Headphones are an essential piece of hardware for many PC users, but if your Windows 11 machine is not detecting them, or playback has become an issue, it can feel like they are useless.
However, despite the occasional problem with headphones and Windows 11, there are many solutions you can try.
In this article, we take a look at some of the best ways you can get your headphones working on Windows 11.
Before we get into it, if you’re actually Windows 10 user, take a look at our article with easy solutions to problems with headphones not working on Windows 10.
1. Ensure Windows 11 is Recognizing your Headphones & Enable them from Control Panel
In order for your headphones to work on your Windows 11 computer, they’ll need to be ‘recognized’ as a pair of headphones. Usually, this shouldn’t be a problem, and your PC should understand automatically what hardware you are trying to connect.
However, there are times when certain and specific issues with your headphones will prevent your Windows 11 computer from successfully recognizing them.
We’ll take a detailed look at those problems and how to fix them later in this article, but before we do, it’s crucial that you check whether or not your headphones have been ‘recognized’.
Once you have ascertained whether or not your Windows 11 computer has (or has not) recognized your hardware as headphones you can move forward with our first simple solution to enable them manually.
Here’s How to Check Whether your Headphones have been Recognized by Windows 11:
- Open the ‘Start’ menu by clicking the Windows logo in the bottom left corner of your screen.
- Begin typing ‘Control Panel’ and then select it to access its settings.
- Adjust ‘View by’ and ensure ‘Large Icons’ is selected.
- Now locate and click ‘Sound’
- A list of devices will be presented from within the ‘Playback’ tab.
- Check to see if the headphones you have connected are listed here.
If you find that the headphones that you have connected to your Windows 11 computer cannot be found, then this indicates that your hardware may be a ‘hidden device’.
If this is the case, it will be necessary to manually enable your headphones to force Windows 11 into recognizing them.
MakeUseOf.com agrees with this assessment and rightly states that:
“If your system is unable to recognize the headphones because headphones are categorized as hidden devices, this fix will resolve the problem.”
Here’s How to Manually Enable your Headphones in Windows 11:
- Open ‘Control Panel’ and ensure ‘View by’ is set to ‘Large icons’
- Click ‘Sound’ and navigate to the ‘Playback’ tab.
- Right-click from within the ‘Playback’ tab, but be careful to avoid selecting one of the devices.
- Select ‘Show Disabled Devices’ from the list of options.
- Your unrecognized pair of headphones should now appear.
- Right-click on the problematic headphones and select ‘Enable’
2. Disable/Enable Windows 11 Audio Enhancements can Solve Headphone Problems
Windows 11 has employed specific enhancement features that should improve the audio output of your headphones, however, sometimes, certain headphones are incompatible with these settings.
Nevertheless, it may be the case that this setting needs to be simply toggled on or off in order to resolve an error that is preventing your headphones from working.
It seems that many users who have the audio enhancement enabled and then disable it, or vice versa, have managed to get their headphones working again with a simple click.
Here’s How to Change the Audio Enhancement Setting on Windows 11:
- Open ‘Settings’ on your Windows 11 computer.
- Click ‘System’ followed by ‘Sound’
- Select ‘Choose where to play sound’ and click on your headphones.
- Now scroll down to the section titled ‘Audio enhancements’
- From here, click ‘Device Default Effects’
- Choose either ‘Off’ or ‘On’ and then check to see if your headphones work.
3. A Reboot of ‘Windows Audio’ Services can Resolve Headphone Issues
You may not have heard of ‘Windows Audio End Point Builder’ or ‘Windows Audio’ and yet these two system services are running in the background to ensure that you can listen to audio devices on your Windows 11 machine.
If either of these two system services is disrupted and becomes disabled, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be having any luck with your headphones.
Thankfully, users can reboot both ‘Windows Audio’ and ‘Windows Audio End Point Builder’ with ease, just take a look at our guide below:
- Open ‘Run’ by pressing the Windows and ‘R’ keys simultaneously.
- Copy and paste “services.msc” into the Run box and hit Enter.
- Find ‘Windows Audio’ and right-click it.
- Choose ‘Restart’ and confirm with ‘Yes’ when prompted.
- Carry out the same process with ‘Windows Audio Endpoint Builder’
- Test your headphones to see if the problem has been resolved.
4. Your Headphones Need to be Set as the Default Audio Device
If you’re still having problems with Windows 11 recognizing your pair of headphones, despite enabling them, then it may be worth setting them up as the default audio device.
Setting your headphones as the default audio device can trigger Windows 11 to recognize them and, therefore, get them working on your machine.
Thankfully the process to complete this simple solution is straightforward if you use the instructions listed below:
- Using the instructions above, navigate to ‘Sound’ in the Control Panel.
- Locate your headphones in the ‘Playback’ tab and right-click them.
- Ensure that the headphones are ‘Enabled’
- Now select ‘Set as Default Device’
5. Allow the Microsoft Audio Troubleshooter to Detect & Fix your Headphone Issues on Windows 11
It’s easy to become frustrated with your hardware when your Windows 11 computer won’t play ball with your headphones, but Microsoft has developed its own troubleshooter that takes the pressure off the user.
By running the Microsoft audio troubleshooter on your Windows 11 machine, you can allow your computer to do the hard work for you and it should automatically identify and fix the problems that you may be experiencing.
Countless users resolve their audio issues, including problematic headphones not being recognized, by simply launching the troubleshooter via the instructions we’ve compiled below:
- Click the ‘Start’ menu by clicking the Windows logo in the bottom left-hand corner.
- Open ‘Settings’ by clicking the cog icon.
- Select ‘System’
- Click ‘Sound’ from within the left pane.
- Click ‘Troubleshoot common sound problems’
- Choose ‘Output devices’
- Allow the system to scan for errors.
- Click ‘Apply’ if the troubleshooter finds a solution for you.
Sometimes, after applying the troubleshooter’s solution, Windows may ask you to reboot your computer, and if this is the case, you should.
After the problem has been identified and fixed by the audio troubleshooter, you are likely to find that your headphones now work on your Windows 11 machine.
6. Update your Audio Drivers on Windows 11 to Fix Headphone Issues
Audio drivers are essential for the performance and recognization of your audio devices, including headphones.
Occasionally, you may find that your machine has an outdated or corrupted audio driver and this can prevent your headphones from working correctly.
As LaptopMag.com points out:
“Outdated or incorrect drivers cause a range of problems, from distorted sound to no sound at all.”
If you’ve been experiencing problems with your headphones on your Windows 11 computer, then it’s worth checking whether your drivers are the cause.
Here’s How to Update your Audio Drivers on Windows 11:
- Open the ‘Start’ menu by clicking the Windows logo.
- Type ‘Device Manager’ and hit Enter.
- Click ‘Audio inputs and outputs’ from the list of available categories.
- Locate your headphones and right-click.
- Choose ‘Update driver’
- Now select ‘Search automatically for drivers’.
- Allow Windows to download any updates.
- Install the driver on your computer by following the onscreen instructions.
- Reboot your Windows 11 computer once the process is complete.
7. Adjust Volume Settings in Windows & Audio Apps to Ensure your Headphones are Working
There’s no sound without volume and yet it is easy to overlook. If your volume settings are set to mute or are even too low to hear, then it may cause you to mistakenly believe there is a problem with your headphones.
This is why it is essential to check your volume settings to ensure that they haven’t accidentally been set to a level that makes it impossible to hear the content you are trying to listen to.
Here’s How to Check & Adjust the Volume in Windows 11:
- Locate the speaker icon from within the taskbar.
- Right-click the icon and choose ‘Open volume mixer’
- Here you will see the volume levels for ‘System’ and also various apps such as your web browser.
- Adjust the sliders to increase the volume.
- Ensure that no app is muted by clicking the speaker icons that have a cross next to them.
Remember, not all apps may appear within the Volume Mixer, so it is worth checking from within certain apps or games that you may be running.
You can usually find volume settings beside the playback bar in most media players. However, you may have to navigate to settings in order to disable ‘mute’ or change volume settings when playing games.
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How to update audio drivers on Windows 11