Bleg: Help me fix my weird PC audio problem

I’m having an oddball audio problem on my Windows XP tower.

My kids were using a pair of cheap headphones plugged into the headphone jack on the front of the PC. The tip of the plug broke off inside the headphone jack. The only way to listen to music is to plug in the broken headphones. Other headphones won’t work, because the broken plug tip is blocking the way.

Likewise, the rear sound jack won’t work. When you plug headphones in front, the computer assumes you don’t want to use the speakers, so it bypasses the rear sound jack. With the broken plug tip inside, the computer thinks headphones are plugged into the front.

I tried getting the broken plug out using a semi-straightened dental pick, but no dice. Any other ideas?

Is there a way to disable the front headphone jack in software? I’m thinking that if the computer didn’t know the front headphone jack existed it would stop bypassing the rear sound jack.

Any ideas appreciated.

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7 Responses to Bleg: Help me fix my weird PC audio problem

  1. pdb says:

    You should be able to detach the front jack from the motherboard by following the wires from the jack to the motherboard.

  2. Les Jones says:

    I didn’t even think about reconfiguring the hardware. That might do it.

  3. Mike S says:

    Yep, if the front jack is connected via wire to prongs on the mobo, you can just unplug them.

    In software, I can’t remember if it was on my XP machine or only on my Win7, but in the audio software it allowed me to specify what sort of output device was plugged into each audio port and have multiple active simultaneously. So I have normal speakers plugged into the green jack in the back, and a pair of wireless headphones plugged into another port. Both always receive audio, and if I want to use the headphones I physically turn the volume off at the speakers and on at the headphones.

    It was in the Sound properties in the Control Panel.

  4. Les Jones says:

    I looked in the Sound control panel and didn’t see anything, but I’ll take another look tonight. Thanks!

  5. TinMan says:

    The others have suggested what I would try: physically unplugging the front headphone/microphone jack from the motherboard.

    Unfortunately, if it’s a mass-produced system (Dell, Sony, HP…) they may have a consolidated/single-plug thing (aids in speed of assembly) that also includes the power button & light, HDD activity light so you may end up merely snipping the wires to those broken plugs.

    And yes, I’d be sure to snip both the mic & headphone wires too. No telling if doing just the headphone will still make the computer think something is plugged in.

    I don’t believe WinXP supported the level of hardware control present in W7 so the control panel option may be not so much of an option.

    Best of luck! Oh, and go buy a new computer already! ;-)

  6. Douglas2 says:

    If you can get to the jack inside the PC, it may be “open frame” enough that you can use your dental pick to push the tip back out of the jack.

    Failing that, I’ve occasionally been able to extract such tips using the flattened end of a toothpick that has had a tiny spot of superglue applied. Give it a good hour to have maximum grip, and pull straignt out without twisting.

  7. Outside T. Box says:

    Well, if you prefer not to open the case, you could go buy some crazy glue (in gel form, put just a tiny drop on what’s left of the headphone plug, and plug it in.

    That might grab the broken off portion of the plug, depending on the geometry.

    If it doesn’t work, well, it needed fixing anyway – crack the case.