Firstly - while it’s true Cubase itself doesn’t use PACE, it handshakes with their own eLicenser app which is driven by the PACE engine. eLicenser reads the dongle and tells Cubase whether or not it is authorized to start.
Root cause here I suspect is an older Steinberg key - used without issue from SX3 to 4 to 6 to 8. Now 8.5. The OS in the key itself must require the TPkw driver. Steinberg’s eLicenser app doesn’t install it. iLok’s current app doesn’t either.
CURRENT being the keyword.
Thanks to Sergio Flores of PACE Anti-Piracy Technical Support (via iLok) for engaging when he simply could have responded, “Not my dog - contact Steinberg” this is now happily resolved.
For background - quoting - “TPkd is a driver of ours used only used by older protected products. We no longer use the tpkd.sys driver as it has been deprecated by our newer technology.”
However, iLok does provide a legacy installer along with their current installers - located in a folder appropriately entitled, “Old Installers.” Execute and voila - TPkd appears in the “Non Plug and Play Drivers” section of Device Manager.
So - the solution for those with older Steinberg keys evidencing this error is to either download the current iLok driver set from iLok.com, and execute the legacy installer (I did so after running the current installer without uninstalling anything) OR (I suspect) purchase a new Steinberg key, which will no longer require the legacy driver.
Thanks for engaging GRIM and Rexgtr - appreciate the effort!!!