USB, External, Microphone not Working on Mac

Microphone not working

This article explains what you can do if your USB (external) microphone is not working properly on your Mac. We previously explained what you can do when you are unable to use your built-in microphone.

Common USB microphone problems you may experience on your Mac include:

  • USB microphone is not recognized or detected when plugged in.
  • Audio or sound recording issues frequently occur.
  • Microphone does not work at all.

Depending on your Mac model, your Mac may have a built-in microphone. Still, several users may prefer to use external microphones. Please follow the steps below one by one until the problem is fixed.

Test your microphone

It is possible that the problem is with your microphone. You can easily test this. Do you have another device? Simply plug your mic into another device. Does your mic work now? If it is still not working, it is highly likely that the problem is with your mic. Here is what you can do:

  • Check your mic and its cable for signs of damage.
  • On your Mac, verify that the microphone is plugged in securely. Make sure that it is connected properly and firmly.
  • Disconnect the microphone and reconnect it into the same USB port. Do this a few times.
  • Disconnect your microphone and reconnect it into a different port on your Mac.
  • If it is still not working, you may want to contact its manufacturer.

If the mic works on a different computer, then we can say that the problem is with your Mac. If this is the case, see the steps below.

Restart your Mac

Mac Restart

Simply restart your Mac. You can do so by going to the Apple menu > Restart.

Make sure the microphone isn’t turned off or muted

Depending on the microphone, your device may have a mute button or volume control buttons. Check these buttons and ensure that your microphone is not muted. And turn up the volume if needed. And lastly ensure that your microphone is turned on.

Check your settings

  • On your Mac, go to System Preferences > Sound > Input. Are you seeing the external mic listed as an input device? And ensure that your external microphone is selected. Also check your input and output volume levels.
  • Check the microphone permissions for an app you want to use with your microphone. Go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy and from the sidebar, select Microphone. And ensure that the app you want to use is allowed to use your microphone.
  • And, some apps (like iMovie) let you choose your input source. Ensure that your external microphone is selected. For example, in iMovie, click the Voiceover button and then click the Input Source to choose your external microphone.

Update

Mac Update

Ensure that your Mac has the latest version of macOS. You can check for updates by going to the Apple menu > System Preferences > Software Update. And if there is an update, click the Update button to update your Mac.

Safe Mode

Mac Safe Mode

Restart your Mac in Safe Mode. Here is how you can start Safe Mode:

The steps differ depending on what type of Mac you have: Intel or Apple silicon. Go to Apple menu > About This Mac, if you don’t know.

Intel:

  • Turn off your Mac (Apple menu > Shut Down).
  • Turn on your Mac and immediately press and hold the Shift key.
  • Release the Shift key when you see the login screen.
  • Login, you may have to login a few times.

Apple silicon:

  • Turn off your Mac.
  • Press and hold the power button until the start up options window appears.
  • Select your startup disk (e.g., Macintosh HD).
  • Press and hold the Shift and click “Continue in Safe Mode.”
  • Login

Then in Safe Mode, test your microphone. Leave Safe Mode (by simply restarting your Mac) and test your microphone again.

Reset the SMC

If you are still having this problem, you can try resetting the system management controller (SMC).

Please note that you can reset the SMC if you have an Intel-based Mac. If you are not sure, as stated above, go to the Apple menu > About This Mac > Overview.

Here is how you can reset the SMC:

If you have a Mac model with the Apple T2 Security Chip

Several Mac models include this chip. You can open System Information to determine if your computer has this chip (Apple menu > press and hold the Option key > System Information > Controller or iBridge).

Notebooks with the T2 chip

  • Turn off your Mac.
  • Press and hold these keys (ignore if your Mac turns on): Control (on the left side), Option (on the left side), Shift (on the right side). Keep pressing these keys for 7 seconds and then press and hold the power button too (you will be pressing and holding 4 keys). Keep pressing these 4 keys for 7 seconds. Then release all keys.
  • Wait a few seconds and turn on your Mac by pressing the power button.
Reset SMC notebook

Desktops with the T2 chip

  • Turn off your Mac.
  • Disconnect the power cord.
  • Wait 15 seconds. Then reconnect the power cord.
  • Wait 5 seconds and turn on your Mac by pressing the power button.

If you have a Mac model that does not have the T2 Chip

Notebooks (if they don’t have a removable battery)

  • Turn off your Mac.
  • Press and hold these 3 keys: Control (on the left side), Shift (on the left side), Option (on the left side).
  • While pressing these 3 keys, press and hold the power button (you will be pressing and holding 4 keys).
  • Keep pressing them for 10 seconds. Then release them all.
  • Turn on your Mac by pressing the power button.
T2 Reset SMC

Desktops without the T2 chip

  • Turn off your Mac.
  • Unplug the power cord from your computer
  • Wait 15 seconds.
  • Then plug the power cord back in.
  • Wait 5 seconds and turn on your Mac by pressing the power button.

If you are still having this microphone problem, contact Apple.

See also:

Dr. Serhat Kurt worked as a Senior Technology Director. He holds a doctoral degree (or doctorate) from the University of Illinois at Urbana / Champaign and a master’s degree from Purdue University.

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