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How to reset your audio settings in Windows

When you can't get any sound out of your Windows computer, resetting your audio is one trick to try.
Written by Lance Whitney, Contributor
Woman typing on laptop.

You're attempting to listen to music or watch a video on your computer. 

There's only one problem -- no sound. 

Wait, the sound was working yesterday. What happened? 

Problems that seem to appear randomly are an unfortunate staple of Windows, but that doesn't mean they're unsolvable. 

Also: Top 4 fix-it strategies of tech pros

And with a snafu like no sound, there are a few ways to troubleshoot the issue, including resetting your audio settings. 

Here's how to pull this off in both Windows 10 and 11.

How to reset your audio settings in Windows

1. Check your audio and sound source

You've probably already checked the usual suspects. But let's review anyway. Make sure the volume level is set properly. Just click the audio icon in the System Tray to confirm.

Volume settings in Windows

Check the volume.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

2. Go to sound settings

If more than one potential sound source is available, such as internal and external audio, make sure your PC is pointing to the correct playback device. 

To do this in Windows 10, right-click the audio icon in the System Tray and select Open Sound Settings in Windows 10. Click the drop-down menu for Choose your output device and switch to the other source. 

In Windows 11, right-click the audio icon in the System Tray select and Sound Settings. Click the entry for Choose where to play sound and select the other source. 

After choosing your output device, try playing audio again. 

Choosing your output device in Sound settings

Check the audio sources.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

3. Check external speakers

If you use external speakers, double-check for loose wires, unseated connections, and similar physical ailments. (Yes, try unplugging and plugging them in again.) If those all pass the test, then it's time to ask for help from Windows.

4. Turn to a Windows troubleshooter

The easiest step to take when trying to fix audio issues is to let Windows do the work. And that means running one of the built-in troubleshooters. 

Also: How to force-quit applications in Windows

Right-click the audio icon in the System Tray and select Troubleshoot sound problems.

In Windows 10, the Get Help app will ask for permission to proceed with the diagnostics and try automated steps to fix the problem. Click Yes. The Windows 10 troubleshooter will then your system for audio issues. It may try to play a tone and ask if you can hear it. It might also try to update your audio driver. Allow it to take the suggested steps. If the troubleshooter is able to resolve the glitch, great. If not, it will tell you that it couldn't fix the issue and offer some Microsoft support articles that might help.

In Windows 11, the troubleshooter cuts to the chase and automatically starts the quest to detect audio-related problems. Depending on your audio setup, you may be asked which device to troubleshoot. Choose the correct device and let the troubleshooter proceed on its mission.

Also: How much RAM does your Windows 11 PC need?

The troubleshooter may offer some suggestions along the way. Again, if the troubleshooter is successful, hooray. If not, it will likely tell you that it couldn't identify the problem.

Selecting "Troubleshoot sound problems" in the bottom right of the screen

Run a troubleshooter.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET
Troubleshooter running on Windows

The troubleshooter may suggest actions.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET
Clicking Next on confirming device on Windows

Confirm the device.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

5. Go to sound settings to run troubleshooter in another way

Another way to run the troubleshooter in both versions of Windows is through sound settings. In either version, right-click the System Tray audio icon and select Open Sound settings or Sound settings

In Windows 10, click the Troubleshoot button under Master Volume. In Windows 11, click the link for Output devices in the section for Troubleshoot common problems. In both cases, the Get Help app pops up seeking your permission to troubleshoot the issue.

Get Help app for troubleshooting

Use the Get Help app.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

6. In the sound settings screen, check the Volume mixer

In Windows 10, right-click the System Tray Audio icon and select Open sound settings. Scroll to the bottom of the sound settings screen and click the setting for App volume and device preferences.

In Windows 11, right-click the System Tray Audio icon and select Open Volume mixer.

Volume mixer in Windows 10

Check the Volume mixer in Windows 10.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney
Volume mixer in Windows 11

Check the Volume mixer in Windows 11.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney

7. Click the Reset button

Both versions of Windows show you the volume levels for different devices and applications. Review each level to make sure it's set properly. If all looks good and you're still unable to hear any sound, click the Reset button at the bottom. That will reset all the devices and apps to their recommended Microsoft defaults.

Resetting the devices and apps in Windows Volume mixer

Reset the devices and apps.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

8. Check the sound control panel

At the Windows 10 sound settings screen, click the link at the right or bottom for Sound Control Panel. At the Windows 11 sound settings screen, click the option at the bottom for More sound settings

Also: What graphics card do I have? How to check your GPU and drivers

Select your default audio source and click Configure. Click the Test button to hear if any sounds come out. Finish the test. If there's still no sound, select the Properties button.

Sound settings in Windows

Check sound settings.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

9. Uncheck Enable audio enhancements

At the Properties window, click the Advanced tab and uncheck the box for Enable audio enhancements. Then click the Test button. Next, click the tab for Spatial sound and made sure this option is off.

Unchecking audio enhancements in Windows

Turn off audio enhancements.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

10. Find the audio driver in Device Manager

If the sound still isn't working, close all of the sound settings windows. Right-click the Start button and select Device Manager from the menu. Click the right arrow for the entry for Audio inputs and outputs and double-click your default audio source. Then click the tab for Driver.

Device Manager in Windows

Open Device Manager.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

11. Click Update driver

First, try updating the driver. Click the Update driver button. Permit it to search your computer for drivers and then search Windows Update.

Selecting Search automatically for drivers

Update the driver.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

12. If this doesn't work, try uninstalling the driver

Still no luck? You can try uninstalling and then reinstalling the driver. Click the Uninstall Device button. Confirm that you want to uninstall it.

Uninstalling the driver in Windows

Uninstall the driver.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

13. Reinstall the audio driver

To bring back the driver, either reboot your PC or right-click on the entry for Audio inputs and outputs and select Scan for hardware changes. The audio driver is then reinstalled.

Reinstalling the audio driver in Windows

Reinstall the audio driver.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

14. Try stopping and restarting the Windows Audio service

Finally, stopping and restarting the Windows Audio service is one more step to try. Click the Search field on the Taskbar and type the word "services." 

Also: How to automatically keep your Windows applications updated

Scroll down the Services window until you see the entry for Windows Audio. Right-click it and select Stop. Right-click it once more and select Start.

Stopping and restarting the audio service on Windows

Stop and restart the audio service.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Hopefully, by going through these different Windows troubleshooting steps, you'll be able to get sound back.

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