iMac internal microphone problems – another solution

I’ve replaced the hard disk in numerous iMacs over the years. It’s a fairly straight-forward repair, although not for everyone. But, in 2-3 cases recently, I would replace the disk, re-install the Mac OS X, restore all user data from the old disk (or a Time Machine backup), and return the computer to the user only to have them call me back in the following days, saying “The microphone doesn’t work.”

I would think to myself, “Oh, I must have missed a cable when I was mucking about inside” and I’d tell the client the same. But, time and time again, that wasn’t it.

Google to the rescue. I found many people with the same problem. And many “this worked for me” replies. Some people said, “Hit it like the Fonz.” Others suggested resetting the PRAM. I tried every suggestion I could find, but to no end. I did learn that people couldn’t be heard on Skype when speaking with a normal voice, but if they spoke REALLY LOUDLY, the other party could barely hear what was being said.

Now, I was really anxious, nervous and worried about the work I had done. Had I done something that broke the microphone? Was the design of the iMac such that merely opening the case could damage the microphone?

I realized at one point that the LED flashlight that I would use to prop up the screen from the case had a magnet on the bottom. Did that come into contact with the microphone and damage it?

I tried and tried and tried to find a solution, but could find none. So, I had to give back the computer with no working microphone and apologise profusely and promise to keep looking.

This happened last year. And again this year. And then with an iMac that a client let me keep since they had moved to a MacBook Pro. I was getting to the point that I was nervous whenever someone called me with an iMac problem, just in case I had to replace the disk.

Well, it happened again. But, this time, I was paying attention. Before doing any work, I turned it on, using my own boot disk, logged in and verified that the internal microphone did work. Check.

I went through the repair: turn it off, unplug everything, carefully disassemble the iMac, replace the hard disk, re-assemble, boot (“standard Apple chime” – yay!), install Mac OS X (while waiting, I put little labels with the client’s name on the old disk and on the top of the iMac), log-in, test the webcam and microphone, and ….no sound. Same damn result.

But…. I was so careful! I painstakingly went over every step. Took it apart again. Confirmed that the cables that I touched/detached were 1) not related to the microphone and 2) reattached. I look closer at the webcam/microphone assembly. Found out they were separate. I removed the webcam assembly and saw the microphone attached behind it. A little round metal piece firmly secured to the top and with two thin wires snaking around and behind other bigger devices in the iMac case. In other words, in order to damage this, you’d really have to make an effort. Which left me really dumbfounded.

I’m not sure why I did it, but I looked up the original (“Welcome to your new iMac”) documentation that Apple included with the iMac I was working on. I found it out there somewhere. The manual pointed very specifically to the various devices: iSight camera, iSight camera “On Air” indicator, ambient light sensor were behind the front panel. The microphone was on the top. Not facing the user, but facing up like the audio version of a Hollywood Klieg light. So, I looked there, to see what I could see.

I saw the little label that I had affixed there to identify whose computer it was, but…. I had put it dead center. Right on top of the microphone. I let out a barbaric yawp and wondered if it could really be this simple. Surely, a little piece of tape would not block the microphone so completely and utterly….would it?

Yes, it did.

I removed the label, turned on the computer, and the microphone was perfect. I did the same on my iMac and its microphone works great, too. Still waiting to hear back from the two clients I had left hanging. But, I’m sure that’s all it is.

If you are dealing with a similar problem with the microphone, please check to make sure that there is no tape, sticky-note, or anything else on the top of the iMac case blocking the microphone. You should be able to easily see where the microphone is.



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About zonkeringeneva

An American with a German son living in Geneva with a new Boxer-Labrador puppy name Xoë. I can be found on Facebook (kicking and screaming!), Google Plus (crickets), (I'm Zonker), and Ask me anything IT related. I'm sure I'll have something useful to say.

17 responses to “iMac internal microphone problems – another solution”

  1. Amber Oak says :

    YOU ARE INCREDIBLE! I had tape on my mic. GENIUS!

    • zonkeringeneva says :

      Glad it helped you solve that problem. It had me baffled for waaaaay too long.

  2. Samantha says :

    OMG, thank you so much for posting this! I was going insane trying to figure out what could possibly be wrong with my internal mic, and lo and behold… it was the little piece of tape on top of the monitor. Thanks again, you have saved me a great deal of frustration!

    • zonkeringeneva says :

      Believe me, I was going insane, too. Three clients all with the same problem. I thought I was losing my mind. I can’t believe the solution was so simple!

  3. Andries says :

    I had a buzz when I tried to record anything in Quicktime using 2008 iMac’s internal mic. Your solution did not apply to my problem, but gave me the idea of flicking my fingernail against the top of the casing where the tiny holes for the microphone are. (I had also blown on it, but doubt that this made the difference, given how tiny the holes are). Voilá! Mic works again. Thanks

    • zonkeringeneva says :

      A buzz, eh? Interesting. I wonder why and I wonder why the Fonzie-treatment helped.

  4. hugh turner says :

    Thank you so much I feel like an idot,there it was almighty tape! I could use bluetooth,but siri would not work,Thanks again.

    • zonkeringeneva says :

      No need to feel like an idiot. Such an innocent mistake. And I made it at least three times!

  5. pxldoc says :

    Wow! After all the searching and possible fixes, it boils down to a simple piece of tape over the microphone. I keep my camera taped over when I am not using it. The microphone is right above the camera.

    Thank you so much for this easy and obvious fix.

  6. nectar says :

    Thanks. I had the same issue – that tape. I didn’t realize that the microphone was on the top. When I tested it after removing the tape, the voice came back, although there was background noise. Should the microphone be “cleaned” to eliminate this noise? Thank you very much.

    • zonkeringeneva says :

      The thing that really made say “D’oh” is that I *did* realize the microphone is on top. I took apart the computer and looked very closely at the microphone cable, the connections on both sides, was the microphone lined up where it should be, etc.

      Took me too long to look on the *out*side of the computer to find the tape.

      But, that’s why I blogged about it. I thought maybe other people had the same issue.

      Not sure about the background noise. Did you take the computer apart to do some repair? If so, make sure the microphone is correctly positioned inside. It’s not immediately obvious, so check closely. Make sure the cable and the mic are not getting any interference from near-by metal. Not sure what else to suggest.

  7. beacon says :

    Thanks so much. Was about to take computer in to be serviced after trying PRAM, new account, etc. This must happen to a lot of people, since folks block their camera for privacy. Made my day.

    • zonkeringeneva says :

      I never thought of that, but yes, that’s probably also a reason why people have tape in exactly that area.

  8. Steve Trewick says :

    I can’t believe it. After struggling with this problem for ages, I stumbled on your post. Hey presto our IT people had worked on my iMac a while back (losing most of my data as it happens) and had stuck a tiny label right on top of that tiny mike hole!!
    A reminder for us all to look for the most obvious first…..

  9. Lisa Noelle says :

    oh my gosh -me too. I can’t believe that was the fix. Thank You !

  10. PAUL WIENER says :

    You are a lifesaver! I’ve spent a year trying to figure out this obvious thing! Wow!

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