Before we start
The sound not working on your Mac can be a consequence of multiple system problems. This is why it's necessary to keep your Mac in good condition as this will minimize any risks — check it for viruses and malware, optimize its performance, and clean it systematically.
To help you keep an eye on your Mac, just download MacKeeper. It will deal with the unsavory jobs and allow you to enjoy smooth Mac operation.
Now let's get back to the problem of sound not working on your Mac. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s broken. Don’t rush to call Apple Support — there are a few things to check before starting to panic. This article will outline all the steps you need to take to fix volume on a Mac device.
Update your operating system
First things first, the operating system. It’s important to keep it up to date, mainly for security reasons, but having an old OS version can also result in all sorts of malfunctions, including sound problems.
You can check if you’re running the newest version of your operating system by going to the Apple Menu in the top left corner of the screen and clicking System Preferences → Software Update. If there is an update or an upgrade available you will see the corresponding button.
Before you make any changes, make sure your MacBook is backed up — you can use the Time Machine tool to do that.
Check your sound settings
A system update normally fixes the problem. If you’re still struggling after the update, the cause might be in the sound settings. This applies to all types of speakers, so before going into specifics, try these steps:
- Go to Apple Menu → System Preferences → Sound → Output
- You should see Internal Speakers as a device for sound output. If you’re currently using another device, switch to Internal Speakers and adjust the output volume. You might want to check if the Mute box is ticked. If it is, uncheck the box
- If you don’t see the Internal Speakers option, try restarting your computer and resetting NVRAM. If it’s still absent, the problem is most likely with your hardware and you should contact an Apple service centre
Check if the sound works in other apps
If audio is not working on your Mac, check if it changes when you use other Apps. If the problem seems to be restricted to a particular application, try playing around with its settings. For example, apps such as Skype often have speaker malfunctions. Check its audio and video settings and make sure that the speaker is on all the way to the right on the slide bar.
Fix hardware problems
Have you tried playing a song in a different app? Try various websites and audio files. If your MacBook Pro still has no sound, go through the fixes outlined in the next few sections. For built-in speakers, refer to the instructions under the previous heading: check the sound settings in System Preferences and make sure Internal Speakers is selected for output.
Troubleshooting for external speakers
If you’re using external speakers, first thing you should check is if the device is properly connected to your computer. The cable must be tightly attached to the USB or audio port, and the port itself has to be clean. We tend to collect dust in them over time, so make sure to regularly clean it with cotton buds, toothpicks, and compressed air to enable proper connection.
If you don’t think that the cable is the source of the issue, come back to the sound settings once again. Go to Apple Menu → System Preferences → Sound → Output, and make sure to choose your external USB speakers as the output device. If you don’t see them there, try unplugging and plugging back in. If they’re connected via the audio port, you’ll see a pop-up menu called Use audio port for… — check that it’s set for Sound Output.
Troubleshooting for built-in speakers in a display
Before going to System Preferences, make sure that the display’s cable is properly connected to your laptop’s ports and there are no headphones plugged in to the audio port. Then you can go to System Preferences → Sound, and set the settings in the Output section for Display audio as the output device.
Troubleshooting for digital receiver
To fix the sound for digital receivers, check that you’re using the right connector — you need a special optical digital cable. Then check the receiver's settings (you’ll find the instructions on how to do that in your device’s manual) — they have to be set up for digital input. Following this, on your Mac go to System Preferences → Sound → Output, and select Digital Output as the device. Finally, play with the volume controls on the receiver to see if you’d accidentally left it off.
Use Activity Monitor to resolve sound problems on Mac
If you’re confident that the problem doesn’t arise from a wonky cable, poorly established browser settings or a misplaced output device, you might want to restart the sound controller. It can be done quite easily through the Activity Monitor.
To access the program, go to Applications → Utilities → Activity Monitor. You’ll see a list of processes with their % CPU next to them. Locate the search bar in the top right corner of the window and type in coreaudiod — it’s a daemon name for your Core Audio process. Click on the heading, then click on the cross in the top left corner to quit the controller. It automatically restarts immediately after you’ve clicked on it.
Check Bluetooth device connection
Bluetooth headphones and speakers are useful gadgets, but we all know how annoying they can be when you have to pair them with the input device. Before you blame anything on the software, make sure they’re actually turned on and connected.
On your MacBook, go to System Preferences → Bluetooth and check that Bluetooth is on. Look for your output device’s name in the list of devices. Sometimes, they fail to pair automatically — in this case you’ll see the Pair button next to the name. If pairing doesn’t occur, try resetting your computer and the headphones or speakers.
Fix audio on MacBook with Terminal
If you’ve used Terminal before, you’ll be familiar with the variety of functions it performs. It’s brilliant for fixing things — and, certainly, it has a solution for when volume is not working on Mac.
To fix sound issues with Terminal:
- Go to Applications → Utilities → Terminal
- Type in sudo killall coreaudiod and press Enter
- This should reset your Core Audio daemon
If you prefer Google Chrome, you might find that the newest versions interfere with the controller. To fix that, you first need to disable Chrome.
To reset Core Audio for Chrome users:
- First you need to shut down Chrome. Type in sudo killall Google\ Chrome and press Enter
- If this command doesn’t disable the browser, try pgrep -x "Google Chrome"
- Terminal is now showing you a number. Type in kill -9 _ with the number in place of the underscore. Hit Enter. This will knock out Chrome.
- Now you can use the sudo killall coreaudiod command again to reset Core Audio. Google Chrome will work normally when you open it again
Reset NVRAM to fix the Sound
Non-volatile random access memory (NVRAM) stores such important baseline settings on your Mac like timezones and language. It also controls volume — NVRAM is the reason why, when you’ve muted the sound on your computer and shut it down, it remains muted when you turn it back on. Therefore, resetting NVRAM often resolves sound problems.
To reboot NVRAM:
- Shut down your Mac completely, disconnect any USB devices and the charging cable
- Press the power button to turn it back on. When you see the grey screen, hold Command + Option + P + R until the Mac reboots again and plays the startup sound
- Reset any local settings such as languages and time zones. Most importantly, the sound — should now work fine
Macs released after 2018 are equipped with a T2 security chip that gives the computers additional protection and allows them to have touch ID. If you own one of these, look out for the Apple logo when resetting NVRAM, make sure it appears twice.
Check for malware infection
If nothing seems to resolve the problem and audio still doesn’t work on your MacBook, it’s either experiencing a hardware malfunction or is infected with a virus. How do you tell if either of these occurred? Look out for signs such as excessive pop-up ads, suspicious warnings on the browser page and poor Mac performance.
If it sounds familiar, your laptop is infiltrated with malware. Simply deleting the source file is not enough — the virus will have spread across the entire system. It sticks to different files to make it harder to pin down and remove. You can use a Mac malware scanner to detect and exterminate it.
How to test sound on Mac?
To test sound on Mac, turn up the volume and play something. Simply open your Music app, select any song from your collection and click Play. If the menu bar shows progress but you can’t hear anything, your Mac has a sound issue.
To fully test sound on Mac, you should check both built-in and external speakers. To this end, go to System Preferences > Sound > Output and change your audio output. Also, untick the Mute box and move the volume slider to the right. If neither built-in nor external speakers work, you might want to check your Mac’s software to troubleshoot the issue.
How do I enable HDMI sound on my Mac?
MacBooks can easily connect to HDMI devices. You’ll need an HDMI cable and a suitable port. Most Macs have their own HDMI ports, but newer and smaller versions operate Thunderbolt or USB-C. In this case make sure you have an adapter.
To enable sound from your Mac on an HDMI device:
- Unplug any devices plugged into your Mac, especially headphones
- Go to Apple Menu → System Preferences → Sound → Output
- You’ll see a list of devices for sound output. Select your HDMI device from the list
- If you’re using an adapter, make sure it’s properly connected and supported by your Mac
How do I turn on the volume control on my Mac keyboard?
There are two ways to regulate volume on a MacBook. Mute and change it with the basic F10, F11 and F12 keys in the upper right corner of the keyboard. Alternatively, you can use the volume slide bar in the menu on the top of the screen. If you can’t see it, go to the Apple Menu → System Preferences → Sound. Tick the box next to Show volume in menu bar at the bottom of the window. If you want to change volume by less than one division, hold Shift + Option while pressing the volume change keys.
How do I connect my Mac to multiple Bluetooth speakers?
To connect several wireless speakers to a Mac device, turn on your Bluetooth and connect to all the speakers by clicking the Pair button next to its name in the list of devices. Then go to Applications → Utilities → Audio Midi Setup. Click on the plus sign in the bottom left corner of the window and select Create multi-output device. In the next window, choose all the speakers you connected by ticking the box next to them.