How to Prevent Windows from Automatically Reducing System Volume
If you are running Windows 7 or later, then you may have run into an odd behavior in your Windows experience. If you’re running a program that uses sound, you may have noticed the volume of your sound to be automatically reduced when you run certain programs, such as Skype or games with audio chat channels. This can be very frustrating and many users have been really upset at this seemingly random volume reduction problem. As it happens, it’s not random and it’s easy to fix. In this article, I will show you why this happens, and how to stop it from happening again.
What’s Up, Redmond?
Longtime Microsoft watchers know that what you really have to watch out for isn’t malevolent intention on the part of the Redmond-based software giant. If Microsoft tries to be evil, they usually just mess it up and don’t really do anything. No, it’s when Microsoft tries to HELP that you have to look out, and this volume glitch is a sterling example of this phenomenon.
Here’s what’s happening. As voice over IP (VoIP) services became more and more common here in the 21st century, Microsoft wanted to make the process of placing and receiving phone calls on the Windows desktop to be more seamless. (You’ve surely noticed how you make and receive all your phone calls on your Windows machine now, right?) To facilitate this, Microsoft added a feature starting in Windows 7 and present all the way through Windows 10 that attempts to detect when a user is making or receiving a VoIP call. When the operating system thinks a call is being made, it automatically lowers the volume of other apps (or even mutes them) while the call is in progress. You know, the way you didn’t ever ask it to do.
Unfortunately, although this feature in and of itself is not an intrinsically stupid idea, it turns out that Windows is really, really bad at detecting whether something is a VoIP call or not. Multiplayer games that contain a voice channel, for example, often trigger the “feature”, as do outright VoIP apps like Skype or Google Hangouts. The real difficulty is that people using Skype or Hangouts or games usually have their relative volumes configured the way they want them configured when they start doing a chat. Microsoft is doing the equivalent of rearranging your desk for you “because I’m sure you want things to be organized”, right after you’ve just gotten everything the way you like it.
Thankfully, this immensely annoying feature can be easily disabled. All you need to do is launch your Control Panel or your Settings (depending on your Windows version) and head to the Sound configuration dialog.
In the Sound configuration window, click on the “Communications” tab. This is the location where this automatic reduction feature is configured.
By default, the option to “Reduce the volume of other sounds by 80%” is selected. Change this to “Do nothing” to effectively kill the feature. If, however, you actually find this feature useful, you can further refine it by having Windows only reduce the volume of other apps by 50%, or by having the operating system mute all other sounds entirely.
Want more control over your Windows audio experience? We’ve got the resources that you need!
We’ve got a guide to changing the startup sound in Windows 10.
Here’s our walkthrough for turning off notification sounds in Windows 10.
If your sound isn’t working, check out our article on fixing sound problems in Windows 10.
We can help you if your headphones aren’t working on Windows 10.
We’ll show you how to use hotkeys to adjust your volume in Windows 10.