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Old 03-22-2008, 12:39 PM
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BobbyRS BobbyRS is offline
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Default Zen FAQ

This FAQ is not intended to cover all issues that are addressed by firmware releases to date. For more information regarding the Zen’s firmware and their fixes, please see the firmware release threads throughout the Zen Forum. Your questions/problems may be addressed there as well.


What formats does the Zen support?

Video: MJPEG, WMV9, WMV8, MPEG4, AVI 1.0 (not 2.0), XviD, DivX 4.x and DivX 5.x.
(XviD encoded files are playable if they are encoded as standard MPEG-4 Simple (SP) or Advanced Simple Profile (ASP) without GMC and QPEL support. This product is not certified by DivX Inc. and may not play all DivX 4 and DivX 5 files. Other formats, for example MPEG-1 and MPEG-2, may be transcoded with the bundled software. Appropriate codecs must be preinstalled.)

Audio: MP3, AAC (unprotected ".m4a"), WMA (including protected), WAV, and Audible 2, 3, and 4 formats.

Photos: JPEG

Resolution: must be set to a QVGA setting of up to 320x240 pixels and 30fps

Official Creative Portable Media Player Field Guide


Am I required to use the Creative software to use or charge my Zen?

No, you do not need the Creative software at all in order to charge, copy over files, or even convert video. As long as you are using an MTP compatible Operating System like Vista (Native MTP support) or Windows XP with WMP10 or WMP11 (preferably) installed, the Operating System should recognize the Zen correctly, install and load the driver just fine. After the driver installs and loads after connecting the Zen, the Zen should charge at the full current allowed by USB. If the driver loads without error (check Device Manager), then you can either use Windows Explorer to drag-and-drop files over to the Zen from the computer or use a Sync/Media Manager like WMP, MediaMonkey, WinAmp, etc. to organize and/or sync your media files.

Why can’t I view my audio folders and files?

The Zen supports being an MTP (Message Transfer Protocol) device. The Zen does not support being an MSC (Mass Storage Class)/UMS (Universal Mass Storage) device for its internal flash based memory storage. This means, for music files, it organizes by ID3 Tags and not by files/folders.

However, the Zen does support being a UMS device when enabled as a Removable Disk from the Memory Card menu for the SD card. Enabling this will allow the Zen to be connected to the UMS supported USB ports on car stereos and play songs stored on the SD card. (Big thanks to Kevo777 on this!)

What's the difference between an MTP and a MSC/UMS device? See here.

For more information on UMS/MSC.

For more information on MTP.

For more information on ID3 Tags and here.

How do I get my ID3 Tags tagged correctly?

You have to use a ID3 Tag editing program. This can be done using many different programs. I prefer using MP3Tag for editing all my MP3 files. WMP11 is also good at editing ID3 Tags.

See Tagging FAQ here.

How does the Zen connect to a computer and charge?

The Zen uses a standard USB 2.0 type A to Mini B male to male connector/cable for connectivity and charging through USB ports. You can also charge the Zen using an AC wall charger (See below for details).

When the Zen is off and I plug in my headphones, the screen flashes all white for a split second and the blue power indicator light, lights up. Why does the Zen do this?

Here is the thought behind this: A capacitor, perhaps within the output of the power amp is discharging. The Zen only seems to do this for a period of time after the Zen is turned off. After a period of time (after turning off the Zen), before plugging in the headphones, the screen doesn't seem to do this. Most likely due to the power finally discharging slowly on its own. Also, once the headphones are plugged in and the screen flashes white, the Zen doesn't seem to flash white again afterwards.

Why is the volume so low?

1. It looks as though due to the size of the Zen, Creative decided to use a low powered amplifier to help increase battery life. While more battery life is a good thing, this low power amp really prevents driving higher impedance headphones, so the volume seems low to many who are using them. Lower impedance *phones/IEM's seem to work great with the Zen. Somewhere above 32 ohms and before 64 ohms seem to be the cut off for the Zen being able to drive them.

2. Make sure you have at least version 1.11.04 of the firmware installed (laterst version recommended). The Zen does get noticeably louder after installing this firmware version.

3. Check to make sure you aren't running the European firmware. To verify the version number: System -> Information. The European firmware will have an "e" at the end of the version number. The European firmware has a volume restriction set in place due to a Country requirement. To remove this restriction on the volume, you can install the US version of the same firmware. The firmware is identical except for the removal of this volume restriction. To do so, follow the directions below:

*Don't try to install the US version of the firmware over top the European version. The European firmware should be removed first and then the US firmware can be installed.

*Make sure you have a good connection between the Zen and the computer before attempting. To test, boot the Zen into Recovery Mode, connect it to the computer, and see if it gets recognized correctly and the driver loads without error.

1. Connect the Zen to your computer and verify that it is connected and are able to access it.
2. Download the US firmware.
3. Disconnect the Zen from the computer and boot into Recovery Mode and select the Reload Firmware option.

When booted into Recovery Mode and selecting the Reload Firmware from the menu, this erases the currently installed firmware and helps ensure no problems when changing firmware versions.

4. Once the Zen has completed erasing the firmware, it will prompt you to connect it to the computer to execute the new firmware installation. Connect the Zen to the computer.
5. Execute the US version of the firmware to install.

Keep in mind when you are booted into Recovery Mode you are not booted into the OS/Firmware of the Zen. The Recovery Mode is a host system recovery utility that operates outside of the firmware. So, it is independent of operation with or without firmware installed.

Will X-Ray machines or Metal Detectors harm my Zen or SD cards?

No you should be just fine. Flash memory is not magnetically stored like hard drives. So for the most part, you won't have to worry about (low level) magnetism causing problems with flash memory, as well as X-rays. Devices like MP3 players are not sensitive to X-rays. Airport X-ray machines actually emit an electromagnetic energy, which is not magnetic at all. Therefore, they cannot damage or destroy any electrical equipment. Now a metal detector is another story. Sometimes they can cause damage to electrical devices, but most of the time it is not likely due to their low level magnetism. However, there is always an extreme to everything . With high levels of magnetism, like what is used in CAT scans or with extremely strong magnets/devices moving or pulsating quickly enough too really move the magnetic field could cause permanent damage to electronics like within the PCB.


Official Creative Video Encoding Guidelines

Also, if using Windows Media Encoder, here is Creative's profile that can be download and used.

What is the correct resolution I should use for converting videos?

320x240 - Full Screen 1:33:1 (4:3)
320x180 - HDTV 1:78:1 (16:9)
320x176 - Theatrical 1:85:1
320x136 - CinemaScope 2:35:1

How can I watch my DVD's on my Zen?

You first have to rip the DVD video/audio tracks into data files (.VOB). You can do this by using DVD decrypting/ripping software like DVDFab HD Decrypter.

Walkthrough here.

Once you have decrypted/ripped the .VOB files from the DVD to your computers hard drive, you can then use a program like Any Video Converter (See Below) to convert them into a format that is playable on the Zen.

Oh, if you buy the full version: DVDFab Platinum. You should be able to rip the DVD's and convert to a format the Zen likes with just using this one piece of software.

How can I watch videos on the Zen?

Video files have to first be transcoded to a format (see above) that is playable on the Zen. You can either use the Creative Media Converter software or another 3rd party software to do the video conversions to get them to be playable on the Zen.

If you do not like to use the Creative Media Converter, I have had much success using Any Video Converter (free version). Very easy to use and quick (enough). Select the profile you want, codec, and video size....

The settings I usually use are:

Profile: Customized WMV Movie (.WMV)
Video Codec: Either WMV V8 or WMV V9
Video Size: 320x240 (320x180 for Widescreen)
Video Bitrate: 768
A/V Sync: Basic


Profile: Customized AVI Movie (.AVI)
Video Codec: XVID
Video Size: 320x240 (320x180 for Widescreen)
Video Bitrate: 768
Video Framrate: 25 or 29.970
Audio Codec: MP3
A/V Sync: Basic (for good source audio like DVD's) Default (for poor audio sources like Youtube videos)

There're other settings, but you should get the idea.

*If you have syncing problems with audio and video, try changing the A/V Sync setting to Default before transcoding. Usually a setting of Basic is good for good quality sources while default should be used for more lower quality videos like many .FLV files (used on YouTube).

Another Conversion tool to use is an online converter here (no need for installed software to be on your computer to use this one):

- Set you input file (Browse to the location of the video file on your computer)
- Make sure the "Input Format" audio sets to the appropriate file extension/format
- Set the "Output Format" to "Windows DivX" and "Audio Video Interleave (.avi)”.
- Frames/sec: 29.970
- Set to: "All Data"
- Audio Sync: 0
- Sound Volume: +0
- Resize To: 320x240
- Audio Codec: MP3
- Audio Quality: 128k
- Video Quality: 768
- Video Codec: MPEG4

Once the conversion is done, download it to your computer, copy it over to your Zen using Windows Explorer (or syncing software), and watch it play on the Zen!

How do I download and convert FLV (Flash Video) files, like ones from Youtube, to be playable on the Zen?

Use an online tool that will allow for the FLV (Flash Video) files to be downloaded (type in "download youtube" in google):

My favorite:

When the file downloads, you need to make sure you save it with a .flv entension if it doesn't arealdy have it. Once the file is downloaded, you will need an FLV Video Player in order to just play the file. I like this one:

If you want to play the FLV file on your Zen, you will have to convert the file over to a support video file of the Zen in order to play it. This is where AVC comes in. Just convert the FLV video you downloaded into a Zen format it likes.

What other video conversion software can I use?

Any Video Converter
Windows Media Encoder
Pocket DivX Encoder


About Playlists:

Playlists are stored as ZPL files (Zen Playlist) on the Zen. In order to get playlists to show/play on the Zen, they either have to be created on the Zen itself (creates ZPL file), using software like the Creative Playlist Wizard (which reads and creates the playlists on the device directly; again creates ZPL file), or using sync/conversion software (initiates creation of ZPL file from compatible M3U file).

I don't think there is really a data conversion taking place, but more so a newly created database entry on the Zen that points to the corresponding data based off of what is read from the recognized playlist file. The ZPL files on the Zen are basically zero-byte files which means they really don't exist in the sense of files that contain data, but more so contain pointers for the Zen's database to the audio files already stored on the Zen. This is also why I believe if you move the ZPL file from the Zen to the computer and then back to the Zen again, it loses the necessary information for the database to correctly associate and you get an unassociated file that doesn't do anything.

I believe the only way to create a ZPL playlist file is during a sync when the database is in the "writable" state to create them itself based off of the existing compatible playlist files or using software (like the Creative Playlist Wizard) that speaks the same language and can communicate directly with the database.

How do you get M3U files to sync and play on the Zen?

Make sure that the M3U files are stored within the folder you have setup to sync audio files with.

Why doesn’t my album art show?

Album art must be embedded into the ID3 tag using ID3 tag editing software like MP3Tag. For best results, set the album art no higher than 200x200.

How do you use WMP (Windows Media Player) to add correct ID3Tag information and album art and sync to Zen?

In WMP you need to use the Advanced Tag Editor or Find Album Info to embed the album art into the tag:


1. In Library view in WMP, right click on the audio file and select Find Album Info.
2. Select correct album art from search results and apply.


1. Highlight the album you want to add album art too.
2. Right click on the songs and select "Find Album Info".
3. WMP will connect to Microsoft album art network so you can select the right album art.
4. Select the Sync tab.
5. Connect the ZVM.
6. Select the audio file(s) with new album art over to the sync section, and sync.

How do you set WMP to not sync automatically sync?

Open WMP, select Tools from the menu bar -> Devices tab -> right click on the device and select Change Sync Settings -> Uncheck the Sync device automatically check box

How do you adjust or disable what folders WMP monitors for syncing?

Open WMP, select Tools from the menu bar -> Library tab -> Monitor Folders button

How do you reset the WMP database for syncing?

(Make sure that you have your media files on the ZVM backed up because you will need to reformat it so you won't end up with all duplicate files.)

1. Make sure no WMP services are running.
2. Make sure no WMP programs are running (check Task Manager).
3. Close IE, Firefox, etc.; bascially anything that can have a WMP plug-in in use.
4. Follow directions from this site.

I also think that if you stop monitoring your music folder(s) in WMP, close WMP, re-open WMP, reset the monitoring of the music folder(s), it should rebuild it's database.


How to playback all songs from one Artist?

1. Go to the Artists section under Music.
2. Highlight the artist you want and press the Play button.

More information in this post.

How to properly disconnect the Zen from the computer?

As long as the Zen is not in the middle of a sync/copy or indicating on the screen (arrows moving) there is activity, you can just unplug the Zen. If the arrows are moving on the display, the Zen is communicating with the computer and should not be unplugged.

How to set a Picture as your Background:

1. Open the picture you want as your background.
2. Press the options button and an option for Set As Background Picture will show up
3. Select it and your background will change to the selected picture.

How to set and access the Zen as another device under Windows Explorer:

1. Open Zen Media Explorer.
2. Select “Settings and Information”.
3. Select the “Tools” tab.
4. Select the box to enable "Show my player as PMD in My Computer".
5. Open My Computer and you'll see the Zen.
6. Select it and open “Storage Media” to see all the folders.
7. Now you'll be able to copy any file to the Zen’s internal memory.

Can you use drag-n-drop to transfer files to ZEN?

Yes, you can use the drag-and-drop method for transferring files to and from the Zen. This is actually my preferred method of transfer. For the most stable support of drag-and-drop for MTP devices, make sure you have WMP11 installed.

How to view the battery charge level on the Zen using a computer:

Make sure you have the box checked to "Show my player as a portable media device in my computer" under the "Tools" tab while in the "Settings and Information" section (listed under "Others") in the Zen Media Explorer.

1. Once you see the Zen (Usually "My Zen" by default) under Windows Explorer (and usually just above "Zen Media Explorer), right click on it to get a sub-menu to appear and select "Properties" from it.

2. The Windows that appears next will show you the current charge on the battery of the Zen. Keep in mind sometime this displays an inaccurate percentage and sometime doesn't update correctly.

How do I set the clock?

1. Go to Settings
2. Clock settings
3. View clock
4. Press the menu button on the top-right and select Set Time.
5. Set the hour by pressing up or down/Set the minutes by pressing right or left on the control pad.

Do pictures (JPEGS) need converted to be viewable on the Zen, or should just about any JPG from a digital camera be viewable on the Zen?

Both; I have copied over my high resolution photos without scaling them down and they work (and look) outstanding. I do this just because I like to have an exact copy as a backup, as well as the convenience of carrying around my photos. You can also set the Zen to scale them down for smaller sizes (to help save space) if you prefer (they still look great).

1. Plug the Zen.
2. Go to Zen Media Explorer.
3. Select "Settings and Information".
4. Select the "Pictures" Tab.
5. Check the box that says "Resize pictures".

How do I adjust which folders are setup to sync to the Zen?

1. Start the Creative Sync Manager.

2. Once it is in your system tray (lower right by clock), right click on it, expand "Player Settings" from the prompt menu, and then select "Creative Zen".

3. Select the "Settings" button on the lower right.

4. You should have 4 tabs named: Audio, Pictures, Videos, Organizer Data.

5. For Audio: Under "Synchronize the tracks in this folder", set the path to where your audio and m3u files are located and select "OK".

6. For Pictures: Under "Synchronize the pictures files in this folder", set the path to where your pictures are located and select "OK".

7. For Videos: Under "Synchronize the video files in this folder", set the path to where your video files files are located and select "OK".

8. For Organizer Data: Under "Select the preferred organizer program and the type of organizer data to be synchronized", select which program you want synced with the Zen and the specified areas of "Contacts", "Calendar items", and "Tasks".

9. OK, the rest of the way back.

10. Sync the Zen and your files should begin transferring.

How do you add to and take advantage of the Zen's OTG (On-The-Go) Playlists?

1. Begin playback of an existing Playlist.
2. Then navigate to the song you want to add to that playlist.
3. Use the context menu option and select "Add To Selected".
(This will add the track to the end of the Now Playing list)
4. Navigate back to the Now Playing list and enter through the current song playing (3 clicks) until you get to the Selected Music list.
(From there you should see the tracks included in the current playlist, including the song you added at the end)
5. Use the context menu option again and select "Save As Playlist".
6. Type in either a new Playlist name or the same name of an existing Playlist title.
7. If you want it to be the same, after you type in the same title, it will ask if you want to overwrite the current playlist with the same name; Select Yes.
8. Then if you navigate to the Playlists section again and look at the Playlist now, you should see the new song added.

How to use Bookmarks

How to set Bookmarks:

1. While you are playing a file, click on the Options button and select "Set Bookmark".
2. You should then see 10 bookmark slots. Select an empty slot or overwrite a previous bookmark to save.

How to play a Bookmark:

1. Select "Bookmarks" from the main menu; which will bring up the list of 10 bookmarks.
2. Select from the list the one you want to begin playing.

Battery & Charging

The Zen’s battery:

The Zen uses a 3.7v rated Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery. A 3.7v rated Lithium-ion battery actually gets charged to around 4.2v with a tolerance of +/- .05v. A charge of 3.7v/3.8v is actually about a 50% SoC. At 3.3v, lithium-ion batteries have typically only utilized 70% of its 100% charge capacity.

Charging Voltage = 4.2v (4.1v)
Nominal Open-Circuit Voltage = 3.7v (3.6v)

A note on Over-Discharging and Over-Charging:

In general, Lithium-Ion batteries do not like to be overcharged (usually above 4.2v) or excessively discharged (under 2.5v-3.0v). If a Lith-ion battery falls below 1.5v, then typically you shouldn't try to recharge it at all for "safety" concerns. A fully discharged lithium-ion battery causes the formation of copper shunt in the cell which begins to get extremely hot when attempting to recharge. A lithium-ion battery should not be charged above 4.3 volts. Above 4.3 volts and the cell causes lithium metal plating on the anode. The cathode material becomes an oxidizing agent and loses stability and begins releases oxygen. This can cause the battery to heat up. Lithium-ion cells should never get above 130°C (265°F). At 150°C (302°F) the cell becomes thermally unstable and can eventually lead to a thermal runaway. These are the safety reasons why the low and high voltage cut-off and temperature sensing circuits are used. If the internal temperature of the battery gets to high, the temperature sensing circuit can initiate a mechanical pressure switch that will permanently cut-off the current path and prevent anymore charging.

A note regarding USB and charging:

Per the USB specs:
USB 1.1 = Minimum supply voltage is 4.4v
USB 2.0 = Minimum supply voltage is 4.75v
Both maximum supply voltages are 5.25v and a current of 500mA.

Before the USB bus interface can begin charging a device (Zen), it must return a device identifier to the hub driver (or device driver). Once the hub driver has the returned information from the device (like power requirements, supported transfer speeds, etc.), it can then begin charging the device based on those retuned values. This process is called Enumeration. Until enumeration has completed, it may not draw more than 100mA from the bus. Once enumeration has completed, it can then begin drawing up to the 500mA allowed by the USB bus.

How do you charge the Zen (Battery)?

It can be charged by connecting it to a USB port on a computer or by using an AC Wall Charger within the Zen's charging specs (see below).

Using a USB Hub can also be a good way to get a higher charging current when not needing to connect to the computer's USB port (and possibly not get the full 500mA charging current due to the driver having issues loading) and an AC adapter isn't available.

WARNING: A good rule I always recommend is to never plug anything you really value in a USB port on the front of the computer. I have seen it happen too many times where someone does, and it ruins their device. Many times, USB ports built into a case or front of the computer case are often connected improperly and not tested. The power pins are connected incorrectly and end up supplying current/incorrect polarity to the wrong pins and through the USB connection on the device causing battery damage or even damage to the device itself (most of the time the mainboard of the device). Always use USB ports built into the motherboard of a computer (usually located in the back). You won't have this risk or issue with them.

Can I use my cell phone's AC Charger to charge my Zen?

The max input voltage of the Zen is around 5v. Most devices that can charge or run off the USB host power can handle the max 5v of USB ports. 4.2 volts is usually the max Lithium ion batteries are charged to. It is usually around when the high voltage circuit is triggered and stops the charging of the battery. I would not connect a charger to the Zen that puts out more volts then 5v. An output current of up to 1A has been known to wrok just fine.

You should always be careful regardless and only be using good quality working AC chargers. With that said and used, 1A is perfectly fine to use on the Zen in terms of not causing immediate problems. Now, how much battery life/capacity is lost in the long run, who really knows.... Anything above 1A I haven't tested. I would be weary of using more then 1A when plugging in a nearly full charge capacity Zen/battery due to the possibility of triggering the high voltage cut-off circuit prematurely since a high current charge can easily push the voltage up. To be safe and to ensure a lasting battery life, I wouldn't charge the battery in the Zen with more than 1C (like most lithium-ion batteries in these types of devices) everytime, all the time. Since the battery in the Zen is a 3.7v 550mA capacity lithium-ion battery, that would put a charge current of 1C at about 500-550mA. Just perfect for USB charging.

Can I use one of those USB AC adapters for charging?

You may be able to get away with some being able to charge the Zen just fine, but I would stay away from these types of chargers in general and use a dedicated mini B USB charger instead. They are usually better regulated and protected.

Any charger really can potentially damage the connecting device if not in good working order, quality, and within the rated output specs the device can handle. Many AC chargers will have protection circuits built in to protect from over-charging, short circuiting, overload, voltage regulation, etc... Many of these types of "adapters" don't have these protection features in place due to their simplistic nature of just being meant for providing power more so than charging. I've seen too many of them outputting more power than their stated output specs. Keep in mind I'm not saying they won't work. Some do just fine. I'm just saying I don't trust them.

When and how often to charge?

To be safe, I would avoid frequent full discharges because this puts additional strain on the battery and usually shortens its life. Partial discharges with frequent recharges are better than one deep one. Recharging a partially charged lithium-ion does not cause harm because there is no "memory effect" like with older type Ni-Cd (nickel-cadmium) batteries.

Do I need to charge the Zen for hours before I use it for the first time?

With Lith-Ion batteries, the first charge isn't any different then any other charge. There is no technical need to fully charge it the first time you get it other then the fact of being able to use it longer since it will have a full charge. They are not like other types of previously used rechargeable batteries that needed the full charge at first. Most likely by the time you get everything all figured out and loaded onto the device, the battery would be fully charged anyway.

Please note: I do recommend that you at least connect the Zen to a computer while it has sufficient charge on the battery in order to properly be detected and have its devices drivers load properly. In other words, don't use your new Zen for a period of time to where you drain enough power from the battery to just come on and turn off automatically or to the point the Zen doesn't come on at all. If you do, then you may have detection and charging issues when you go to connect the Zen to the computer.

How long will the battery in the Zen last?

Lithium-Ion batteries have a life span of about 300-500 discharge/charge cycles or 2-3 years from being manufactured.

Storing or not using the Zen for long periods of time:

Lithium-ion batteries (by themselves) with no built-in voltage monitoring circuit have a really low self-discharge rate (1-2% a month) when not being used. Having the addition of voltage monitoring circuits will slightly increase the discharge rate, but should not reach the point of excessively discharging the battery to where it won't turn back on unless sitting unused for an extended period of time and if its last state before powering off was a already in a low voltage state. So, as long as you aren't storing it for long periods of time at a low discharged voltage, the battery should be ok to recharge.

Accidently left the Zen plugged into the Computer all night or for a long period of time:

I wouldn’t make a habit of doing so. Long term usage like that could shorten the life of the battery. Although you may be fine for a while, leaving it plugged in occasionally all day and night, most likely won't hurt it, but leaving it plugged in every day and night may not be a good idea. Although once it is charged to 100%, the battery's internal high voltage cut-off circuit should keep the battery from over-charging and the devices charging circuit should keep applying a topping-off charge when detected a drop in charge below full. However, keeping a Lithium-ion battery plugged in and fully charged keeps the battery's temperature elevated. Exposure to prolonged elevated temperatures can cause capacity loss which can then cause the battery to no longer be able to charge or hold a charge. Plus, it may be a small chance, but there is a chance that exposure to this condition for long periods could also increase the chance of a circuit failure (charging, high voltage, temperature sensing) and allow for a severe over-charge to take place to the point of thermal runaway which has been known to cause the occasional "exploding" battery, but in most cases just melt (and take some of the device with it) or catch fire.

I haven't powered on my Zen for a long time or I have let the battery drain completely and now it isn't turning back on. What should I do?

Your best bet is to try and leave the Zen plugged into the computer for a while (up to a couple days) to see if it begins charging again. If you have a compatible AC adapter, use it instead.

Why does it take so long to charge or begin charging again and why does using an AC adapter better?

1. The device is pulling a low current (100mA) from the USB connection due to the possibility that enumeration has not taken place (driver installed/loaded) or an error has occurred in the process. To verify, check Device Manager to ensure that the driver is listed without any error. Once the driver loads without error, the device can then be allowed to pull the higher charge current (500mA) from USB resulting in a faster charge time as opposed to be connected and charging at only 100mA the entire time.

2. Since the battery may be severely discharged, the low voltage protection circuit may have been activated, preventing any charge from taking place. When this happens, it could be of some time before the protection circuit begins allowing a charge. I have seen as long as a few days go by connected before the battery begins holding a charge again. Lithium-ion batteries these days contain a "wake-up" feature in which the protection circuit will not allow any draw in current until the battery has been "activated" with a brief charge. This is where using an AC adapter comes into play. If you use an AC adapter that can output a higher current than a powered off device connected to the USB port (only getting up to 100mA), then many times you can trigger this "wake-up" to take place sooner and trigger charging again.

Why does the charge level show differently on the battery indicator after upgrading the firmware?

My thoughts on this is that when the firmware is upgraded, part of this process includes flashing new instruction sets for the EEPROM (within the bootloader) that the particular firmware is set to utilize, change, correct, etc. This is partly how it is possible to change a non-MTP device into an MTP device (like many of the older Creative players). Going from a thought I had here, I believe that during the process of reloading firmware and the manipulation of the ROM by the firmware, part of the changes in the instruction set sent would be this different calculated discharge-curve algorithm (Voltage vs. Time) used to calculate the different charge levels of the battery. This is where I believe the difference lies in the various firmware versions and why they seem to all report different readings for the battery meter.

In other words, I believe that during the process of the firmware upgrade, this new calculated discharge-curve algorithm is applied resulting in a different reading on the battery indicator.

SD Card

Will this ***** SD card work with the Zen?

Just because an SD card isn’t on Creative’s supported SD card list, doesn’t mean it won’t work since there are plenty of other SD cards that do work and are not on that list. However, there are also many that won’t work correctly.

When it comes to using SD cards with the Zen, you may want to stick with using officially supported SD cards listed here.

As well as SD cards confirmed to work with the Zen in this thread here.

What is the maximum size SD card that can be used in the Zen?

Theoretically, what ever current size of SDHC card (4GB+) is available. Well the Zen supports SDHC so no matter what the theoretical storage limit of a high capacity SD card is, it should support some. Newer devices, like the Zen, seem to have better support for newer SD/SDHC cards then older non-SDHC previously released versions. Newly released cards and SDHC support is the key here, I believe.

When inserting an SD card you get the follow or similar error messages:

- card not detected.....
- please insert media....
- card not formatted....

These errors could be for many reasons. Bad, Counterfeit, Corrupt Partition or FAT (File Allocation Table), etc.

1. Counterfeiting - For some great information and pictures regarding fake memory cards, check here.

2. Partitioning - Using a utility from HP called HP Drive Key Boot Utility you can wipe out and re-create partitions on flash memory cards. Manual here.

Please note: I have noticed this program seems to like working with external readers with previously reserved drives with pre-assigned drive letters more so then internal card readers that don’t set a drive with an associated drive letter until card insertion. In other words, if you are having problems getting the HP utility to recognize the drive letter of the inserted SD card, try using an external memory card reader.

3. Formatting - Do not try to use Windows’ Format program to format SD cards. The Windows’ Format program does not meet the SD card specifications. The issue I believe with the Window's format program not meeting the SD card specs is that it leaves much of the data area unwritten when formatted.

When formatting an SD card (same applies to Micro/Mini SD cards), use this SD card format program SDFormatter (which meets SD card specifications) here.

Download here.
Manual here.

The SDFormatter program will do an actual format to all the bits/sectors of the card. It will take a little longer, but you will have a correctly formatted and functioning SD card.

How to use your Zen as a card reader and access an inserted SD card as a removable disk:

1. Insert the SD card.
2. Scroll down to the Memory Card option and select it.
3. Scroll down to “Removable Disk” and select it.
4. Once selected as a Removable Disk, connect the USB cable to the Zen and connect the Zen to the computer.
5. Under My Computer/Windows Explorer, you will now see a new drive with an assigned letter labeled “Removable Disk”.
6. Select it and you will see the contents of the SD card. From there you can copy to and from.

When inserting an SD card you get the audio confirmation that it detected the drive and loaded the drivers, but don’t see a “Removable Disk” drive with an associated drive letter under My Computer:

Please check to make sure Windows is not trying to assign a drive letter to the device from one that is already in use. To check/change this:

1. Insert the SD card (must have Admin rights) and select Start-> Programs-> Administrative Tools -> Computer Management.

2. Select Computer Management -> Storage -> Disk Management.

3. Right click on the Disk Drive associated with the SD card and select "Change Drive Letter and paths".

4. Choose a drive letter and select OK. The SD card should now show up under My Computer with an associated drive letter.

How do you copy the contents of an SD Card used in the Zen to its internal storage?

First, you need to make sure you have at least firmware version 1.20.02 or later installed.

1. To transfer files, select Memory Card --> Import All.

2. To view transferred photos (.jpg), select Photos --> Imported Files --> [memory card name] --> [folder name].

To open or view other transferred files, use your computer:

1. Connect your player to your computer and click your player's icon in My Computer. Click Storage Media --> Imported Files --> [memory card name] --> [folder name]


How to enter the Zen’s Recovery Mode for Clean Up, Format All, Reload Firmware, and Reboot:

1. With the Zen off, press and hold the "play/pause" button.

2. Continue to hold until you perform Steps 3 and 4. If you accidentally release the button, start the procedure again.

3. Gently push the end of a thin object (like a pin or straightened paperclip) into the Reset hole. You should be able to feel the release click of the button.

4. Slide the On/Off/Lock switch towards the power button and hold until the boot screen appears on the display.

The Recovery Mode screen appears, and four menu items are shown:

Clean Up: A cleanup of the file system and database files takes place. All (uncorrupted) data should stay in tact. When the cleanup is complete, select Reboot. Your player restarts and starts rebuilding its music library. All files should remain intact unless they were detected as being corrupt.

Format All: This will completely reset the Zen and remove all user stored files on it.

Reload Firmware: This will prepare the Zen to accept a reload, new, or older firmware based on the specific firmware file you download and execute on a computer. Selecting this option will prevent your Zen from being able to boot, so make sure you have the firmware file on you computer and ready to load.

Reboot: This will execute a soft reboot of the Zen's operating system.

How to Clean Up, Delete Temp Files, and Reformat the Zen using Zen Media Explorer:

1. Plug the Zen.
2. Go to Zen Media Explorer.
3. Select "Settings and Information".
4. Select the "Tools" Tab.
5. This page will show you the options to Clean Up, Delete Temp Files, and Reformat the Zen.

(Warning: When reformatting, you will lose all files you put on the Zen)

Before upgrading firmware:

Most manufactures will tell you to not use a USB Hub in between their device and the computer during a firmware upgrade. The recommendations are usually to plug it into a USB port on the back of the computer. The issue they are trying to cut down on is the risk for some using a bus powered USB hub (especially with other USB devices plugged into it) instead of an externally powered hub. Bus powered hubs rely on the internal power source of the USB controller that has a max output current of 500mA. With other USB devices plugged into the computer, you may not get the max power requirement for the device you are trying to upgrade and could result in data corruption and possibly ruining your firmware. For the most part, you will probably be ok if you are using an AC powered hub, but why risk it.

To be safe, I usually like to make sure the following are in order when upgrading firmware to:

1. Make sure you already have a good, working connection with your Zen before attempting to reload or upgrade the firmware. This means that when you connect the Zen, make sure the Zen is being detected and its driver is loading in Device Manager without error. It should be listed under the category "Portable Devices". You should also be able to see the Zen listed under "My Computer" as an attached portable device. Verify this step can be critical especially when attempting to reload the firmware from within the Recovery Mode.

2. If you ever do decide to reload the firmware from within Recovery Mode, it may be a good idea to at least try connecting the Zen to the computer while it is booted into Recovery Mode to make sure there are no connectivity or driver issues. When you reload the firmware from within Recovery Mode, the currently loaded firmware is erased to prepare for a new firmware load. (this is a failsafe option to use when the currently loaded firmware is suspected of being corrupt and preventing a reload). Doing this will prevent the Zen from booting regularly and will boot directly into Recovery Mode until a new firmware is loaded. This is why a good, working connection is critical and verifying it is so important.

3. Make sure your Zen is plugged into a USB port on the back of the computer (one built onto the motherboard) to help ensure you are getting the proper power from the USB port.

4. Do not use a USB hub of any kind due to possible power related issue that could interfere with the reload/upgrade.

5. Unplug all unnecessary USB devices from the computer during the upgrade to help ensure no possible power reduction or interference to the Zen during the reload/upgrade.
Please note: If you are still having trouble loading firmware, download, install, and use Creative's MP3 Player Recovery Tool. Make sure you follow their instructions here.

Prerquisits before trying the possible fixes below:

In the BIOS:

- make sure that USB is enabled and assigning an IRQ to USB.
- enable Legacy USB support if it was disabled. Disable it if it was enabled.
- make sure no other USB devices are plugged in besides a keyboard and mouse.
- even try disabling Power Management in the BIOS.

Make sure both of these services are running and set to automatic:

- Plug and Play
- Windows Driver Foundation - User-mode Driver Framework

Make sure you have disabled Power Management on all USB Root Hubs under Universal Serial Bus controllers in Device Manager:

- Right click and select Properties for each USB Root Hub and then select the Power Management Tab.

- Make sure the box is unchecked for "Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power".

Problems Charging, Turning On, or connecting the Zen to a computer, or upgrading firmware; Here are some things you can try:

1. If the Zen won't turn on, try using a wall charger (like the Motorola Razor) and see if it comes back on and begins charging. Wall chargers sometime will be able to output more current than the USB ports of a computer resulting in faster charging. Sometimes it is enough to turn it back on. Don't just try any wall charger though. You don't want it outputting too much power to the Zen and causing electrical damage. I would not go above a 5v charger for this since 5v, I believe, is the input power limit of the Zen.

2. If the Zen won't turn on or be recognized by the computer, try a hard reset by inserting a paperclip (or something like it) into the small "Reset" hole on the bottom of the Zen. Wait for it to rebuild the library and try again.

3. If the Zen is not detected by the computer when connected, try booting the Zen into Recovery Mode (See directions above) and do a "Clean Up". Wait for it to rebuild the library, do a hard reset and try again.

4. If the Zen is not detected by or charging from the computer when connected, make sure you are using a USB port on the back of the computer (built into the motherboard) instead of one wired to the case (front or side). That way you are using a USB port with the proper power output.

5. If the Zen is not detected by or charging from the computer when connected, make sure the USB port you are using are USB 2.0 and not v1.1. If you computer is a newer computer, this shouldn't be a problem, but if it is an older computer, it may only have USB 1.1 ports which doesn't output enough power as USB 2.0 ports.

6. If the Zen is not detected by or charging from the computer when connected, make sure you have no other USB devices plugged into the computer (front and back ports), but the Zen. That may be worth a try to see if you can get enough current from the USB ports to begin charging it again. Usually the more devices you have plugged into the USB ports, the less current that will be available for charging due to the power being shared with all other devices plugged in.

7. If the Zen is not detected by or charging from the computer when connected, make sure that the drivers are loading for it properly under Device Manager (no conflicts showing). I believe the Zen will not be detected or begin charging unless its drivers are loaded and working properly.

If you are having driver issues/conflicts with the Zen or USB (and have tried and verified the previous steps):

Process One:

1. Make sure you are running WinXP SP2, have uninstalled all Creative software, and at least WMP10 or WMP11 installed.

2. With the Zen connected, uninstall (right click on its entry) it in Device Manager and then unplug it.

3. Next, expand Universal Serial Bus controllers, and uninstall everything listed.

4. Restart the computer and allow it to reload all the USB drivers and then restart again.

5. Continue restarting until everything under Universal Serial Bus controllers in Device Manager is loaded correctly again.

6. Plug in the Zen while having Device Manager open and see if it gets detected and loads the driver properly. If not, then continue on with what I have listed below.

Process Two:

1. Uninstall Windows Media Player 11 and its Runtime Format (Add/Remove Programs); select the "Show Updates" box).

Microsoft's Knowledge Base article on how to remove WMP11 on XP here.

(If you get WMP to rollback to version 10, try connecting the Zen again and see if it is recognized and working properly at this point. Some people have reported this has corrected their detection problem.)

2. If your Zen can turn on, connect it to the computer and go to the Device Manager and "uninstall" the Zen or MTP Device (which ever way it shows) and unplug it from the computer when done.

3. Uninstall all Creative software/drivers and reboot the computer.

4. Go back into the Device Manager and uninstall all "USB Root Hubs" listed under "Universal Serial Bus controllers" and reboot the computer when all uninstalled.

5. Once the computer has rebooted and back to Windows, plug in the Zen and allow it to install the drivers. Check the Device Manager to make sure that the drivers installed properly with no conflicts.

6. At this point you can try doing what it wasn't doing before; upgrading firmware, accessing the Zen or copying to it with Windows Explorer, checking to see if it now charges via USB, etc. You may also want try it on another computer if you have one available to see if the same problem carries over. If problems still exist, continue on...

7. MTP is built into the framework of Windows Media. Windows XP requires the installation of at least WMP10 to support it. Try at least reinstalling WMP10 or install WMP11 for the latest MTP support. Reboot after installation and see if this resolves your issue.

(A good place to download older versions of WMP is from here)

Driver Issues:

Making sure the Driver for the Zen is installed and functioning properly is extremely important. Without the driver being installed correctly, you will not get full charging capability to the Zen through the USB port and it will also not allow for any software to be able to detect that the Zen is connected.

How to verify the device status of the Zen in Device Manager

1. Click Start, (Settings), Control Panel, System, Hardware, and then Device Manager.
2. The MTP player should be listed under Windows Portable Devices.

If there is an error or a yellow exclamation mark next to the device, the driver is not being installed properly.

How to verify that the MTP driver is being used:

1. In Device Manager, double left click on the Creative Zen listing under Portable Devices and select the Details Tab.
2. In the "Property" drop down box select "Inf Name" in. It should say "WPDMTP.INF".

To change the driver or install the driver in case of error:

1. In Device Manager, double left click on the Creative Zen listing under Portable Devices.
2. Select the Driver Tab and then select the Update Driver box.
3. Select the "Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer".
4. Select MTP Device within the Model box and select the Next button.
5. Windows will then install the MTP driver for the Zen.
6. Select Close on the next two screens and Device Manager should show the Zen under Portable Devices as Creative Zen with no errors.

To re-install the Zen's MTP driver if not being recognized correctly:

1. With the Zen connected, in Device Manager, expand the Potable Device category.
2. Right click on the Creative Zen listing and slect the Uninstall from the menu.
3. Once it is uninstalled, disconnect the Zen from the USB port.
4. Wait a minute, then plug it back in and take note in Device Manager that it refreshes and reloads the driver properly.
5. Once it reloads the driver properly, open My Computer and see if it shows correctly.

To force the Zen to use the MTP driver when connected and asked for drivers:

1. With the Zen connected, uninstall the Zen listing within Device Manager.

2. Using Windows Explorer, navigate into your windows/inf folder and "Copy" (not Cut) the wpdmtp.inf to your desktop.

3. Now connect your device and when it detects it as a new device, don't "automatically install driver. Select " click to specify the location..." and choose not to search for the driver. Click the option to specify what driver you want to use. Click next.

4. The next window should ask you what driver to use and the top of the list should say "show all devices." Click next.

5. The next window select "have disk" and point the path of the driver to the desktop where you put wpdmtp.inf and select OK.

It should then force the MTP driver to load for that device. You have now reinstalled all USB and USB host controller drivers and forced the Zen to use the correct MTP driver it is supposed to use. Again, try to see if your problem still exists.

If you can't install the driver when it is first detected or update it in device manager without an error code, try it this way:

1. With the Zen connected, right clicking on the driver when it shows in Device Manager and select Uninstall.
2. Then try and add the Zen as a MTP device using Add New Hardware Wizard in Control Manager.
3. Manually select the MTP Device and it will load the MTP driver for the Zen.
4. If you ever get prompted with anything saying that the device may not work properly or the driver isn't for that device, go through with it anyway.

If recieving receiving "The device cannot start (code 10 or Code 18)" within Device Manager, you can try this registry entry change to fix this problem:

Possible Fix 1:

Warning: This fix involves editing the Windows Registry. Please try if you feel it is your last resort and any of the previous fixes have not worked. It is a good idea to back up the enteries you modify or delete.

1. Disconnect the Zen, if connected.

2. Run regedit (Click on the "Start" button and select "Run") and go to this registry key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Contro l\Class\{EEC5AD98-8080-425f-922A-DABF3DE3F69A}

3. In the right hand panel, the key "(Default)" should say "Portable Devices".

4. Delete the Key “UpperFilters”.

5. Delete the Key “LowerFilters” (If present).

6. Reconnect the device .

This Registry change has been known to work on Windows XP SP2 only. I am not sure if it will work on other versions of Windows.

Possible Fix 2:

Check the Control Panel > Admin Tools> Services for a service called LibUSB-Win32 and disable it. This service has been confirmed to cause this error with the Zen's driver. See threads here, here, and here.

Possible Fix 3:

A corrupt database on the Zen has also been known to cause this. In theory, the Zen will react by not communicating during enumeration (loading the driver with the OS) to prevent any further possible corruption. To correct this corruption, boot the Zen into Recovery Mode and select a Cleanup from the menu. Along this same theory, if a Cleanup doesn't seem to repair the database, the corruption could also be more severe and exist on the file system level. Too correct a file system corruption, boot the Zen into Recovery Mode and select Format from the menu. A Format will rebuild the file system WARNING: A Format will erase all files on the Zen, so keep that in mind.


0. On WinXP, you could also try reinstalling the UMDF (User-Mode Driver Framework), which is the driver platform in which MTP uses for its driver. Download here.

1. Another program you can try installing or upgrading to see if it resolves your issue is the .Net Framework which may help resolve MTP issue you may be having. You can download the latest version here.

(If you have ever used the Creative software, try installing this. This has been known to resolve detection issues on computers that used Creative's software)

2. Many newer MTP devices require that Windows XP Service Pack 2 be installed. Reinstall Windows XP Service Pack 2, reboot and try again.

3. One trick you may be able to try is installing the MTP porting kit. If WMP11 is installed, the Windows Media Framework should already be in place, so installing the MTP porting kit will intall a generic MTP driver the Zen can use since it is an MTP device.

4. Some people have reported that this "Fixup" utility has corrected their MTP issue that was preventing their Zen from being detected. It may be worth a shot to download and try it out. You can download the "Fixup" utility from here. Extract the .zip file and run the fixup.cmd file.

5. If using WMP11 and it stops responding when you transfer media to the Zen, apply this WMP11 fix from Microsoft.

Creative Zen Media Explorer not recognizing the Zen is plugged into the computer (when Zen is turned on):

I believe the Zen Media Explorer software relies on the CTConfig.dll file (Creative Shell Extension Helper). You can try unregistering and then re-register the CTConfig.dll file and see if that improves your situation any:


Regsvr32 /u C:\Program Files\Creative\ZEN Media Explorer\ctconfig.dll

Restart the computer

Regsvr32 ctconfig.dll

Restart the computer

If the above actions don’t help, you can try uninstalling the Zen Media Explorer software and then reinstalling them. After you uninstall the software (and before you reinstall them), try and see how your USB ports/devices behave. If they go back to working correctly, then you know it was the software causing issues. If they still aren’t acting properly, then try and reinstall the software to see if there will be an improvement. After you have tried all of the above and you still have the same issues, I would say that you have more of a Windows USB drivers issue or possibly a hardware issue with the USB controller or ports. You can always help verify this by trying your Zen (and other USB devices) and software on another computer to see if you get the same results.

Disappearing, Duplicate, or just weird filenames after a sync:

I have had this happen is when I do a sync under two different Windows profiles using the Creative Explorer software (when I used it). On my laptop, I use the local admin account when I am home. At work, I have another account (connects to domain). Under both profiles, the syncing is setup to sync the same files in the same locations. I suspect this problem to be software related. Due to poor checksum reading/time and date stamps or ownership permissions issue on the files and folders.

What happens is that I end up with a few duplicates of files (can be of any media type) with corrupt or missing file names. I have to manually go through them deleting these duplicates. The Zen still reads them with no issue though. So, it appears the Zen is reading the files by file header type and not by file extension. My main account is the local admin account. I used it when I first installed then Zen. I should note that I only get this duplicate weird name file problem when I am logged in and have synced using the second Windows profile.


How to optimize the battery runtime by changing settings on the Zen:

With optimizations listed below:
For audio, somewhere around the 20-25hr mark
For video, somewhere around 3-5hr mark.

The best settings to adjust to optimize runtime for audio playback are:

- to get used to using the Hold button as much as possible so that the screen turns off
- adjust (lower) the brightness level
- adjust (lower) the backlight timing
- set the EQ to OFF
- turn of any sound (X-Fi) enhancements
- keep a low to moderate volume
- use lower impedance headphones

How to view documents on the Zen:

.Doc to .JPG
  1. Bring up the document you want in Microsoft Word.
  2. Zoom in or out so that the whole document can be seen on the screen without scrolling up or down.
  3. Find the "Print Screen" key on your keyboard. On a standard key board it should be one of 9 keys above the arrow keys.
  4. Push the Print Screen key. Nothing will happen, so don't think it didn't work.
  5. Pull up Paint in another window.
  6. In Paint Go to Edit > Paste. A picture of the whole screen and your document will come up.
  7. Crop out what you don't want and leave just the document using the "select" tool.
  8. Save it as whatever you want.
  9. To make the picture your desktop wallpaper, right click on the desktop and choose "Personalize" or "Properties". Choose Desktop Background > Browse > The document that you just saved in Paint.
You can also use ZamZar to convert files. I have used it get PDF files into JPG files for my Zen. Just convert the PDF file to PNG. Once you get the PDF file converted to a PNG file, open the PNG file in Paint and do a Save As to JPG.

How do you remove the right-click Zen enteries in the Explorer shell?

Make sure you backup (export) the key data in case you want to add it back later.

1. Open Regedit - Start -> Run -> type regedit -> OK
2. Navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers
3. You should see CTWPDMediaExplorer
4. Right click on its entry and select Export to create a backup.reg file to import later if you want
5. After export, right click on the CTWPDMediaExplorer and select Delete -> Yes

The Creative Media Explorer enteries should now be removed from the right click context menu. Just click on the backed-up Registry key that you exported before to add them back.

How to apply a screen protector on the Zen:

I like to apply them in a steamy bathroom to help cut down on dust:

- Make sure you hands are clean.
- Use a lint-free cloth (like ones used on lenses) to ensure the screen is cleaned.
- Peel back one edge, align, and begin placing over the screen.
- Be careful to never touch the sticky side of the screen.
- I like to use a credit card to apply, but I wrap one layer of the lint-free cloth over the card before I begin rubbing over the protector; working out any bubbles with the edge of the card.
- Continue until the screen protector is completely installed.

Helpful Links

Zen Specs.

ABI Review of the Zen.

Zen Disassembly.

Thinking of getting the BSE Skin? Check out these pics.

Zen Firmware/Software Downloads.

Returning your Zen to Creative for warranty service.

Creative Warranty Returns FAQ.

The greatest advice I can give here for answering any questions is to use the SEARCH feature. ABI forums have a ton of information and usually searching in relation to your questions can be answered by searching.


How can I get my installation files from the Creative CD?

You can download the Zen Installation CD (in case you lost it) from here:

ZEN CD Part1
ZEN CD Part2
ZEN CD Part3
ZEN CD Part4
ZEN CD Part5

I lost the Music and Pictures that came with the Zen. How can I get them back?

You can download the Music files from here.
(Thank you ClonZa)

You can donwload the Videos from here.
(Thank you Clonza)

You can download the Pictures from here.
(Thank you buzzkill)

Zen Manual (See attachment for download):
Attached Files
File Type: zip (860.0 KB, 99 views)

Last edited by BobbyRS; 04-01-2009 at 07:06 PM. Reason: Added to downloads
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