The trick to the sound driver with Win8.1 on a Macbook Pro

I took the opportunity to upgrade my work laptop over the long weekend here in Sydney. The early 2011 13″ Macbook Pro has worked well for me so far, however there are times when the machine is feeling its age – namely on boot and any point where a reasonable amount of disk I/O is required. Since we had one lying around after a change to an internal project, I took the opportunity to pull out the original 320GB hard disk and slipped an 240GB Intel 530 SSD into it instead, and decided to run a fresh install of Windows 8.1 instead of my previous Windows 7 operating system.

The surgery went fine, SSD in and the machine booted fine afterwards. My issue came shortly after the install of Win8.1 – no sound.

Now as a bit of a backstory, I decided that I was going to forgo the standard Bootcamp method of install and save myself the few gigabytes. If I need OSX for updates and firmware upgrades, I can just option-boot the laptop from a USB key. So I decided I would install directly to the hardware without OSX and Bootcamp, and just use the Bootcamp support pack to install the required drivers.

Because USB-key installs are what I do these days, I prepared the Win8.1 Pro ISO and made a bootable USB key. I then inserted it into the MBP, booted it and went through the install process. The install went fine, and then I added a second USB key with most of the required software to get it up and running – 7-Zip, the Apple Bootcamp 5.1 support pack, plus a few other small utilities. I installed 7-Zip, then unzipped the Bootcamp support pack, and ran the installer. All went fine, rebooted and started adding WiFi settings…. hang on. No sound device installed.

A check of the Device Manager shows a ‘High Definition Audio Device’, with a driver reporting as installed, however the device properties show:

This device cannot start. (Code 10)

{Operation Failed}

The requested operation was unsuccessful.

After looking around online, there seems to be much weeping and gnashing of teeth over the issue. Microsoft have a KB article for the problem, and many people are experiencing this directly via a Bootcamp install as well which seems like a major bug to me.

After reviewing all these posts and trying all the various ‘driver fixes’ such as Cirrus Logic drivers, Intel HD4000 drivers, and even various Realtek drivers, I appeared to be getting nowhere. After swallowing my pride and starting the download of Win7 Pro, I noticed one of the posts mentioned that booting to install via a USB key gives an EFI install rather than a legacy BIOS install, and that installation from optical media gives you a legacy install which then supposedly works.

After a quick burn of the Win8 ISO and install, I went through the process again, but no worky-worky. Same problem.

As the Win7 ISO download completed and was burning to another DVD-R, I was pontificating on the fact I was about to go back on my plan and remain in a Windows 7 world, then a thought hit me.

Windows 8 install media have an EFI boot partition on them!

This time, I went for the option-boot of the machine, which gave me choice of two optical boot images – an EFI-enabled one, and one simply marked ‘Windows’. I chose that, removed all the old partitions on the SSD from the failed installs and let everything run through. This time, the sound driver took and I had audio!

It appears that when direct-booting the Win8/8.1 media, the EFI-enabled Macbook Pro prefers the EFI-enabled boot partition on the optical disk and in fact gives you an EFI-based install no matter what. The only way is to option-boot the media onto the standard Windows partition and install from that instead.

I hope this helps someone, I lost a whole 24 hours of a long weekend to what is just an annoying bug. Now, hopefully the optical bay converter arrives in the next week so I can get a 500GB Western Digital Black HDD into it, then we start looking at 8GB or 16GB of RAM to really make it fly.

7 comments for “The trick to the sound driver with Win8.1 on a Macbook Pro

  1. LC
    January 21, 2015 at 15:11

    Great post, answers so many of my questions. I also have a 13-inch early 2011 MBP, and I am hoping to install win8.1 as the sole operation system on it – I don’t really need OSX.

    Just to clarify, without OSX (and BCA for that matter), the only way to properly install win8 is to use optical drive and win8 installation DVD, and option-boot to choose the non-EFI image?

    Can I ask so far how does it this setup work for you, any driver issues?

    It is a pity that we cannot have EFI-based installation of Win8/8.1, I heard the boot time under EFI is much faster.

    • Monsta
      January 21, 2015 at 21:28

      Hi LC;

      If you follow the install steps properly, you will have a fully functional Win8.1 install on your MBP. I must stress that everything else worked on the EFI install apart from audio, and I checked that thoroughly. I did find the stability of the system a bit less than with the ‘BIOS’ boot. I did run some benchmarks and I had issues with SuperPi and a couple of others things which had some issues including one BSOD. No such problems on the ‘BIOS’ install.

      Generally, my experience shows that the Bootcamp install method sets the correct options in EFI for the Audio drivers to work. But who wants to give up 15Gb of their 256GB SSD when they have already gone down in storage capacity. My original HDD was 320GB and had a 256GB SSD on hand. It’s only a few months later and I am seeing 480GB SanDisk SSD’s for $230 which is very affordable. Of course, go the biggest you can afford.

      So anyway – you must boot it from the drive. Note that the optical drive I used was internal to the laptop. I tried working out how to build the USB key with the non-EFI partition but got nowhere. I have a feeling that booting a MacBook from a USB Flash drive is achieved via EFI connectivity, so causes the problem. A direct SATA connection must use a more traditional or ‘native’ connection. Note it is untested, but you may find that using an External SuperDrive via USB may in fact give you the same problem as it is USB interfaced. Maybe you can test it and let me know – for reasons I reveal later!

      So yes to confirm, you only need a Optical Disc copy of Win8/8.1 and option-boot it from an INTERNAL SuperDrive, select the non-EFI boot partition of the optical drive. Obviously you need a copy of the applicable Boot Camp drivers for the hardware, just copy that to a USB key as you will be installing that directly into Windows for all the hardware drivers, including that pesky audio driver.

      I have been running this for quite a while now. Everything works as it should, no driver issues experienced so far. I would be quite interested to try Win10 on it also but the issues with downtime on my work laptop mean I will not do so. While the EFI boot is supposedly faster, the SSD really does fix the issue for me and I am more than happy with the speed of startup and shutdown now.

      Also, I had an extra 500GB WD Black drive lying around, so I bought an Optical Drive conversion kit which you can find on eBay by searching ‘Optical Bay caddy’. Basically you rip out your Superdrive and screw this in, and then add either a larger HDD or another SSD. I now have 500GB of slower storage which I can put all my IT-related ISO images and similar onto without needing to carry a portable hard drive.

      You can also get a USB case to pop your now homeless Superdrive into (Ebay: ‘SuperDrive USB Enclosure’) which I of course did as I require an optical drive when attending client sites. Works fine in Windows, just not sure if you can get the thing to boot the Windows partition we want correctly. All I need now is 8GB of RAM and I will be a happy camper. Don’t be afraid, it’s a great upgrade and only thumbs up from me.

      • LC
        January 22, 2015 at 10:39

        Hi Monsta,

        Thanks for your reply, you make everything so clear. And good advice on getting the optical bay (I already bought one) and the superdrive usb enclosure (I will need one actually).

        My current configuration of my 13-inch early2011 MBP: i7-2620M CPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB Samsung SSD in the harddrive bay (SATA 3), 128GB Toshiba SSD in the optical bay (SATA 2).

        The Toshiba SSD was the original one that came with the MBP, and initially I tried to add the Samsung SSD into the optical bay, but it didn’t work, probably because the optical bay is only SATA 2 capable and the SSD is SATA 3 (am I using the terms right?). Anyway, switching the places of the SSDs made things work well, but an issue is that my OSes are installed on the Toshiba SSD, i.e., the smaller and slower one. I am not sure how much of a difference it will make, but I always wondered if booting OS from the Samsung SSD (even not in EFI mode) will make things faster.

        The two SSDs:

        1. Samsung SSD 840 Series ATA Device (SATA-III, installed in the harddrive bay, currently used for data storage)
        2. APPLE SSD TS128C ATA Device (SATA-II, installed in the optical bay, currently used for OS and programs)

        Can I also ask what do you feel about win8.1 vs. win7? Having tried win8.1 in parallelsdesktop10, I don’t see significant benefits of it over win7 in terms of functionality, given that I do not really like/use the metro interface and the small win8 apps.

        So I am considering the potential benefits of re-installing the system:

        1. Speed improvement of moving the OS from Toshiba SSD to Samsung SSD – not sure
        2. Win8.1 vs. Win7 improvements – not sure
        3. Getting ride of OSX – minor benefits of space saving, no apparent downside
        4. Just having fun messing with the MBP – this alone may be enough reason?

        Any advice will be appreciated!

        • Monsta
          January 24, 2015 at 13:28

          Firstly, it doesn’t matter that the Optical bay is only SATA2. Any SATA3 device will just run at the slower speed. I would say that the Samsung just didn’t want to play ball in that bay for whatever reason. They can be a bit finicky at times, I would probably put an Intel in that bay instead. The 530 definitely worked in the optical bay.

          Generally, the faster SSD will make a difference to boot. You are limited to 300MB/sec on SATA2, and SATA3 is 600MB/sec. Even so, the Toshiba only being about 260MB/sec read speed will still out perform a spinning hard disk by a factor of five generally.

          In answer to your questions:

          1. Yes – definitely
          2. A few small things, these are generally only apparent on newer hardware. There are some problems (Start Menu mainly). Install Classic Shell and all will be fine.
          3. You don’t need it.
          4. Yeah, if it isn’t a critical tool like my work laptop, go ahead and have some fun!
          • LC
            January 26, 2015 at 20:15

            Have done it today. The installation went smoothly following your method, audio works well. Just one problem – couldn’t add my Bluetooth mouse (Logitech M557). The same mouse worked well before in Windows 7 (bootcamp), although I vaguely remember I updated the Bluetooth driver and/or manager before, but now I am just using the bootcamp driver. Did you have issue with your Bluetooth?

          • Monsta
            January 27, 2015 at 19:35

            Not sure on that. I don’t use anything Bluetooth however I have been able to pair my other half’s Bluetooth keyboard tonight although it is only 12 months old.

            I would suggest that you run Windows Update over it and see if it picks up an updated driver for it. You might also need an updated Logitech Driver for it too.

  2. LC
    January 28, 2015 at 00:02

    Thanks. Did some search, it is a known issue: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/3755904?start=0&tstart=0

    The solutions from the above link used to work for me on Win7, but no luck this time. I ended up disabling the internal bluetooth and using a dongle. Everything is fine now.

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