Fixing Sound Issues With VirtualBox and Thinkpad T520

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While putting the Windows 8 Consumer Preview through the ringer, I encountered an issue with VirtualBox running on my Lenovo Thinkpad T520.  I was playing an episode of This American Life, the one about the Apple factory workers, when I started up the Windows 8 VM. The audio stopped.. It wasn’t just the This American Life player, it was all audio on the host system. When I shut down the VM the host audio came back to life.

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My initial solution was to change the VM audio controller to SoundBlaster 16. The other two options, Intel HD Audio and ICH AC97, did not fix the host audio problem. Another restart of the VM and I was back in Ira Glass bliss.

As it turns out it just wasn’t a problem with the Windows 8 beta but a VirtualBox issue. My other VMs, Windows Server 8 and Windows Server 2008, had the same host audio issue. So I started to look into this further. Switching the audio controller to SoundBlaster 16 did correct the host audio issue but didn’t solve the VM audio problem. The Windows 8 VM still didn’t play any sounds.

I found a few posts online that pointed to installing the Realtek drivers for the ICH AC97 audio controller on the Windows 8 VM but the drivers refused to install and it brought the host audio problem back.

I decided to start from the beginning. I checked the host (Windows 7) audio drivers and they were dating back to December 2010. After a quick driver search on the Lenovo site, I found an Conexant 20672 SmartAudio HD drivers that were updated in November 2011. After a quick download, install and reboot  I changed my Windows 8 VM audio controller back to Intel HD Audio and started the VM up. Lo and behold everything was working, both the host and the VM audio.

So the moral of the story is keep your drivers updated kids. It’s not worth the head-to-desk moments later.