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RE: Sound out of headphone but not speakers

I saw nothing there for Windows 10

Section 1 of the FAQ applies to all versions of Windows. The symptoms of failed sense pin are

* Speakers don't work and are not muted or deselected
    * Headphone jack does work
    * Reinstalling audio driver does not help
    * Audio test in Dell 32-bit Diagnostics passes, or the speakers work in PSA tests
    * On models with 2 headphone jacks, one may be "checked" in the control panel as if in use
    * Sometimes but not always, a very gentle wiggle of a plug in the jack will get it to resume normal functioning, at least temporarily.

1. Your speakers do not work.

2. The audio does work through the headphones, which means that the audio chip on the motherboard is working.

3. To confirm the third symptom, you should reinstall the audio driver. Doing so will confirm that there is not a configuration issue.

  • Open the Device Manager (find it in the Control Panel, or type devmgmt.msc into the search box).
  • Expand the "Sound, video & game controllers" and right click on "Realtek High Definition Audio".
  • Select to "Update Driver Software". Do not check the box to remove the driver software.
  • Restart the computer.

Windows will uninstall the Realtek audio driver, and then re-build it from the driver files. The rebuilt driver will have the correct default configuration --  meaning that audio should come through the speakers.

[ Note that if you look in the Device Manager for the Realtek audio driver and it is not there, that means that it has not been installed and that the laptop is using the Windows native audio driver, which is named "High Definition Audio Device" in the Device Manager. In that case, you should install the Realtek audio driver for your model and see if doing so corrects the problem.]

4. The 4th symptom is that the speakers work in diagnostics. Check them using the ePSA hardware diagnostics. You hear audio through the speakers every now and then. Run the test when the speakers are not working. If the speakers pass the test, that means that the problem is elsewhere. If they fail the test, then the problem is that they have failed or have a loose connection.

5. The 5th symptom applies to models with 2 headphone jacks, which yours does not have. However when you were getting false notices of plugging in a device -- that is similar to this symptom. In other words it suggests that the sense pin was intermittently falsely sensing a plug in the jack.

6. The 6th symptom only means anything if you do get some audio out of the speakers after a gentle wiggling of the jack. If the wiggling produces no result then it is not a symptom of either a good or bad sense pin.

7. There is a 7th symptom, which is to perform a system recovery (return the laptop to the original factory configuration). However this is a chore that most people do not want to undertake. But if all of the symptoms remain unchanged after a recovery, that means that there definitely is hardware failure, and if the speakers pass the ePSA test then the hardware failure is in the headphone jack.

Sense pin failure is a hardware failure that is difficult to diagnose. It is covered under the warranty, but few of the Dell tech support people are aware of the existence of the issue and don't understand the complexities involved in diagnosing it. Fixing the jack usually means replacing the motherboard (I don't know if that is the case with your model), which is a big deal, so you might have to go through a bit of a process in dealing with tech support.


About external speakers, it really depends on your preferences and needs.

If compactness and portability is the main thing, then consider usb speakers. This type plugs into the usb port of the laptop both for power and to get the audio signal. Example of a very small one, that probably sounds similar in quality to a laptop internal speaker.

Similarly, there are Bluetooth speakers that require no cables at all. However we get a lot of reports from people having trouble getting bluetooth to work correctly with Dell laptops, so it is an iffy choice.

Powered speakers. These plug into house current for the power, and have an amplifier built into the speaker case. If quality is the main consideration, these are a good choice. You can get as high quality as the amount of money you want to spend, but the portability is limited. Here is Amazon basic powered speakers -- probably quite better sound than a laptop's internal speakers.

Amazon also has a hybrid version of the same speakers. The hybrid set gets its power from the laptop's usb port, but unlike true usb speakers, the hybrid set gets the audio signal from the laptop's headphone jack. The hybrid set only has half the power of Amazon's basic powered speakers, because a laptop's usb port does not have much power, but the hybrid set is more portable -- can run off the laptop even when the laptop is using its battery, and lighter weight than the regular speakers.

Another portable option is a little battery powered speaker -- they have a built-in rechargeable battery. I have one that I take with me and use with my music player, phone, and tablet. The speakers come in both wireless (bluetooth) and wired versions (connect to headphone jack). Here is an example. I have 3 of these things (different brands than the example) -- 2 wired and one bluetooth. They are louder than my laptop or tablet speakers, and have more bass. Not great sound quality but okay. The battery can last for a couple of days on a charge, then plug into the usb port to get recharged.

For ultimate sound quality, use a cable to connect the laptop's headphone jack to your home stereo or entertainment center. Great sound, zero portability.

Jim Coates -- 15 years on the Dell Laptop Audio boards -- since 2/6/04 

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