What to do when your bluetooth headset stops working in Vista

Since getting my new Dell Inspiron 1720 with the BH200 stereo headphones I have had many frustrating days.  The initial installation and pairing went smooth and they seemed to work just fine; however, some days I would fire up the headset, connect it to the Dell and it would not start playing.   After fiddling with settings and, at times, re-pairing the headset to the laptop I would finally get them working again.  I had no clue why they stopped working!

A recently read this excellent tutorial from Katy Coe which enabled me to quickly fix the problem each time it happened.  That was a step in the right direction!  Now at least it was only a handful of clicks to get it working.  I could now devote more time to figuring out why it would quit using the bluetooth headset automatically. Essentially she explains that Vista remembers at least the last 2 default audio devices you configured so setting the speakers as default, applying it, setting the bluetooth headset as default and applying again fixes the issue.

I finally tracked down what I believe to be the culprit and, since I could not find anything in my on-line research about it, I thought I’d share with you all.  Here’s the trick:

Never let your bluetooth headset’s battery run out while connected to Vista!

That’s right.  This seems to be the problem.  If the battery runs out while it is connected something happens to change the default audio settings remembered by Vista.  My guess is that it removes the bluetooth headset default setting altogether when the connection is terminated unexpectedly.  This would go down as a bug in my book, albeit a minor one.  It would be nice if Microsoft fixed this one in a weekly patch sometime.  At least I know know the quick way to fix it.  😀


19 thoughts on “What to do when your bluetooth headset stops working in Vista

  1. Hi Freddy,

    The manual for the headset is fairly straight forward. I can’t really help you without a little more information such as:
    1. Does your laptop have a Bluetooth adapter?
    2. What operating system are you using?
    3. Are you receiving any specific error messages? If so, at which point in the pairing process do they occur?

    By the way, if you do not have the owners manual you can download it from Dell. The English version is at from Dell Support.

  2. Thanks for linking to my site palehorse, glad you found the info useful. For me, the batteries running out on my S9 happens about towards the end of every business day 🙂 They frequently go dead while I’m wearing them and I can’t say I experienced the problem you mentioned in your blog (using Broadcomm 5.1 stack). But, from the comments on my page, it seems like every single person has their own unique problem with a Bluetooth headset. Terrible 😦

  3. Katy,

    Yes, it does seem like there are a variety of Bluetooth issues. It’s sad considering how long the technology has been around. It seems like the manufacturers aren’t taking it seriously.

    My Dell BH200 headset lasts almost 2 business days (not quite). Of course, my day typically goes from 6AM until 5 or 6 PM so I feel that’s pretty good. I found that I cannot charge them overnight; however, due to an oddity in my desktop computer. If it has too many USB devices plugged in when our automatic reboot happens in the middle of the night, it blue screens. LOL! So I’m stuck with about a 2 hour charge time every couple of days.

    Thanks for the nice comment and thanks again for the tutorial!

  4. Count yourself lucky 🙂 I wish my headset lasted for a solid work day, that is the most annoying thing about it by far. Since I work in radio, I have a formidable amp and pair of wired headphones in my home office (Sennheiser HD-25s) but I prefer not to be tethered to my desk when I’m not doing audio production and sound quality is less important.

    I’ll be interested to see what comes of Bluetooth 3 headsets this year or next year, they should have somewhat longer battery life – if we can find any software that will support them of course…

    Regarding the USB bluescreen, my desktop has an Asus P5GD2 Deluxe m/b, my Bluetooth headphones charge via a regular power socket (not USB), but I have the Bluetooth adapter plugged into an extension USB hub. The machine will not boot if the adapter is plugged in at boot-time, it hangs before accessing the hard disk, after the BIOS POST screen. The problems probably aren’t related, but thought I’d mention it anyway. If I unplug the Bluetooth adapter, booting works fine.

  5. Can Vista automatically change playback device when my bluetooth headset connected? I always have to change default playback device (GREEN TICK), when I want to use the headset.

  6. Read somewhere that the BlueSoleil BT stack worked well for this headset. Downloaded a demo and tried it, it works great! Unfortunately, it doesn’t connect to my Dell bluetooth mouse now, and ActiveSync won’t work with my Axim over bluetooth. WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH BLUETOOTH?

  7. ceedee,

    It sure seems like Bluetooth has need a lot of work all around. It also seems like there aren’t any companies willing to put forth the effort for it. Maybe its use isn’t widespread enough yet to make vendors give it the resources it needs. 😦

  8. thanks a lot. the idea of setting up headset as default, really works.
    i tried doing everything to connect the dell bluetooth headset, again and again, but nothing seemed to work.
    fortunately, i read it here, before calling the dell tech support, they would have made me re-intsall drivers and everything that is not required, and still wouldn’t have been able to solve the problem.

    thanks again.

  9. This exact thing happened to me…battery died and now no sound in the headset. Mic works fine. I can’t get to the djkaty link above…google has no cache nor does archive.org. I tried to gather from the text above that i need to mess with my default device but i haven’t stumbled on the correct set of steps. Anyone remember them?

  10. Brian, I cannot get to Katy’s site either. I can give you what I believe is correct steps; however, please be patient if I miss something.
    1. Open Control Panel -> Hardware and Sound
    2. Click on Manage audio devices
    3. Connect the BlueTooth devices.
    4. On the ‘Playback’ tab, right click on the BlueTooth device and choose “Set as Default Device”
    5. Verify that you can now hear audio through the BlueTooth device.
    6. Disconnect the BlueTooth device.
    7. If the correct audio playback is not selected (in the mange audio devices box), right click on it and choose “Set as Default Device.”
    8. Verify that sound now comes out of the selected device.
    9. Reconnect your BlueTooth device.

    At this point the default should automatically switch back to the BlueTooth device.

    Good luck!

  11. Hrm. No go. If i try to play something when it’s set as default, I can hear a sound like it’s trying to play but no audio actually comes out…it’s like the electronic white noise changes just a tad. This happens with two headsets that worked before and still work fine with my cell phone. Arg.

  12. Brian,

    That sounds strange. Maybe there is something else going on. Have you tried to remove the BlueTooth device, then set the pairing up again? That might be the next step.

  13. Hi All,

    Iam using Dell Bluetooth headset for my laptop and mobile..

    Suddenly it stop working and it is not taking the power ie not recharging..

    Can anyone tell me the possibilities of the causes..

    Thanks in Advance,

    • The rechargeable batteries will lose capacity over time. How long that takes depends on the number and way it is charged. If you’ve had it for a while it could simply be that the they are worn out? If it is relatively new, I would suggest calling Dell.

  14. i have a problem i buy the dell bluetooth BH200 i can’t conneting to my laptop( dell studio 1555) how i can do that?

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