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Headphones Not Working: Windows 10 Not Recognizing Headphones (FIXED)

Headphones work out of the box. If the speakers on a Windows 10 computer are working, chances are high that headphones will work as soon as you connect them. You might have problems if you’re using Bluetooth headphones — but you will find that even Bluetooth headphones connect more easily than other Bluetooth devices. If you’re trying to connect and use a normal pair of headphones and Windows 10 won’t recognize them, here are a few things you can try to fix the problem.

Headphone jack not working? Check that first

Make sure your headphones are working fine before you start troubleshooting on Windows 10.

  • Connect the pair of headphones to another device, preferably a phone since they tend to work with them without any trouble.
  • Check the headphone jack that you’re connecting the headphones to. If it’s loose or damaged, it might be the reason the headphones aren’t being detected.
  • Make sure you’re pushing the pin all the way into the jack.

Headphones Not Working: Windows 10 (FIX)

1. Select headphones

Windows 10 should, ideally, detect and switch to any new audio devices that are connected to a system but it doesn’t always do that.

  1. Connect your headphones to your Windows 10 PC.
  2. Click the volume icon in the system tray.
  3. The volume control will have a dropdown that lets you select a different device.
  4. Make sure headphones are selected.

2. Disable front panel jack detection

This applies if you have the Realtek audio manager installed on your PC. It’s often installed along with the Realtek audio drivers.

  1. Open Control Panel. You can search for it in Windows Search or enter Control Panel in the Run box.
  2. Once the Control Panel is open, go to Hardware and Sound.
  3. Look for an app called Realtek audio manager.
  4. Open it and go to the Configuration tab. It might be labeled something different depending on the version of the app you have.
  5. Look for a switch or option to disable the front panel jack detection.

3. Change sound format

The sound format determines the quality of audio and the bitrate that you get and if your headphones do not support the current format, they may connect but you won’t hear any sound. To fix this, open Control Panel.

  1. Go to Hardware and Sound.
  2. Click Sound.
  3. In the window that opens, go to the Playback tab and select the listed sound device. Click the Properties button at the bottom.
  4. On the Properties window, go to the Advanced tab.
  5. Open the dropdown under Default format and select a different format.
  6. Restart your PC and then connect your headphones.
  7. Repeat this for each listed format until your headphones start working.

4. Change default devices

Windows 10 lets you select a default playback device and a default communication device. When the device is set, it is automatically picked up by the type of app it’s for. Skype will, for example, will always use the default communication device. To fix the problem with your headphones, you need to try setting them as the default playback device.

  1. Open the Control Panel.
  2. Go to Hardware and Sound.
  3. Click Sound.
  4. Go to the Playback tab and right-click your headphones (or whichever device shows up).
  5. From the context menu, select the ‘Set as Default Device‘ option.

5. Update audio driver

An outdated audio driver may result in problems with plug & play devices like headphones. Check for and install any audio driver updates that are available.

  1. Open the Device Manager and expand Sound, video, and game controllers.
  2. Right-click Sound, video, and game controllers and select ‘Scan for hardware changes‘.
  3. If any new hardware is detected, it will show up and Windows 10 will install drivers for it.
  4. If no new hardware is detected, right-click the current sound driver (Realtek audio in the screenshot), and select Update driver from the context menu.
  5. Restart your PC after a driver update.

6. Disable audio enhancements

Windows 10 has audio enhancements but they don’t work well with all audio devices or even with all apps. There have been cases where they’ve created problems with some stock features as well. Try disabling them.

  1. Open the Control Panel and go to Hardware and Sound. Click Sound.
  2. On the Playback tab, select your audio device, and click the Properties button.
  3. In the Properties window, go to the Enhancements tab.
  4. Disable the enhancements that are enabled.
  5. It is possible that this tab is not present in which case the feature is not supported on your PC.

7. Disable Spatial Sound

Spatial Sound is yet another Windows 10  feature that mimics a surround sound experience. It’s not the greatest but it can help with headphones. Try disabling (or enabling) it.

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Go to Hardware and Sound.
  3. Select Sound.
  4. On the Playback tab, select your audio device and click the Properties button.
  5. On the Properties window, go to Spatial sound.
  6. Open the dropdown and select ‘Off‘.
  7. If Spatial Sound was off, to begin with, try turning it On.
  8. Disconnect your headphones, restart the PC, and connect the headphones again.

8. Check for an audio app pop-up

Some Windows 10 PCs come with an audio app installed for handling the various audio devices that are connected to the system. Dell laptops have them, as do HP and Lenovo ones. These apps sometimes show a pop-up when a new audio device is connected and unless you interact with and accept the new device, it doesn’t start working.

Check if you’re getting a pop-up like that.

  1. Minimize or close every single window that’s open on your desktop.
  2. Connect the headphones and wait for a pop-up.
  3. If there is no pop-up, look for go through the audio app’s settings to see if something has been detected.

9. Check volume level  per-app

On Windows 10, you have a master volume which is basically what you can control with the volume keys on a keyboard. You can also control the volume on a per-app basis from the volume mixer. If the headphones you’ve connected aren’t working, the app that you’re trying to use them in may have its volume set to zero.

  1. Open the app that you’re trying to use your headphones with e.g., Groove.
  2. Right-click the speaker icon in the system tray and select Open Volume Mixer.
  3. Go through the apps that show up in the volume mixer and find the one you just opened.
  4. Make sure the volume is not set to zero.
  5. While you’re at it, make sure the system volume is also not set to zero.

10. Remove virtual audio devices

Virtual audio devices are often used to reroute audio on a Windows 10 PC. These devices intercept audio from your hardware and control where/how it is output but they are essentially software that you’ve installed and not real, physical devices. Check if you’ve installed a virtual audio device. You can choose to remove it, or you can disable it though removing might be the better option.

To remove a virtual audio device;

  1. Open Control Panel and go to Programs and features.
  2. Look for the audio device in the list of installed apps.
  3. Select it, and click the Uninstall button.
  4. Restart your PC.

To disable a virtual audio device;

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Go to Hardware and sound>Sound.
  3. Check both the Playback and Recording tabs for virtual devices.
  4. Right-click a virtual device and select disable from the context menu.
  5. Restart your PC, and try connecting your headphones.

11. Run audio troubleshooter

Windows 10 has a troubleshooter for audio devices and it can help resolve issues that an end-user might otherwise struggle with.

  1. Open the Settings app and go to the Update and Security group of settings.
  2. Select the Troubleshoot tab.
  3. Select and run the Playing Audio troubleshooter.
  4. Accept any fixes that it recommends, and restart your PC after applying a fix.

Conclusion

Audio devices are some of the simplest devices you will connect to any system. In most cases, the right audio driver for a device will be installed right away, or within a few minutes of you connecting your device. The only problem with audio devices is that you can only use one at once and conflicts between various devices may result in problems connecting/using them.

Hopefully, one of the fixes above will resolve whatever connectivity issues you’re having.

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