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I have a set of surround speakers, connected to my iMac through the headphone jack. I use a switch to control what goes to the speaker set (iMac, iPod, or MacBook/aux). So that I don't have to be constantly unplugging and replugging, I leave the audio cable in the iMac's audio port. This means that when I'm listening to something from another source, I can't hear anything from the iMac unless I unplug the cable.

Is there a way to force sound to come out of the internal speakers, even if there's something in the audio out port?

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I think you can't Nathan. You will have to get an external audio card or a USB headset (which has its own audio card). :( – Martín Marconcini Feb 12 '13 at 1:54
I'm tempted to bounty this - there's got to be someone that's hacked their firmware or figured how to ignore the hardware switch by now, no? Adding hardware solves the issue and returns control to the sound control panel, but a native solution would be better IMO. – bmike Mar 12 '14 at 16:25

Pretty sure it can't be done with the built-in headphone jack. What you could try is getting a USB soundcard (one example, but there are lots out there for $20 or so) to plug your headphones into. That should give you two options in the sound preferences.

PS, if you option-click the speaker icon in the menu bar, you get a quicker way to swap inputs/outputs than going to the sound preference pane every time.

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And you could reroute it to both:… – TheDoctor May 26 '15 at 22:22

There's no documented way to override the switch that deactivates the internal speakers when a headphone jack is detected.

The switch that detects whether a 3.5mm headphone jack or mini-toslink is inserted removes the internal speaker from the sound control panel. (Probably at a low enough level that the OS itself cannot over-ride this control.)

Since there isn't a widely known firmware hack, OS hack or hidden preference to disable this detection, you will need to add a USB to headphone device to avoid losing your internal speaker option while a headphone is plugged in.

As long as you don't plug into the Apple port, you can switch amongst the internal and all other output sources using the normal tools (or whatever third party software option you prefer)

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You can change the audio (output and input) directly on the Sounds Preference panel. There's an output tab that includes a selector for selecting the output. enter image description here

If you want something a bit more convenient I used a free program called Audio Switcher from Spike Software. It sits in the task tray and offers quick access to the same settings you see in the Sound Preferences pane.

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This is my current setup on Lion. I recall that I've been using this same software back to 10.5, but I don't have anything but the Lion machine to test on. – rwr Dec 30 '11 at 13:09
I'm afraid this doesn't work. As soon as you plug headphones in, the internal speakers disappear from the list. Yours stay, because you have a USB headset. – Nathan Greenstein Dec 30 '11 at 15:19
Selecting the output device can be done more easily, by Option-clicking the speaker in the menu bar (at the right). – Nicolas Barbulesco Dec 1 '13 at 12:57
We Mac users do not know such thing as a task tray. – Nicolas Barbulesco Dec 1 '13 at 12:57

A faster way to do what @rwr suggested is to option click on the audio icon in the menu bar and select Internal Speakers under Output.

enter image description here

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Unfortunately, once I plug in the headphones, Internal Speakers disappears from the list. – Nathan Greenstein Jan 18 '12 at 23:18
Ah. I believe Mac OS X treats iMac audio ports the same way as portable audio ports. I have a Mac Pro which allows you to differentiate. I do not know of a native way to do this. I'll do a little research and see if anything comes up. – Matt Love Jan 18 '12 at 23:21

I have been trying to get this to work. After moving from my Mac Pro which has speakers and headphones plugged in and I simple switched between them (and even internal speakers) to a new iMac where I have to keep unplugging the headphones to get sound through the iMac speakers. What I'm about to order is a simple USB Sound Card dongle. Small thing that gives an audio jack via a usb, this should then allow me to alt+click the volume icon and switch between built in and headphones as it will see them as separate outputs.

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Check out Rogue Ameoba's SoundSource program. It's a free app that sits your menu bar and lets you pick where audio should get routed. You can route internal, system sounds and general audio buss sounds to different locations. Super handy if you want to keep speakers connected but choose where audio goes. In your case you could route both audio types to the internal speakers even if your external speakers were plugged in.

I like to use it to keep system sounds from landing on my powered monitors, which can be running pretty loud at times. Nothing worse than a Chime or a Yoohoo type tone bouncing off your skull at high volume when an email comes in while you're tracking audio.

Update: if you're running 10.8 or 10.9 you can use the older, 2.5, version of SoundSource just fine even though they're not officially supported. The 2.5.1 version does an OS version check that keeps it from working.

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Unfortunately, with headphones plugged in there is no option for internal. Pic – Nathan Greenstein Jan 17 '11 at 20:22
A nuts! You know what? I use it with a Firewire-based soundcard -- not the headphone jack. I never plug headphones in to the headphone jacks on my Macs... – Ian C. Jan 17 '11 at 20:23
We Mac users do not know such thing as a task bar. – Nicolas Barbulesco Dec 1 '13 at 13:00
@NicolasBarbulesco you're free to suggest edits to questions if you think you can improve upon them. I changed it to "menu bar" for you. – Ian C. Dec 1 '13 at 19:52

I use Boot Camp to run Windows 7 on my iMac 27" mid-2011. When in the Windows mode I have the choice of internal speakers or headphone jack in my audio output, even although I the headphones permanently plugged into the headphone jack. So Windows have it solved how come Mac can't - after all it's all the same hardware!

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This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post - you can always comment on your own posts, and once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post. – Rob Apr 16 '14 at 11:18

The switch that is used is hardware based, so no way to override it except with an audio USB device, or: bluetooth speakers!

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