Saturday, December 10, 2011

HOWTO: Force Skype to use Alsa on Linux

Like it or not Skype is a popular piece of software. In fact it is so popular it is the only piece of voice communication software a number of my friends will use. Because of this I have an account an use it on my Bodhi system every now and then (at least it has a native - if poor - Linux client and I don't have to run it via Wine). In case you didn't know - Bodhi ships with just the Alsa sound server by default (there are a number of reasons for this - none of which I am going to get into here) and luckily Skype installs and works perfectly fine with Alsa - until pulse audio shows up that is.

It seems something I installed recently drug pulse audio in with it as a dependency - this would be fine and dandy except for the fact that my Skype audio (input and output) 100% stopped with the addition of pulse audio to my system. Apparently the authors of Skype (in their infinite wisdom) made it so that if Skype is launched while pulse audio is installed Skype will use pulse (and only pulse) without the option to change back to Alsa. As I mentioned above my Skype audio was non-functional under pulse (for whatever reason) so I sought out a method for forcing Skype to use Alsa without having to remove pulse audio from my system.

The Solution -
To start, you need to close Skype and then kill the pulse audio server. To do this in one swift command open a terminal and run

killall skype && killall pulseaudio

Next you need to tell your pulse audio server not to auto launch itself (which it does by default). To do this we simply need to add one configuration setting to a file. To do this run the command:

nano ~/.pulse/client.conf

In the text file that is opened paste the following line:

autospawn = no

Save and close the file (ctrl+x when using nano), launch Skype and you should be good to go.

Hope this saves someone the 20 minutes I spent crawling around Google to track down this information.

~Jeff Hoogland


  1. Thanks Jeff. It must be something in your config settings on Bohdi, because Skype works just fine with PulsAudio (which is installed by default) on Ubuntu and Linux Mint

  2. More likely the default config settings for pulse audio (which is what they are at after an install) Ubuntu and Linux Mint tweak the defaults no doubt.

  3. Nice tip :) Works on any distro with alsa and pulseaudio side by side.
    Thanks a lot!

  4. How hard would it be to create a script to do this specifically when you load Skype and to return it to normal afterwards?

  5. Lifesaver, thanks a lot!

  6. Thanks, it worked for me. I am using Fedora 20 and sound was not working in Skype, was getting loud noise only. Thanks...

  7. Thank you!
    No the microphone is working again.