How to fix computer audio

Woman wearing over ear headphones on a zoom work call with people on camera on screen.
(Image credit: Getty)

There's little more frustrating than logging on to a work call and not being able to hear your colleagues, leaving you desperately searching for 'how to fix computer audio'. Or, you may have purchased a brand new sound system or a pair of the best headphones to listen to your favorite bands and music in high fidelity, but when you’ve unpacked it and gone to use it there’s no sound coming out.

This handy guide will run through how to use wired devices and set up wireless speakers and headphones that connect via Bluetooth. Some computer and phone manufacturers have taken away the long-standing 3.5mm physical connection for audio, though if you’d like to continue using a wired connection you can get a USB-C or Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter. If you’re hearing a static or crackling sound when plugged in you’ll want to check the 3.5mm jack is inserted fully until you’ve heard an audible click, and inspect the cable for any frayed wires which could be causing the issue. If there is no sound when connected, or it’s very quiet, check that the volume is turned up and also not muted.

However, most new audio devices connect via Bluetooth, so we’ll run through how to set up and pair your Bluetooth devices and diagnose any audio issues. Let’s get to it…

Fixing audio issues on Apple Mac computers

Make sure your audio device is connected to the 3.5mm audio jack port, or switch them on if they connect wirelessly via Bluetooth. Currently, MacBook laptops still have a physical 3.5mm audio jack, though the latest iPhones don’t feature one, so you’ll need a lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter to use a physical audio connection with them.

Alternatively, if your audio device connects wirelessly you’ll need to make sure it’s turned on and then consult your device on how to put the device into its pairing mode if you’re using it for the first time. On our Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones, this is done by holding down the power button until hearing 'Bluetooth Pairing'. 

You now need to click on the menu bar at the top of your Mac display, then click 'Bluetooth'. Make sure Bluetooth is switched on, you should then be able to see your device, such as WH-1000XM4, and click to connect to it. While every audio device is different it should then be paired and will come out of the pairing mode. The device may change the LED color to indicate this or say something along the lines of 'Device Paired' or 'Bluetooth Connected'. For more options, you could go to 'System Preferences' and then click 'Bluetooth'. Here you have extra options such as allowing Bluetooth devices to wake up your Mac.

It’s now a good idea to check if the audio is coming through the headphones or speaker. Play some music from Spotify or a video on Youtube for example and you should hear the audio coming through your connected audio device. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to go to System Preferences and then click on 'Sound'. Go to the 'Output' tab and make sure your audio device, for example, WH-1000XM4, is highlighted, you can then set the 'Output' volume using the slider or using the volume hotkeys on your keyboard. If your device has a microphone, such as a headset, you’ll also want to go to the 'Input' tab and make sure your device is set rather than the default (MacBook Pro Microphone). This way you can use the microphone on your headphones.

 Fixing audio issues on Windows PC 

If you’re connecting your audio device by a wired connection you should have a 3.5mm headphone port on your Windows laptop, though desktop PCs usually have a range of 3.5mm ports which can make it a little more complicated. There will likely be a 3.5mm jack on the front or top of desktop machines with a headphones icon, or a green 3.5mm jack on the back of the PC, though this varies between models. If you have a dedicated sound card you’ll want to plug your headphones or speaker into the green 3.5mm audio jack on the sound at the back of your PC.

For a wireless audio connection to your Windows computer, such as a pair of Bluetooth headphones, you’ll need to switch them on and enable the Bluetooth pairing mode. On our Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones this was done by holding down the power button on startup until “Bluetooth Pairing” is heard, but check the manual of your specific Bluetooth audio device for instructions on how to put your device into pairing mode.

Now switch on your PC and log in to the desktop. Click on the speaker icon in the bottom right corner (if your desktop bar is across the bottom of the screen). Now choose your Bluetooth device from the list that appears. If it’s not there, you’ll need to click on the Search Bar in the bottom left of the screen and type ‘Bluetooth’, then click ‘Bluetooth and other devices settings’.

If you can see your device under the 'Audio' heading then select it and then click 'Connect'. If you can’t see it, click 'Add Bluetooth or another device'. Then, in the menu that appears choose 'Bluetooth' and you’ll see all of the available devices you can connect to. As your headphones are currently in 'Pairing Mode' they should appear here now so click them. You’ll now be connected and ready to turn the volume up to 11!

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Dan Mold

Dan is Technique Editor on PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine magazine. With over a decade writing about all things tech he’s written for a variety of publications before joining Future in April 2019 in that time working across Top Ten Reviews, Digital Camera World, PhotoPlus, NPhoto, Digital Camera and Digital Photographer.