What to Do when a Microphone is not Working

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What to Do when a Microphone is not Working

Is your computer microphone not working? Are you having a tough time finding ways to get your microphone to ‘listen’ to you? Then, listen to what this article has to say.

There can be many reasons for your computer microphone not working. They range from something as simple as an error in plugging it in, to something as complex as a problem in the sound drivers. Here we will look at what should be done when a computer microphone doesn’t work.

If your computer microphone is not ready to work, the best thing to do is troubleshoot. The microphone not working can mean one of these two things.

  • One, your microphone is not being detected.
  • Two, your microphone is not getting activated.

In case the system is not detecting the microphone, there are chances that the mike is not properly connected. It needs to be plugged into the port where it’s written ‘mic’. Generally, there is a clear indication of what should be plugged in to which port. All you need to do is turn the CPU such that its back faces you and read the indication carefully. Also, make sure that there is no loose connection there. Just plug it out once and insert it back at the right place and your mic might just start working. Speak into the microphone or whistle into it. It’s fun to hear your own voice, that too amplified!

What if the microphone still doesn’t work? Well, in that case, there are chances that it is faulty. To check this, plug in another microphone to your computer and see if it works. If replacing the microphone solves the problem, it means you had bought a faulty piece.

Check if the microphone is selected as the recording device on your computer. Make sure that the option for ‘microphone’ in the microphone dialog box is ‘checked’. You can choose to run sndvol32.exe. It is the program that controls the volume settings for your system. Check the microphone’s property settings. The volume icon is usually located in the task bar at the bottom of the screen. Double click on this icon and ensure that the slider bar is at the top and that the mute option is unchecked. If the slider bar is not at the top, slide it upward and if the mute option is checked, uncheck it. That can solve your problem. Now, speak into the microphone or sing into it and see if you can hear your voice, loud and clear.

The sound recorder tool, which is usually an inbuilt multimedia option in a Windows setup, can help you troubleshoot problems in the working of your microphone. You will find this tool in the ‘accessories’ section of the start menu. It will be under the ‘multimedia’ or the ‘entertainment’ category, depending on the Windows version you are using. Open the sound recorder, click on ‘record’ and begin testing the mike. While you talk into the microphone, observe the line on the recorder display. There will be changes in the display line in response to the frequencies the microphone receives, if at all it does. You won’t notice any changes in the display if your microphone is not working, as it won’t be able to detect the waves your sound produces.

Low inbound gain can be a reason behind the microphone’s not working. So check its gain levels by going to the volume manager in the task bar. Low gain levels indicate that the microphone is not being able to detect sound. The microphone gain option in Vista is analogous to microphone boost option in Windows XP. Raising the gain levels of a microphone is boosting the low level of the mic input to line level. Increase the gain level in case found low, and then check if the microphone works.

Microphone not working can mean that there are problems in the sound drivers of your computer or in the type of the sound card installed. The sound driver might be outdated and in case it is, you need to find out the name and provider of your sound driver and contact the manufacturer for replacement. To find the name and provider, select the ‘run’ option from the start menu, type dxdiag in the box and click OK. Click the sound tab and look for name, driver, and provider under devices.

Similarly, you might want to determine which type of sound card is currently installed on your system. To check that, go to the Programs folder from the start menu. Go to accessories and then to the System Information folder. In it, select the ‘components’ option and click on sound device. This will give you all the information about the sound card installed on your machine.

In Vista

As for any computer microphone, a problem with the sound drivers can be the reason behind the microphone not working in vista. If that’s the case, get the new drivers, the ones compatible with Windows vista, uninstall the current ones from the device manager, select the ‘update driver’ option and give the location of the newly downloaded drivers to install them on your machine.

Vista facilitates searching just anything with the help of its search box that’s accessible from the start menu. Type in ‘sound’ in the search box and a list of results will appear. Hit the sound option and go to the recording tab. Check the status of the microphone. Does it show ‘not working’? If yes, click on the microphone to select it and click the ‘set default’ option.

The problem can be solved by accessing the windows registry. Type regedit in the Vista search box to get to the windows registry. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\Class\{4D36E96C
-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}\0000\Settings\filter\SpeakerHp\ from where you will need to find the key EnableIntSpkrMute. Change the binary value of this key from 01 to 00 and reboot your computer. From then on, you will be able to change the microphone settings in Vista.


Again, as with any other windows microphone, sound drivers may be causing the trouble. Sound drivers that are not compatible with Windows XP could be the problem. So get the drivers updated and reboot your computer. With that, your microphone should start working.

Windows XP has a ‘MIC boost’ option which is not a very easily noticeable feature. If the ‘mic boost’ option in XP is disabled, it might render the computer microphone non-functional. To enable the mic boost option, open the extended version of volume control and hit the advanced tab. In the advanced controls for microphone, you will find the ‘mic boost’ option. Mark the option as checked and close the window. That can get your microphone working.

In Linux

Here’s something about troubleshooting a Unix-based system. Take Linux. Well, Linux users must know that the microphone on this operating system is muted by default. And it needs to be unmuted in kmix/gnome-volume-manager. On a typical Gnome desktop, you will find a volume control in the system tray. Right click on the speaker icon and select the ‘open volume control’ option. Go to the capture tab and click on the microphone symbol in case it has a red cross marked, which means it is switched off. If you are working on KDE, right click on the kmic icon in the system tray, click the mixer button, and check for the sign under the microphone symbol. If you don’t see a red light there, you will need to go to the mixer preferences and have the capture channels displayed. Unmute them and turn the volume to 100% and that should solve your problem.

Laptop Microphone

Problems with microphones in laptops are not very different from those in desktop computers and hence the solutions are not different too. If your laptop microphone doesn’t work, check whether the sound drivers are compatible with the operating system you are using and ensure that the sound card is in place and working. Also check whether the microphone is selected as the recording device for the computer and that both the microphone and speaker volumes are turned on. Go to ‘sounds and audio’ under the control panel and check the mixer settings. Enable the microphone in case it’s disabled. The sound recorder tool can be of use in determining whether the microphone is working or not.

The option of replacing a faulty mic is available in case of external microphones. But you won’t have this option for an inbuilt microphone in a laptop. Mostly, the root cause of a laptop microphone not working is in its sound drivers. Re-installing the sound driver from the driver CD can get your microphone to the working state. Also ensure that the drivers are compatible with the laptop’s operating system.

Another reason why the inbuilt microphone for your laptop may not be working is that you may have plugged in something into the external mic input, which is overriding the built-in microphone. That reminds me, internal microphones in laptops are somewhat infamous for picking up ambient noise and echo from the speakers. If this happens with your laptop microphone, you can actually opt to override the internal microphone by plugging in an external one.

This discussion must have given you a fair idea of what all to check for, when your microphone doesn’t work. It’s frustrating to find your computer microphone in a non-working condition when you need it the most; be it for a long-awaited conversation with a friend, a web conference with offshore clients, or an important discussion with your boss.

You can’t afford to waste time getting the microphone to work at the last moment. So keep it in a working state and to do that, test it once in a while. And do that in innovative ways. Sing, hum or whistle into it, talk into it and see how you sound, or let the microphone catch your typing sound and enjoy the ‘percussion’ through the speakers. It’s fun!

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