Fix: Channel Surround Sound Not Working in Windows 10

Windows 10 upgrade from prior versions of Windows is free and many users have opted to upgrade, whenever you upgrade there are likely to be conflicts and compatibility issues most commonly with the drivers you previously had that were designed and developed for your previous operating system.

Windows 10 does support most of your previously installed applications and drivers but you may need to upgrade them. The Channel surround sound not working in Windows 10 is one of such issues faced by users who upgraded to Windows 10. Users are getting basic sound from front speakers; however, they are not getting any sound from rear speakers.

Usually, the issue is prevalent in systems having Realtek’s 5.1 sound card. Because the Realtek’s 5.1 sound card is working properly in Windows 7 and 8.x, users are looking towards Microsoft for the solution to this issue. Microsoft support personnel announced that they are working on the issue. However, Microsoft has still not provided a fix.

Update: After more than two years, the surround sound is still partially broken in Windows 10. Even if fixes were implemented on builds 10586.1 and build 10586.3, the issue still partially remains. Right now, the issue only affects surround sound encoded in real-time like games or DTS Live. Pre-recorded surround tracks like the ones found on DVDs and Blu Rays are now working fine under Windows 10. With the new sound technologies like Dolby Atmos and Sonic, Microsoft is unlikely to ever release an official patch for the 5.1 surround issue for Windows 10. Microsoft is once again using planned obsolescence to force consumers into migrating to Sonic and Atmos.

While we wait eagerly for Microsoft to release an official fix for this issue, let’s go over some solutions that have enabled users to fix their channel surround problems on Windows 10. Please follow each method in order until you find a fix that works for you.

Method 1: Enabling Speaker Fill

One solution that seems particularly effective for users struggling with the 5.1 channels issue is to enable enhancements and Speaker Fill. While this will allow you to use all your speakers when running Windows 10, the overall sound quality will be lowered. Instead of getting the full audio spectrum possible through all the channels, the rear speakers will use virtualization to provide a surround-like effect. Here’s what you need to do to enable speaker fill:

  1. Press Windows key + R and type “mmsys.cpl”. Hit Enter to open the Sound dialog box.
  2. Go to the Playback tab, select your 5.1 surround speakers and click on Properties.
  3. In Speaker Properties, go to the Enhancement tab and uncheck the box next to Disable all sound effects. Then, Scroll down to the menu below and check the box next to Speaker Fill. Hit Apply to save your configuration.
  4. Reboot your device and see whether you can hear sound from your rear speakers. If you have the same issue, move over to the next method.

Method 2: Changing the Audio Format to 24/96

This following method is particularly effective if your audio is outputted through S/PDIF. Some users have successfully enabled the 5.1 surround sound after changing the audio format to 24 bit, 96000 Hz. This also proved to be effective with users who had trouble enabling Dolby Direct Live. Follow the steps down below o change the audio format to 24/96:

  1. Press Windows key + R and type “mmsys.cpl”. Hit Enter to open the Sound dialog box.
  2. Go to the Playback tab, select your 5.1 surround speakers and click on Properties.
  3. Next, go to the Advanced tab and use the drop-down menu below Default Format to change the audio format to 24 bit, 96000 Hz (Studio Quality). Hit Apply to save your modifications.
  4. Reboot your system and see whether 5.1 channel surround is now working. If nothing changed for the better, move to the next method.

Method 3: Uninstalling Windows Audio Driver

Some users have remedied this issue by uninstalling the sound driver from Device Manager. This will force Windows to reinstall the driver and often time it will automatically install a newer version. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Hold the Windows Key and Press X and choose Device Manager.2016-03-02_093415
  2. Double-click Audio inputs and outputs to show the sub-items. Right-click on the installed devices one by one, and click Uninstall. Click OK in the Confirm Device Uninstall dialog.2016-03-02_093424
  3. After uninstalling the old device drivers, click on Scan for hardware changes from the Action tab.

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Windows 10 will try to automatically install the drivers for your audio devices at the next reboot. If prompted, click Search automatically for updated driver software, and let Windows 10 install the drivers. In most cases, you will be able to get your 5.1 surround sound back after you reinstall the audio drives.

Note: If Windows doesn’t automatically download and install the audio driver, you’ll need to go to your onboard sound card manufacturer website and manually download the driver (for Realtek onboard, download the High Definition Audio Driver from here). After that, check your audio and see if the 5.1 surround sound is working.

If your still not getting signal to the rear speakers, you have little else to do but to buy a speaker with the newest technology (powered by Atmos or Sonic) or buy a dedicated 5.1 sound card that is known to function properly under Windows 10 (there aren’t many). A more desperate solution would be to revert back to Windows 8.1 or Windows 7, to when 5.1 surround channels where fully supported.

Kevin Arrows


Kevin is a dynamic and self-motivated information technology professional, with a Thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. Superior record of delivering simultaneous large-scale mission critical projects on time and under budget.

Expert Tip

Fix: Channel Surround Sound Not Working in Windows 10

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