When I'm alone, I unplug my headset and let the sound output from the load speaker of my iMac, and when there are other people around, I plug in the headset in order to not bother people around me. I found myself keep plugging and unplugging my headset. What's worse is the headset jack of the iMac is on the back side of the screen.

Now I'm hoping that I could keep my headset plugged in all the time, and there would be a software switch to control the sound should be output from either load speaker or the headset. But I don't know if it is possible with a Mac. It seems to be possible with Windows, but I'm not sure. Anyone has any idea will be greatly appreciated.


2 Answers 2


That can not be done. There is a hardware switch in the headset plug.

It will disable the build in speakers so no software can fix that.

Apple decided that when you plug in the headset you do not want your speakers going at same time.

That is why it is not possible to use software switch.

  • 4
    This really ought to be a software thing. :-(
    – jvriesem
    Sep 12, 2015 at 18:34
  • Can't prove it, since I never used BootCamp, but apparently someone states that when you run Windows on Bootcamp, you can change the audio routing (apple.stackexchange.com/a/127742) therefore, provided that what @teegee wrote is true, it is a software switch, which theoretically could be overridden. Dec 17, 2015 at 7:42
  • This is done in Linux.
    – Qian Chen
    Oct 29, 2019 at 5:09
  • You should hear the Mac Chime when you boot. Therefore it is software, not hardware. At the moment, when I live-boot Linux, the speakers work for volume control feedback, but are labeled as "disabled" and the rest of the OS won't play through them. Very strange. Would like to get this working in Linux so I can use the computer w/o USB speakers.
    – mankoff
    Jun 19, 2023 at 4:58

In Preferences->Sound, select "Show volume in menu bar". You should then see a little speaker icon in your menu bar.

If you option-click that (click while holding alt/⌥), you can select the audio output right there.

Update: Only works for audio devices connected via USB or DisplayPort/Thunderbolt, not for the Headphone port.

  • Thanks @lutzh. However, when the headset is plugged in, it shows Output Device: Headphones, Input Device: External microphone, whereas when the headset is unplugged, it shows Output Device: Internal Speakers, Input Device: Internal microphone. It seems I have no way to choose.
    – Qian Chen
    Mar 5, 2014 at 16:34
  • @ElgsQianChen I see.. it works for my Headset (USB) and TV (DisplayPort), I never actually checked the headphone port. Sorry.
    – lutzh
    Mar 5, 2014 at 16:54

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