Unusual times prompt unusual occurrences. A friend was watching a science museum presentation and the presenter was flustered because of a recurring loud sound. They ultimately tracked it down: a tab on their browser was playing back an eagle video. You know: normal!
It’s easy to have mysterious sounds playing from browser tabs. This often occurs because of auto-playing video on a page load, the auto-play feature in YouTube that seems to re-enable itself on my devices all the time, or pages that after being idle for a while reload themselves and start playing video you’d paused—or even redirect the browser to a new page with auto-playing video!
Whatever the cause, all major desktop browsers often a simple way to see which tabs are playing sound and quickly mute them.
Every tab that’s producing sound will show a speaker icon in blue at the tab title’s right. Additionally, the Address and Search bar shows a blue speaker icon if any tab in any window is playing sound.
You can mute sound in a number of ways:
In a tab playing sound, click the blue speaker icon and it mutes that tab.
Click the speaker icon in any tab, and it mutes that tab’s audio.
In a tab not playing sound, click the blue speaker icon and all tabs playing audio are muted.
In a tab with active audio, hold down Option and you can click the tab’s speaker icon or the blue one in the bar and it mutes all other tabs.
You can even Option-click the speaker icon on another tab than the frontmost one and it will keep that background tab’s audio playing and mute other tabs.
And, finally, you can Control-click any speaker icon, and a drop-down menu lets you select (depending on how many tabs are playing audio) Mute This Tab, Mute Other Tab, Enter Picture in Picture, and Auto-Play. It also shows a list of all tabs that are playing sound and their titles.
Chrome offers more information about audio and video playing in tabs via its music icon in the upper-right corner. Click it and a drop-down menu shows all currently active audio and video, offers playback controls and a picture-in-picture button.
Each tab with actively playing audio also shows a speaker icon. However, unlike Safari, you can’t click or Option-click the icon. Instead, Control-click and select Mute Site.
You can also create exception or mute sites automatically via Chrome settings at chrome://settings/content/sound?search=sound.
Firefox offers the simplest controls. Any tab playing audio has a speaker icon in it. Click to mute that tab, whether it’s frontmost or not. You can also Control-click a speaker icon to select Mute Tab.
Ask Mac 911
We’ve compiled a list of the questions we get asked most frequently along with answers and links to columns: read our super FAQ to see if your question is covered. If not, we’re always looking for new problems to solve! Email yours to firstname.lastname@example.org including screen captures as appropriate, and whether you want your full name used. Not every question will be answered, we don’t reply to email, and we cannot provide direct troubleshooting advice.