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No sound on a Toshiba M7 after a Vista install (aka: things that make you go "Huh?")

No sound on a Toshiba M7 after a Vista install (aka: things that make you go "Huh?")

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We recently had a bug reported to us internally.  The user of a Toshiba M7 had installed Vista on his machine (which was previously running XP) and discovered that he didn't get any more sounds from his machine after the upgrade.

We tried everything we could to figure out his problem - the audio system was sending samples to the sound card, the sound card was updating its internal position register, everything looked great.

Usually, at this point, we start asking the impolitic questions, like:

"Sometimes some dirt collects between the plug and the internal connectors on the sound card - could you please unplug the speakers and plug them back in?" (this is the polite way of asking "Did you remember to plug your speakers in?").

"Sometimes a set of speakers only turn on the speaker when they detect a signal being sent to them, could you try wiggling the volume knob to see if it fixes the problem?" (I actually have one of these in my office, it's excruciatingly annoying).

"Is it possible there's an external volume control on your speakers?  What's it set to?" (this is the polite question that catches the people who accidentally hit the mute button on their speakers or turned the volume down - we get a surprising number of these).

Unfortunately, in this case none of these worked.  So we had to dig deeper.  For some reason (I'm not sure why), someone asked the user to boot back to XP and see if he could get sound working on XP.  He booted back to XP and it worked.  He then booted back to Vista, and...

The sounds worked!

He mentioned to us that when he'd booted back to XP, the sound driver reported that the volume control was muted, so he un-muted it before booting to Vista.  Just for grins, we asked him to mute the volume control on XP and boot into Vista and yup, the problem had reappeared.  Somehow muting the sound card on XP caused it to be muted in Vista.

We got on the horn with the manufacturer of the system and the manufacturer of the sound card and they informed us that for various and sundry reasons, the XP audio driver twiddled some hardware registers that were hidden from the OS to cause the sound card to mute.  The Vista driver for the sound card didn't know about those special hardware registers, so it didn't know that the sound card was muted, so Vista didn't know it was muted.

Needless to say, this is quite annoying - the design of the XP driver for this machine made it really easy for the customer to have a horrible experience when running Vista, which is never good.  It's critical that the OS know what's going on in the hardware (in other words, back doors are bad).  When a customer has this experience, they don't blame their system vendor or their audio driver, they blame Vista.


The good news is that there’s a relatively easy workaround for people with an M7 – make sure that your machine is un-muted before you upgrade, the bad news is that this is a relatively popular computer (at least at Microsoft) and sufficient numbers of people have discovered the problem that it’s made one of our internal FAQs.

  • Just out of curiosity, what are the various reasons that XP driver had to twiddle hidden registers? C'mon, you list the some user mistakes (like muted speakers), so you should also list the developers' mistakes.

    It sounds like the Vista driver was written by a different vendor/people than the XP driver. Did Vista include "generic" drivers for this particular sound hardware?

    It also sounds like the mute setting is non-volatile. I assume during troubleshooting the laptop must have been powered off at least once, no?

    And thanks for telling us which model laptop this is - so I can avoid it. Toshiba might not like it, but IMHO a little embrassment is the only way to force vendord to develop better drivers.

  • These registers survive a reboot? How about a cold boot?

  • DriverDude: I have no idea why this was done, unfortunately :(

    Jonathan: Yes, they survived a cold boot - essentially they were twiddling data in the system EEPROM that was read by the system ROMs at boot time which was used to configure the audio adapter (this is essentially what happened, I don't know the details).  So the settings persisted across power cycles.

  • I have a fujitsu and still does not have sound after upgrading.  I asked fujitsu and they said they do not plan to support vista.

    Btw, its a p4 3.4ghz 17in laptop.  Model N6010

    Tells me not to buy Fujitsu is they will not support laptops 1 1/2 years old.

  • "Sometimes a set of speakers only turn on the speaker when they detect a signal being sent to them.... "

    I had this problem with my 5.1 setup over an optical connection.  (on vista and xp) It would keep missing the start of sounds (very annoying)  In the end I wrote a program that played a silent wav file in the background to fix it, until I got some cables to hook it up on analog.

  • Laurie, that's probably a different issue - some AV receivers reboot their processor on a format change, which means that they miss the first .5 second or so of an incoming sound.  This is ok when you're playing a DVD, but it's horrible when you're listening to dings from Windows.

  • Can't get any sound out of my Dell Dimension 5150 after my upgrade to Vista, even with upgraded drivers. I just get a 'Failed to play test tone' message when I try any of the audio tests. I hope my sound wasn't muted before the upgrade...

  • Hey Larry,

    I was one of those folks afflicted by this M7 driver problem on my upgrade to Vista, but I don't have an XP install to boot back into. Is there a way to get those settings reset without going through the pain of installing a version of XP on my M7 just to press the unmute button?

    Thanks :)

  • Phillip, I don't know, unfortunately.  You might want to talk to Toshiba to see if they have an updated driver.

    Doogal, that's something else, you might want to talk to Dell about it.

  • Philip, I just got email from a Toshiba rep indicating that they have a tool to fix this problem, I'm not sure if it's available outside Ms though.

  • Larry, the Vista Audio system works smoothly on a MacBook, I can confirm that. ;) But I ran into an annoying bug in Windows Mail which is very easy to reproduce and wouldn't be hard to fix. Is there any (electronic) way to report this bug to the group which deals with this application? Or I'm being naive, don't sugarcoat it! :)

  • Peter, contact PSS, they may be able to get the bug escalated.

  • I encountered this behavior in Nov-2005 with a Toshiba and XP Pro. I was playing a media with REAL-PLAYER; my boss entered the room and I decreased to almost zero the volume in the Real-Player volume control and I closed the player. (I realized later that this was the cause!). The maximum volume level became almost null; I was able to hear some sounds only with external amplifiers and speakers. I have sent the computer to the service representative and they “confirmed” the sound controller is damaged – they should change the main-board - this should take three weeks ...

    I decided to bring it back without sound – I played a movie with Real-Player -  I increased the volume in Real-Player and everything went back to normal.

    So, Real-Player is interacting at a lower level with the sound-controller and the volume settings acts as MASTER volume control – and these settings are stored in the EEPROM of the sound controller – so that these settings remains the same over reboot and even (possible) over another OS installation.

    Please try to reproduce the above.

    Thank you,

    dem = Dumitru MIHAI

  • So, please confirm that Real-Player is a tool you can use either to SOLVE this issue, either to GENERATE it ...

    Thank you,


  • dem, realplayer is using the same APIs that the audio subsystem uses, you're probably running into a variant of the issue, however.

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