Windows 10 Microphone Privacy and the Dreaded "Error in Sound Input!"

Sholto Fisher, K7TMG

Article from the West Mountain Radio Quarter 3, 2020 Newsletter

Over the last year or so one of the most recurring technical support questions I get is "all of a sudden my FT-8 isn't working!!!". From this somewhat cryptic initial comment it often turns out that the problem is related to how Microsoft has implemented a new security policy in Windows 10.

Microphone Privacy
There are good reasons why Microsoft implemented a microphone privacy policy. Preventing malicious software from listening in on your conversations is something we all should take seriously but an unfortunate side-effect is it prevents most ham radio digital mode software from working.

What Microsoft refers to as a microphone, is actually a recording-channel. This is used to receive audio in programs like WSJT-X and Fldigi.

For many, the new policy goes into effect following a Windows 10 update and it is not obvious that something changed. Fortunately it is relatively easy to restore microphone access for your programs.

You can navigate within Windows Settings to hunt down the offending microphone kill switch but there is an easier method to go straight there. Hold down the Windows key on your keyboard and tap the letter R. This will bring up a Run box:

Type in ms-settings:privacy-microphone and press the enter key or click on OK. Now you will see all the options for the new policy. There are two main sections to this settings page. The first part deals with device access and this obviously has to be turned on for our programs to work. There's also a slider to allow apps to access your microphone. Apps are programs which came from the Microsoft store so this doesn't usually hinder our ham radio programs.

Scrolling further down the page brings you to the following section:

As you can see in this example the slider is set to off. Turn it on and restart your digital mode software and all should be well again.

Be aware however there is not currently a per-program policy so restoring microphone access globally will give malicious software (should it be installed) access as well.

Categories that this topic belongs to: RIGblasters, More for Hams