Windows Vista Ultimate Edition is my latest desktop machine at work and some USB audio devices have given me nothing but problems. While most USB audio devices have installed just fine, since they use the standard Microsoft USB audio class, some devices, such as a Jabra Netcom 9350 wouldn't install correctly. Apparently Vista does mandatory DRM checking for USB Audio Devices. I've heard of many users complaining that their Bluetooth headsets no longer work once they upgraded to Vista due to this new DRM protection. After hours of frustration trying to get it to work, I finally decided to call Jabra (who acquired GN Netcom - See today's interesting video of Jabra/GN Netcom on the 10 blog
- to see if a Vista driver was available. At first they told me the drivers for all the products were online. I explained this wasn't true - I already looked everywhere on their site and there was no 9350 drivers anywhere. Perhaps the transition from GN Netcom to Jabra due to the acquisition has them a bit confused. In any event, I then spoke to another technician who told me they would need to upgrade my 9350's firmware to be compliant with Vista's more stringent USB audio requirements. He said they do this free of charge if I just ship them the unit to:
ATTN GN Repair Center
77 Northeastern Boulevard
Nashua, NH 03062
While this was a great offer, I knew if I sent them the unit and upgraded it to the Vista compliant firmware, the unit might not work on my Windows XP machines. I also didn't want to be without my headset - even if only for a few days. So I decided to hack my Windows Vista USB audio driver. I figured Windows Vista uses a slighly newer usbaudio.sys file, so in theory if I copied my older Windows XP usbaudio.sys file, it might solve my problem. Unfortunately, when I tried to copy my older usbaudio.sys file Windows Vista's File Protection system kicked in and wouldn't let me overwrite this system file. With Windows XP there are workarounds to override this, but I couldn't figure out how to override Vista's file protection. So then I said, "screw it, I'm going into the registry and changing all occurrences of usbaudio.sys to usbaudio-XP-TK.sys
(my Windows XP version)." I figured I'd label it XP and my initials (TK) so in case I have any future issues with USB audio devices, I could see my hack job in the registry and remember that it was me that messed with it. After making these changes, I rebooted plugged in my 9350 USB headset, and crossed my fingers. It successfully installed! Woohoo! I checked all my other USB devices and they weren't affected, so my little registry hack job did the trick.
Unfortunately, a few days later a Windows Update undid all my registry changes and changed it back to usbaudio.sys, which then made the 9350 malfunction again. Curses - foiled again! So I went back into the registry, made about 14 registry replacements and exported each one of these keys as a .reg file. So the next time Microsoft decides to undo what I have done, I can just run the .reg file. So far I've had to do this 2 times. It's a bit of a nuisance, but hey, it works. If anyone out there knows how to override Microsoft's File Protection on Vista let me know so I can just overwrite the usbaudio.sys file. In theory this registry hack should work for anyone with a Bluetooth headset that won't install correctly on Windows Vista. I can't believe Microsoft doesn't allow legacy USB audio devices to work. I'm sure there are thousands if not millions of users that paid good money for their Bluetooth headsets or other USB audio devices that no longer work once they upgraded to Vista. It may be past their warranty, so some manufacturers may charge a fee to upgrade the firmware.
Thanks to a commenter, I discovered there is a hotfix for the USB audio problem on Vista. Namely, KB933262. Unfortunately, you'd have to contact Microsoft to get the hotfix. Fortunately, I found a couple sites that were sharing the hotfix. Just to confirm the files were legit (no virus) I downloaded from both sites and did a file comparison and they were identical. While not a perfect virus checker method, the likelihood is greatly diminished. I'll share the file as well. Click here to download the KB933262 hotfix.