I'm a stickler for the old days of sound cards; back when EAX 5.0 was still a big thing, Creative was actually starting to churn out some pretty good tech and more importantly before Microsoft decided to be absolute cunts by removing the DirectSound and DirectSound3D Hardware Abstraction Layer from Windows Vista (and all subsequent versions of Windows). Great move Microsoft!
Anyway, saltiness out the way, I won't go into any more boring details about that. You're probably well aware of the history anyway if you're reading this. Also if you're reading this you may have an old Auzentech X-Fi sound card and would like to know how to get it to work with Windows 10 1903 or newer, in which case read on.
The short answer is to use Daniel_K's unofficial X-Fi support packs, but only for versions of Windows 10 up to 1809. Although the old official drivers (if you can still find them) work with Windows 7 and in some cases Windows 8, with the unofficial support packs you can correctly install the drivers on Windows 7, 8 and 10. Take note that the support packs don't include new versions of the drivers for the Auzentech cards; they just provide a way to install the old drivers correctly on newer versions of Windows. They do however contain newer versions of Creative's own software and functionality relating to installing all the files.
Unfortunately Microsoft again fiddled around with the way drivers are installed with their latest iterations of Windows 10 and it broke the support packs (and in fact a lot Creative's driver packages as well). As such, if you want to use the support packs on Windows 10 1903 or higher, you have to use a modified version as supplied by YouTuber Iinital. Technically the support pack isn't modified at all, it's the drivers included in the pack that has been hacked to include newer versions of certain files made by Creative to overcome the issues introduced by Microsoft.
I never did find out what exactly was changed by Microsoft and why it affected Creative's drivers in particular though. In any case, while Creative did actually update a lot of their own driver packages so they would work again in Windows 10 1903, they refused to do anything about Auzentech's driver packages, even though they apparently could have. But as for Auzentech, well it's a bit of an odd one really because no one truly knows what happened to them. They never announced they were shutting up shop, they just sort of disappeared one day without so much as a word to anyone.
Although their website lingered until early 2014 before finally going offline, if you do some digging you'll find the company itself had seemingly stopped trading in 2012 when it was 'SOS/FTB Suspended' and the Agent for Service of Process resigned (in California at least). The CEO by that point had apparently moved to Japan, where he ran another audio electronics company called AMI International, until that also apparently ceased trading. At any rate, with Auzentech gone, so was any chance of new official drivers ever seeing the light of day, unfortunately.
Meanwhile Daniel_K had last updated his support pack in 2017 to version 4.0 and then subsequently gone very quiet, so it ended up being left to the above mentioned YouTuber Iinital to come up with a fix. It appears he modified the drivers included in the support pack so they install the newer changes to a file from Creative making them work again. I did wonder if Daniel_K would fix the issue if he made another appearance and updated his support pack again, but back in August 2020 he did indeed reappear and release a new version 5.0, but I couldn't get them to work.
Before I noticed Iinital had actually updated his modified versions of the support pack to include the new version 5.0, I realised while poking around that in actuality Daniel_K hadn't updated anything to do with the old Prelude driver (or any of the Auzentech drivers for that matter) in years, assuming he'd ever modified them at all to begin with. So I ended up taking the drivers from the previously released modified support pack 4.0 (the one Iinital had hacked to include the new drivers by Creative) and replaced the ones in the new support pack 5.0 with them and low and behold, it worked.
I wasn't actually downgrading the drivers, since again as I say, the drivers are the same as they've been for years, just now with a file or two updated by Iinital. But of course, after checking Iinital's own video guide (linked above) I realised he'd done this months ago anyway so all my faffing around was somewhat pointless, though it did inspire me to write this crappy article, so silver linings I guess.
And of course now you can do it too, just follow the links above, download the files you need and follow the instructions. It's worth mentioning at this point that Iinital insists you disable UAC, among other things, when installing these modified drivers. I'm not sure why though, as I was able to install the drivers without disabling anything but instead simply running the installer as an administrator.
Apart from getting a massive ugly red warning from Windows about it not being able to verify the driver's origins, it still let me wave this by and install them without issue and they work fine too. However, I don't have Secure Boot enabled on my PC so that might be the reason why, plus I do run Windows 10 Pro, so maybe that has something to do with it; your mileage may vary, but try it my way first as disabling UAC and the other security measures is not a fantastic idea.
One last thing about these drivers is however, or more specifically for the software that can be installed along with them, you may find the settings don't get saved in these various Creative software programs. The trick here is to run the software as an administrator, make the changes, close the programs as normal and then put the computer to sleep for a short while. When you wake it up, restart it immediately and you'll find your settings have actually stuck this time around. I literally have no fucking clue how or why this works, but it does.
Just over a year later and Daniel Kawakami (AKA Daniel_K) has returned with another blog post detailing his latest and apparently final support pack (version 8.0) for X-Fi based sound cards. As I noted above when he released his previous pack (version 5.0) I had issues with installing it but overcame this by using the same modified drivers made by that YouTuber I mentioned. I can happily report however that this new support pack from Daniel_K works without issue.
It may be worth noting that these days I do actually have Secure Boot enabled on my system now, though even with that turned on the old drivers still worked. However upon finding out about the new pack, I uninstalled the old drivers (and all the old software) and installed this new pack only to find it hadn't worked. I had of course completely forgot about Secure Boot being enabled, so I uninstalled them all, again, then ran the included RegEdit file for working around Secure Boot (which adds a key to the Windows Registry). After restarting, I reinstalled the new pack again and restarted once more and hey presto, everything was working.
The registry alteration in question is a simple one (you can have a look yourself by editing the file included in the pack); all it does is create a key called
UpgradedSystem which just let's cross-signed drivers be installed when otherwise they wouldn't have (if for instance Secure Boot is enabled).
Anyway, at this point I'll take the opportunity to wish Daniel_K all the best for the future and thank him for his years of service to the community in keeping all our old sound cards alive and kicking, much to the annoyance (hopefully) of Microsoft and Creative. I suggest you do to.
Meanwhile, the next hurdle I suspect we users of older sound cards (and older hardware in general) may need to overcome next is… Windows 11.