This is a strange problem and when using a browser to watch YouTube videos for example, the movies play fine and the audio is loud and clear. Other desktop applications also play sounds just fine. This must surely mean that the audio hardware and the audio drivers are working properly.
Yet when apps from the Windows Store run, they do not play the sound. In my case I got buzzes and clicks and nothing else from apps. In fact, it was so bad it affected games and videos that had sound in them. Videos would not play because the audio stuttered so badly and games would stutter and stop too, because they played music and sound effects. The only apps that would work were ones that did not produce any sound.
What is the solution? Many other people that have had this problem have tried all sorts of fixes, few of which were successful. The problem just wouldn’t go away.
I fixed it eventually, but there were some scary moments along the way. Here are the steps I took to fix the problem.
1 Use Windows Update
This is the first thing you should do and even if Windows Update is set to automatic, it is worth manually running it. Press Windows+I to open the Settings app, click Update & security, and then Windows Update on the left. Click the Check for updates button.
2 Use Device Manager
The next task is to update the hardware drivers on the computer, especially those used for the audio. There are several ways to do this and you do not need any special software. Click in the search box in the taskbar and enter device manager. Click it in the search results (it should be the first one) and Device Manager opens on the desktop.
There are two sections, Audio inputs and outputs, and Sound, video and game controllers. Expand each section, right click each item and select Update Driver Software.
You would think that Windows Update would update the drivers, but even though Windows Update said there were no updates, checking for new drivers resulted in some updates.
As I have problems playing videos, I also expanded the Display adapters section and updated the drivers for the video cards (yes, plural - onboard Intel and an Nvidia card). Reboot the computer afterwards.
3 Use manufacturer’s tools
The computer manufacturer might have installed software on the computer that can track down problems or update the drivers and it is worth running. I have an HP Support Assistant utility and there is an Updates and tune-ups tool.
It did not help in my case, but try it anyway.
4 Check the playback devices
Right click the speaker icon at the right side of the taskbar and select Playback Devices. Select the speakers and click the Configure button. This enables you to test the speakers. Afterwards, select the speakers and click Properties. Device Usage at the bottom should say Use this device (enable).
Select the Advanced tab. Set the default format to 16-bit, 44100Hz (CD Quality). There are two tick boxes in the Exclusive Mode section. Try with both ticked and both clear, rebooting Windows in between. It did not make any difference on my PC, so I reset it back to the default with both ticked. It’s worth trying though.
5 Use driver update tools
There are utilities that can check all the drivers in the computer and update them for you, such as IObit Driver Booster. (Clear the tick against Yes, install Advanced System Care when installing it, unless you want it of course.)
Running driver update tools frequently results in a long list of drivers that are out of date. Do not select them all and update them all at once. If there is a problem you will not know which driver is the cause. Update one driver at a time and check that the computer is working OK after each one.
Do not use driver update software unless you have a complete backup of the disk drive and know how to restore it. You probably won’t need it, but it is best to have it anyway.
As I was updating the drivers, I got down to the last three and Driver Booster stopped at 98% when installing a driver. It is always best to wait when a program freezes, because you never know, it might just be busy. After 20 minutes doing nothing at 98% complete, it managed to finish the update.
Unfortunately, Windows almost completely froze. It barely worked and it would not shut down, run any programs, or do anything at all. Holding down the power button for five seconds turned off the power. After switching back on and rebooting, Windows still would not work. I left it for a while, then powered off again with the power button. It was one of those nightmare moments when nothing worked.
When it was powered up again, it worked fine. I tried those last three driver updates again, but got the same result – a non-functioning PC that only started working again after a couple of forced power-offs reboots.
Those last three driver updates were abandoned. They may be out of date, but the PC goes into a sulk and refuses to work when Driver Booster tries to update them. I didn't need the backup, but it was a close call. Beware, driver update tools can cause problems!
6 Reset enhancements
Some computers have audio enhancements, such as Beats Audio. Go to the right side of the taskbar, click the up arrow to display the panel of icons, and see if there is Beats Audio or something similar. Left or right click it for a menu and open the window.
On the advanced settings tab of Beats Audio under Default Settings is a Reset button. Click it. It might help.
Windows 10 sounds are now working again, both in desktop programs and in apps. Videos and games apps run normally too. Whether it was one driver or a combination of drivers that cured the problem is not clear. It’s fine now though.
Since then I have come across a Microsoft Audio Troubleshooter. Download it and double click the file in the Downloads folder afterwards. I don’t know whether it will fix the problem, but it is worth trying.