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RJohn53
Novice
1,768 Views

Why is Hades Canyon microphone array continuously creating *.pcm files in Windows\temp, filling up the drive?

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35 Replies
AlHill
Super User
677 Views

Have you updated to the latest bios?

WHat version of Windows 10 do you have? 1903?

 

Doc

 

RJohn53
Novice
677 Views

Yes, whatever the Intel Driver & Support Assistant recommends, I've got it. The Assistant consistently fails in updating the Intel Management Engine driver, however, with my current version being 1815.12.0.2021. As to Win 10, yes, 1903. If you follow the link I submitted, you will see that a number of other owners of Hades Canyon have same issue: Microphone array will fill up C: drive with *.pcm files if left enabled. The microphone array works fine, but you've got to turn it on, make your call (or whatever), turn it off, and then delete a lot of *.pcm files, the number depending on how long you left it on. Thanks for your interest. Looks like a developer at Intel or Microsoft left a write-statement in the code while debugging. The odd feature of the bug is that it only affects Hades Canyon, apparently, which suggests that it was an Intel developer, with a debug-write filter watching the NUC model. I submitted the issue to Win 10 feedback 6 weeks ago, with no response.

AlHill
Super User
677 Views

What bios version do you have? Let us not worry about the other users with problems, and let us focus on you specifically.

 

Doc

 

RJohn53
Novice
677 Views

Bios version 0058, Release Date, July 12, 2019, though if I recall correctly bug appeared earlier. I agree that if there is a fix for mine, it's likely that it will fix others. Peculiar bug, scary the first time it fills C:.

AlHill
Super User
677 Views

Let us get the ME problem sorted out first. Download and install: https://downloadcenter.intel.com/download/28215?product=147502

 

Do not use IDSA. Also, this sounds more like an edge and/or cortana problem. I would turn off the microphone in the privacy settings.

 

But, let us solve the ME problem.

 

Doc

 

RJohn53
Novice
677 Views

Good suggestion, but in fact I tried this previously. However, downloading it this way does explain the error: "Error loading language resource." I did a search on this but couldn't find anything useful. Do you know what it means?

AlHill
Super User
677 Views

I am not familiar with that error. An Intel support engineer will have to assist you with that. It does explain why IDSA was failing. What are your region and language settings?

 

Regarding the PCM files, turn off the Microphone in the privacy settings or, at a minimum, turn off cortana and any other apps you do not need accessing the microphone. Who know what Microsoft has done and is listening to.

 

Doc

 

RJohn53
Novice
677 Views

Thanks. USA/English. I appreciate your concerns about privacy. This is a long-term software problem associated with AI. On the one hand, AI needs data; on the other hand, some data is private.

 

The bug requires the microphone to be off most of the time, else it will fill C:. The earliest post on the Microsoft link that I submitted above is early July, prior to release of latest bios (0058) for Hades Canyon. Since problem probably first occurred late in the previous bios's lifetime, it apparently is not a bios issue. Since it's associated with Hades Canyon, it's likely not a Microsoft/Cortana/Skype issue per se. Since the Realtek driver is old, that's likely not the issue. If the AMD graphics chip controls the microphone array, the problem could be in that driver. However, I think I looked at a simple schematic indicating that the AMD chip only outputs sound and so doesn't process sound input.

AlHill
Super User
677 Views

Download, run, and ATTACH the results of this utility.

https://downloadcenter.intel.com/download/25293/Intel-System-Support-Utility

 

Then, an Intel support engineer can assist you.

 

Doc

 

RJohn53
Novice
677 Views

Thanks. Appreciate your help. Attached.

Esteban_C_Intel
Employee
677 Views

Hello RJohn53,

 

Thank you for all the information provided, 

 

I took me a bit to reply since I was performing some testing on our labs and we were not able to replicate the issue; however, I was checking the posts of the thread you sent and it seems that most of the files are been created by Microsoft® Edge and Cortana, therefore I will recommend you to go to Windows Settings > Privacy > Microphone and revoke the permissions from the apps mentioned, after that please reboot and delete the files. If the issue persists please let me know.

 

 

Esteban Ch. 

Intel Customer Support Technician

A Contingent Worker at Intel

RJohn53
Novice
677 Views

Thanks for your reply. Access by Edge has long been off on my Hades Canyon while the *.pcm files were created. I also tried limiting Cortana's access, with no effect on *.pcm generation. In any case, access to the microphone by Cortana is an important part of Windows 10 presently, and apparently will continue to be; the built-in microphone in NUCs and Intel's Athena project must in fact be aimed at AI-voice, at least in part.

 

If it is an Edge/Cortana problem, why are Hades Canyon owners the only ones reporting it in the thread? Since you weren't able to replicate it (presumably even with Edge and Cortana permitted), I suspect it is an issue with 3rd party software, in particular, a freebie that Intel offered with Hades Canyon. The suspect software is from Magix, which has a "Music Maker" app, among others. I have long since uninstalled the freebie (it was buggy) but some components have persisted, including a notification on startup (which I have finally killed, but with no effect on *.pcm generation). The obvious course of action is a clean install of Win10, but that's easily a full day's effort, given that my Hades Canyon is loaded with software for work. If it is Magix, this might be important for owners of Hades Canyon, and Intel, for that matter, to know. In any case, there has to be some explanation as to why the problem is confined to at least a group of Hades Canyon owners. If you can think of experiments I can do that might isolate the problem, I will be happy to try them and relay the results to Hades Canyon owners via that thread.

 

Here's a specific question: The names of the files generated look like this: skwsrefmfx_2019_9_2-17_32_43_658.pcm, the suffix being the current date and time. Do you recognize the prefix, skwsrefmfx? I did a search on this and could find nothing, other than our thread at Microsoft. The prefix should give some idea as to the app generating the files. If it is Magix, a call to that company might produce results quickly.

RJohn53
Novice
677 Views

Esteban, I've tried the privacy setting a couple of times by Restarting with access to microphone array denied to Cortana (and Edge). Some process is still generating skwsrefmfx*.pcm files after restart. However, the sequence is odd, with a hint that Cortana may indeed be involved. I'll test it a few more times and get back to you later with clearer details. It takes a little time because the process (audiodg.exe ?) seems to buffer sound before writing to a file. I can Restart with access not permitted, yet skwsrefmfx*.pcm files suddenly appear after Restart. I can delete these (sometimes) without notification that a file is in use. Then, without Restart, if I allow Cortana access to the microphone, no files appear, even with ambient sound generated by a music-website or by speaking. If I ask Cortana a question verbally, suddenly skwsrefmfx*.pcm files start appearing in Windows\temp and I can't delete the most recent, because it's in use by audiodg.exe. This suggests that Cortana can at least trigger emptying the buffer, but only if I ask it a question.

RJohn53
Novice
677 Views

Without Restart after the above post, leaving Cortana access, audiodg.exe wrote nothing in 1 hour, with room unoccupied. At end of that period, making a Skype call triggered the writing of a number of skwsrefmfx*.pcm files, one of which was 2 GB. At the end of the 40-minute Skype call, asking Cortana a question did not trigger the writing of such files.

 

Conclusion so far: When the microphone array is on, some process records ambient sound in a buffer. The buffer is presumably maintained by audiodg.exe, since that's the process that Windows Explorer says is using an active skwsrefmfx*.pcm file, when trying to delete. Making a Skype call or saying "Hey, Cortana" may or may not trigger a dump of the buffer to Windows\Temp.

 

Is audiodg.exe a Windows audio-diagnostic process? Do other apps call it for diagnostic reasons? Do those apps pass a file name to audiodg.exe? If so, that might be a clue.

 

Thanks for your help so far, Esteban.

RJohn53
Novice
677 Views

As further test, in Settings>Privacy, I turned off Cortana's access to the microphone array (Edge too was off) and Restarted. After Restart, audiodg.exe wrote a few skwsrefmfx*.pcm files but thereafter did not, even after hours with microphone array enabled. I made 2 calls with Skype, without generating any skwsrefmfx*.pcm files. I was also able to delete the skwsrefmfx*.pcm files written after Restart without File Explorer complaining that a particular file was in use. This certainly suggests that the issue involves Cortana, in one way or another. So Hades Canyon owners affected by this issue can apparently use Skype but not Cortana.

Esteban_C_Intel
Employee
677 Views

Hello RJohn53,

 

Thank you for all the information provided,

 

So far I was only able to replicate the issue on one of our Intel® NUC Kit NUC8i7HNK, unfortunately, I have tried with an Intel® NUC Kit NUC8i7HVK and I was unable to replicate the issue. 

The problem indeed is related to Cortana; however, I cannot confirm yet what setting does it trigger it. I would recommend you to contact Microsoft® for further support on this matter. 

If Microsoft® does not resolve the issue, please reply to this thread. 

 

Esteban Ch. 

Intel Customer Support Technician

A Contingent Worker at Intel

RJohn53
Novice
677 Views

It's encouraging to know that you can see the issue on an HNK, Esteban.

 

I submitted the problem to Win10 Feedback in early July, with no joy since. I thought then that it might simply be related to a Win10 update and that many computers would suffer from it. Was surprised when almost everybody who responded to the thread at Microsoft Answers reported having a Hades Canyon.

 

When one person on Answers said turn off Cortana in Privacy, I discounted it because, after following that suggestion, I saw audiodg.exe still dumping skwsrefmfx*.pcm files in Temp. But apparently those dumps that I saw were just those post-Restart, not the subsequent collection of sound from the microphone array.

 

An obvious, but still unsatisfactory, workaround for people faced with the issue (and who need a voiced-Cortana) is to set Storage Sense to delete Temp files once a day. I haven't measured the accumulation rate of skwsrefmfx*.pcm files, but it's likely to be somewhere between 10 and 100 GB/day.

 

Given this number and the fact that the first report on Microsoft Answers was in the first week in July, it's possible that some update (driver or OS) released then or a week earlier triggered the issue.

 

I will submit another report, more specific this time, to Win10 Feedback. Thanks for your help.

RJohn53
Novice
677 Views

Esteban, from going over messages in the Windows Feedback Hub, audiodg.exe is Windows Audio Device Graph Isolation, with plenty of reports of it hogging resources, including one cryptic message, 3 months old, with 8 votes, saying audiodg.exe is using the microphone.

 

If I open Task Manager, Processes tab, while Cortana has access to the microphone array (and then sort processes on Disk), Task Manager reports the disk usage of Windows Audio Device Graph Isolation at a constant 0.4 MB/s, presumably meaning that it is writing to disk at that rate. By my calculation, 0.4 MB/s is 34GB/day, consistent with the rate at which skwsrefmfx*.pcm files are filling Temp. If I disallow Cortana access via the Privacy setting (without Restart), disk usage of Windows Audio Device Graph Isolation drops to 0 [however, to trigger this change without Restart, I needed to say, "Hey, Cortana" and decline her access]. Since the 0.4 MB/s is constant when Cortana has access, this suggests that the buffering going on is simply a disk cache, managed by Windows, not audiodg.exe.

 

Here is something weird: I left Task Manager open, watching disk usage of Windows Audio Device Graph Isolation (Cortana permission off). I started some music at Amazon, to get some strong ambient sound. I then went to Settings>Sound and scrolled down to where I could see the line moving right and left indicating the volume of the input to the microphone array. Surprisingly, Task Manager now showed 0.4 MB/s disk usage by Windows Audio Device Graph Isolation. Meanwhile, File Explorer showed new skwsrefmfx*.pcm files. Closing Settings (ie, no longer on Taskbar) dropped disk usage of Windows Audio Device Graph Isolation to 0. Likewise, I could then delete the new skwsrefmfx*.pcm files without a complaint that a file was in use by audiodg.exe.

 

Frankly, I don't what this means. For one thing, it suggests that Cortana is not necessarily the culprit (or the only culprit). When I used the microphone array for Skype earlier today (I didn't check disk usage in Task Manager), no skwsrefmfx*.pcm files were written or buffered. So some apps using the microphone array seem to trigger the recording of the microphone input and others don't.

Esteban_C_Intel
Employee
677 Views

Hello RJohn53,

 

Thank you very much for all the testing and efforts you have put on this.

 

Weirdly, only Hades Canyon users are reporting this issue; however, I barely doubt this is an issue directly connected with our NUCs since the trigger of the issue is a Microsoft® Windows setting. According to what you have reported the active listening of the microphone is creating the .pcm files, which makes me believe the issue is the OS.

I would recommend you to get in contact with Microsoft® for further support on this matter.

 

Esteban Ch. 

Intel Customer Support Technician

A Contingent Worker at Intel

RJohn53
Novice
284 Views

Esteban, some more info.

 

I plugged in an external USB microphone as a test. With that microphone set as the active one, Cortana works fine without creating skwsrefmfx*.pcm files. Likewise, Task Manager shows Windows Audio Device Graph Isolation as using the CPU but not the Disk. I would guess that the USB driver provides sound data to Windows via a different route than the Realtek driver. So the problem lies somewhere upstream on the Realtek side of where the two streams meet in the layers handling sound-input in Windows.

 

The thread at Microsoft Answers about the issue began in early July. My Hades Canyon began filling up C: with skwsrefmfx*.pcm files then, too. Checking through my Update History in Win10 Settings, I see a Feature Update to 1903 on 2 July. On that date, the Events list for the microphone array's Realtek driver in Device Manager initially said "Not migrated," but then immediately thereafter "Device configured" and "Device started." I see this for a number of devices on 2 July, so I don't know if it's significant. Both drivers (Realtek microphone array driver and external microphone driver) have a date of 3/19/2019 on my Hades Canyon.

 

In any case, it's likely that the issue is associated with 1903. If I recall, you said that one of the Hades Canyons you tested the issue on couldn't reproduce it. Perhaps it is not running 1903. I believe that one of the features added at 1903 was the ability to control access of individual apps to the microphone. So developers at Microsoft were definitely tinkering with microphone input when working on 1903.

 

It's possible that ultimately there is some number, or set of numbers, wrong in the Windows Registry. I don't know if Intel provided these initially (directly or indirectly) to Microsoft or if they are numbers from 1903 developers.

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