Impulse Tracker and Windows XP

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Impulse Tracker and Windows XP (updated November 2012)


If you’re here because you previously had available EMS memory but after some Windows Updates in October 2012, the EMS just disappeared then go to control panel, add/remove programs, click to show updates and remove “Security Update for Windows XP (KB2724197)” then restart your computer. Don’t forget you can visit the Windows Update page, do a “Custom” update, then remove the tick to install the update, expand it, then tick the option not to show the update again. This will prevent it reinstalling next time.


Does Impulse Tracker work in Windows XP?  That is a question which has been asked countless times since the release of Windows XP. The answer is yes. The real question is how well? Some people mention jumpy mono 8bit sound. Other people use a utility called vdmsound which supposedly gives 44khz 16bit sound. However, many people report problems with long delays between entering a note and hearing the sound. Others complain of static noise. have made configuration files for “vdmsound” and easy to understand instructions readily available!

Windows XP Audio Support in DOS Emulation

By default, Windows XP emulates a SoundBlaster version 2 soundcard for DOS applications. This has a 22khz mono 8bit output quality. That is to say, pretty awful. Not only does it emulate such an old soundcard, but it really doesn’t do it very well. The sound of meatloaf gargling with hydrochloric acid would probably be more musical than these default drivers. But what if you could have a resident SoundBlaster 16 driver what uses directx and directsound to produce a high quality audio output from a DOS window? That is exactly what vdmsound does.

What Do You Need?

We’ve tested these configurations on a number of PC’s and have come up with the following minimum specifications:


600mhz CPU or faster with 512kb cache (Pentium 3, Pentium 4, Athlon – NOT 128k cache Celeron or Duron although 256k should be ok)


DirectX compatible soundcard



What Next?


Download and install VDMSound.


Download the configuration files from fq-music here (updated May 2006)


In the Zip file, save the VDMS.INI and VDMSRUN.BAT files to the VDMSound installation folder (usually C:\Program Files\VDMSound)


Save the IMPULSE TRACKER.PIF file to your desktop


Save the AUTOEXEC.IT and CONFIG.IT files to the System32 folder in your Windows installation folder


Right click the IMPULSE TRACKER.PIF file on your desktop then select properties


Change all instances of D:\IT to the appropriate folder where Impulse Tracker is installed.


Ensure that the links to AUTOEXEC.IT and CONFIG.IT point to the correct Windows folder (click the “Advanced” button in the “Program” tab).


Before opening Impulse Tracker, ensure that numlock is ON.

Double click the Impulse Tracker icon on your desktop.

When Impulse Tracker has loaded and you’ve clicked CONTINUE, turn numlock OFF.

Why? Because this significantly reduces the delay between pressing keys on the keyboard and hearing the output audio.

I’ve Followed the Instructions but IT Reports I Have No EMS Memory

This is the most common problem that has been reported to us. Some non-generic computers (such as Dell, IBM, Sony, etc) seem to stop Windows XP enabling EMS memory for legacy applications. In some cases you can disable Legacy USB support in the BIOS to resolve this problem (Legacy USB is only required for using USB devices in non-Plug’n’Play Operating Systems – this will not affect Windows XP). On other computers disabling onboard network cards (or sometimes just the Boot ROM) has also cured the problem.

Unfortunately some of the older onboard audio and video chipsets (particularly on chipsets supporting AMD processors for some reason) also seem to prevent XP using EMS – disabling these can cure the problem, but obviously you’ll need to use add-in cards instead.

Worse still, we have also come across computers where the RAID controllers or even SATA controllers seem to interfere with Windows XP’s ability to enable EMS memory. Again these can be disabled in the BIOS, but only if you don’t use SATA Drives or the RAID functionality.

Right click here and save to your desktop. Run “MemTest” icon on your desktop to check if you have EMS memory available in your current configuration. You must have saved the “CONFIG.IT” and “AUTOEXEC.IT” files to your System32 folder prior to running “MemTest”.

Everything Seemed to Work But I Can’t Hear Any Sound

We’re still trying to figure out the cause of this rare problem, but having been unable to replicate it we can only make educated guesses at the moment. We understand from someone who had this problem that moving the soundcard to a different PCI slot seemed to work. You could also try increasing the latency in VDMS.INI in the VDMSound folder.

I’ve Tried All the Above and Impulse Tracker Still Does Not Work

Due to the nature of PC architecture, no computer is the same. Nobody can guarantee these configurations will work for you. However, we will happily try to help with any queries you have – email for help.

Does VDMSound Work With FastTracker?

At present, we do not have suitable configurations for FastTracker.

Can I Use VDMSound for Playing Old DOS Games?

Good Luck! But seriously, a lot of games do work with VDMSound. If the game becomes unresponsive during audio output, or the sound judders, try the trick with the numlock above. Unfortunately we only offer advice for the Impulse Tracker application as this is where the majority of our testing has been done. We recommend you consult the various forums around the net for playing old DOS games with Windows XP.

I get an NTVDM illegal operation error. Whats wrong?

This is caused either by having one of the latest NVIDIA graphics cards or an upgrade to XP SP3. Either way, a workaround to this problem is to right click the IT icon, select Properties, click on the Screen tab, and change usage to Window. When the soundcard detection pops up, press ALT+ENTER to switch to full screen mode. The error will still popup, but only when you close the program.