Windows 7 & Windows Server 2008 R2: Case of Missing Playback/Recording (Disabled) Devices

Windows 7 & Windows Server 2008 R2: Case of Missing Playback/Recording (Disabled) Devices

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You are using Windows 7 on daily basis and of course you enjoy. I have been using Windows 7 almost on every system except my demo machine where I run Windows Server 2008 R2. But that’s not a concern as the both the operating systems share a same code base. I use USB headsets or any other standard headsets for recording audio or joining conference instead of using laptop speakers.

Sometimes it’s bit difficult to configure a Microphone because when you plug additional Microphone to your machine you have no idea exactly which Microphone is default. It could be your on board Microphone or USB Connected Headset’s Microphone. In most cases user try to disable the on board Microphone. This is how users do it.

In the System Tray Right Click on Sound Icon and click on Recording Devices. Other option is go to Start –> Control Panel –> Sound.

This will display all the available Recording Devices like this.


To disable the first device in the list, Right Click and DISABLE


Now, the moment you DISABLE the device, it will be gone and this is what you will see. And your DISABLED device is now missing from the list.


For time being you have found a solution, your other device becomes default device and you can use headset Microphone for some time. But what if later on you need to use on board Microphone or in case where you don’t have your headset with you?? Hmm, that’s interesting I did not think about it.

Now what users do to get back missing Microphone. Smile Well, ideally lot of things. Let me list down some of them.

For this you will open up Device Manager to search the device.
They will try to reinstall the device drivers.
Users will even restart your system assuming that it may turn up somehow in the list.
They will dry to unplug USB headset and many more things.

Well, let’s see how do I get it back. No more hunting stuff. Well, usually the device when disabled becomes hidden device but due to default settings do not show disabled devices, you can’t see them in the list. Here is the easy solution below. Right Click on the empty area, then you see couple of options to Show Disabled/Disconnected Devices. Click on to it.


Voila, you see those DISABLED/DISCONNECTED devices back in the list. You can right click onto it to and click Enable.



Note: You can right click on any of the device and Set it as a Default Device. This is applicable for both Playback Devices as well as Recording Devices.

Actually when you disable the device, it should be visible at the same time rather than finding that option. I have heard from many folks that they could not easily find the option to highlight the disabled/disconnected devices. It was like a challenging stuff to hunt down that option. I hope you will find it useful, saving your precious few minutes hunting down missing/hidden devices.

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  • Superb blog. most common issue.

  • good one..... looked for half hout and couldn't find it myselft


  • Thanks Much.

  • Thanks!  That "issue" was making me crazy.

  • Thanks, fell victim to this poor design too. I fail to see why they didn't implement it like the device manager - disabled devices are shown by default.

  • I have been strugling for a while.Thanks so much :-)

  • Thank you!  Saved me lots of time and heartache!

  • What do I do when I have a headset that shows up as a headphone but not a microphone? I have checked "show disabled devices" but it's still not showing up. How do I get my computer to use my headset microphone instead of the built in microphone?

  • Thanks for the info. After going through your input, I managed to rectify what I have done wrong by mistake. Pls do keep up the good work.

  • I had disabled some devices In this way and it has caused so many problems thank you for the fix

  • Found this disabled Stereo MIx as I repaired my disabled Microphone from your directions. Now Mic works again, and there is no way to ever thank you enough for getting Stereo Mix back. It has been my biggest gripe about Windows since WIn XP. This is seriously great information. Thanks so much.

  • Thank you very much for this information. it saved my day.