Whether you’re using an external setup — either cabled or Bluetooth — or relying on internal speakers, there are a number of reasons why you might run into issues with sound not working on Mac.
There’s the obvious: discovering that you’ve accidentally muted your audio, haven’t updated your operating system in a long while, or a general build-up of detritus in your headphone port. A few fixes for these would look like a hard reset and often successfully address problems with sound not working right.
Then there are other problems, like finding your MacBook volume low or Bluetooth hiccups, that require a little more work. Sometimes, using a third-party app is the best way to get around here.
Luckily, you’ll find more information about all the tricks, in addition to some simple fixes for no sound on Mac, below.
Determine The Causes Of Mac Sound Not Working
The first port of call if you find your Mac volume locked or non-functioning should always be the Sound Menu of the System Preferences area. Opening up System Preferences ➙ Sound ➙ Output will show you which output is selected, whether that’s your internal speakers or a third-party device.
One common cause of controlling volume not working on Mac, for example, is having your output set to an external device like a monitor or speakers that have their own volume controls.
You can also potentially use the Output menu to identify problems with external devices by switching between different output sources. If sound is working fine through your internal speakers and another Bluetooth device, but not through a pair of headphones when you connect them, that may indicate a problem with the headphones.
PRAM/NVRAM and Terminal fixes for MacBook sound
Not all Mac users will know much about PRAM (parameter random access memory) or NVRAM (non-volatile random access memory), which appear in PowerPC and Intel Macs respectively.
The headline here is that they control some settings relating to sound and volume, which can be useful if you find sound not working on Mac, your Mac volume locked, or some other audio issue.
The solution for this is to reset PRAM/NVRAM on your Mac. To do that:
Turn off your Mac and disconnect any USB devices other than wired keyboards
Turn it back on and hold down ⌘ + Option + P + R immediately after doing so
Keep pressing those keys until your Mac restarts and you hear a second startup chime or, on Macs with a T2 Security Chip, until the Apple logo appears and disappears again
Certain settings relating to time, keyboard preferences, and critically (for the purposes of the issues above) volume will reset. Ideally, this will also fix any issues with volume not working on Mac.
Another common fix for Mac or MacBook sound not working is to use Terminal to reset Core Audio. Again, this is something where you don’t need to know a whole lot about the technical details other than it’s an API responsible for Mac audio. If you’re having issues with sound not working, or coming out distorted and glitchy, this reset might help:
Open up Terminal and input the following command: killall coreaudiod
Press Return, follow the prompts, and keep your fingers crossed that this will resolve your issue
If you’re not comfortable with using Terminal to address issues with your Mac sound not working, you can open up Activity Monitor and kill coreaudioad manually.
Bluetooth sound not working on Mac
As anyone who’s ever seen the Bluetooth symbol inexplicably struck through with a straight or jagged line can attest to, wireless audio technology isn’t quite perfect yet. Even pairing devices that have been successfully connected before can be a headache sometimes, resulting in either no sound on Mac or your Bluetooth device.
ToothFairy is an essential app as it allows you to add devices to your menu bar using different symbols so you can pair them with a single click. You can also set global hotkeys to connect and disconnect your devices.
Bluetooth is notoriously temperamental when it comes to sound not working properly, or at all, and ToothFairy offers a helpful shortcut for connecting devices quickly and easily.
No sound on Mac due to suspected malware
Although most issues that involve Mac sound not working can be resolved quickly and easily, there may be something more sinister going on below the surface.
Using an app like CleanMyMac X is useful for identifying malware or junk that may be clogging up your MacBook. Sound not working is just one potential issue of many that malware might cause. Finding any unwanted presence on your Mac with CleanMyMac X is as easy as navigating to Malware Removal and hitting Scan.
Although there’s no dedicated “Audio Junk” section in CleanMyMac X, the app looks deep into your MacBook with Optimization and Maintenance scans, and will surely find any problems that are serious enough to result in audio issues like sound not working on Mac.
Mac volume locked at a low level
When Mac users complain about volume not working on Mac, or that they find their MacBook volume low, what they’re really having issues with are the volume limitations imposed on Apple devices by manufacturer. Although these are designed to protect users (and their eardrums), they can leave users working in noisy environments or trying to listen to audio from their Mac at a distance frustrated.
An app like Boom 3D, in addition to offering virtual surround sound using normal speakers or headphones, lets you bypass the protocols that leave Mac volume locked and push the volume of your audio to higher levels.
Boom 3D also allows you to use customizable presets, adjust the default volume of individual apps, and enjoy a music player that grants access to over 20,000 radio stations. In other words, if you’ve ever found your MacBook volume low, it could just be your new best friend!
Mac sound not working is common but fixable!
Issues with limited or no sound on Mac are something that most Apple fans will encounter at one time or another but, as we’ve seen above, fixes are often pretty simple and rarely indicative of significant or costly issues. If all else fails, sound not working on Mac can often be resolved with a simple reset of your machine.
If the above tips don’t help then it’s worth looking at your hardware itself. A stuck key or a blown speaker might be responsible for your getting no sound on Mac too, and all the software tinkering in the world won’t fix that.
Although Apple does a lot right when it comes to audio, there are various apps out there that can fix audio issues and otherwise improve the performance of your Mac’s sound system.
Best of all, the apps mentioned above are available for a free 7-day trial for you from Setapp, a platform for the most useful Mac apps around (150 and counting). Now you can make sure your Mac sound won’t let you down.