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

It’s not uncommon to experience a crackling sound from speakers or headphones when listening to music or playing games in Windows 11 or Windows 10. The first assumption is often that there’s an issue with the hardware itself, but that doesn’t always hold true. Today we’re going to show you how to fix crackling speakers in Windows 11 and Windows 10, starting with some basic hardware troubleshooting.

Troubleshooting your audio hardware

Before we start on the software side of things, it’s a good idea to do some basic hardware troubleshooting. This should not take long and could save you a lot of time down the line.

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First, if you have wired headphones or speakers, you should 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.

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 or Windows 11 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. Fixing it with software is going to be free, but a hardware fix could be costly, so it’s worth checking the software side of things before taking it to a repair shop.

Here are some of the most common ways you can fix Windows 10 or Windows 11 audio crackling via software:

⚠️ Please note: In this tutorial, we use screenshots of Windows 10 to demonstrate the process. Please be aware that though the same general method applies for Windows 11, there may be some minor changes to the process and UI elements in Windows 11. These will be noted in the relevant steps in the guide.

How to Check Your DPC Latency in Windows 10 or Windows 11

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. This causes unnecessary strain on the system. Adjusting it may resolve your issue.

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

    If you’re using Windows 11, you should select “Sound settings” instead. Then, scroll down the settings window and press “More sound settings”. This will take you to the legacy sound UI below.

    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 / Windows 11 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 and Windows 11. 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”

    If you’re using Windows 11, you should select “Sound settings”. Then, scroll down the settings window and press “More sound settings”.  After double-clicking your speakers, this will take you to the legacy sound UI in step 4.

    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”

    Press “OK” to apply the changes and test your audio to see if the problem has been fixed.

    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 the Windows 10 or Windows 11 audio troubleshooter, which will try some of the most common solutions for you. There are two ways to use it:

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

    If you’re on Windows 11, this option will just say “Sound settings” instead.

    Windows 10 - Open Sound settings

  2. Click “Troubleshoot” underneath the audio slider or run the troubleshooter from your taskbar

    If you’re on Windows 11 your UI will look slightly different. The troubleshoot option will still be underneath the volume slider but in the “Advanced” section. You can press “Output” to troubleshoot your speaker popping.

    Alternatively, just right-click the audio icon on your taskbar and choose “Troubleshoot sound problems”.

    Windows 10 - Speaker Icon - Troubleshoot Sound Problems

Extra: How to Use DISM and SFC Scannow to repair your OS

If none of the above work, you may be facing a hardware issue. Not all is lost, however. You may still find success by following our DISM and SFC scannow guide to repair your OS. This should fix corrupted driver and operating system files.

Windows 10 - Command Line - sfc scannow

Extra: How to Reset Your Windows PC

If SFC and DISM don’t work, your final software option is to go full nuclear and reset your entire PC. This may result in some data loss, but it could be worth it if it saves you a hefty repair bill.

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