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Opening any of the audio properties dialogs takes 2 minutes and 5 seconds every time. There aren't other tasks that take an unreasonable amount of time. It's something specific to the Sound properties dialog. If I restart my computer, it will open immediately for the first day or 2.

It's likely a driver issue. I have an AMD graphics card with sound output (through HDMI), a Realtek audio chip on the motherboard, a USB microphone, and USB headphones. Is there a way to determine which one of these is misbehaving? Or a way to figure out what's holding things up when it's waiting?

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use ProcessMonitor to look what causes the delay. Mark showed it here in this video at TechEd: – magicandre1981 Jun 18 '13 at 8:25
This was the direction I was looking for. I haven't been able to figure out yet. It's a lot of information to take in. – Sean Jun 20 '13 at 1:58
up vote 5 down vote accepted suggests disabling audio device(s) in Device Manager.

Edit by Sean (the OP):

This article does not seem to be completely related. Their issues were with crossfire and sound over HDMI. However, disabling the "AMD High Definition Audio Device" in the Device Manager did work for me.

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That sounds very promising, especially since the OP has mentioned that they are using AMD and HDMI audio. However, instead of just posting a link, you should summarize the page here—the edit in the first post is sufficient. ;-) – Synetech Aug 26 '13 at 1:47
Added a bit to the answer describing the solution. It did work for me. I would still like to know a way to diagnose this. – Sean Sep 4 '13 at 22:51

It is most likely that the drivers of one of the USB-devices is causing trouble. Try unplugging them and uninstalling them in the device manager. If it does not help, try rebooting (and wait 2 days). If it is any of the built in sound devices that is the source of the problem, you can uninstall them in the device manager too.

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Why wait 2 days? O.o – nixda Sep 5 '13 at 0:00

I fixed it with ATI HDMI Audio Device driver, tested in ATI/AMD 7850 and R9 270x from realtek for Windows 7 and 8.1.

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