Reinstalling Audio Drivers on Windows 10

One of the most common Windows 10 issues is related to sound or audio. Sound not working and no audio device installed error message are common experiences of those who have upgraded their systems to Windows 10. A few ordinary sound problems reported are loss of sound generation in games and other apps after an update, audio imbalance, and missing audio management application.

Most of these sound problems surface due to a missing, damaged, or corrupted audio or sound driver. Not even a beep will be heard from the speakers if there is no suitable audio driver installed. Without a well-functioning driver, it is unwise to expect any sound from your system.

At times, there might be sound but it might be a crackling or an unclear one. Even in such cases, the best solution is to reinstall the drivers. Thus, in this post, let's explore how to do so automatically and manually.

Overview of Realtek High Definition (HD) Audio Drivers

Several laptops and desktops running Windows 10 come with Realtek sound, which is a sound driver application. It is perhaps the most widely used audio profile on Windows due to its versatile ability to deliver Dolby, Surround, and DTS sound.

A Realtek driver is essential for communication between its audio devices such as headphones and speakers and the operating system. Thus, it plays the role of an intermediary between the two. However, after downloading the latest Windows 10 version, many users have reported Realtek HD driver problems.

When this driver malfunctions, it is likely to surface in the form of the following symptoms:

  • No computer sound
  • Interrupted sound
  • No HDMI sound
  • Unusual sound
  • System freeze or restart while playing sound
  • An error message such as MIDI output error detected, audio hardware cannot play this file, CD audio device in use by another application, and WAV playback error detected

The main causes of these symptoms are hardware issues, outdated drivers, and malware attacks. In case the cause is a malware infection, you only need to use your anti-malware or anti-virus application or the integrated repair tools to scan the system and fix the issue.

The symptom of no sound or crackling sound on Windows 10 is often due to the issue with the sound driver. Apart from corruption, the removal of the driver during the update of Windows 10 or installing new software can also be the cause.

Microsoft has formally confirmed that the installation of Windows 10 happens in such a way that the process automatically removes all incompatible drivers and apps. Thus, it makes sense to reinstall the audio drivers. Doing so can resolve many sound issues on systems running Windows 10.

Detecting the Driver-related Issue

device manager sound driver error To ensure that the cause of the sound issues you are facing is the audio driver, perform the following steps:

  1. Right-click the Start button appearing as Windows key. The WinX menu is displayed.
  2. Select Device Manager. Alternately, press Windows + R key and enter devmgmt.msc in the Run dialog box.
  3. Expand the node, Sound, video and game controllers.
  4. Locate Realtek High Definition Audio. If there is an exclamation in yellow color as a prefix, it indicates that this audio driver is the cause of present sound issues on your computer.

At times, you will find no items under this node. If this is the case, it means that the audio driver is missing, as it has been uninstalled or deleted. It is not necessary to have only a Realtek driver. You may also have Intel and AMD audio drivers that could be causing an issue. In that case, the yellow mark will prefix these drivers in the Device Manager applet.

Reinstalling the Audio Drivers

Once you verify that the problem is with the audio driver, it is now time to reinstall the driver. Well, there are two ways to do so on Windows 10 namely, updating the driver and uninstalling and reinstalling it.

Way 1: Updating the Drivers

Before you uninstall and reinstall a sound driver, it is highly recommended to update it to the latest version. This is where you try to resolve the issue by updating Windows 10, using Device Manager, manually downloading and installing the drivers, or using a tool for automatic installation.

Method 1: Using Windows Update

This is the simplest way to try. First, let the operating system resolve the issue for you. A Windows update provides a myriad of certified drivers.

Although they may not be the latest drivers, they are stable and compatible to work with your system's audio chip or card. Windows 10 comes with an integrated Windows Update feature. To use it to get the updated drivers, perform the following steps: updating windows 10 drivers

  1. Click the Start button and select Settings.
  2. Select Windows Update & Security.
  3. Check for updates here.
  4. Install the update. If any sound drivers are there, Windows will install automatically.
  5. Restart the system.

If Windows Update cannot find drivers to update but you can now hear the sound, the issue is fixed.

Method 2: Using Device Manager: A Manual Method

Despite installing the latest Windows 10 update, if you still cannot hear any sound or still face some issue, it can be concluded that the update utility was unable to find the right driver. So now, you need to find the right driver manually, which means looking for drivers online or on your system. Following are the steps to do so using the Device Manager: updating windows audio drivers manually

  1. Right-click the Start button appearing as Windows key. The WinX menu is displayed.
  2. Select Device Manager.
  3. Expand the node, Sound, video and game controllers. All hardware items linked to your system's audio chip are displayed.
  4. Double-click the targeted audio controller or chip, such as Realtek High Definition Audio or Intel© Display Audio. The Properties dialog box of that specific chip is displayed.
  5. Select the Driver tab.
  6. Click Update Driver. The Update Drivers dialog box is displayed with two options.
  7. Click the option, Search automatically for updated driver software. The operating system will look for the latest driver online and on your system.
  8. Follow the instructions if any to update the driver.
  9. Restart your system.
  10. Select Browse my computer for driver software if performing step 7 cannot find for you anything. For this step to work, you will have to manually find the latest driver and download it on your system. If the download is a zip installer file, go to your Downloads folder or where you have saved the file and extract the driver, which has an extension, .inf or .exe.
  11. Select the option, Let me pick from a list of available drivers on my computer from the Update Drivers dialog box.
  12. Click the Have Disk button. The Install From Disk dialog box is displayed.
  13. Click Browse.
  14. Navigate to the folder that contains the unzipped driver and select the .inf or .exe file.
  15. Click Open.
  16. Click OK in the Install From Disk dialog box. You may get a warning prompt stating one of the following:
    1. Windows can't verify the driver's publisher: For this message, select Yes to continue if you have got the driver from the manufacturer's installation disc or official website. Otherwise, you need to look for the one provided by a manufacturer.
    2. Windows can't verify the compatibility of the driver: For this message, just click Yes if you know that the driver is not for your system. If not, you will have to look for a different driver. Selecting the Show compatible hardware check box, if present, from step 17 can keep this issue at bay.
    3. Windows need a digitally-signed driver: If there is a digital signature issue with your driver, the aforementioned two prompts will not be displayed in a 64-bit version. This is because Windows will never allow installing such a driver. So, just stop this update procedure and look for the rightly signed driver from the manufacturer's website.
  17. Select the recently added file.
  18. Click Next. Windows will use the directives in the .inf file to update the driver while you see the Installing driver software screen. In a few seconds, you will get a message stating that the audio driver is successfully updated.
  19. Restart your system.

For performing from step 10, you will have to find the right or the latest version of the audio driver on the Web after which you can download and install it. If the Windows operating system cannot find the audio driver, you need to look for one. So, where on the Web you can find the audio drivers?

Before exploring these sources, it is important for you to write the audio driver's version. This will help you to download the required or the latest driver version. To check the version, locate the driver under the Sound, video and game controllers node of Device Manager, right-click it and select Properties, and click the Driver tab.

Following are some sources for finding and getting the latest sound drivers:

  • On the Manufacturer's Official Website: By performing the detection procedure discussed above, you will come to know who made the audio chip for your system. Some of the popular manufacturers are Realtek, AMD (HD Audio Device), Intel HD Graphics and Audio, NVIDIA (HD Audio Device), and Creative Labs. All audio device manufacturers offer the basic drivers that can coordinate with your system's audio hardware. After identifying the manufacturer, you can go to its official website to find and download the latest driver. For some, you need to even look into their support pages for selecting the sound card and accordingly downloading the latest driver. What you also need to know is that an audio chip is usually a component of the graphics card. Thus, you may also need to download the latest graphics drivers so that you can get the latest audio drivers. Well, this will ensure that both the drivers are the latest ones.
  • PC Manufacturer's Official Website: This is the source to rely upon if your system is from a popular manufacturer such as Lenovo, Samsung, Dell, or HP. Obviously, the system manufacturer knows about the audio hardware embedded in your system. Thus, it is quick to find the latest audio drivers on its official website. For example, if you have a Lenovo laptop or desktop PC, visiting Lenovo's official website and looking for your system model can quickly reveal the appropriate drivers in its audio hardware section that are tested on the exact hardware like yours.
  • Third-party Site: If you are unable to find the latest drivers on the websites of manufacturers, you can consider looking for the same on third-party sources such as forums and sites like station-drivers. These sources will generally offer new and upcoming drivers.

Regardless of the source you choose to get the drivers, you will end up getting an archive file or a setup file that will automatically install the desired driver. In case of an archive file, you need to extract it using the WinRAR application and then install it by executing from step 11 of the aforementioned Device Manager procedure.

If the sound issue is yet not fixed, it is wise to rollback to the former version of the driver. This option is available in the Driver tab of the driver's Properties dialog box accessible in Device Manager.

Method 3: Using a Third-party Tool: A Fully Automatic Method

Well, the aforementioned manual method of using the Device Manager demands sufficient effort from you. You are required to make several clicks for searching for drivers, which can make even the techies tired. Despite proper effort, you may end up with no driver found experience.

So, if you wish to escape the burden of these many clicks and get the driver successfully, you can consider using a driver updating tool that can take all your worries about which driver version to download and install.

Such a tool is designed to install the latest, missing, or new drivers, fix the existing driver issues, and update the obsolete ones automatically. If you or the operating system has not found the system's sound driver, it is reliable to get and install one using one such tool.

A driver updating tool can fix driver issues at a single click. It can check for different driver brands instead of sticking to just one or two. Above all, many are available online for free download.

Way 2: Uninstalling and Reinstalling the Drivers

The update methods have one drawback. If the Windows Update and automatic search in Device Manager could not find a driver of a version higher than that of the present driver, you will be unable to update your sound driver.

Further, even manually locating the downloaded driver on your system via Device Manager will not work if the driver you downloaded is of a lower or the same version. In that case, you need to adopt the way of uninstalling and reinstalling the driver of a specific version. There are some methods to do so, most of which start by uninstalling the existing driver.

Method 1: Using the Integrated Windows Troubleshooter

The first option to try for reinstalling an audio driver for resolving sound or audio issues is the built-in troubleshooter. It is an efficient method to reinstall the sound driver. It works by automatically scanning as well as resolving most issues. windows 10 sound error troubleshooter

  1. Click the speaker icon on your taskbar. A menu is displayed.
  2. Select Troubleshoot sound problems from the menu. The Windows Troubleshooter utility is displayed to detect sound-related issues. If any sound driver is missing, it automatically aids in updating or reinstalling it. If a missing driver is detected, a prompt will be displayed to restart your system so that it can reinstall the driver.
  3. Select Apply this fix to reboot. The sound driver is reinstalled once the restart is done.

If no missing driver or issue is detected and you are still facing sound issues, you can try the following methods.

Method 2: Via the Device Manager

You can uninstall and reinstall the audio driver easily using the Device Manager. Following are the steps for the same:

  1. Right-click the Start button appearing as Windows key. The WinX menu is displayed.
  2. Select Device Manager.
  3. Expand the node, Sound, video and game controllers.
  4. Right-click the targeted audio device. The context menu is displayed.
  5. Select Uninstall device. A pop-up window is displayed to confirm that you want to perform this action of uninstalling the device driver.
  6. Select the Delete the driver software for this device to confirm check box.
  7. Click the Uninstall button.
  8. Restart your system.
  9. Open Device Manager and expand the node, Sound, video and game controllers.
  10. Right-click the audio driver and select Scan for hardware changes. Any missing audio driver is reinstalled automatically. A good Internet connection will aid in getting the latest driver version and installing it. Finally, the Device Manager applet is refreshed to reflect the newly reinstalled sound driver.

In case the system fails to detect and install a missing driver version automatically, you will need to find the latest version manually on the manufacturer's official website.

Method 3: Using the Control Panel

You can uninstall and reinstall the audio device driver using the control panel. Here are the steps: managing apps with control panel

  1. Enter Appwiz.cpl in the search box near the Start button. The Programs and Features applet is displayed.
  2. Locate the targeted audio driver.
  3. Right-click the driver.
  4. Select Uninstall.
  5. Click Yes.
  6. Restart the computer once the driver is uninstalled.
  7. Reinstall the driver by installing the latest version found and downloaded manually.

Method 4: Using the Add Legacy Hardware Option

The Add Legacy Hardware option in Device Manager helps in getting back the missing driver.

  1. Open Device Manager.
  2. Expand the node, Sound, video and game controllers.
  3. Select the Action menu. The Action drop-down menu is displayed.Select Add Legacy Hardware. The Add Hardware wizard is displayed.Select Search for and install the hardware automatically.Click Next. The audio device driver will be installed automatically.Reboot the system.

    You can even try selecting the Install the hardware that I manually select from a list from the wizard. Once you do so, the wizard will ask to select the hardware category, which will be Sound, video and game controllers according to which it will fetch all the drivers for this hardware. Now, you select the manufacturer name and model after which the wizard installs the new driver.

    Updating or Reinstalling Audio Driver Will Solve the Issue

    Both the aforementioned ways, updating and reinstalling, will fetch you the latest audio driver or fix the sound related issue. Each of them has different methods but you should choose the one with which you are comfortable.

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Nikola Donev
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