How to fix sound problems on the Apple Mac and get it working again

Solve audio problems on the Apple Mac and get the sound working again with these top fixes.

When you have a problem with the sound on the Apple Mac, what can you do? Here are some suggestions and with a few tweaks and checks you should be able to get it working again fairly quickly.

Turn up the volume

Yes it is obvious, but it has to be said. There are several ways to turn up the volume and so it is worth checking before proceeding with the other tips. Open iTunes, select some loud music and start it playing.

The F10. F11 and F12 buttons on the keyboard (it may vary with Mac models over the years) control the audio and F12 increases it. If the F12 key is faulty, then there may not be anything wrong with the sound and instead it is a keyboard problem!

Audio volume graphic in macOS

It is the same with the sound enable/mute key - F10. If it is faulty then it may not toggle the sound on/off. Do you have a sound or keyboard problem?

Open System Preferences and then open Sound. Make sure the mute checkbox is clear and then drag the slider all the all the way to maximum.

Sound system preferences on the Apple Mac

It may be useful to tick the checkbox, Show volume in menu bar. You can then try clicking the icon and dragging the slider up to the maximum using the mouse. You can also select the output device from the menu bar sound menu.

The menu bar sound control on the Apple Mac

If you use external speakers, make sure they are powered and the volume is turned up on them.

Only one speaker produces sound

Are you sure the audio that is playing has two channels? If the audio you are playing is OK, it could be a balance problem. Open System Preferences and click Sound.

Sound preferences on the Apple Mac

Select the Output tab and make sure the Balance slider is positioned in the middle.

The wrong device is selected

The Mac has internal speakers, but it is possible to route the sound to other devices and software. The fault may lie with those devices and software.

Open System Preferences and click Sound. Select the Output tab and make sure that the Mac’s internal speakers are selected for the sound output. You could be sending the sound output to the Apple TV for example, and the TV is switched off or on a different channel. The menu bar sound menu shows the output device. Check it.

Try earphones

If you cannot get any sound out of the Mac, try plugging in a pair of earphones. Adjust the volume after plugging them in and see if there is any sound.

If you are not getting any sound out of your Mac, maybe you forgot to unplug your earphones, or external speakers are switched off.

Online audio problems

If there is no sound when watching online videos and music, you need to be aware that there are several volume and mute facilities.

Volume control for online video

Go to YouTube for example, and at the bottom of the video player is a volume control. This is independent of the Mac’s volume control, so you could have the sound turned up on the Mac, but off in the video in the browser window.

Alternatively, the volume could be turned up in the video window, but turned down on the Mac. Make sure both the Mac’s volume control and the volume controls in the video in the browser are both turned up.

Mute tabs playing audio in Safari on the Apple Mac

It is also possible to mute browser tabs. This mute feature is independent of the volume setting in the video on the web page and the volume setting on the Mac. So even with both the video volume and Mac volume at maximum, muting a browser tab will stop the audio.

Restart the Mac

This is an old tech support trick and whenever something goes wrong, you are always asked to turn it off, wait a few seconds and then turn it back on. Really power down, don’t put the Mac into sleep mode.

Unplug everything

If you have any devices plugged into the Mac, turn them off and unplug them. It just eliminates another possible cause.

Reset the NVRAM and SMC

The Mac stores certain settings in a special form of memory called PRAM or NVRAM. Clearing this can sometimes cure a variety of problems, such as no audio.

Related: Secret Mac reset options to fix problems that won't go away

Turn up the volume to the maximum, then power off the Mac. Press the power button and straight away press and hold the Command, Option, P and R keys before the grey screen appears. Keep holding those keys down until a second startup sound is heard. 

More settings are stored in the SMC - System Management Controller. Plug in the mains power and shut down the Mac. Press left-Shift+Ctrl+Option and the power button all at the same time. Release the buttons and then power up in the usual way. 

Only reset the PRAM/NVRAM and SMC as a last resort after trying everything else.

 

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