This is the never-before-heard Surface startup sound as well as the missing one from Windows 8

The missing startup sound
(Image credit: Jensen Harris)
  • Jensen Harris, who worked on various versions of Windows over the years, reveals what the original Windows 8 startup sound was.
  • Windows 8 never shipped with a startup sound, so few have heard it before.
  • Besides Windows 8, Harris also reveals that the first Surface PC had its own unique startup chime, but it, too, never shipped.
  • Both startup sounds are available to download from Harris’s website.

On May 29, 2021, Jensen Harris, the previous Director of Program Management for the Windows User Experience team, dropped a random video on his YouTube channel. The deep-dive, story-driven video explained why Windows no longer has a startup sound. Harris’s justification came down to how times were changing, specifically how (and when and where) people were using PCs. 

It's some fascinating stuff. 

At the end of that video, Harris teased that despite Windows 8 being the first version of Windows to not ship with a startup sound, one was created for it, which he would reveal later. 

After 15 months of waiting, we finally got that big reveal — and it was worth it. 

Harris’s video doesn’t just play the sound, however. Instead, he explains in detail how all the sounds in Windows 8 took nearly a year to create. He even brought in the original sound designer, Matthew Bennett (Microsoft did an in-depth Story Labs on him in 2018), to explain the process.

In a plot twist, Harris reveals that the Windows 8 startup sound had been discovered before, but not many had heard it. The reason was despite it not being enabled, the file always existed in builds of Windows 8, and it was hidden in plain sight, found under the Windows/Media folder as “Windows Logon.”

While that may frustrate some, Harris throws the audience another tantalizing curveball. During the development of Windows 8, there was also a secret Microsoft project that went by codenames “WDS” and “Georgetown.” Those names were chosen because they were so generic sounding so as not to draw attention if leaked.

Indeed, those were the codenames for the first Surface PCs.

The original Windows 8 startup sound was shipped, but not turned on.  (Image credit: Jensen Harris)

Harris then explains how less than a dozen people were working on the project in a bland, tucked-away room on Microsoft’s campus.

The new news was Harris revealed that a Surface-specific startup sound was also created. But this one was never shipped, and no one outside a few people has ever heard it until today.

Cue the dramatic music. 

Curiously, Harris needed the sound from Bennett, but as the sound designer, even he could not know of the existence of Surface. Bennet had created a few versions of the proposed Windows 8 startup sound: One was three notes long, and the other had four. Harris told Bennett they were passing on the four-note version, but secretly Harris was putting it aside for use in Surface.

(Image credit: Future)

And finally, Harris plays the Windows 8/Surface startup sound for the first time in the big dramatic reveal.

As Harris clarifies, the Surface four-note startup sound is simply the Windows 8 three-note version with a “grounding low note” at the beginning. It also mirrors the progression of the Windows 7 startup chime.

The best part of the video, besides the intriguing and charming history, is Harris has posted both .wav files to be downloaded for your personal use. Now, you can relive what almost was.

In 2021, we asked if Microsoft should bring back the startup sound in (the then-unreleased) Windows 11. Seventy-four percent of you say yes, so long as it is optional. Microsoft hasn’t come through with that request, but there’s always hope for the next version of Surface as it hits its ten-year mark.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.