Troubleshooting Drivers

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further information: Troubleshooting Guide

Device drivers are software packages written by your device manufacturer (or, in some cases, by your OS vendor in partnership with the device manufacturer) that allow software on your computer to access the devices in your computer through a standard interface. Unfortunately, device drivers are software written by humans, and like all software, they can have bugs. If Media Center is crashing completely your hardware device drivers may be the culprit. If the entire computer is crashing (a Blue Screen type error, Kernel Panic, hard-freeze, or unprompted shutdown or reboot) then regular user software like Media Center cannot be the cause, and the drivers are the most likely culprit.

Applies To:

  • Blue Screen or Kernel Panic crashes
  • Crashing
  • Hanging
  • Performance problems
  • High CPU utilization
  • Audio Playback Issues
  • Video Playback Issues
  • Performance problems with Theater View

Steps to Take if You Suspect Hardware Issues

Make sure you have up-to-date drivers. This typically means getting the drivers from the original manufacturer of your device, not from Microsoft's Windows Update (the built-in "update my driver" functionality), or from the original manufacturer of your computer. The exception to this is with some laptops, where the vendors don't always implement devices "nicely" and you must use their custom drivers (though this has been becoming less and less common). In these cases, ensure you have the most up to date (or otherwise known to be well-behaved) version available.

The most recent drivers are not always the best ones, unfortunately. Generally, it is best to apply these updates one at a time (preserving the option to roll back easily with System Restore or a backup) and re-test to see if the issue has improved after each one. The most common culprits for problems with Media Center are:

  • Video card (GPU) Drivers
  • Platform drivers (Intel Chipset)
  • Audio device drivers
  • Network device drivers
  • Storage drivers

If you recently updated drivers (or System updates were applied, perhaps automatically), and the problem started, then you may want to remove the update(s) to see if the problems go away again. You may find a bug in a newer driver version, or a conflict with a recent OS patch, and need to keep your computer on an older version until the device manufacturer can provide a fix.

For USB and other external devices, it is often useful to test with all unneeded devices physically removed from the system, and then re-added one at a time until the issue recurs. If you are using a USB storage or audio device, ensure your Platform drivers are up-to-date, as these provide the drivers for the USB bus and other system services.

If you are getting Blue Screen crashes, Kernel Panics, hard locks (where nothing on the computer will respond), or unplanned shutdowns or reboots, then Media Center cannot be the "cause". Regular user applications like Media Center aren't allowed by the OS to run in a way such that they can cause these kinds of issues. It is possible for applications like Media Center to try to use the APIs on your computer in such a way as to trigger the crash, but for these symptoms, the "cause" must lie elsewhere. In this case, you must have one of the following:

  • A problem with your OS
  • A problem with a device driver
  • A physical defect in your hardware
  • Malware that has infected the computer

Driver Resources

Problems with third-party hardware cannot be supported directly by JRiver. Sources for many common third-party drivers are as follows:

Audio Devices

If it happens when you play something, and that file has audio, it could be a broken or misbehaving Audio device driver.

Some common (US/English) download locations for these are:

If you have a more esoteric external DAC, then check with the manufacturer of your audio device. If you are using HDMI-out from your video card, then the drivers are typically included with the drivers for your Video Card (see the next item).

Note: Mac OSX includes the audio drivers for all built-in audio hardware, though any third-party audio devices will require a driver from the manufacturer.

Video Cards (GPUs)

Impacts all video playback and Theater View, primarily. It can also cause problems with audio-only playback, particularly if a visualizer is visible on screen. Video card driver issues are a common source of Blue Screen crashes.

Here are some more common download links for GPU vendors:

Even in some of these latter cases where you have a laptop that has been abandoned by the manufacturer, and has bad driver bugs, you can sometimes get it working with helpful third-party driver "mods". This is a bit sketchy but can come through in a pinch. It would probably be a good idea to ask if you think you might need to do something like this.

If you aren't sure what kind of GPU you have, you can use GPU-Z from TechPowerUp to identify it.

Note: Mac OSX includes all the required (and only available) GPU drivers, so this does not apply to OSX at all.

Multimedia Frameworks

While not drivers particularly, MC does make extensive use of the multimedia frameworks on each supported OS. In particular, this includes DirectX on Windows and CoreAudio on OSX.

Microsoft provides a diagnostics tool for DirectX called dxdiag that can help you troubleshoot video and sound related hardware problems, and test the functionality of the framework.

Mac OSX doesn't have a direct corollary for dxdiag, though it can also be useful to check for problems in the appropriate section of the System Information applet. This can be accessed from within the About this Mac dialog found under the Apple menu. Tip: If you hold Option when you click the Apple menu, you can bypass the pretty (but typically not very informative) About this Mac dialog entirely and go straight to the full System Information app.

Platform Drivers

If you have more general performance issues, or crashes, you may also have a problem with your computer's "motherboard" drivers. These include the drivers for the various chips on your motherboard. If you have a modern CPU, you can obtain these directly from Intel or AMD:

Note: Likewise, Mac OSX includes all the required (and only available) chipset and platform drivers, so this does not apply to OSX at all.

Storage Drivers

If you are using a Network Attached Storage device of some kind, you may also want to check to see if the device itself has a firmware or software update:

Network Drivers