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Microphone not working on a Mac? Here’s how to fix it



An audio headphone with a microphone next to a MacBook keyboard.
Naka-Stock / Shutterstock

Apple MacBooks and many Mac desktops have built-in microphones. However, you can also connect headsets and other microphones via USB, a 3.5 mm audio jack or Bluetooth. How to fix a microphone that does not work on your Mac.

Find out which microphone your Mac is using

To effectively troubleshoot microphone problems, it is important to know which computer you are using.

Your Mac uses one of the following:

  • The internal microphone: Included in any MacBook or iMac.
  • An external USB microphone: Connects directly to a USB port and self-powered.
  • An external 3.5 mm microphone: Connected to the computer̵
    7;s microphone input or a separate audio interface, which may require extra power.
  • AirPods or similar Bluetooth headsets: Connects wirelessly to your Mac.

If you want to use your Mac’s internal microphone, you can proceed to the next step. If you use a USB microphone, connect it directly to your Mac (avoid using a hub).

If you are using a wired microphone that requires a 3.5 mm stereo plug, make sure it is connected to the correct port and does not require additional power (it will not work if it does).

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Finally, pair your AirPods or Bluetooth headsets under System Preferences> Bluetooth. If you cannot get your Bluetooth headset to work, disconnect it by clicking the “X” next to it in the “Devices” list. Then try connecting it again.

Once you are sure that your selected microphone is connected and switched on, it is time to look at the sound settings.

RELATED: How to troubleshoot Bluetooth issues on a Mac

Check the audio input settings

A common cause of microphone problems is a misconfigured audio input. Go to System Settings> Sound and then click on the “Input” tab. You should see a list of devices you can use as an audio source, including (hopefully) the microphone you want to use.

To use a device, such as “Internal microphone”, click on it. If everything agrees with the plan, you should see the bars fill next to “Input Level” when you speak.

If you do not see anything, the “Input Volume” slider increases and try talking again. If the slider is too low, your Mac will not detect any sound.

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To use your AirPods as your microphone, select “AirPods” from the list. If you are using an audio interface, select it from the list.

You may also see entries for other apps that you have installed, such as “Soundflower” or “Aggregate Device”, but you do not want to use any of them right now.

If you see movement in the “Input Level” indicator, that’s a good sign, but more troubleshooting may be needed to get things working properly.

Check microphone permissions

Another common cause of microphone problems is Apple’s extended authorization system. It prevents apps from accessing the microphone until you specifically allow it. When apps want to access the microphone, a message should appear asking you to approve or reject the request.

If you reject the request, the app will not be able to access the computer’s microphone. It is often a good idea to deny apps access to your hardware until you are sure it needs it to work properly.

Go to System Settings> Security & Privacy> Privacy and select “Microphone” from the sidebar. You should see a list of apps that have requested access to your microphone. Everything you have approved will have a check mark next to it, while those you have denied will not do.

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Click the Padlock icon at the bottom left to verify with your administrator password (or Touch ID or Apple Watch prompt). You can then approve or reject permission as you see fit by checking or unchecking the boxes next to the apps.

Delete problematic apps

With the right source selected and all the necessary permissions granted, your microphone should work. Try talking to Siri to test things. If a specific app does not work, it may be the source of the problem.

You can try checking the app’s settings to see if there are separate settings for input devices. Apps like Adobe Audition and Audacity let you specify an input device separately from the one selected in the “Input” sound settings under “System Settings.”

Audacity's separate recording device settings

If everything seems fine, you can try removing and reinstalling the app. Check for an updated version to download, only if the problems were caused by incompatibilities. Apple has made serious changes to the MacOS authorization system in recent revisions, so some outdated apps may not work.

If you can not get the app to work, it may be time to replace it with a similar one that does.

Reset NVRAM / PRAM

Non-volatile RAM (NVRAM) or parameter RAM (PRAM) is the type of memory your Mac uses to remember settings, e.g. time and date and current volume settings. These settings remain even after your Mac is turned off. Sometimes problems can occur and resetting NVRAM / PRAM can help.

Since memory is specifically about volume and sound settings, it is particularly relevant for microphone problems. How to reset it depends on which Mac you have, but you can learn how to do it on your specific model here.

RELATED: What is NVRAM, and when should I restore it on my Mac?

Try activating dictation

It’s a wildcard, but some reports claim that enabling the macOS Dictation feature may help clear up some microphone issues, especially those related to the internal one. It is unclear how this helps, but if you have come this far and your microphone still does not work, it’s worth a shot.

Go to System Settings> Keyboard and then click on the “Dictation” tab. Click the “On” button and wait until all downloads are complete. Make sure the microphone you want to use is selected in the drop-down menu. If everything is configured correctly, you should see the levels move.

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If you have not used it before, you may want to take the opportunity to test your Mac’s Dictation feature. By default, you can trigger it by double-clicking the function key (Fn). You can also control the rest of your Mac with your voice thanks to Apple’s extensive accessibility features.

Check the levels of your external microphone

Most external microphones allow you to change levels directly on the microphone, while others have a Mute switch. Check your microphone carefully to make sure the gain is high enough and that you have not turned it off.

If you use an audio interface, you may need to adjust the gain there.

Restart your Mac

Sometimes you just need to turn it off and on again to solve any problems. You can also try installing all pending macOS updates under System Preferences> Software Update. Or upgrade to the latest version of macOS, if you have not already done so.

If you are also dealing with crunching sounds and other sound issues on macOS, check out how to fix these next!

RELATED: How to fix Crackly Audio and other Mac audio issues




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