I often have to switch between audio output from my speakers and my headset (P5Q mobo with integrated sound and Microsoft headset). I've already got it so that when my headset is plugged in, sound will be played through it, and if it isn't, sound will play through my speakers.

The problem is that if I have a game or similar program started while my headset is plugged in, if I unplug it, I will get no sound. Also, if I start the program with no headset, and plug it in, I get sound still through speakers.

Is there any way to do this?


8 Answers 8


This depends completely on both the application and sound card.

Generally speaking, applications can "request" sound on a certain device, (and give you the option to change devices).

Games on the other hand requests sound when they start running (through DirectX) and then keep playing through it. In some games you can restart the sound system by changing sound settings in-game, such as if the game offers 3d sound, or any sort of "advanced" effect, however generally speaking, volume alone does not do this.

The best alternative that is guaranteed to work is to get a speaker with a headset port as the moment you plug in a headset, the speakers will output to it. Unfortunately for you, I have never seen one with a USB headset socket.

  • Skype manages to give you an option... Jan 20, 2011 at 14:36
  • @George Mauer - I need to update this answer, it is not related directly to Skype... Jan 21, 2011 at 8:36
  • @George Mauer, hopefully that is a bit clearer... Jan 21, 2011 at 8:40

If you want to manually move the audio, you can do so in the Control Panel. Here are instructions:

  1. Right-click on the volume icon and choose playback devices
  2. Right-click on the device you want audio going to and choose Set As Default Device

That's it. Audio will now route there immediately. Note that this is new to Windows 7 and won't work on Vista or XP.

Note: if you are using Windows 7 (which your tags seem to indicate you are), I would have thought it should work regardless. Windows 7 adds a new feature to route the audio on the fly to a newly arriving device like a USB headset. Likewise, when you unplug the headset, the audio will re-route to the last device it was playing on.

  • I've done this already, but after I've started a program, it uses the audio device that was set to 'default' when it was started, even though the 'default' changes after start.
    – LM.
    Aug 28, 2009 at 13:45
  • 1
    There are ways a program can pick a particular audio device (rather than the default) which would make this happen. What program are you using? Try Windows Media Player. Does that respond as you expect?
    – Steve Rowe
    Aug 28, 2009 at 17:40

I have a USB PLantronics headset and I have to make sure it's chosen as the default playback device before starting any games. Like this:

Right click the speaker icon in the tray. Choose Playback Devices. Click the headset and then click the Set as Default button.

After that games will normally use the default playback device.


i don't think there is a fix for this, the USB headset is a separate audio device, applications don't automatically switch audio devices if one becomes unavailable.

the only way is to restart the game or application.

  • 1
    Some applications (written against the new in Vista APIs) do (e.g. Windows Media Player). But in general you right.
    – Richard
    Aug 28, 2009 at 7:22
  • Most applications, written against any audio API (DirectSound, DirectShow, Wave, etc.) will switch audio devices on Windows 7. Only applications that specifically choose a particular audio device will not switch.
    – Steve Rowe
    Aug 28, 2009 at 17:41

I just found this great little program called SoundSwitch that allows you to switch between audio devices (eg. USB headset & analog speakers) by using a keyboard shortcut.

Skype's audio device settings are still enforced however so a game may also be able to override the selection. I've found that for everything else it works really well.

  • SoundSwitch is absolutely perfect for this use case! Would upvote a dozen times.
    – fkoehl
    Aug 25, 2015 at 2:44

In Windows 7, if you want to temporarily route sounds to a USB headset, without setting it as the default.

  1. right click Volume taskbar icon
  2. select Playback devices
  3. disable the main pc speakers

It will immediately route all sounds to the USB headset without having to restart any applications.

To revert, simply enable the main pc speakers.


To make your headset give sound, it is actually pretty easy. I have a USB headset, and so do you. Right Click on the volume icon

Make sure THE SPEAKERS have the default device. Cancel all of that out, then unplug your headset and wait about 30 seconds. Plug back in, and when you go back to that first page, your headset should be the new default device. :) Your welcome.


Skip to steps for TLDR. Sounds weird, but I right clicked the sounds icon, clicked on playback devices and set the default as speaker. Even though a speaker icon and a headphone icon popped up, setting the speaker as my headphones was the only way to make it work.

  1. Right click sound button
  2. Click playback devices
  3. Right click the speaker and click to make default

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