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How To Clear Out Drivers; Utilities And Registry Entries

The new PitchBend function in Wavelab 3.03 lets you apply any pitch envelope to your audio for some wonderful effects.The new PitchBend function in Wavelab 3.03 lets you apply any pitch envelope to your audio for some wonderful effects.

Martin Walker explains how to clear out all the drivers, utilities and Registry entries associated with an old, disused soundcard, leaving you with a clean machine in which to install your new, upgraded hardware.

Many musicians are now discarding their older soundcards and replacing them with 24/96‑capable ones. Although soundcard manufacturers all provide clear instructions on how to install the required new drivers, and many also give step‑by‑step instructions on how to upgrade them, I've seldom seen details on the cleanest way to remove all traces of an unwanted soundcard.

It is perfectly possible to power down your PC, remove the card in question, and then carry on with the drivers still installed, since Windows will ignore them in the absence of suitable hardware. However, this might cause possible problems in the future if you install another expansion card that is incorrectly recognised — I've experienced several cases where new hardware fails to be recognised because of existing software drivers. Besides which, your Registry will still contain references to the soundcard, and you may also get error messages from music applications that, for instance, find ASIO drivers for non‑existent soundcards.

Removal Plan

Designed to emulate valve and opto‑electronic compressors, PSP's MixPressor VST plug‑in should prove useful in a wide range of applications.Designed to emulate valve and opto‑electronic compressors, PSP's MixPressor VST plug‑in should prove useful in a wide range of applications.

As you might expect from someone who has now reviewed forty soundcards, I've been through this procedure a lot, so here's a step‑by‑step guide on how to remove a soundcard from your PC as cleanly as possible. You should leave the soundcard in place until last of all, since once it's been physically removed you won't find it listed as a System Device and be able to get at all the drivers.

First remove the MME drivers from the system: go into the Windows control panel, double‑click System, then click on the Device Manager tab. Click on the plus sign in the box next to Sound, Video and Game Controllers. Highlight the soundcard drivers and click on Properties, Driver, and then Driver File Details. Select each file in turn, and note down the names of each one, excluding any written by Microsoft such as MMDEVLDR.VXD, which are needed by every soundcard on your system. There may only be one or two files in total, but in the case of consumer cards there might be several dozen. Now return to the System page and with the soundcard still highlighted click on the Remove button to stop Windows using the drivers. You can now close the System Properties applet.

Delete the soundcard drivers manually using the list you just made. These files may not take up much space on your hard drive, but if you ever re‑insert your old soundcard in the future, Windows will find these old files and install them by default when you'd probably prefer to install the most up‑to‑date ones available. The quickest way to find their location is using the Windows Find utility — call this up with the Windows/F keyboard shortcut — and with many soundcards the first few letters of each filename are identical so, for instance, with my Echo Gina I can enter echo* in the 'Named' box and find every file in one hit for quick deletion. Many soundcards also have ASIO drivers and standalone utilities, and these should be removed using the Add/Remove Programs applet in Control Panel. Double‑click on it, select each relevant entry in turn and then click on Remove.

Optional Extra

The next part is optional, and should only be attempted by those who are comfortable with editing the Registry. First of all, back up the Registry in case anything goes wrong, since a corrupted Registry can, in extreme cases, prevent your PC booting up at all. To do this, go to your Start menu and click on Run. In the dialog box, type "regedit" (without the quotation marks), then click OK. On the Registry menu, click Export Registry File. In the Export Range area, click All to back up your entire registry. Name the file "Registry backup" and put it on your desktop.

Now we're ready to find and remove references to the soundcard. You won't necessarily find some of these, but if you do, delete them. First navigate to the Software folder inside HKEY_CURRENT_USER, and delete any sub‑folder specifically relating to the soundcard software. This may appear under the name of the soundcard manufacturer or the soundcard itself.

Next, move to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, open the Enum folder, and then the PCI sub‑folder. In this you will find a separate folder for each PCI device, including each and every expansion card. Delete any for devices that have been removed from your PC. Now open the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\ASIO folder and you will find a full list of ASIO devices on your machine. If your old soundcard ASIO drivers were given a properly written Windows install routine that produced an entry in Add/Remove Programs there should be no relevant entries left here, but if not, you can safely delete any. In the same ASIO folder there will probably also be entries in both the Inputs and Outputs folders inside ASIO DirectX, ASIO DirectX Full Duplex, and ASIO Multimedia folders, which can also be safely deleted. Similarly, if your soundcard had EASI drivers you will probably find entries in the EASI section of this software folder.

If the soundcard has MIDI facilities you may also find folders in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\Class\MEDIA. This contains a full list of MIDI devices installed on your PC. Delete any folders relating to the removed soundcard. If you want to be really thorough you can use the Regedit Find function and enter search strings containing the manufacturer's name or soundcard model to find other stray entries, but in all cases unless you're absolutely sure that the entry relates to your soundcard leave it well alone. You can now close Regedit.

Whenever a new hardware device is installed, it uses an INF file, and we should also delete this to remove all traces of the soundcard. If you are running Windows95 version A, go to C:\Windows\INF and open each OEMx.inf file in Notepad until you find the one referencing the soundcard. When you find the appropriate one, delete it. If you are running Windows 95 version B, C, or Windows 98, go to C:\WINDOWS\INF\OTHER and delete the named INF file referencing the soundcard.

Now that its drivers, utilities and Registry entries have been cleared out, you can physically remove the soundcard itself. If you don't, the next time you boot up your PC it will be re‑discovered as new hardware, and Windows will ask you for new drivers. Shut Down Windows, and if your system has a soft power button make sure that any associated mechanical power switch (probably on the rear panel) is also switched off, as your soundcard might otherwise be damaged when you physically remove it. The easiest way to make sure is either to switch off mains power at the wall outlet, or temporarily pull out the PC mains lead. Now physically remove the soundcard, and when you power up again you should have a clean system with no knowledge that your old soundcard was ever installed.

These instructions will work with most 'professional' soundcards, but certain consumer ones such as Creative Labs' SB Live! add a colossal amount to the Registry (1848 items when I reviewed it!) and unless Creative provide their own thorough uninstall routines, I doubt that you'll ever be able to remove all of these by hand. I've safely eradicated dozens of soundcards from my PC using these techniques, but do be extremely careful when modifying the Registry.

Wavelab 3.03

The day before this column was needed at SOS, Wavelab's author Philippe Goutier emailed me with news of an important download for Wavelab users. The version 3.03 update is now available for download from the Steinberg web site ( and, as I suspected from its hefty 6.9Mb size, it's far more than a set of bug fixes. In fact, there are several major new features, along with a host of smaller miscellaneous ones.

AutoSplit lets you split audio files at beats, silences, markers, or specific intervals, and should prove particularly useful for those who indulge in drum loop creation. You can save the created regions as separate files, or add them as clips into an Audio Montage. The new HighQuality Pitch Bend lets you create a pitch envelope by drawing‑in points, smoothing their path if required (see screenshot), and then applying the envelope to any audio selection for special effects. Waveform Restorer can automatically repair clicks or short missing waveform sections using a selection of algorithms.

CD audio extraction has been much enhanced: you can create a CD Program or Montage directly, it now supports CDDB Music CD Database, can now play complete digitally extracted tracks in real‑time direct from the CD, and has a number of new options for reading CDs more reliably in extreme circumstances. Smaller new features include the ability to recognise the new Cubase 5.0 plug‑ins (apart from Reverb32), a mono/stereo switch on the Master Section, the option to burn more than one CD, and a more intelligent combined Fade In/Out function. The patch can be applied to any Wavelab 3.0 version, and is totally free to existing users.

Longer Cubase 5.0 Notes

Some time ago I received a flurry of emails concerning the maximum length of a note in Cubase. At the time this was 65,536 ticks, and with a resolution of 384 ticks per quarter note made the longest note available some 170 beats. For those who wanted to use continuous background drones or single‑triggered looping samples in their music, this could cause problems, since at a typical 120bpm the longest note was just 85 seconds, forcing the use of bodges like retriggering and crossfades for longer tracks. I was recently prompted by an SOS reader to retry this in Cubase 5.0, and I'm pleased to report that the longest note I managed to enter was 1092.1.255 (bars, beats, and ticks), which at 120bpm equates to about 36 minutes — more than enough for almost any application. Continuous drones can now be drawn in as a single long note. Don't bother trying to do this with a tool — just record a short note at the desired start time, open the Key Editor and type in the desired length directly.PC Publishing have just launched a new series of 64‑page Quick Guides written by Ian Waugh. The Quick Guide To Digital Recording (ISBN 1870775 68 6) covers what computer system you need, the basics of digital audio, what to look for in a soundcard, along with explanations of digital processing, effects, mixing and mastering. The Quick Guide To Analogue Synthesis (ISBN 1870775 70 8) covers the principles involved in both hardware and software synths, including oscillators, filters, envelopes, and the rest, and then explains how to create your own patches and presets, get 'phat' filter sounds, generate filter sweeps, and where to find softsynths on the Internet. The Quick Guide To Dance Music (ISBN 1870775 69 4) covers a multitude of modern styles, what software you need to create them, how to use sample loops and MIDI drum patterns, and explains how to put your music on the Web. Finally, The Quick Guide To MP3 And Digital Music (ISBN 1870775 67 8) provides far more information on streaming files, including where to find them, playing them back on your computer or hand‑held player, and how to create your own, along with plenty of related links. Each Guide is just £6.95 plus postage and packing, and should be available from music shops.


Maxim Digital Audio have released yet another of their excellent freeware plug‑in bundles. There are now seven packs available, and the latest, Pack 7 (available for both PC and Mac) contains Detune, an up/down pitch‑shifting thickener, Loudness, for bass EQ and mix correction, Splitter, offering frequency/level crossover for setting up dynamic processing, and DX10 — a simple FM synth VST Instrument. The entire bundle is zipped into one compact 157K download. A big thank is due you to developer Paul Kellett from impoverished musicians everywhere.

Polish developers PSP Audioware have just launched their MixPressor VST plug‑in — the third in the PSP Mixpack series. This emulates the soft‑knee characteristics of valve and opto‑electronic compressors, has peak or RMS level detection, automatic or manual timing, and features peak, 'VU' and gain‑reduction meters. You can use it for compression of individual tracks or groups, and even soft compression of complete mixes, or as a warm‑sounding peak limiter, while a variable filter in the side‑chain also lets you de‑ess your vocal tracks. MixPressor comes with a library of eighteen presets to get you started.

PC Snippets

Designed to emulate valve and opto‑electronic compressors, PSP's MixPressor VST plug‑in should prove useful in a wide range of applications.