Mariah Carey's version, based on Harry Nilsson's version rather than the Badfinger original, was released as the third single of Music Box in the first quarter of 1994, and in the United States it was released on 24 January 1994, just over a week after Nilsson had died following a heart attack on 15 January 1994. In the U.S. it was promoted as a double A-side with "Never Forget You". In the song Carey dips into her lower register and is accompanied by backup singers (including herself) magnified to sound like a gospel chorus. Carey said that she decided to cover the song when she heard it in a restaurant (although when performing the song in Tokyo, she said she listened to it when she was a little girl). Her version has been considered very popular on talent shows. "Without You" was later included on some non-U.S. pressings of her compilation album#1's (1998), and her 2001 compilation, Greatest Hits.
"Without You" reached number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, remaining in the top forty for twenty-one weeks and on the chart for twenty-three. It reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay and number 3 on the Hot 100 Singles Sales. Both radio airplay and sales were strong, and it was certified gold by the RIAA. It was ranked 16 on the Hot 100 1994 year-end charts.
"Without You" remains Carey's biggest hit outside the U.S., being largely successful across Europe. It became her first UK number 1 single, and still remains her only number 1 there as a solo artist. It debuted at number 1 on the chart and stayed at number 1 for four weeks. It was also her first chart-topper in Italy, but was most successful in Switzerland (with ten non-consecutive weeks at number 1) and the Netherlands (twelve weeks). It also topped the singles chart in Germany for four weeks and Austria for eight weeks, where Carey's success had previously been limited. It also topped the Swedish Singles Chart for eight weeks, was number 1 in Ireland for five weeks and in New Zealand for one week. It was able to make the top three in Canada, France, Norway and Australia. It was certified platinum in Australia by ARIA and in Germany and Austria by IFPI. It was also certified gold in New Zealand by RIANZ and in France bySNEP.
The song is one of only two Carey singles certified Gold in the UK with sales of 445,000.