Ask the Doctor: Pluggin' the Analog Hole


On my old Windows XP PC, I used Audacity to record music, etc., from the Internet with great results.

Recently I bought a Dell XPS 420 with Windows Vista 64-bit and now Audacity (or even the PC’s Creative Sound recording software) can’t record any audio. I came across some related forums and tried a couple of suggestions (check disabled items on the Sound properties, etc.), which haven’t worked.

In XP I used the Stereo Mix setting in Audacity but in Vista I don’t have that option. And recording from the mic isn’t an option, either. Is this a Vista “feature”? If so, how can I record audio from the Internet? Vista has grown on me so I’d rather not downgrade to XP.

You’ve got it, Suleman. Recording from the soundcard is disabled in Vista to prevent people from gettin’ music for free by taking advantage of the “analog hole”—that is, recording real-time sound output rather than actually duplicating files.
Sounds like you’ve already tried enabling disabled devices, the usual fix, so we don’t have any further advice. On the bright side, music subscription services like Rhapsody let you download from a selection of millions of songs for a small monthly fee (and keep them as long as you have your subscription), while Internet radio stations like Pandora,, and let you listen for free.
Update - Second Opinion: In April, you advised reader Suleman that there was no easy way for him to use his soundcard to record music from the Internet in Vista (“Plugging the Analog Hole”). Ask him if he has an old PC that can still access the Internet. I use one with a 600MHz CPU, 256KB of RAM, and an 8GB hard drive with Windows XP home. This is quite adequate for listening to music and surfing the net using DSL.

Connect the line-out jack from the Internet computer to the line-in jack of the machine running Audacity. Windows can’t tell whether the analog signal arriving at the line-in jack comes from the Internet, a radio, or an old vinyl LP. --Frank

SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION Are flames shooting out of the back of your rig? First, grab a fire extinguisher and douse the flames. Once the pyrotechnic display has fizzled, email the doctor at for advice on how to solve your technological woes.

Around the web