Updating Drivers - a word of caution
Parallel OS Installations
Installing if other Sound Blaster cards were previously installed
SBLive! with Windows NT40 SP4
Installing the 12/23/98 NT Driver Updates
Another way to install the 12/23/98 NT Driver Updates
Yet another installation tip
Personal reactions to the 12/22/98 drivers
NT and Icon Caching
Live!Ware 2.0 installation
Live!Ware 3.0 installation

I tend to check out newsgroups that cover soundcard related topics, often searching with dejanews on keywords. When I see a problem that I've had and solved, I try to help.

One of the frequent threads I find concerns problems using the SoundBlaster Live! on Windows NT, particularly with SP4 installed. On my own machine, I've been through as many problems with this combination as you can imagine, but I've found ways to cope, and I'd like to share them with you.

One of the first and most important tips I have is anytime you install or update drivers for the Live, make sure the volume on your speakers is turned way down. On nearly every occasion that I've installed or updated drivers, I've had a severe feedback problem on the first restart - the last time this happened, it blew the right speaker and I had to replace it!

One piece of good news - when I updated to the 12/23/98 drivers, this problem didn't show up, so maybe it's a thing of the past.

Also, check the drive where NT is installed for folders named

%SystemRoot%

and

%USERPROFILE%

each contains several subdirectories, but all are empty. I always seem to get them showing up after an update (including the first time I installed the 12/23/98 update). They can be safely deleted if they're present on your machine.

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It's always a good idea to have a parallel installation of another Operating System on your NT system. This is especially important if you've installed NT on an NTFS partition, which can only be read by another installation of NT. In the event anything you've done prevents NT from starting, the parallel installation will allow you do delete or rename the offending drivers and get going again.

If you have NT installed in a FAT partition, you can boot to DOS from a floppy disk and access the OS files. Most offending files will be in

[d:]\winnt\system32

but a few may also be in

[d:]\winnt\system32\drivers

You can always install NT a second time on the same computer - just make sure that when you do you install in a different directory than your "primary" installation. It's best to install to a different drive altogether so that other data structures (i.e. [d:]\Program Files and [d:]\Temp) are unique and don't overwrite files you may have modified in your primary installation. You don't have to get fancy with this installation - networking isn't necessary, nor are all the accessories (but make sure you install and configure the Backup applet if you have a tape drive). You may also want to apply the latest Service Pack, but don't spend a lot of time configuring the parallel installation. You're just after NT Explorer and the support for NTFS to access your primary.

Even if your NT installation is in trouble you can install a parallel instance of NT and try and fix it.

A parallel installation is also worth it's weight in gold for backup purposes. With NT running, some files will be locked for exclusive use by the OS and therefore won't be backed up. If you're backing up from a parallel installation, you can get a complete backup. If you have to restore at some later date, you can completely recreate the running OS installation by restoring from the parallel one. If this is your strategy, make sure to backup with a program that is compatible with the NT backup applet.

Restoring an NT installation which was backed up from a parallel installation is easy and I've had great success with this process; in fact, though I back up all my data and network drives from my primary installation, I always boot to my parallel installation to back up my primary Operating System and Application drives. I've restored many times and always got running again.

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If this is the first time you're installing the SBLive! drivers and you've had an earlier SoundBlaster card on your PC, you may by rewarded with a "Blue Screen Of Death" (BSOD) when you restart because the Live! drivers conflict with earlier SoundBlaster drivers and you have to get rid of them before you can start.

Here's how:

Reboot to DOS, or a parallel installation of NT if you have installed NT on a NTFS partition.

From the command prompt (or NT Explorer) go to:

[d:]\winnt\system32 (where [d:] is the driver where Windows NT is installed)

and rename all files there that begin with "sb" - these are old SoundBlaster driver files that are incompatible with the Live. Then, go to [d:]\winnt\system32\drivers, and do the same thing there. Now, restart NT normally. Ignore any messages about services that fail to start; the registry may still refer to non-existent drivers and that's why you get error messages.

NOTE: The next steps require you to manually edit the system registry. There is no undo if you make a mistake, so be careful, and always make sure you have a backup before you do this. I can't take responsibility for problems created doing this.

Next open the Registry Editor (regedit.exe) and navigate to:

HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\drivers

and delete all references to sb*.* files. Do the same in:

HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\drivers.desc

and also in:

HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\drivers32

Go to the Multimedia icon in Control Panel, tab over to "Devices", and delete entries under "Audio Devices". Go down one branch, and delete everything under "MIDI Devices and Instruments" EXCEPT for "MIDI for Low Level Wave, MIDI and Aux Support".

This will now have removed all the old SoundBlaster drivers, and references to them. Windows NT should start with no BSOD or Service Control Manager error messages.

Restart Windows to make sure everything works, and insert the Live! CD. If autorun is enabled on your machine, it will bring up the driver installation screen, and you can install the SBLive! drivers.

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Another problem I often see is on NT installations with SP4. The drivers from the SBLive! CD WILL work with SP4. You can install them either before or after SP4 with no problems. The updated drivers posted to the SBLive! site in mid-October WILL NOT work with SP4 (they've been deleted from the site since early November - if you still have the source file for this update, delete it now). If you have them installed and install SP4, your machine will hang at the "cyan" login screen and never present you with a login prompt.

If you are stuck at this point (I was!), go back to the parallel OS installation (DOS or NT), go to [d:]\winnt\system and rename the following files there:

ctmm32.dll

ctsyn32.dll

devcon32.dll

sblfx.dll

Go to [d:]\winnt\system32\drivers and rename the following files there:

ctsyn.sys

emu10k1.sys

sfman.sys

You should now be able to restart. Ignore Service Control Manager errors or other messages about services failing to start. Replace all the files mentioned above with the file versions from the SBLive! CD. These files will have July 1998 dates. If your drivers are dated later than July 1998, E-Mail me for information on how to get the original drivers.

The WebOct driver updates on the SBLive! web site will work with NT SP4 (I've been running with good, but not perfect stability for over a month with SP4 and these drivers), and fix the joyport problem with the original, CD version for all you Flight Simulator fans (like me).

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Well, the WebNov updates are out for Windows NT. I know it's December, but what I was told by Creative Labs is that they felt so close to the SMP support they decided to wait until that was done and release that in this driver set. From some quick checks of the newsgroups, it appears that these drivers do indeed work with SMP boards, and also SP4. I've installed them, and so far they seem fine - based on early tests, it appears they have also fixed the abnormal WAV file playback I was experiencing. MIDI playback seems crisper and cleaner as well, so perhaps some of the filtering problems with soundfonts have been improved as well.

I have experienced a quirky issue with the installation of these drivers though. After installing the update right over the existing (WebOct in my case) drivers, everything started up and worked, except that under the Multimedia /Devices tab in Control Panel, I had NO ENTRIES AT ALL for Audio devices, and only the MIDI for Low Level WAV and Aux Devices - nothing pertaining to the SBLive card. I was also missing any Mixer devices in that listing. This bothered me enough to call Tech Support, as you may need to have these entries listed there so they can be deleted if you want to change cards. In fact, the Readme-nt.txt file (download this and read it before installing these drivers) suggests deleting these entries before installing on an SMP machine, so I think everyone should want the entries present - just in case.

Tech Supported suggested either living with it (not what I really wanted to do), or removing the Live drivers and reinstalling them to get this fixed. This scared me a little, so here's what I did (3 times, so the results are repeatable).

First, get the file Oemsetup.inf from the CD.

Go into Control Panel/Multimedia, tab to devices and select Add, Unlisted driver, and direct the dialog to the location where you have Oemsetup.inf.

Click OK, and install the Audio for Creative SB Live (not the synth, which is the other option you'll have). You'll be given the option to use the current drivers or replace with new drivers - select to keep the current drivers. (The only changes this process will make is to add the needed Registry settings.) Reboot when NT asks you to. Once the system starts up again, the sound won't work (strange, because this is how NT expects you to install a device, but it's never worked for the SBLive). Don't panic - you'll get it working with the next steps.

Go back to the Devices again, and delete the entry for the SBLive under audio devices; this will delete the entry under MIDI devices too.

DON'T RESTART when prompted to this time; instead, run the sblnt4up.exe program to update to the 12/23/98 drivers.

The installation will finish, and a dialog will tell you to wait at least 5 minutes, even if the machine seems to have stopped responding. Immediately after this, a dialog will come on screen telling you you have to restart for the changes to take effect, and giving you an "OK" button to click to restart. Logic would make you think everything is done, BUT IT ISN'T. WAIT THE FULL 5 MINUTES before you click "OK" and restart. If you don't wait, you'll end up missing the device listings again. After 5 minutes (have a cup of coffee or something if you're as impatient as I am), click "OK" and restart. This time, you should have a fully functional SBLive! card, and it will be listed in Multimedia Devices and Mixer Devices as well. The MIDI for Low Level WAV and Aux Devices won't be listed anymore, and DON'T TRY TO INSTALL IT. If you do, you knock out the SBLive entries and have to do this all over again.

Once ALL THIS is done, go back and delete the folder Nt4drv that the update leaves behind in the Temp folder. If you don't and subsequently try to run the update again, it will tell you that the disk is full (even if it isn't).

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I ran across this explanation of an installation process for this update on the Live! newsgroup (see below), and link to it here in case you want to try it. A lot of this is very similar to my description above, but this procedure covers the event where you can't boot into NT at all even with the original drivers from the CD. If someone uses this and it works, let me know as I am interested.

If you haven't already subscribed, you should subscribe to the newsgroup:

creative.products.sound_blaster.live

This is hosted on the news server news.soundblaster.com. There's lots of good help there for SBLive! users (as well as other SoundBlaster cards).

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I installed a Live card in a completely clean NT40 machine that had already been updated to SP4, and ran into some problems - surprise!

I tried to follow the Creative Labs tip, but after installing the CD drivers the machine locked up solid when I tried to install the 12/22/98 update (by the way, this update is posted on Creative's site as well as the Live site, and there it has a different date - 12/23/98, but it's the same driver versions). When I rebooted, after a reset, I got to the cyan login screen and froze there. (This confirms my suspicions that later cards ship with a CD that contains later drivers than the early cards, and those later drivers won't work with SP4 installed.)

I booted to DOS and deleted ctmm32.dll in [d:]winnt\system32, but still hung. I booted to DOS again and this time deleted ALL the SBLive drivers (see list above for the complete list and their locations) and this time logged in successfully.

I went to Control Panel / Multimedia / Devices and deleted the references to the SBLive in Audio Devices and MIDI Devices, and then without rebooting, installed the 12/22/98 update. I waited the 5 minutes as I've previously suggested, and everything started normally, with a fully functional SBLive card.

I've received some E Mail from others who have been having difficulty updating a Windows NT SP4 machine who have told me that this process worked the first time for them. If you're having trouble - try this.

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I've been running the 12/23/98 NT drivers since they were first posted, and have a few observations about them.
bulletThey do work, and are an improvement over earlier drivers
bulletI still occasionally get incorrect WAV file playback after playing MIDI files, but it's not as often (and curiously, not with the same WAV files as before). Unloading and reloading the sound bank still fixes the problem.
bulletThere are still installation issues.
bulletI still have the "MIDI for Creative SB Live!" and "MIDI for Creative S/W Synth" MIDI devices listed in Control Panel > Multimedia > Devices on one machine, and only the "MIDI for Creative SB Live!" showing up on the other machine. Even though the "MIDI for Creative S/W Synth" listing is missing from Multimedia > Devices, it does appear on Control Panel > Multimedia . MIDI, and it  works, whereas it didn't on this machine before.
bulletThe ability to load and unload sound banks, edit soundfonts in Vienna 2.3, and change all manner of settings in Audio HQ and the SB Live applets is much more stable.
bulletInstallation is still a problem with these drivers.

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If you're running NT as your primary Operating System (like me), you probably have a lot of programs installed, and may have a lot of icons on your desktop. If so, you may be exceeding NT's ability to properly cache these icons.

If this is the case, you might experience some of these symptoms:

bulletWhen the system starts up, the icons take several seconds to display completely on the desktop, and display one at a time.
bulletWhen the system starts up, it sometimes hangs (requiring a reset to recover) prior to displaying all the desktop icons.
bulletIcons may not be displayed properly  - they may turn black, or incorrect icons are displayed. Correct icons may be overlaid with incorrect icons.
bulletExplorer may display the wrong icons - especially the icon for My Computer, which may change from the correct icon to an icon from another program.
bulletExplorer rebuilds icons frequently.
bulletThe Control Panel icons aren't properly displayed.
bulletYou delete the ShellIconCache file (in [d:]winnt) to try and straighten this mess out, and it stays deleted instead of being rebuilt when the system restarts.
bulletThe ShellIconCache file has an old file date (normally it's updated at least once during a session and gets an updated date/time stamp).
bulletOccasionally, the system becomes unresponsive or sluggish. Opening Task Manager shows why - CPU utilization is at 100%  - almost all consumed by explorer.exe. You have to restart to regain system control.

Some of these events are merely annoying but a few are serious - especially the hang at startup, as NT doesn't like to be reset.

I've had many of these symptoms for over six months, and struggled trying to resolve them. Microsoft's Knowledge Base isn't too much help, and newsgroups touch on some, but not all of these issues. I finally found the answer: you must add a string value to the system registry which increases the absurdly small default (I've heard it's 1024, but can't confirm this) memory allocation for caching shell icons. The value to add is in:

HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer

the string value name is:

Max Cached Icons

the data is:

8000

or some other number (I used 8000 because this is suggested in the Microsoft Knowledge base for a Windows 95/98 problem, but in another article, 2048 is suggested). Careful use of the Registry Editor will create this value - don't be too alarmed if you find, as I did, that there is no other value in that key (although there are lots of subkeys). If you're unsure,

I think you'll be very pleased with the improved system performance after this modification.

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I recently downloaded Live!Ware 2.0 for Windows NT. It was, at least for me, the smoothest update yet. Creative warns you in the notes to wait for the registry updates to complete (as I cautioned above in my comments about the 12/23 updates) but in this case it was much quicker, and the update was really completed before any misleading prompt appeared. Upon the mandatory restart (which I delayed so I could clean up some of the menu items created) I did find the same %SystemRoot% and %USERPROFILE% folders in the OS drive that I've found before, but easily deleted them. Everything works, and this install replaces all of the original audio utilities. The Mixer is completely new, and I guess an improvement, but I still use the NT mixer for the most part. Playcenter is installed, along with Launcher, whether you wanted them or not (I didn't install them originally, but I've got them now - no choice) but I can live with that. I still occasionally get the strange noises from WAV files after prolonged MIDI usage, but unloading and reloading the soundfont file fixes that.

On the whole, this is a worthwhile upgrade, and one not to be feared. CL seems to be improving their NT support.

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I recently ordered the Liveware 3.0 CD, and it came yesterday - before the web version was even posted. Anxiously hoping that it would be even more stable, I loaded it last night. The installation went more smoothly than ANY sound driver ever before! It correctly detected the Liveware 2.1 drivers, uninstalled them, installed the options I asked for, prompted me for registration information, and the expected reboot at the end. I rebooted, loaded my choice of GM soundfonts (PC400 of course!), organized the new menu items the way I wanted, and rebooted. After the next boot, I started playing some MIDI files, and thought "Gee - this sure sounds different than with the old drivers..." I checked the Sound Font applet in Audio HQ, and to my complete surprise was running the 4gmgsmt.sf2 soundfont, with a 12MB Static Cache - not exactly the 35MB PC400! I changed it again, rebooted, as was right back to the 4gmgsmt.sf2 file. The new drivers weren't remembering the user selected soundfont after a reboot!!!

Not sure if this was intended behavior or a bug, I called Creative Labs. To my absolute complete surprise, a tech answered on the 2nd ring! Congratulations, CL, on a better "mousetrap" in these days of long delays. Keep it up!

The tech was helpful, and we tried a lot of things (no, this was NOT the intended behavior for these new drivers), but still could not get the new drivers to remember the user settings for Static Cache and soundfont after a reboot. At CL's suggestion, I even completely removed the drivers, cleaned the registry (by hand - not for the faint-of-heart), and still the drivers would not remember the user preferences after a reboot.

I had noticed during the registry cleanup that there is a key written by the installation program:

HKLM/SOFTWARE/Creative Tech/Devcon/Installation defaults

In this key are settings for Static Cache size, and soundfont - guess what - the defaults were for a 12MB Static Cache and to load the 4gmgsmt.sf2 soundfont. To confirm that these Installation defaults were overwriting the user settings during the reboot process, I changed them and rebooted. Sure enough, the new "Installation defaults" I had chosen were now the startup settings.

Out of curiosity, I then deleted the entire key and rebooted. The drivers now correctly remembered the user settings, and worked exactly as I would have expected. Apparently, the install program should have deleted this key after the first reboot, but didn't.

In case you have this problem, download this file. It's a cleanup INF file that will safely delete the offending Installation defaults key without risking registry damage. Just unzip the file, right click on the INF file, and select "Install". Pick your settings in the Sound Font applet and they will stay - permanently!

Other than this "gotcha", my NT box has never been smoother and more stable since I first installed the Live. If you don't already have Liveware 3.0, order it TODAY!

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