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.
Please use the current Audacity version for Windows Vista. This page outlines computer requirements and possible issues using Audacity with Windows Vista.
Related article(s):

Audacity and Windows Vista

The current Audacity version is no longer supported on Windows Vista, it may well run - but we can no longer offer support for issues that occur when using Audacity on Vista.

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.

For best performance if you are working with an hour or more of audio or multiple shorter tracks, we recommend 2 GHz processor and 4 GB of RAM on both 32-bit and 64-bit Vista, except that 1 GHz and 2 GB of RAM should be sufficient for Vista Home Basic 32-bit or 64-bit.

Memory is now very inexpensive. For best performance of the computer as a whole, install the maximum RAM that your motherboard supports.

Audio architecture

Many changes were made to audio architecture in Vista, which have persisted in Windows 7 and Windows 8 and Windows 10.

  • 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. Here is an example of recording inputs in Device Toolbar for two different physical devices (an inbuilt sound device and an external USB soundcard):
    • Microphone (Realtek HD Device)
    • Line-In (Realtek HD Device)
    • Microphone (USB Audio)
    • Line-In (USB Audio)
    • Stereo Mix (USB Audio)
  • Individual output volume sliders for each application. Note the Audacity output slider on 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, 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.

  • A new loopback recording feature for recording streaming audio. Audacity uses this feature from version 2.0.4 onwards.
  • 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 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, then put a checkmark (tick) in both "Exclusive Mode" boxes. Using DirectSound and Exclusive Mode avoids problems with resampling if the Audacity project rate does not match the Default Format, but you still need to make sure the chosen project rate is supported by the device.

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. ((alert|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.

Using the Control Panel to show and enable recording devices

On Windows 7 and later, initial driver setup typically disables all the inputs except for the built-in microphone. If the input you require is not listed in Audacity (or is apparently not recording properly) try going to "Sound" in the Windows Control Panel to show, enable and configure it as required.

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.

Once you have enabled and selected the input you require in the Control Panel, restart Audacity (or if Audacity is still running, you can use Transport > Rescan Audio Devices).