Creative X-Fi Platinum soundcard on Windows 8 – a workaround

Creative X-Fi Platinum soundcard, breakout box and remote control
Creative X-Fi Platinum soundcard, breakout box and remote control

Having run the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on my laptop for about six months I was certain that when the final version was released I would definitely upgrade my desktop PC to Windows 8 Pro. And given that there is no good time to upgrade I did it at the latter end of last week, mainly to take my mind off the unpleasantness of recovering from the ‘flu.

I chose to do a ‘clean’ installation, reformatting partition C: in the process of the install, which worked nicely even with my upgrade DVD. At no point did I need to prove to Windows that I did indeed have a legitimate version of Windows 7 that I was upgrading from. (I do, by the way.)

No sound

It all appeared to be going swimmingly well until I suddenly realised that I had no sound. Which was strange as the Windows Vista soundcard drivers installed without fuss and… well, I say that there was a strange few minutes after I’d installed them and rebooted whereby the speakers were continually hissing.

Poking around in the Control Panel Sound applet I discovered that the “Recording” tab had Line-In 2/Mic 2 activated, which appeared to be the source of the hiss.

Reboot.

No hiss. In fact, no sound at all. This time on the “Playback” tab SPDIF Out had been selected rather than speakers.

I discovered that I could coax the sound back if I fired up the Creative Audio Control Panel application and manually change the playback mode. After each reboot the soundcard was ‘forgetting’ the settings and returning to game mode and 2.1 speakers, rather than entertainment mode and 5.1 speakers.

I uninstalled the drivers again, and this time discovered on the Creative website a Windows 7 and Windows 8 driver availability chart. There is currently no final Windows 8 driver for this soundcard, but they have a beta driver…

Uninstall, re-install. Same problem: a forgetful soundcard.

Workaround

It turns out I’m not alone in discovering this. A few forums have pages of discussion about the problem using Creative X-Fi soundcards under Windows 8. This thread was particularly helpful: Windows 8 Pro x64 Retail No Sound after Restart Creative X-Fi Titanium HD Driver.

The workaround I’m currently using is to use a free, third-party application called X-Fi Mode Changer from Spectra9 to automatically set the playback mode each time Windows reboots.

So far, for me, this has worked without fail. I do hope, though, that Creative are able to address these issues with the final driver for Windows, which their website says should be available in late-December 2012. I’m not holding my breathe for it, but I am thankful for this workaround.

Using a Creative RM-1800 remote control with WinAmp

Creative X-Fi Platinum soundcard, breakout box and remote control
Creative X-Fi Platinum soundcard, breakout box and remote control

What a fabulous discovery: I can now use my Creative RM-1800 infra-red remote control to control WinAmp.

Creative drivers

For the last few years my shiny, silver Creative remote control has sat beneath my PC monitor looking rather forlorn and underused. So a few months back I emptied it of batteries and handed it over to Reuben and Joshua’s toy box.

The remote control was one of the reasons that I went for the X-Fi Platinum in the first place.  I had visions of sitting in my study and being able to control my music from the other side of the room.

It was great for a couple of weeks.  I had to make do with Creative Entertainment Center rather than WinAmp but that was fine. I could live with that.  But then the first time I had to do a clean reinstall of Windows XP and upgraded my Creative X-Fi Platinum drivers I lost use of the remote control.

1. Install Creative Entertainment Center

I had assumed that the remote control drivers were a part of the soundcard drivers, after all the infra-red receiver is firmly embedded into the break-out box that is installed just beneath my DVD-RW drive.  But they are not: they are installed with Creative Entertainment Center.  I only discovered that yesterday!

I installed the Creative Entertainment Center software this evening.  It ended with a rather abrupt error message but it did install ok — at least, both the remote control driver and Creative Entertainment Center are installed and appear to be functioning correctly.

2. Enable Remote Control

Once installed I fired up the Entertainment Center Settings, which brings up this dialog box in which you need to enable the remote control:

Screenshot of Creative Remote Control Settings window
Creative Remote Control Settings window

3. WinAmp plugin

The final step was to install the Creative Remote Control plugin for WinAmp.

Under Windows 7 I had to install by right-clicking the installer file and selecting “Run as administrator”. This is because the plugin installer needs to write to the C:\Program Files\WinAmp directory and for security reasons it needs administrator rights to be able to do that.

4. That’s it

And that was it!  When I fire up WinAmp I can now sit in my study and control my music from the other side of the room.

I’m running

  • Windows 7 Professional (32-bit) and (64-bit)
  • Creative Entertainment Center 3.40.21 (19 December 2007)
  • WinAmp 5.581; upgraded now to 5.623
  • Creative Remote Control plugin (25 July 2002)
  • Creative RM-1800 infra-red remote control

Why did my webcam have to install its software twice?!

I just installed the drivers and software for my new webcam, the infeasibly long-titled Creative Live! Cam Video IM Pro.

Here’s what happened:

  1. I inserted the CD-ROM
  2. Ran the installation application
  3. Selected to install everything
  4. Waited while everything installed – having to say YES to my ZoneAlarm firewall about every 20 seconds!
  5. Reboot
  6. Online registration ran automatically upon restarting. So I filled it in and submitted it, like the good customer I am
  7. Software updater ran, and found updates. I said YES to updates
  8. It then proceeded to UNINSTALL almost all the software I’d just installed (see steps 1-4) and REINSTALL the latest updates of these applications and drivers
  9. Reboot

Now, would it not have been better if the installer had checked online first to see if there was a more recent version of the software and installed that? And if there wasn’t, or an internet connection could not be established, to fall back on the option of installing the version on the CD-ROM?