How To Identify Which Programs Are Making Sound In Windows

Yesterday I was sitting in my office doing my work and suddenly a sound started to come from my computer’s speakers. The sound was annoying and I wanted to close the program making that sound as soon as possible. In frustration, I had to plug out my speakers to keep it silent.

Ideally this is not a good solution as you don’t know when you have to plug out the cables of your speakers. In this article, we will discuss identifying the programs which are making sounds in real-time and close or mute them safely without muting the whole system.

Using Windows Volume Mixer to detect sound producing programs

After a lot of research, I have come to the conclusion that Windows Mixer, which comes pre-installed in Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1 and also Windows 10 is also the best tool to see which programs are making sound. The volume mixer shows all the programs which are using the sound card in real-time.

To open the volume mixer, either you can click on the sound icon in the system tray and then click on Mixer or simply go to Run –> sndvol.exe

Opening Volume Mixer from system tray

The default window size of the Volume Mixer is small and doesn’t show all the programs which are using the sound card at once. You will need to resize it horizontally to show all the programs.

Volume Mixer

In the mixer, you can see each program which is using the sound card. You can even mute or adjust the volume of an individual program.

Troubleshooting problems in the Mixer

If you can hear the sound but it is not coming from the Mixer window, it probably means that it doesn’t come with your administrative privileges. You should either login as an administrator or run sndvol.exe as System in order to show all the programs.

To run sndvol.exe as a System, run it as follows:

  1. Download PsExec from SysInternals.
  2. Open command prompt as Administrator (Windows Key + X + A).
  3. Go to the path of PsExec and run the following command:
    PsExec.exe -i -s sndvol.exe
    psexec command to run volume mixer in system mode
  4. This should open the volume mixer under your system account. You can confirm this with your task manager.
    Task manager showing sndvol running on system account

Find the program making sounds using Process Monitor

Windows 10 has a built-in feature called Toast Notifications, which provides notifications when different apps are used. You will see notifications slide out in the right corner of the screen, above the taskbar, and you will hear a chime as you get them. It gets irritating when Windows 10 starts making sounds without any notification. This is very annoying since you cannot identify the source of the sound.

The background sounds are usually notification sounds and can be identified using Process Monitor.

To find the sound making program, follow the steps below:

  1. Download Process Monitor
  2. Unzip the file contents and run procmon.exe (for 32-bit systems) or procmon64.exe (for 64-bit systems)
  3. Go to the Filter menu and select Filter (Ctrl + L)
  4. Match the filter with the following:
    Path contains .wav then include
  5. Press the Add button and then OK.
Finding sound making programs using Process Monitor
Finding sound making programs using Process Monitor

Process Monitor will start monitoring the system for possible execution of sound files. Once you hear an annoying sound, check the Process Monitor log and look for .wav files under the Path column. From here you can easily identify which program is triggering the sound file.

Identifying the program creating sounds
Identifying the program creating sounds

 Final thoughts

I wanted to test the same functionality with a third party app but unfortunately I wasn’t able to find one. If you find an app which can detect the sound emitted by each program in Windows, please let me know through comments below. I have been satisfied using Windows Volume Mixer but the only problem I face is that it doesn’t show any history. If it could be done, somehow, it would become perfect. What are your thoughts about this?

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Usman Khurshid
Usman Khurshid is a seasoned IT Pro with over 15 years of experience in the IT industry. He has experience in everything from IT support, helpdesk, sysadmin, network admin, and cloud computing. He is also certified in Microsoft Technologies (MCTS and MCSA) and also Cisco Certified Professional in Routing and Switching. Reach him at Twitter @usmank11

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