Incompatible computer speakers?

My old desktop computer died the other day. I’m not sure how old it was, but it was running either Windows XP or Vista, I forget which.

I replaced it with a laptop running Windows 10. Now, however, the Harmon Kardon speakers I used with the desktop are refusing to work on the new laptop. Those speakers are also 15 years old, at least. I also tried another old pair of Dell speakers. No dice with them either. I thought there might be something wrong with the headphone jack. Except that headphones work fine when plugged in there.

Took the laptop in to the shop where I bought it and they hooked up a new(er) pair of cheapo Logitech speakers and they work just fine. So I am wondering, was there some kind of incompatibility issues with those older speakers? I would like to upgrade the Logitechs but don’t want something that’s not going to work.

Do your speakers have their own power supply, or is their only connection the audio connector that you are plugging into the headphone jack?

I suspect that your old speakers are simply the type that expect to be powered from the computer. A laptop headphone jack can power a headphone or a line level device, but they lack the power to drive full-sized speakers.

Newer speakers will usually have a little wall-wart type power supply that plugs into the AC outlet or they’ll have a USB connector so that they can get power from the USB port. Did the Logitech speakers at the shop have a power supply connection of some sort (wall wart or USB)?

All the speakers I mentioned (old and new) plug in to a wall outlet/power strip. No USB connections.

It’s possible the “headphone” jack on your laptop is actually a combination headphone/microphone jack designed to work with a headset. In theory your speakers should still work with such a jack which is probably why the ones at the shop worked, but maybe there’s something about your speakers that doesn’t work for some reason. I’d check to see if it is in fact a combo jack, and if it is pick up a cheap splitter that separates out the headphone and mic jacks and see if that helps.

First of all, plug in your old speakers to another machine to make sure they work.

Next, make sure you don’t have your speakers muted or on low volume. Go into hardware>sound and double check sound volume and the mute check box.

After that, go into playback device and look for your speakers. Set it as default sound output (with the green checkmark).

If that doesn’t work, come back here. You’ll probably have to play around with setting the correct drivers…

For some reason, some recent versions of Windows default to assuming that anything plugged into the audio port is expecting a digital signal, instead of the analog signal that’s been standard for the better part of a century. In the volume controls, there’s probably a drop-down to change the type of device that’s plugged in-- Change it to “headphones”, and it’ll give the analog signal that it’s supposed to.

Do the speakers built into the PC work?


When our old box went from Win7 to Win10 the speakers and headset/mic stopped working. After poking at it a bit – checking drivers and such – with no success, I took the easy out and bought a USB dongle with the usual 3-mm speaker and mic jacks on the other end.

As ridiculous as this may sound, make sure the plug from the speakers seats fully into the jack of the new laptop.