How to enable audio output on the front of the HP Z600 Workstation

I’ve had an interesting puzzle with my various Z workstations and their analogue audio outputs over the years: while the 3.5mm jacks at the back seem to be working fine, I can only get the front input to work, but the front output. It’s handy to have sometimes when you want to plug in a pair of headphones quickly. When this appeared on one workstation I had naturally assumed that it has something to do with a faulty cable – but when all four of my workstations exhibited the problem, I started digging deeper.

Turns out the issue is the default Windows audio driver that’s installed, and the way the hardware handles the back/front jacks internally. Here’s what I found out.

  • we need a dedicated Realtek Audio driver (see link below)
  • if something is plugged into the back, the front jack is disabled
  • unplug the back so the front output will become operational

Older drivers have something called “plug detection” enabled, which hints at some magic switching that happens as soon as a cable is plugged into an audio output. This appears to disable the front output, if a cable is plugged in at the back. The current driver (R2.82 at the time of writing) no longer seems to have this feature, so manually unplugging the cable at the back will enable the front.

Realtek Audio Driver for HP Z600/Z800

To make the front available, we need the a dedicated driver to replace the generic Windows 10 one that’s installed by default. Thankfully Realtek make their drivers available, and these work great on my Z600 workstation. They appear to be made for all versions of Windows, including 10. I’m looking forward to rolling it out to all my workstations. Here’s the link:

That’s it! Another hardware mystery solved!

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