Question Windows 7 "cannot start" Realtek HD audio, but Linux can

Aug 17, 2021
I have an old desktop machine, Asus F2A85-M motherboard with AMD A10 CPU, that I largely use as a music server. It runs Windows 7 Pro, and also has about 25 years of collected software and stuff on it, including rips of a lot of CDs and a few games. Its Cambridge Soundworks 3-piece speaker system lost one of its driver amps a few years ago so I've been just using the CSW as a subwoofer, with a little external amp for the main drivers.

A few weeks ago the audio died. The motherboard has Realtek HD Audio on it, which didn't sound half bad. But now no matter what I do, I get the notorious "This Device Cannot Start (Code 10)". I've done all the usual tricks:
  • Cold reboot
  • Delete device from enumerator and reinstall manually (Windows does not "discover" it)
  • Update to the latest (well, still ca. 2016 for this) driver (with multiple reboots)
  • Remove "upper limit" from registry entry
  • Checked the BIOS to see that the HD audio is enabled
For a while I figured that the motherboard was failing. I would have bought a sound card, maybe a $30 blaster of some kind. In the meantime I have some USB audio devices, and they work, but none have a subwoofer output, so I'm only getting maybe 200 Hz and up -- no fun. The only hardware change I've made recently was to replace the HD (showing signs of imminent failure after 8 years) with an SSD, cloned, not a reinstall of Windows.

But since this is my hacking machine, I thought it would be fun to boot Linux on it. I had messed up a previous Mint install so installed the nice new MX distro. And it includes VLC, and can see the NTFS partition with the music on it. And lo and behold, the motherboard audio works perfectly well with it! So it's not hardware. But Linux isn't my usual OS. And being Windows 7, it hasn't had a real Windows Update in a long time -- and I never let my machines update themselves (I did say Pro version!).

Any ideas what might be happening? Or should I throw in the towel and just plug a PCI sound card into the mobo? (It's the puzzle, not the money, I'm concerned with.) Thanks!
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