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

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.

Comments (31)

  1. DriverDude says:

    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.

  2. Jonathan says:

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

  3. 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.

  4. Rob Rightmyer says:

    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.

  5. Laurie Lee says:

    "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.

  6. 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.

  7. Doogal says:

    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…

  8. 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 🙂

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Peter says:

    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! 🙂

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

  13. dem says:

    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

  14. dem says:

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

    Thank you,


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

  16. Norman Diamond says:

    > When a customer has this experience, they don’t blame their

    > system vendor or their audio driver, they blame Vista.

    I agree, this is one situation where I would make the same mistake, misattributing the blame.

    There are two things I would have done differently though.  One would have been to reboot to Windows XP a lot earlier in that debugging procedure (thereby making my mistake in attribution a lot earlier too).  The other would be to try to install the Windows XP driver under Vista, which does work for some drivers.

    > 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.

    I’ll bet it’s available in at least one large computer maker outside Ms.

  17. Mike, yup, that looks like Toshiba’s utility, thanks for the link!

  18. Steve Robinson says:

    You now I bet the internal FAQ would be great on the outside world…

    Also, why does the volume control on Media centre effect the speakers, and not the per-app volume?!

  19. Andrew says:

    I have a toshiba u205-s5022 and i have the same problem with the sound, i tried to install back to xp, turn the volume allll the way up and unmute. I then did the "upgrade" to vista and it still didn’t work. Now, what i find weird, 2 things, 1, my sound worked on vista RC1 and RC2. But not on ultimate RTM. Also, when i plug my headphones in and i turn the volume alll the way up, i can hear the sounds, very faintly. So im not sure whats going on, and i have turned everything all the way up. I am going to try the toshiba utility on my u205 and see if that helps any. Anyone have any other ideas for these problems? My email is

    Thank you all

  20. Yuhong Bao says:

    Oops, Toshiba’s utility use msvcr80.dll but don’t distribute it!

  21. Peter says:

    Any news about the sound problem on toshiba laptops??

    I have a satellite u200-168 and no sound on Vista. All the driver updates from toshiba dont work :s


  22. Matt says:

    This has helped solve the M7 sound problem! Let me know if it works for you!!!

  23. fdunn3 says:

    It was my impression that Vista was not going to support AC97 codecs. Which if true will make a lot of laptops soundless and mean an upgrade for some desktop users.

    From Asrock’s Vista compatibility section:

    *If you are using AC’97 audio codec, and want to install Windows® Vista™ 64-bit version, the AC’97 audio codec of your system will be de-functioned, and there will be no sound coming out of your system.

    *If you are using AC’97 audio codec, and want to install Windows® Vista™ 32-bit version, the AC’97 audio codec of 5.1 channels or 7.1 channels will not be able to fully function as they are, but 2 channels only.

  24. fdunn3, a slightly more accurate (and also true) statement is that Vista supports XP drivers.  So the XP driver for your AC’97 audio solution will continue to work on Vista.

    HDAudio is required for Vista logo compliance, no AC’97 solutions will get an HDAudio logo.  In addition, all logo’d HDAudio solutions MUST be able to work with Microsoft’s HDAudio class driver.

    In the case of Asrock, it appears that they didn’t write a 64 bit class driver for their solution (this is why the last part of the Vista logo requirements are so important (that all logo’ed systems work with the Microsoft class driver)).

  25. Thanks Larry for the information and mike for the Toshiba support link!

    I had called support before finding your post and they said it’s just that the driver is broken and I should wait for a new version… What’s worse than no information is bad information!

    Anyways, the tool fixed the issue for me (no need to re-install XP). Thanks again.

  26. Peter says:

    Is there at the moment any one with sound on Windows Vista??

    I still did not found a solution…


  27. Psofus says:

    I Have an other problem though. I am having a Fijitsu siemens Amilo Pi 1505 Laptop and I get no sound with Vista Home Premium. If I open the sound devices it all seems to be in order. I see the sound bar equaliser moving up and down if I play a song with winamp or any other problem. The problem seems to be like I have no speakers. The good thing is that if I connect external speakers, I have sound! Duh?

  28. nate says:

    OK, here is how my experience with this problem went:

    1.)  I installed Vista with Mute On (doh!)

    2.) I found the Toshiba Unmute Utility which didn’t work…

    3.) I heard that my M200 could use the M400 Value Added Pack from Toshiba, so I installed that (gave me Utilities, tablet buttons, etc).

    4.) I retried the Unmute Utility and it worked!

    So that may be helpful to some of you.

  29. Bzydad says:

    I have encountered the same problem with Satellite A105-4334.  Will this unmute utility work on the Satellites?

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