Tips for DAW computers

To the largest extent possible, the same optimisations apply to DAW computers as would apply to any computer. There are very few tips which are DAW-specific. SO before reading this guide you should first read and implement the optimisation tips within the Speedup guide. These are merely some supplementary tips to that guide:

  1. If you're getting problems with audio glitching, latency & dropouts, try this:
    (XP) Edit c:\boot.ini (NOTE: this file is system & hidden, so you'll need to turn off 'hide system files' in explorer/tools/folder options/view to see it, and you may need to edit it's attributes (right-click files & click "properties") to make it non-readonly & editable) - change the '/NoExecute=..." entry to just '/execute'. WARNING: If you screw up or delete the boot.ini file, or paste characters into it from a website (sometimes website characters aren't true ascii) XP WILL NOT BOOT.

    (Vista/Win 7/8/10) Open a command prompt and type the following, then hit enter: "bcdedit.exe /set {current} nx AlwaysOff" (without quotation marks).

    This turns off data execution prevention (which can cause problems/performance-issues with some drivers/firewire)- doing this from the control panel in windows (control panel/system/advanced/data execution prevention) doesn't work.
    WARNING2: This setting makes it easier for malware to install on your system. Make sure you're running a virus guard scanner when you are online!
  2. (Mainly Vista/Win 7) Wireless connections can sometimes cause DPC spikes, which in some cases may be fixed by using the following tool: Wlan optimizer. In the case of some laptops, removing the wireless device from the laptop or disabling it is the only thing that will remove the spikes completely (and complete removal is what some of the pro-audio laptop suppliers do). You may be better off using a cabled network solution instead.
  3. For newer (Core 2 Duo and upwards) CPUs, DPC spikes can sometimes be created by having the C-states (power-saving states) enabled. Disabling them, however, greatly increases your computer's power usage. So if you are getting DPC spikes, try disabling C-states (variously labelled C1e, C2e, Cool & Quiet etc) in the bios of your computer, and trying again. Re-enable if it doesn't fix anything.
  4. Disabling HPET (High Performance Event Timer) can also have a useful effect on latency and DPC spikes for audio systems - try disabling it in the bios and comparing DPC/latency before and after.
  5. (XP) If using firewire in XP SP2 or SP3, revert to the original sp1 firewire drivers to re-enable proper firewire behaviour, or install the Microsoft hotfix (not recommended) - firewire support was intentionally crippled in sp2/sp3 by Microsoft (who have huge financial stakes in competing standard USB). The drivers are still not considered quite working properly even in Win7, for FW400.

    (Win7) If using firewire in Win7, you will using reduce latency issues by reverting to the OHCI 'Legacy' Driver.

  6. If using an nvidia or ATI graphics card, please be aware that the drivers for your card may interfere with latency. You may need to downgrade to an old set of drivers, or a specific set of drivers, to get rid of the issues. For nvidia, version 185.85 works well but may not support newer cards.
  7. If you work with a lot of VST plugins, and have the time and the money and an extra machine(s) you're not using (or using intermittently), the free FX-teleport plugin from FX Max can save a lot of CPU and work time.
  8. Consider having a small partition near the beginning of a hard drive for plugins (2GB or smaller, FAT/FAT16, 32k-cluster sizes best), as well as a separate partition (NTFS, 32kb cluster size) specifically for samples (note: keep audio projects and project audio files on a separate disk from your sample partition if possible, as this will create faster access if a project is using a sampler and normal audio at the same time). See the full partitioning for DAW's guide here.
  9. Having a system which doesn't connect to the internet does not *necessarily* make your system slightly faster for DAW work. For some motherboards and laptops disabling network devices and services can result in a significant speedup or at least the elimination of pops and clicks in audio playback. This varies from computer to computer, and the only way to find out is by testing. Also, the small amount of files which make up an internet browser's cache do not impact significantly on system performance. Not being connected to the internet does mean you can remove virus programs and firewalls, however if you read my notes on virus programs above, you'll find that the only aspects of these programs which harm system performance are the "Shield" aspects, which in most cases can be turned off with no risk to your computer unless you are a complete moron and download programs without scanning them (or if you use insecure programs like Microsoft's Outlook and Internet Explorer).

All advice given without guarantee - use your brain - if anything dies/fries/stops/explodes, see a doctor (but don't talk to me).

Back to the main page