the new versions. This way, you can revert the changes if you start experiencing issues with your programs or devices.

Once all the drivers have successfully been updated, reboot the system and plug in your headphones. If they still don’t work, try the next fix.

Fix 5: Change the Recording Settings

If audio plays from both the computer’s speakers and the headphones, your PC is configured to listen to the headset microphone through the speakers. If that’s the case, here’s what you can do:

  1. Press the Windows Key, and look for “Control Panel”.
  2. Once you open “Control Panel”, click Hardware and Sound > Sound.
  3. Switch to the “Recording” tab.
  4. Click on “Microphone” and select “Properties”.
  5. In the “Listen” tab, uncheck the “Listen to this device” option.
  6. Click Apply > OK.

Is your PC still unable to detect your headphones? Don’t give up just yet. Try the next workaround to check if it works.

Fix 6: Change the Default Format

If the wrong default sound format has been set, your Windows 10 computer may not recognize your headphones. To change the format, here are the steps to take:

  1. Go to Start > Control Panel, and then open Hardware and Sound > Sound.
  2. Go to the “Playback” tab and double-click on your default playback device.
  3. Select the “Advanced” tab, and click the drop-down menu under the “Default Format” section.
  4. Select a different format and plug in your headphones to check if Windows detects them. Select each format while testing your headphones until you find a format that works.

Fix 7: Perform a System Restore

If none of the solutions above resolve your headphones issue, then you might have to restore your system back to a state when everything was working properly. The process is simple, and here’s what you need to do:

  1. Press the Windows Key and type System Restore.
  2. Choose “Create a restore point”, and select “System Restore”.
  3. Click “Next” to view a list of all the recently created system restore points.
  4. Select the appropriate restore point. You’ll notice that each restore point has a date, time and description. This helps you to pick the correct restore point around the time when the error first occurred.
  5. Once you select the restore point, click “Next” and then click “Finish”.
  6. Your PC will automatically restart, hence, save any projects before you begin. This process might take a while depending on the number of applications and settings being restored.

Once it’s done, your headphones should work properly again.

We hope the solutions above helped you to resolve the ‘Windows 10 won’t recognize headphones’ issue. If you’ve come across other solutions that worked and are not listed here, feel free to share them in the comments section below.

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