by Craig Anderton
I don’t like to write articles that describe what may be a solution to what may be a problem, but I don’t really have a choice . . . let me explain.
Windows XP originally had a limit of 10 MIDI ports. If you exceeded that amount, MIDI devices simply wouldn’t show up as available in DAWs and other programs. I believe this was eventually increased to 32 ports, but still, if you exceeded the limit you needed to dive into the registry and delete unused or duplicate ports. Part of the problem was from Windows creating duplicate ports if you plugged a USB MIDI device into different USB ports. Remembering to plug a device into the same port each time you used it, and deleting any duplicates, was an easy way to free up ports.
I recently tried installing Korg’s KONTROL software and USB-MIDI driver for the nano- and microKEY series devices, and while Korg’s driver software showed the devices as existing and connected, the KONTROL software insisted they weren’t connected. This seemed like the problem I’d run into before with port limitations when programs couldn’t access something that was connected.
Google was of limited help, but the general consensus seemed to be that the port limitation problem still persisted in versions of Windows past XP, even though some thought there was an unlimited number of ports. Who knows? If someone reading this has a definitive answer, let me know so I can update this article.
Anyway, I tried the "XP registry diving" approach, but that didn’t work with Windows 7. However, on the Cakewalk forums, I found a very simple batch process that lets you see hidden devices in Device Manager. Simply type the following in Notepad and save it as a .BAT file (e.g., Hidden.BAT):
Righty-click on the .BAT file, then choose Run as administrator from the context menu; this opens Device Manager. Go View > Show hidden devices, then open Sound, Video, and Game Controllers. A little speaker icon to the left of each item will be solid if the device is connected, and grayed out if not.
Note that the following picture shows two entries for the Line 6 POD HD500. With the HD500 plugged in, one driver was active, and the other was not. So I right-clicked on the grayed-out driver, and chose Uninstall. A dialog box showed a checkbox for deleting the driver software; I believe you need to leave it unchecked so as not to render the “real” port inoperable.
I found multiple duplicates for multiple pieces of gear, and deleted them. After doing so, the Korg KONTROL software worked perfectly. So while I can’t guarantee this solved the problem, or if it’s the optimal way to do so, the problem was nonetheless resolved.
Again, let me emphasize this all falls under the “gee, I dunno, I guess it works” category, so I’d welcome any comments from people who have a definitive answer for all this!
Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central and Founding Editor of Electronic Musician magazine. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.