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Weird VMWare Sound Issue

Posted on 2013-02-04
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Last Modified: 2016-10-08
I've found a very strange issue with VMWare Workstation ... both v8 and v9 ... when running an XP virtual machine under a Windows 8 host.    I've also found that many others have seen this same issue, as evidenced on both the Windows 8 and VMWare support forums -- but have not found a solution.    Just curious if any of our fellow EE experts have found a fix for this :-)

The issue is simple:   sound is very scratchy/distorted on an XP virtual machine when running under a Windows 8 host.    The exact same virtual machine, running under the exact same version of VMWare, works perfectly if the host is a previous version of Windows (i.e. Windows 7, Vista, or XP).     I've also confirmed that the same issue happens under VMWare Player.

A Windows Vista or Windows 7 virtual machine running on the same VMWare host under Windows 8 works perfectly -- no sound issues at all.

Some REALLY strange behavior:     If Windows Media Player is loaded (just loaded -- doesn't have to be playing anything)  the sound issue disappears !!!     i.e. if you go to Yahoo in IE and play a video, the sound will be very scratchy/distorted;  but if you load Media Player;  then go to Yahoo and stream the same video, it will play perfectly !!!

The logon and logoff sounds are very scratchy/distorted;  but the logoff sound will be fine if Media Player is loaded when you shut down !!

Not sure it can get much weirder -- and I haven't tried this (yet) as I just saw it posted on a Win8 forum discussing this issue -- but apparently if Chrome is running on the HOST, the issue also goes away !!!

I've tried various combinations of VMWare hardware versions (from v5 to v9);  different sound cards (ES1371, SoundBlaster, HDAudio), etc. ... but all to no avail.    Neither of the forums I've found discussion this issue (one Win8, one VMWare) have found any solutions either.

Anybody happen to know a solution ???
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Question by:garycase
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by:IanTh
ID: 38854253
A Windows Vista or Windows 7 virtual machine running on the same VMWare host under Windows 8 works perfectly -- no sound issues at all.

what esx host? Don't you mean vmware workstation if so what version have you checked for xp support  as win7 , win 8 work see what I mean ?
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by:John Hurst
ID: 38854560
I think you are supposed to use VMware Workstation V9 on Windows 8, so I would stick with the newest version and update it to V9.0.1.

Then for the XP machine, since you have tried Hardware Version 9, can you build a fresh XP machine to see if the problem goes away?

... Thinkpads_User
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by:garycase
ID: 38856275
"... what esx host? "  ==>  Not using esx.    As I noted in the question, the host is VMWare Workstation running under Windows 8.

Thinkpads_User ...

I've built a new XP machine (that was one of my first thoughts) ... and it has the exact same issue.

I also uninstalled VMWare Workstation and installed the latest version of VMWare Player -- this SHOULD be the exact same hypervisor engine (and probably is) ... but I tried that just-in-case.   No joy -- the exact same sound issue.    What's really weird is that the issue goes away just by loading Windows Media Player !!

This is not a big deal -- other than sound the VMs work perfectly -- but it's an annoying anomaly.    I suspect it will "go away" with a future update of VMWare ... but there's got to be a fix.     If I get a chance, I may install a sound card in the PC and see if using a different physical host sound card has any bearing on this.    The system currently has an onboard Realtek HDAudio adapter.

... as I noted in the question, this is a VERY common issue and is discussed in both Windows 8 and VMWare support forums, with no resolution.    I almost didn't even bother to post a question here, but I thought somebody here just may have encountered this and found a simple fix.    I suspect there's some parameter in the .vmx config file that will resolve this -- but I sure haven't found it.    I've tried quite a few -- different sound adapters;  different soundblaster parameters;  etc.    The result is always either NO sound;  or the same scratchy sound with the same weird "load WMP and it's fine" behavior :-)
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by:John Hurst
ID: 38856308
@garycase - I noted earlier you have no issues with a Windows 7 host. I have VMware Workstation 9 running on Windows 7 Pro -64-bit with no issues. I did not mention this because you already did.

I am a month or two away from getting a new Thinkpad and putting my dearly beloved, unbreakable Thinkpad T61p away. The new one will have Windows 8 Pro 64-bit (at least to start) and I will try then, but that is no help right now.

Please let us know after the new sound card. There are not too many parameters in the VMX file and you have tried them.

I will keep watching this but I have nothing further right now.

... Thinkpads_User
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by:garycase
ID: 38857049
Just for grins, I uninstalled VMWare and installed v7 -- the older VMs work perfectly under v7 :-)

Of course, none of the new VMs with v8 or v9 virtual hardware will run on v7 -- so I then restored everything as it was (since I really don't need these old VMs).

This is more of a nuisance than a real problem -- but nevertheless is SHOULD work !!

My main machine is W7 x64, and not likely to change anytime soon, so there aren't any issues on it.    The Windows 8 system is my wife's -- it's Win8 Pro x32 (so she can run some older programs that don't work on an x64 system).     The XP virtual machine I was trying to run on it is for the grandkids to use (to keep them off the "real" machine).     I've simply added Windows Media Player to the Start folder and set it to start minimized.    This works around the issue, but it's frustrating to have to do this.    Hopefully the next update from VMWare will resolve this.

Bottom line is there doesn't seem to be a "solution" to the issue -- it's simply a bug in VMWare.
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by:garycase
ID: 38857071
... by the way, when I build my next machine, it will be Win8 x64 (as will your new laptop).    In that environment, I'll probably just switch to using Hyper-V, since it's built in to the x64 version of Windows 8.     Should give better performance than VMWare, since it's a level 1 hypervisor.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 38857074
it's simply a bug in VMWare. Yes, it looks that way. I have been dragging my feet getting to a new laptop computer, and perhaps when I get there, VMware will have an update for V9.

none of the new VMs with v8 or v9 virtual hardware will run on v7 When I upgraded to V9, I put a question out here "Why go to V9?" and the answer was "Better performance".  As as result, I upgraded my Vista machine to hardware V9 and it does perform better. My Windows 8 machine is also hardware V9. So I, too, hope VMware will update V9.

.... Thinkpads_User
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by:garycase
ID: 38857128
I did the same thing -- I upgraded my entire collection of virtual machines to the newer hardware version.     Of course, that now means I can't simply install v7 on my wife's Windows 8 system, since there's no way to downgrade the virtual hardware !!

Clearly everytime there's an update to VMWare the first thing I'll do is boot the XP virtual machine and see if the sound is clear :-)
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by:compdigit44
ID: 38873616
On the Windows 8 host have you tried to update the audio driver to the latest version?
http://communities.vmware.com/message/1769348

Also, on the XP VM have to tried to force install the older VMtool audio drive from Workstataion 8 vmaudio and not use the HD-Audio driver?
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by:John Hurst
ID: 38983545
VMware Workstation V9.0.2 came out this week. I downloaded it and have it running. Seems fine. One of the fixes had to do with the audio card when plugging in and unplugging a headset.

Might this fix affect your issue?  It would be worth a try to install V9.0.2

.... Thinkpads_User
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garycase earned 0 total points
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Actually the new VMWare was released last week -- and yes, I installed it and the issue was the same.

It turns out the issue is a timing issue that for some strange reason isn't a problem on any guest OS except XP and Windows 2000 ==>  '95, '98, ME, NT, Vista, '7, and '8 virtual machines all work just fine.

There IS, however, a simple workaround ... there's a small utility called VMAudioFixTray [http://www.lilchips.com/vmaudiofixtray.htm ] that you download; and then simply put a link to it in your Startup folder (on the guest OS).    This "resolves" the issue very nicely.   [I saw "resolves" rather than "fixes", as it would be nice if the issue was actually fixed ... with this utility the startup sound will sometimes start out a bit distorted, but quickly changes as the utility is loaded.]

Note that the author of VMAudioFixTray says it's for "... Windows XP, 2003, 2008, Vista, 7 or 8 guest OS running inside VMware ..."  ==>  but I've only seen the sound issue with XP and 2000 -- Vista and '7 virtual machines work just fine (as do the '9x series of OS's).    I've not tried Server 2003 or 2008 VMs, so I don't know if they need this utility or not.
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by:garycase
ID: 38983755
There doesn't seem to be an actual "solution" to this;  but the VMAudioFixTray utility I found clearly provides a reasonable work-a-round.

I suspect that at some point the issue will simply "disappear" with a future update to either VMWare or VMWare Tools :-)
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by:Joe Stanton
ID: 41835563
The problem seems to have re-emerged with VM Ware 12.1+ (12.1 and 12.5 tested).  Observed with XP client running on Windows 10 x64 Enterprise.
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by:garycase
ID: 41835570
Does VMAudioFixTray resolve it with 12.1 ?
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