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How to prevent notifications muting sound on Windows 10

Notifications on Windows 10 are shown via banner/toast notifications, and they’re accompanied by sound/audio alerts. Windows 10 allows users to choose which notifications, down to an app, can appear on the desktop and which can play an audio alert. For the most part, users have complete control over it.

In some cases, notifications that appear on the desktop can also mute any and all other audio on your system for a few seconds. Quite a few users find it annoying, especially if they’re playing music or watching a video. This isn’t a bug but the behavior is easy to turn off.

Fix notifications muting sound on Windows 10

The notifications that mute sound on your system are of a specific type; communication apps. Apps like Skype, Discord, Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc. all fall under this category. To fix the problem, you don’t have to change how the apps work or deliver notifications. Instead, you need to change how Windows 10 treats audio on your system.

  1. Open the Control Panel.
  2. Go to Hardware and Sound. 
  3. Select Sound.
  4. Go to the Playback tab.
  5. Double-click your default audio playback device to view its properties. Alternatively, you can select the device, and click the Properties button.
  6. On the Properties window, go to the Advanced tab.
  7. Here, uncheck the ‘Allow applications to take exclusive control of this device’ option.
  8. Click Apply.

Changing this setting will have one side-effect; the next time you get a call e.g. on Skype, the audio in all other apps won’t be muted either. This feature is meant to automatically mute audio so you can easily answer a call without first having to mute other apps. Unfortunately, it seems to apply to notifications for new messages which don’t really need to be read in absolute silence. It’s also why only notifications from communication apps trigger this sort of behavior. The only other app that can deliver a notification that will mute everything else on the system is the Alarms and Clock app which again, makes sense.

Conclusion

If you’re experiencing this same problem with other apps, i.e., apps that aren’t strictly communication apps, it is worth trying this fix. Windows 10 allows users to turn this feature on/off at will but there isn’t any fine-grain control that allows them to choose which communication apps can take advantage of it, and which can’t. There’s also no whitelisting feature where you can choose to give audio from non-communication apps preference over others.

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