Problems in Windows with your CD-ROM?

Reader Gerry Ching reports that upgrading to Windows Me, Windows 2000 and some other new products can cause some of your CD-ROM drive features not to work.

Reader Gerry Ching reports that upgrading to Windows Me, Windows 2000 and some other new products can cause some of your CD-ROM drive features not to work.

One of the problems involves the playback of audio files from CD-ROM disks. The audio files, of course, consist of digital data -- ones and zeros. But the sounds that come out of the CD-ROM drive may be in either analogue or digital form, depending upon the device that's playing the music. This could be speakers, headphones and so forth.

When you install Windows Me, among other things, new default settings can have the effect of disabling a CD-ROM drive's front-panel output to headphones. That's because the headphone jack is analogue, but Windows Me defaults to digital output for CD-ROM drives.

Windows 2000 can also configure digital CD-ROM audio output. But the default in Windows 2000 is to leave the setting at "analog".

Having Windows configured for digital when you need analogue, or for analogue when you need digital, can mean the difference between a Rockin' New Year and the Sounds of Silence.

Various audio boards, CD-ROM drives and other multimedia devices support different features. For example, Ching notes that the long-unused two-pin connector labelled "Digital Out" or "Reserved" on the back of some CD-ROMs is now enabled on newer drives. But Windows' digital audio doesn't go through this connector. Digital audio data is output through a CD-ROM's ATA connection (technically, the ATAPI or AT Attachment Packet Interface).

Anyway, if one of your devices isn't playing your tunes, or it used to but has stopped, the fix may be as simple as checking a box.

Here's how to do this in Windows Me (an explanation for a slightly different procedure for Windows 2000 follows):

Step 1. In Windows Me, right-click the My Computer icon on your Desktop.

Step 2. On the context menu that appears, click Properties, and then click the Device Manager tab.

Step 3. Make sure "View devices by type" is on. Click the plus sign to the left of "CD-ROM" to expand the branch. (This assumes a CD-ROM is installed.) Select the CD-ROM drive name that appears and click the Properties button.

Step 4. Click the Properties tab. If the setting "Enable digital CD audio for this CD-ROM device" is on, turn it off, or vice versa.

Step 5. Click OK twice to close the dialogue box, and check to see if the audio from your CD-ROM is working.

To follow this procedure for Windows 2000, access the device manager by right-clicking the My Computer icon. Select Properties and then the Hardware tab. Then follow steps three through five above.

If changing one of these settings makes your audio output not work, of course, you should change the checked box back.

A different but related problem affects the reading of any data, not just audio data, on CD-ROM drives.

Starting with Windows 95B, Direct Memory Access (DMA) is available for storage devices. By default, Windows 95B, 98 and 2000 turn on DMA for hard disks but not for CD-ROM drives. If DMA is manually turned on for a CD-ROM that doesn't support it, the CD-ROM may not work properly.

To change the DMA setting for a CD-ROM in Windows 9x, see support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/Q258/7/57.asp.

For more information on Windows 2000, see support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/Q247/4/26.asp.

Reader Ching will receive a free copy of Windows Me Secrets for being the first to send me a tip on this issue that I printed.

Livingston's latest book is Windows Me Secrets (IDG Books). Send tips to Brian Livingston. He regrets that he cannot answer individual questions.

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