OS X Sound Won’t Unmute

By | July 20, 2010

This morning I had a strange problem where sound stopped working on my MacBook Pro running 10.6. The speaker icon in the menu bar was grayed out and the image brought up when pressing the volume up and down controls indicated that sound was muted. Bringing up the Sound control panel in System Preferences didn’t help.

Last night I had been listening to music on headphones using the line out jack, so I was puzzled as to what might have caused the problem. Restarting and zapping the PRAM didn’t help. Interestingly enough, though, the start up chime played at system startup. So, I knew the built-in speakers still worked. However, the login sound was muted.

When I brought up the Sound control panel, the only output device showing was digital out. The normal Internal Speakers entry was missing. So, I guessed that maybe OS X was confused about whether I was still trying to use the line out.

I started up a song in Songbird and still no sound or ability to control the volume. I then plugged in my headphones and, voila, sound worked. I unplugged the headphones, but the internal speakers didn’t take over. In the Sound control panel, Headphones appeared as the output device when I plugged in the headphones, but Digital Out reappeared when I unplugged them.

Finally, on a whim I plugged back in the headphones and clicked on the speaker icon in the menu bar that represents the volume control. While holding down the mouse button, I unplugged the headphones and suddenly the internal speakers started working on. In the Sound control panel, the Internal Speakers entry had returned. I don’t know exactly why, but that solved the problem.

Update:Problem happened again on 11/24/2010. I’m running OS X 10.6.5. Same fix worked.

Category: Mac

25 thoughts on “OS X Sound Won’t Unmute

  1. RG

    Dude. What a random bug? I’ve never bothered to leave a comment before, ever. This fix saved the day for me. Awesome. Thanks!

  2. JD

    Snow Leopard 10.6.7 same problem. Holding mouse did not work, but adjusting volume on keyboard while you unplug headset worked!

    Thanks for the idea!

  3. Daniel

    Same thing just happened today. Just installed their latest update on 31 March 11. Mac OSX 10.6.7. I can almost see the lines of code that cause this ridiculous defect. This is poor quality control.

  4. Brian S

    YEAH! This worked for me, too. Sound icon was grayed out on new MacBook Pro with 10.6.7. Update to 10.6.8 didn’t resolve it. This did. THANK YOU!

  5. Anonymous

    Thanks for taking the time to post this. it did the trick.

  6. andrew silk

    Hi, I had the same issue and the port had a small red light coming out of it. It is stuck in digital audio mode, and likely just needs to be cleaned. I stuck a tooth pick in there gently and a tiny bit of lint came out. It instantly worked as soon as I plugged and unplugged my headphones. It now recognizes that nothing is plugged in and the internal speakers work again!

  7. Beth

    Yes thanks so much – this seems to be a common bug with Macs, and fixed the problem. Glad not to have to take it into the shop!

  8. Julie

    This did NOT work for me. I’ve been searching for months to a solution to this. I have tried SMC reset and all kinds of fixes. I keep seeing a reference to a red light coming out of the headphone port. Is there supposed to be one?

  9. Robert

    @julie: I don’t see a red light coming out of the headphone port on my early 2011 MBP. Sorry it didn’t work for you.

  10. Jerry Schwarz

    I had a similar problem just now. I plugged in a usb headset and later noticed that my sound was muted and I couldn’t unmute it on the system Sound panel. Unplugging the headset didn’t help. I replugged it and then pressed the mute button on the headset. After that (with the headset itself muted) I could get rid of the check mark in the mute panel. I have no idea if this is the same problem that people have been reporting.

    Worth a try. If your headset has a mute button try pushing it.

  11. Mindy

    YOU ROCK MY WORLD!!!! This is literally the 10th post I’ve read on how to fix this and it’s the only that worked!! Thank you SO much!!!

    Min =)

  12. Anonymous

    Tried your solution, but it doesn’t seem to work. I get no sound on start up, the headphones are not showing up as the output devise…. and I get no sound what so ever, even with the headphones plugged in …. HELP.

  13. mayyourchainssitlightlyuponyou

    this seems to be common to updates. i just updated to 10.8.4 and the sound went. no resolution yet.

  14. Harry

    Thanks for the quick and easy fix to a WTF problem. You’re my internet superhero of the day.

  15. Z's Wife

    And my speakers refused to unmute after a power outage yesterday. I’m running OS X 10.9.3 and installed the last update on May 28, 2014. I plugged in my headphones and the music worked fine. Unplugged and no music. Plugged in and held down the left mouse button while not pointing at anything in particular. Unplugged and no sound but my unmute box had cleared and I could now turn up the volume. Cool! Bizarre and random but very cool…. Thanks!

  16. ann scott

    thank you so, so, so very much. After many tries I finally came across your post. Amazing, and I also needed to hold the left mouse button down.


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