Bluetooth headphones have become a popular choice for many users due to their convenience and wireless capabilities. However, it can be frustrating when you encounter an issue where your Bluetooth headphones are connected but not showing in the Playback Devices list on your Windows PC, an issue more prevalent in Windows 11 than in Windows 10. While the headphones are recognized by both Bluetooth and the Device Manager, the system doesn’t treat them as an audio output source. In this guide, we will look into the potential cause of the issue and provide some workarounds and solutions to help resolve it.
What is the issue?
The issue in question presents a unique situation: Bluetooth headphones connect successfully to a Windows 11/10 computer, yet they aren’t recognized as audio devices and don’t appear in the Playback Devices list. Users typically encounter this problem after a computer reset or update.
What’s baffling is that Windows can identify these headphones in the “Device Manager” and confirms their connection, but it doesn’t categorize them as an audio output device. As a result, even though they are connected, they can’t be chosen as the default output device to produce sound.
Linked issue: Playback Devices Not Showing in Windows 10/11 (Fix)
How to fix Bluetooth headphones connected but not showing in Playback Devices
Below are step-by-step solutions to help you troubleshoot and potentially resolve the issue where your Bluetooth headphones are successfully connected but not showing in the Playback Devices list.
Solution 1: Deactivate Handsfree Telephony
If you’re facing this issue, one of the potential solutions is to modify the services associated with your Bluetooth headphones. For some users, deactivating the “Hands Free Telephony” option resolved the problem.
Here’s how you can do it:
- Press Win + i to open Settings.
- Select Bluetooth & devices from the left pane.
- Click on “View more devices“.
- Scroll to the bottom and select “More devices and printer settings“.
- Right-click on your Bluetooth headphones or earphones and click Properties.
- Navigate to the Services tab.
- Uncheck the option that says “Hands Free Telephony”.
- Click Apply and then OK.
Note: While this solution has proven effective for many, it’s important to remember that it might disable the microphone function of your headset or earphones. This may not be a concern if you’re using a laptop with a built-in microphone, but if you’re on a desktop without a separate microphone, it’s something to keep in mind.
Related resource: How to Reinstall Bluetooth Driver in Windows 11
Solution 2: Enable all Bluetooth services of your headphones
For some users, especially those with assistant capabilities on their headphones, the solution may lie in the Control Panel’s device management settings.
- Open “Devices and Printers” by following the same steps as in the first solution.
- Right-click on your Bluetooth headphones or speakers select “Properties.”
- Look for a “Services” tab and ensure that all services are turned on. If there isn’t a “Services” tab, check the “Hardware” tab for similar options related to services.
This method may help your headphones establish a proper audio connection with your Windows 11 computer, especially if the issue is related to headphones wanting to connect to the internet for virtual assistant functions or remote control features on your headphones.
Solution 3: Disabling the Microphone of Bluetooth Speaker
Sometimes, the presence of a microphone on your Bluetooth headphones can interfere with the audio playback. Disabling the microphone can be the key to resolving this issue.
Follow these steps:
- Right-click on the speaker icon in your taskbar and select Open Sound settings.
- In the Sound settings, scroll down and select “More sound settings“.
- In the Sound window, navigate to the “Recording” tab.
- If you see your Bluetooth headphone’s microphone listed, right-click on it and select Disable.
By following these steps, you can ensure that the microphone on your Bluetooth headphones or speaker doesn’t interfere with audio playback.
Relevant problem: Bluetooth Not Detecting Devices in Windows 11
Solution 4: Re-pairing with correct audio profile
Some Bluetooth headphones come with multiple profiles, such as audio listening (A2DP) and hands-free/headset (HSP/HFP). The right profile may not always be selected by default, causing audio issues. Here’s a recommended approach:
- Go to Settings by clicking on the Start button and selecting the gear icon.
- Navigate to Bluetooth & devices and select “Devices“.
- Under the list of connected devices, find your headphones, click on them, and choose Remove device.
- Ensure your headphones are in pairing mode (consult the headphone’s manual if unsure how to do this).
- Back in the Bluetooth & devices menu in Settings, click on Add device.
- Select Bluetooth and wait for your computer to discover your headphones.
- Once discovered, click on your headphones to pair and connect them.
After reconnecting, Windows should ideally pick the right profile for audio playback. Ensure you’re connecting your headphones as an audio playback device and not just a hands-free device.
Related concern: Bluetooth Remove Failed in Windows 11 / 10
Solution 5: Check the headphone’s functionality
Sometimes, the issue might not be with your computer but with the headphones themselves. To rule out a hardware problem, try connecting your Bluetooth headphones to another compatible device, such as a smartphone or tablet.
If they work flawlessly on the alternative device, it’s likely that your headphones are functioning correctly, and the issue lies within your Windows 11 computer. If they still don’t work on another device, it’s possible that the headphones are malfunctioning, and you may need to contact the manufacturer for support or consider repair or replacement options.
Solution 6: Update Bluetooth drivers
Outdated or incompatible Bluetooth drivers can cause connection and recognition issues. To update your Bluetooth drivers:
- Right-click the Start button and select “Device Manager.“
- Expand the “Bluetooth” category.
- Right-click your Bluetooth adapter and select “Update driver.“
- Choose “Search automatically for updated driver software” and follow the prompts.
Once you’ve ensured a stable Bluetooth connection and updated your drivers, check if your headphones are now appearing in the Playback Devices list.
Solution 7: Restart Windows audio service
Sometimes, the Windows Audio service may encounter issues that prevent it from recognizing newly connected audio devices, including Bluetooth headphones. Restarting this service can often resolve the problem. Here’s how to do it:
- Open the Run dialog: Press Win + R on your keyboard to open the Run dialog.
- Open Services.msc: Type
services.msc(without quotes) into the Run dialog and press Enter. This will open the Services window.
- Locate Windows Audio: In the Services window, scroll down to find “Windows Audio” in the list of services. It should be listed alphabetically.
- Restart the service: Right-click on “Windows Audio” and select “Restart” from the context menu. This action will stop and then restart the service.
- Check playback devices: After the service has been restarted, check if your Bluetooth headphones now appear in the Playback Devices list.
If your headphones are still not showing in the list, proceed to the next section for additional troubleshooting steps.
Solution 8: Enable Bluetooth audio services
Windows uses specific audio services to manage Bluetooth audio devices. If these services are disabled or not set to start automatically, it can lead to issues with your Bluetooth headphones not appearing in Playback Devices. Here’s how to enable these services:
- Access the Services window: Open the Run dialog by pressing Win + R. Type
services.msc(without quotes) and press Enter.
- Locate the Bluetooth audio services: Scroll down in the Services window and look for the following services:
- Bluetooth Audio Gateway Service
- Bluetooth Support Service
- Enable and set to Automatic: Double-click each of these services to open their properties window. In the “Startup type” dropdown menu, select “Automatic.” If the service status is not already “Running,” click the “Start” button.
- Apply changes: Click “Apply” and then “OK” to save your changes for each service.
- Restart your PC: To ensure the changes take effect, restart your computer.
After your PC has restarted, check if your Bluetooth headphones are now visible in the Playback Devices list. If not, proceed to the next section for more troubleshooting steps.
Upgrading to a new operating system, like Windows 11, can sometimes bring unexpected driver and hardware challenges that were not previously experienced in older versions like Windows 10. However, the silver lining is that there are often solutions available to tackle these random issues. While it’s true that not every solution will be a perfect fit or solve the issue for everyone, exploring these potential fixes is worthwhile. After all, when faced with persistent tech problems, trying out possible solutions might be your best bet, especially when other options seem exhausted.
If you’ve tried all the solutions and the problem persists, it’s advisable to contact your headphone manufacturer for further assistance, as there may be specific issues related to your hardware or software configuration that require expert attention. If you have any further questions or encounter any issues, online forums and communities such as Reddit is an excellent place to seek advice and ask questions.