Windows Vista OS

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Windows® Vista was introduced by Microsoft on July 22nd 2005. It introduced significant technical changes to audio compared to previous versions of Windows.
We are still improving our support for Vista, so currently recommend the latest version of Audacity Beta for Vista. This page outlines computer requirements and possible issues using Audacity with Windows Vista.
Related article(s):

System requirements

Here are the recommended memory (MB or GB of RAM) and processor speed (GHz) requirements for using Audacity with different versions of Vista:

Version Recommended RAM/
processor speed
Minimum RAM/
processor speed
Starter * 512 MB ** / 1 GHz 384 MB / 800 MHz
Home Basic 2 GB / 1 GHz 512 MB / 1 GHz
Other Vista versions 4 GB / 2 GHz 1 GB / 1 GHz

* Windows Vista Starter ships on lower-cost computers sold by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Microsoft OEM distributors in 139 "non-developed" countries outside USA, Europe, Japan and Australia. Only three programs may run at a time.
** Maximum 1024 MB

Note that the minimum system requirements as defined above (i.e. those that allow the operating system to run, ignoring what is required to run applications) are much greater than for Windows XP. If your computer does not significantly exceed these minimum requirements then you may have problems doing more intensive tasks in Audacity such as recording for long periods or editing a large number of long tracks, or may need to close other programs and processes before you can do so. Please be aware that the cheapest "deals" for new Vista machines may well only include the Vista Home Basic Edition and system specifications little in excess of the Vista minimum requirements.

Other things being equal, 64-bit versions of Vista will require more RAM than 32-bit versions. While some users report Audacity runs fine on 64-bit Vista with 2 GB RAM, this depends on the number of tracks being worked with and the number of other programs and services running on the computer. Memory is now very inexpensive. The general recommendation for 64-bit Vista is to install a minimum of 4 GB RAM - and for very best performance, install the maximum RAM that your motherboard supports.

If Audacity does not launch the first time, make sure first of all that your system default sound device is set to one that Audacity can work with, which probably means your inbuilt sound device. Click Start > Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Sound then on the "Recording" tab, choose a "working" device offered by your inbuilt sound device. Click the "Playback" tab and choose "Speakers" for your inbuilt sound device. Try launching Audacity again. If this works, go to the Audio I/O tab of Preferences and explicitly choose the same devices you just chose in the Control Panel.

If Audacity still won't launch it may have installed in the wrong "compatibility mode". Go to Section 3.1 below to fix this, then make sure your audio device has appropriate drivers.

Audio architecture

Many changes were made to audio architecture in Vista, which have persisted in Windows 7. These include:

  • Individual output volume sliders for each application. Note the Audacity output slider on the Mixer Toolbar controls the overall system output slider, not its own application slider provided by the system.
  • A new audio stack called Universal Audio Architecture
  • A new WASAPI Audio API, isolating audio more from the system kernel. This has the advantage that a problem with an audio device driver now does not crash the whole computer as could often happen on previous versions of Windows. The downside is that the two audio APIs supported by Audacity Beta, MME and DirectSound, are now "emulated" - they can only access the audio hardware indirectly through WASAPI. DirectSound under Vista has thus lost the advantage of having theoretically lower latency compared to MME.

    Direct hardware access in Vista and 7 is available under WASAPI through a new "WaveRT port driver", but Audacity can't support this until the PortAudio audio interface we use fully supports the WASAPI Audio API. Similarly, WASAPI has a loopback recording feature that Audacity could potentially use on Vista and 7 for recording streaming audio.

  • The concept of a "Default Format" for the audio device, set in the system mixer. Problems can arise with resampling if the Audacity project rate (bottom left of the window) does not match with the Default Format.
  • An audio device can be "shared" with other applications, or it can allow applications to take "exclusive" control of it. Choosing the Windows DirectSound API in Devices Preferences in Audacity Beta will allow Audacity to take exclusive control of the device, if this is set in the system mixer. To set this, right-click over the audio device, click Properties, then the "Advanced" tab. Using DirectSound and exclusive mode should avoid problems with resampling if the Audacity project rate does not match the Default Format.

For more reading, see:

Sound Device Drivers

Drivers are the piece of software that tells your computer how to talk to the specific hardware you have installed or connected to your computer. These are normally made by the manufacturer of the sound device or motherboard, and not by Microsoft. If you only have Microsoft sound drivers (for example because no Vista drivers matched to your hardware were available when the system was built), these will be generic drivers which won't be specifically matched to your hardware, and may cause problems sooner or later.

On Vista systems it's especially important to have dedicated drivers for your computer's sound device which are both specific to your computer hardware and specifically meant for Vista. This is because the drivers on a Vista system need to communicate with the hardware and the operating system differently than they do on earlier Windows systems, and so need to be designed for Vista. If you've installed Vista over a previous XP installation, ensure you don't use the drivers meant for XP that will probably be on the drivers CD that came with the computer.

Also make sure that if you have a 64-bit version of Vista, the sound device uses 64-bit drivers.

Updating the sound device drivers

Even if you don't have any immediate playback or recording problems, it's strongly recommended on any new Vista machine or any system upgraded to Vista that you try to update your sound device drivers, using Windows Device Manager. If Device Manager cannot obtain drivers other than from Microsoft, or if you are having recording or playback problems even with the latest non-Microsoft drivers, seek appropriate drivers direct from the sound device or motherboard manufacturer.

Access Device Manager by clicking the Windows Start Button > Control Panel > System and Maintenance, then scroll down and click on Device Manager. If you have "Classic View" enabled, there is a direct link to Device Manager in the Control Panel. Then expand Sound, Video and Game Controllers" by clicking on the + sign, right-click over the sound device and click Update Driver.

After the update (even if more recent drivers were not found), you should right-click over the device again, click Properties and then on the Driver tab to check the "Driver Provider". As stated above, you don't want drivers from Microsoft. So, if you have now got updated non-Microsoft drivers, try them and see if they work fine or if any problems you were having are cured. Otherwise, note the name of the Driver Provider (if it's Microsoft, note the name of the sound device you right-clicked over), and visit the manufacturer's website. You can search Google or Yahoo to find the correct internet address of the manufacturer.

If you have a PCI or external soundcard you would go to the website of the soundcard manufacturer. If you have integrated motherboard sound, try first at the website of the Driver Provider or stated manufacturer of the device. If this manufacturer does not offer driver downloads, go to the site of the motherboard manufacturer for assistance. When you visit the motherboard manufacturer's website, you will need to know details of your motherboard. If you don't have details to hand, the CPU-Z utility will help you gather relevant information.

Always look for a driver update which is specific to your computer model and to your version of Vista (for example, 32- or 64-bit). Be sure to uninstall the old drivers of the device (right-click over the device in Device Manager > Uninstall) before installing the new ones.

Unfortunately Windows Vista (and any version of Windows) may only come with a pre-installed, generic Microsoft driver for the motherboard sound chip. This Microsoft driver may not offer a "stereo mix" or similar device to record computer playback, and/or lack other functionality.

To find out if you are running the Microsoft default audio driver, check Windows Device Manager in the Control Panel. Look for the section "Sound, video and game controllers" then right-click and select Properties to check if the driver is from Microsoft. If some generic name without a manufacturer's name is listed (like "High Definition Audio Device"), then you should update this driver to a driver that is provided by your sound chip or motherboard manufacturer.

This is how the generic Microsoft audio driver looks:


This is an example of how it should look once a matching audio driver for your specific sound chip is installed (of course your sound chip may not be by Realtek):


Updating the driver may be a bit challenging, because you will need to uninstall the Microsoft driver and install a custom driver without rebooting inbetween (otherwise the Microsoft driver will reinstall silently). To easily update to the correct Non-Microsoft driver, download the matching driver from your audio chip or mainboard manufacturer's website and unzip the driver package. Then right-click the Microsoft "High Definition Audio Device" driver or similar, select "Update Driver Software..." and then point to the path of the unzipped drivers you just downloaded and install them. Note: Uninstalling the Microsoft drivers first is potentially safer, but updating gives an easy right-click option to "roll back" to the generic drivers without reboot if there is any problem with the new drivers.

Another alternative if you have a drivers CD that came with the computer is to install manufacturer's audio (and video) drivers from the CD. You can always search periodically on the web in case updated drivers are now available.

Known Issues

Crash on pressing Stop

Audacity 1.2.6 is quite frequently reported to crash on Vista after pressing the yellow Stop button. You can try changing the compatibility mode Audacity is running in, otherwise please upgrade to the latest Beta version of Audacity, which should not have this problem.

Compatibility Mode

Audacity 1.2.6 and older Beta versions of Audacity may install on Vista in compatibility mode for Windows 95, and this may cause problems or error messages, or cause Audacity to crash when launching. If so, try disabling compatibility mode, and if any problems persist, run Audacity in compatibility mode for Windows XP. To change compatibility modes, right-click over audacity.exe in Windows Explorer, then click Properties. Preferably, try the latest 1.3 Beta version instead, which should not have this problem.

Association with Audacity Project Files

When running the installer, you can optionally associate Audacity Project (.aup) files with Audacity, so that double-clicking an .aup file will launch Audacity if it is not already running. However on Vista, the .aup extension does not get associated with Audacity as it should, and instead an "access denied" error occurs when double-clicking an .aup file. As a workaround for now, you can right-click the .aup file and select Open With > Choose Program, select Audacity and check the box "Always use the selected program...". This should be fixed in the current Beta version but will still be a be a problem in Audacity 1.2.6 until the next stable (1.4.0) version is released. The fix is made by setting the association for each user on the machine, if association is requested when installing. As a result, should Audacity not detect the association with .aup for a particular user when launching (for example if it had been changed by another program), a warning will display that .aup files are not currently associated with Audacity, even if another user on the machine has already set this association.

Cannot be added to "Open With" menu

The Audacity 1.3.x executable cannot be added to the Explorer "Open With" context menu. You could try this tool to create an "Edit with Audacity" context menu item instead.

Mixer Toolbar has no recording sources

Unlike previous versions of Windows, Vista treats individual recording sources such as line-in, microphone and "stereo mix" as recording devices in their own right. As a result, on Vista operating systems the Mixer Toolbar input selector will be always be greyed out by default. Some users report that input sources can be made to appear in the input selector by running Audacity in compatibility mode for Windows XP. To do this, right-click over audacity.exe in Windows Explorer, then click Properties, then the "Compatibility" tab. This isn't a generally recommended solution.

Instead, select recording inputs at Edit > Preferences: Audio I/O tab, in the "Recording Device" dropdown (this is in the "Devices" section of Preferences in the current Audacity Beta). In Audacity Beta, recording devices can also be viewed in Device Toolbar, enabled at View > Toolbars > Device Toolbar. Here is an example of recording inputs in the Audacity Preferences for two different physical devices (an inbuilt sound device and an external USB sound card):

Microphone: Realtek HD Device

Line-In: Realtek HD Device

Microphone: USB Audio

Line-In: USB Audio

Stereo Mix: USB Audio

Note that the "Recording Device" dropdown and Device Toolbar can only show devices that are enabled in the Windows Control Panel. If the input you require is not listed in the dropdown, or is not apparently recording properly, try going to the Windows Control Panel to enable and select it (see the next section).

Using the Control Panel to select/enable recording devices

The quickest way to access the Control Panel is to right-click over the speaker icon in the System Tray > Recording Devices. Or click Start > Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Sound (if you're using "Classic View" there's a direct link to "Sound" in the Control Panel), then click on the "Recording" tab.


Simply click to select the input device you want to use. Then make sure its input volume is turned up. To do this, click the Properties button bottom right, then the Levels tab, move the volume slider to right, and click OK.

Vista users often report that by default the Control Panel does not display all available devices. If the input you want is not shown, right-click over any device in the list, and put a check mark by "Show Disabled Devices" and "Show Disconnected Devices". To enable a particular device, right-click over it and put a check mark by "Enable". Note: an input device such as microphone or line-in that requires a physically connected input may appear as "currently unavailable" (and will be missing in Audacity's Audio I/O Preferences) until it has an attached input.

Once you have enabled and selected the input you require in the Control Panel, go back to Audacity and if necessary, exit and restart it. The input you want to record from should now be pre-selected in the "Recording Device" dropdown, and should record. If it does not, or if you still cannot see your required input in the Control Panel, update the drivers of the sound device.

Specific help recording computer playback or streaming audio

There is often confusion over what input source to choose for recording sounds the computer is playing. The required source can go by various names such as: "Stereo Mix", "Wave Out", "Sum", "What U Hear" or "Loopback". The exact name (and even if you have such a source option) depends on the drivers of your sound device. Try to enable and select a suitable option in the Windows Control Panel as described above, then if necessary update your sound device drivers.

There is no guarantee your sound device will have an option to record computer playback - the inbuilt sound devices on many low-end Vista systems running Vista Home Basic often do not. If all else fails, try connecting a cable from the line-out (green) port of the computer to the line-in (blue), and choose the line-in as recording source. If you need to hear what you're recording, you can buy a single stereo to double stereo adaptor that will give you a spare jack to plug the speakers into. Alternatively, try Freecorder  which is a virtual sound driver distinct from your sound device and installs as a browser plug-in, or buy an external USB sound card. These normally offer a "stereo mix" type of option, but check its compatibility with Vista.