Featured - How to Fix Crackling or Popping Sound on a Windows PC

A popping or crackling sound from speakers can surface for a variety of reasons. Though your first thought may be that your hardware is on its way out, there’s a chance some software tweaks will eliminate the annoyance. Today we’re going to walk you through how to fix audio crackling in Windows 10, starting with some basic hardware troubleshooting.

Troubleshooting your audio hardware

Before you do anything, we recommend that you perform some basic checks on your hardware. If you have wired headphones or speakers, you should first check their connection. Ensure the cable is plugged in firmly on both ends. If possible, switch the cable out for another and see if the issue persists.

Advertisement

If the speaker crackling is still there, try unplugging other devices from your PC one by one and testing each time to ensure nothing is interfering with your sound. If you’re using wireless headphones, make sure the connection from your PC to your cans is uninterrupted – particularly by metal objects, such as pans and utensils in a kitchen.

If after this your Windows 10 audio is still crackling, try plugging a different pair of headphones or speakers into the same port and with a different cable and see if it persists. If it does, the problem is most likely motherboard interference or software, rather than the speakers themselves. To make sure, you can plug your original device into a different jack or USB port and see if the popping is still there. If you don’t have an additional port, but have a USB-3.5mm audio adapter handy, you can try that.

If after all that you’re still getting crackling or popping, it’s worth taking a look at the software side of things. At this point, it’s probably either software or some kind of issue with your PC’s internals. Here are some of the most common ways you can fix Windows 10 audio crackling via software:

How to Check Your DPC Latency in Windows 10

Popping and cracking sounds from speakers or headphones can be caused by something called DPC latency. What it stands for doesn’t matter as much as what it measures – the time it takes your drivers to do something.

If a driver on your system is taking too long to perform its task, it may stop your audio driver from processing signals as fast as it should be. This delay in response is often what leads to that popping or crackling sound from your speakers. The delay in processing leads to gaps in your audio.

To test for DPC latency, we’re going to use a free tool called LatencyMon. Here’s how you can use it:

  1. Install LatencyMon and press the green start button in the top-left corner
     

    Let LatencyMon run for a while in the background and continue using your PC as you were when you last experienced the crackling. After a while, check back on the tool and its highest reported execution and resolution times.

    If you get the message “Your system appears to be having trouble handling real-time audio and other tasks”, there’s a good chance you’ve found your problem. You should try updating your drivers, removing the associated device from your system, or making other adjustments that LatencyMon recommends. We have a guide for driver updates below.

    Windows 10 - LatencyMon

How to Change Your Audio Format

Sometimes crackling sounds can also occur because the quality in your headphones or speaker’s properties is set too high or low. Adjusting it may resolve your issue.

  1. Right-click the speaker icon in your taskbar and click “Sounds”
     

    Windows 10 - Right Click Speaker Icon - Sounds

  2. Double-click your speaker in the “Playback” tab
     

    Windows 10 - Sounds - Playback - Select Default Device

  3. Open the “Advanced” tab and change your default format
     

    If it’s not already set to 16 bit 44100Hz CD quality, trying turning selecting it and pressing “OK”. If your issue is fixed, increase the quality step by step until the Windows 10 audio crackling starts again, then knock it down a notch.

    Conversely, if you’re getting cracking at 16-bit CD quality, you can try upping it to 24-bit 44100 or something similar.

    Windows 10 - Sounds - Playback - Select Default Device - Advanced - 16bit - Ok

How to Disable Exclusive Mode in Windows 10 to Fix Crackling Sound

For whatever reason, some sound drivers run into compatibility issues with the exclusive mode option in Windows 10. This lets apps take reclusive control of your device. You probably have bad drivers if that’s the case, but as a temporary fix you can disable the setting:

  1. Right-click the audio icon in your taskbar and press “Open Sound settings”
     

    Windows 10 - Speaker Icon - Open Sound Settings

  2. Press “Device properties” in the Sound settings window
     

    Windows 10 - Speaker Icon - Open Sound Settings - Device Properties

  3. Click “Additional device properties”
     

    Windows 10 - Speaker Icon - Open Sound Settings - Device Properties - Additional Device Properties

  4. Open the “Advanced” tab and untick “Allow applications to take exclusive control of this device”
     

    Windows 10 - Speaker Icon - Open Sound Settings - Device Properties - Additional Device Properties - Advanced - Uncheck Allow Apps to take Exclusive Control - Ok

How to Update your Audio Drivers from Your Manufacturer’s Website

Sometimes audio issues can be fixed by simply updating your sound drivers. The best method to do this is by searching your laptop/motherboard name and downloading the Realtek Audio drivers from their official site. It’ll look something like this:

  1. Visit your manufacturer’s site and download the latest sound driver
     

    The driver will likely be Realtek and under the “Sound” section of the support page.

    Windows 10 - Download Sound Drivers

  2. Run the installer and restart your PC
     

    With hope, your crackling sounds will be resolved when your PC boots again.

    Windows 10 - Download Sound Drivers - Install

How to Troubleshoot Sound Issues in Settings

If none of that works, you can try Windows 10’s audio troubleshooter, which will try some of the most common solutions for you. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Right-click your audio icon and press “Open Sound settings”
     

    Windows 10 - Open Sound settings

  2. Click “Troubleshoot” underneath the audio slider
     

    Alternatively, you can click “Troubleshoot sound problems” directly from the right-click menu in your taskbar.

    Windows 10 - Speaker Icon - Troubleshoot Sound Problems

How to Equalize Your Audio and Test Your Microphone

Hopefully, one of these methods to stop Windows 10 audio crackling worked for you. If not, it may be worth resetting your PC so that you have a clean slate. If that doesn’t work, you could have a hardware issue.

If you did manage to fix your audio, you may want to test your Microphone to make sure there aren’t any problems with that, either. If everything goes well, you can claw some extra quality out of your headphones or speakers by using a Windows 10 equalizer to adjust its frequency to your liking.

Advertisement