Here is the complete error message that you may be seeing on your Windows 10/11 screen — ‘The device is being used by another application. Please close any devices that are playing audio to this device and then try again.’ You may also see a partial message like ‘This Device Is Being Used by Another Application’. Usually, this happens when you are playing a video or audio, and you may be using an HDMI cable to do so. There may be other reasons too as I will explain below.
Table of Contents
1. Disconnect A/V Accessories
Try some of these basic troubleshooting steps before moving on to see if it helps fix the ‘This Device Is Being Used by Another Application’ error. Hopefully, this should do the trick as it is a pretty common issue.
Remove all audio and video accessories like HDMI cables, external monitors, Bluetooth speakers or wired headphones, etc., and reboot your computer once. Then reconnect the accessories, one at a time, starting with the monitor or HDMI cable first, and check again.
2. Pair Sound Input/Output Device Manually
This is why I still love and miss the humble and retro 3.5mm jack. It simply works. Bluetooth, on the other hand, can be a hit-and-miss occasionally. If the sound bar or audio device is not pairing automatically, try pairing it manually.
1. Right-click on the speaker icon in the Taskbar just before the date and time on the right side.
2. Windows Sound Settings screen should open. Click on Add device button below a list of devices that are already connected to the Windows PC.
Note: The steps we are following are for sound output devices. However, if you are facing the error with a sound input device, scroll a little in the screenshot above and select Add device option under Input heading.
3. In the pop-up that follows, choose how you want to connect depending on the sound device you have. It can be Bluetooth, a wireless display that you are trying to stream a movie on, or a gaming console.
4. Now follow the on-screen instructions which will vary depending on the option you choose and the device you want to connect.
3. Set as Default Device
Most of us own multiple audio and video devices like headphones, external monitors, tablets, etc. What Windows will do here is assign one device as the default but you can change that. Sometimes, changing the default device to the one that you are trying to make work helps and takes a few moments only.
1. Press Windows+I to open Windows Settings. Go to System > Sound. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and click on More sound settings.
2. In the pop-up that follows, right-click on the sound device and select Set as Default Device option.
4. Run Audio Troubleshooter
Both Windows 10 and 11 OS come with a list of troubleshooters that helps users find and fix common PC problems. One of them is for audio and video-related errors like the ‘This Device Is Being Used by Another Application’ one you are facing.
1. Press Windows + I to open Settings and search for Find and fix problems with playing sound and click to open it.
2. This will open a pop-up window. Click on Next button to continue.
3. Follow the on-screen instructions from here on. It will try and find the root cause of the problem and fix it.
The above troubleshooter was for audio devices. There is another for when you are trying to play movies or just videos. Might as well run that one in case it is related to that.
4. In the Settings search bar, search for Find and fix problems with playing movies, TV shows, or videos, and click to open it.
5. Again, you will see a pop-up. Click on Next and let the troubleshooter run.
If not, continue reading the guide.
5. Find App Using the Sound Device
What does the ‘This Device Is Being Used by Another Application’ pop-up mean? It simply means that the sound device, speaker, or earphone, for example, is being used by another application on your Windows 10/11 computer. If we find that app and close or exit it, the pop-up should disappear.
1. Press Windows+R to open the Run prompt and type the command below. Press Enter to execute it.
2. The Volume Mixer should open now. Scroll sideways to see a list of all the apps that are using the connected sound device. If you see one that you don’t recognize or want, close that app.
Note: If you see a ‘red circle with line’ icon next to the speaker icon below an app, that means the sound has been disabled for that app. Click on it once to enable sound.
3. If you can’t close the app like you always do, press Ctrl+Shift+Esc keys on your keyboard to open the Task Manager, right-click on the app, and select End task to force quit the app.
6. Disable Allow Apps to Take Control Setting
Some apps have permission to take control over sound settings, overriding the options that you have selected. That may also lead to the ‘This Device Is Being Used by Another Application’ error. Let’s remedy it quickly.
1. Press Windows+I to open Settings and go to System > Sound.
2. In the Sound settings pop-up, right-click on the Speakers that are currently selected as the output device for sound and select Properties.
3. In yet another pop-up, under the Advanced tab, uncheck Allow applications to take exclusive control of this device option. Click on OK on all screens to save changes.
Do this for other devices that you think maybe taking over resulting in the error.
7. Device Properties
Press Windows+I to open Windows Settings and go to System > Sound. Here you will see two options. Speakers and whatever device you have connected to the PC. For me, it is Headphones. Click on the one that is not working for you.
2. Here it should say Don’t allow. That means it is already allowed. If the button says Allow, then click on it to allow.
The above screenshots are for Windows 11. In case you are using Windows 10, then select audio device from the drop-down menu, click on Device properties, and uncheck the Disable box.
Repeat these steps for other sound or audio devices too if you have them connected.
8. Restart Audio Service
For pretty much every hardware component, there is an associated service that runs in the background. Sometimes, it may stop or needs to be restarted to jumpstart things or troubleshoot.
1. Press Windows+S to open Windows Search and type Services and then click on Run as administrator to open it with admin rights.
2. Under the Name column, Find Windows Audio, right-click on it, and select Restart option. Wait a few moments before checking again if you still get the ‘This Device Is Being Used by Another Application’ pop-up while using an audio or video device.
3. To make sure you don’t face ‘This Device Is Being Used by Another Application’ again, right-click on Windows Audio and this time select Properties. In the pop-up, under the General tab, make sure that Startup type is set to Automatic.
Note: If the issue persists, repeat the above process for Windows Audio Endpoint Builder and Remote Procedure Call (RPC) in Services.
9. Update or Roll Back Audio Drivers
On one hand, updating the drivers should make sure that all audio and video devices connected to your Windows computer should run smoothly. On the other hand, you may have to roll back an update to a driver because it contains bugs. We don’t live in a perfect world.
1. Press Windows+S to open the Windows Search and find and open the Device Manager from there.
2. Double-click on Audio inputs and outputs to expand it. Here you will find all your connected speakers and other audio devices and their driveres. Right-click on the one that is not working and select Update driver to update drivers for the same.
Note: If you select Uninstall device option here, it will uninstall the drivers for the sound or audio device you have connected. That’s another way to troubleshoot. Simply uninstall the drivers and then when you reconnect the sound device again, the drivers will be installed again automatically. Do try if updating doesn’t work for you. Continue reading from step 3 if you are still seeing the ‘This Device Is Being Used by Another Application’ dialogue box.
3. In the same context menu, click on Properties. Under the Driver tab, you can further uninstall, rollback, and update the driver. In our case, rollback option is greyed out because no recent updates were found to be installed. If you do see one, try it.
Note: Another option you can try in the above screenshot is the Disable Device. Disable and re-enable once as some users found that helpful.
10. Run SFC Scan
The SFC or System File Checker command line tool will check the integrity of the system files installed by the OS that are absolutely critical to the functionality of your computer. It will then repair these files should it detect anything.
1. Open Windows Search again (press Windows+S) and search for CMD. Now open the Command Prompt by clicking on Run as administrator. Click on Yes if it asks for permission.
2. Type or copy-paste the command below and hit Enter to execute it.
Wait for the command to finish running. You will see in real-time how many percentages it has run and then the results will be displayed. When done, you can close the CMD window but never while the command is running.
Device Being Used by Another App
Not being able to hear audio while streaming can be frustrating. The 3.5mm jack cannot be used if there is more than one person watching. More often than not, this should get resolved fairly quickly. It is mostly a connectivity issue and connecting the device from scratch should do the trick.