As computer technology advances, it becomes harder to continue to use older equipment. This has been the case for a while with vinyl cutters. Many legacy cutters were made to interface with 16 and 32-bit operating systems like Windows 7. They don’t work well with 64-bit operating systems like Windows 10 & 11. Our Vinyl Cutters End of Life Bulletin has more details.

Recently we’ve had to add the venerable Vinyl Express Qe6000 and Qe60 cutters to this list. And as usual, the culprit is an OS update. Fortunately there is a workaround for those who aren’t ready to give up on their trusty Qe series cutter. The Vinyl Express Qe6000 USB driver solution is an old one.

Windows Update breaks USB driver

On July 17, 2022 Microsoft pushed out a Windows 10 update that seems to have effectively broken the Vinyl Express USB driver. Affected customers began reporting a range of errors including:

  • "USB Device Not Recognized" error message pops up on the PC as soon as the cutter is connected to the computer and powered on.
  • Unresolvable communication issues when jobs are sent to the cutter from LXi or FlexiSign software.

The solution is to bypass the USB driver by connecting to your PC via the cutter’s RS232 Serial port instead. This is a tried and true connectivity method for older Vinyl Express cutters, including the Lynx, panther and EnduraCUT models. The Qe and Q Series cutters come from a different manufacturer, but they have one common trait in the serial port option.

USB to Serial Keyspan Adapter

Obviously most modern PCs don’t have serial ports, so the computer’s USB port is still essential. To connect your computer’s USB port to the cutter’s serial port, you’ll need a magic little device called a keyspan adapter. You’ll find it here.

The keyspan adapter bridges the gap by connecting a USB cable to a serial cable. This means you’ll actually need two products: the adapter and the serial cable. Not just any serial cable will do. The Qe keyspan solution is an adapter and a null 9-pin to 25-pin serial cable. After purchasing and receiving your adapter and cable, download and install the 64-bit keyspan driver. Then connect the cutter and power it on.

Port Settings Update for the Vinyl Express Qe6000 Driver

Once you have the new hardware, and have it properly connected to your Qe6000, you’ll need to update your port settings in LXI or Flexi. You’ll need to change the port setting from USB to one of your computer’s COM ports. To determine the correct setting, Open the Windows Settings menu on your PC and click Bluetooth & Other Devices. Look for the keyspan adapter. If it’s connected to your cutter and the cutter is powered on, you will see a Com port indicated in the upper right corner (FIG 2 below). Now you need to change the cutter’s port setting in LXI from Vinyl Express USB to a matching com port setting.

Open Production Manager. At the top of your screen, you should see the cutter listed with the USB port next to it. Right-click the Qe6000 setup and, from the drop-down menu, click change Port (FIG 1). From the Change Port window, select the Com port setting found in your Bluetooth & Other Devices window (FIG 3).

Then in the main window below, right click on the device and, from the fly-out menu, select Test Cut (FIG 4). LXI will send a bullseye pattern to the cutter. If the job is sent correctly, you’re back in business. This is the current solution for Windows 10.

FIG 1: Change Port

    FIG 2: Keyspan device driver settings

      FIG 3: Set COM port

        FIG 4: Send Test Cut
        FIG 5: Windows 11 core isolation

          Windows 11 and Core Isolation

          Windows 11 customers have another obstacle. Windows 11 has a more tightly controlled set of device drivers than ever. There have always been ways to bypass Microsoft’s insistence on supporting only ‘digitally signed’ device drivers. Now the bar has been raised a little higher. In Windows 11, unsigned devices will not run unless the Core Isolation and Memory Integrity setting in the OS is disengaged.

          Core Isolation is a recent development from Microsoft, first offered as a security upgrade for Windows 10 users. You can read more about it here. Using the keyspan adapter workaround for Windows 11 requires turning off this feature. To do so, Click on Settings and type "core isolation" in the search window (FIG 5 above), and disable it.

          However, this should not be done without considering the risk. According to Microsoft, "Core isolation provides added protection against malware and other attacks by isolating computer processes from your operating system and device." Therefore, disabling it might leave your computer vulnerable. If this is an unacceptable risk for your or your business, the only solution is a software downgrade or a hardware upgrade. Revert your PC to Windows 10, or replace your cutter with a newer model with a Windows 11 compatible driver.

          As newer, more complex operating systems come to market, it becomes harder to maintain older devices, including vinyl cutters. Old favorites like the Vinyl Express Lynx, Panther, and EnduraCUT have been impacted by this problem. The Qe60, Qe60+ and Qe6000 have been added to the list. For now, the USB to serial keyspan adapter is a workable solution.