Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Computer Optimizations for a Digital Audio Workstation

A digital audio workstation (DAW) makes creating and editing audio files possible through the use of professional music editing software. Making the most of this software and squeezing every last ounce of power out of your computer requires modifications to your Windows system. Before attempting any performance enhancing modifications, ensure that you have a complete backup of your operating system.

Defragmentation

A fragmented hard drive will drastically slow down your computer and increase the potential for the introduction of skips and artifacts in your audio. When a disk is fragmented, the hard drive must work harder to access the files that are needed. A defragmented hard drive puts all of the files close together. This means less traveling distance for the needle of the hard drive and a more efficient experience. Defragment your hard drive by right-clicking on the hard drive that is fragmented. In most cases, this is the "C" drive. Click on the "Properties" option from the drop-down menu and choose the "Tools" tab. Select the option to defragment your hard drive.

Background Processes

Background processes run in the background while your computer is on. Many of these processes are not necessary when running audio applications. Each process takes up a certain amount of system resources. Internet connections, screen savers, and virus scanners are just a few processes that should be enabled before running a professional audio application. The option to disable system processes can be found by clicking on the "Control Panel" in the "Program" menu. Then select the "Administrative Tools" icon. Once the window has opened, click on the "Services" option. Disable the following services for best results: "Indexing Service," "iPod Service," "Error Reporting Service," "Messenger," "Alerter," "Application Layer Gateway Service," "Automatic Updates," "Background Intelligent Transfer Service" and "Wireless Zero Configuration." This list is a safe list that will provide you with the most performance enhancements. Be cautious when disabling other services since many are necessary for audio editing.

Network Server

The default method for most machines is to use a cache to provide a faster serving of commonly used files. However, this is not ideal for DAWs. Switching your computer to act as a network server will make it possible to increase the rate of file transfer and prevent the caching of unnecessary files, thereby preserving bandwidth. Change to a network server by right-clicking on the "My Computer" icon on the desktop. Select the "Properties" option from the drop-down menu and then select "File System." Look for the option that states "Desktop Computer" and select the "Network Server" instead. Restart your computer. If you don't see a significant change in speed, then revert your system to a "Desktop Computer." Not all computers will improve by changing the computer to a "Network Server."

Drive Indexing

Windows systems index hard drives to make it easier to find files quickly. While this is great for the average user, it slows down the system and devotes crucial system resources that could be used to run audio processes. Turning off drive indexing helps speed up your system for audio production.

Hard Drive Caching

Hard drive caching provides a crucial service for the average user. By storing important information in the cache it improves system performance. While recording, this can cause dropouts. Since recording uses large chunks of memory, if the cache fills before the audio recording completes, the unneeded information dumps to the hard drive which can ruin a recording.

System Restore

Turn off System Restore and backup programs when recording audio. System Restore and backup programs periodically write information to the hard disk. When recording audio you need all of the system resources available to you to prevent audio dropouts. Rely on manual backups to safeguard your data, or turn on your backup software after you finish recording.

Desktop Cleanup

Every couple of months, Windows cleans up unused items on your desktop. This process isn't needed since most people organize their documents manually. Turn "Desktop Cleanup" off to conserve additional resources.

Uninstall Components

Windows has several components that most users don't need. Consider removing services that slow the system down and use up system resources. Some of the "safe" components to uninstall are listed below. Double-check to make sure that disabling these services won't break your operating system.
  • Accessibility options
  • Indexing service
  • Update root certificates
  • Windows automatic updates
  • Windows messenger
  • Games
  • Dual Boot System
Since an audio system requires specific services and works best when Internet connections and security suites are disabled it makes sense to create a dual boot system. Create two partitions on your hard drive and dedicate one of the partitions to audio work. This partition should only connect to the Internet to download software updates and when needed for authentication. Otherwise, keep the Internet connection completely disabled.