Optimizing Your PC for Recording Audio

I found these WinXP tweaks and tips in an old email I sent myself awhile back. I have performed these tweaks on my own PC in order to enhance my own DAW system, and I am more than happy with the results.

For those of you on Win7, Black Viper has a great set of resources here.

Before you attempt to change any of your Windows settings, take note:

These tweaks do work, but aren’t necessary to enjoy making music on your PC. Ultimately it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to make any of these changes to your computer. I will not be held responsible for anything that may render your computer system unusable should you go ahead with these changes. Please read that sentence again.

Installing Windows XP

  1. When the installation guide prompts you to press F6 (Third Party SCSI or RAID Drivers) press F5 instead.
  2. You will see Press F2 for Automated System Recovery(DONT press F2) Right after that you will see a list .
  3. Press the UP arrow key to highlight Standard PC.
  4. Hit Enter.
  5. Hit Enter to Continue.
  6. Hit F8 saying that you agree.

Now, if this is an existing OS of say Win2k or a previous install of XP you will see options for Esc=Don’t Repair; R=Repair F3 to Quit
Since, we’re talking about a fresh install we want to hit Esc for Dont Repair.

Now, you’ll see your drives and partitions here. If you have Two “physical” drives it will show you these drives as C and D.

  1. Hi-lite C Drive

If you had an existing Install from any other OS press D for Delete Partition.

  1. Press Enter to Continue
  2. Press L for Delete

Now, we’re back at the drive selection screen again and this time we see Un-partitioned space. Now you are ready to create a partition.

Typically you want to the OS drive to be as small as possible for drive reading purposes.

  1. Recommended OS and Application drive should be around 12GB tops.
  2. If you have a 20GB drive partition it into two parts the first part being 10,000MB and the remaining to the second partition (which comes to around 9500MB). That can be used for extra storage.

Once the drive is partitioned and the main Partition is hi-lited press Enter to Install. Now we have to decide what File System do we use…NTFS or FAT32

FAT32 vs. NTFS

W2k and XP lets you choose the file system that best suits your needs, FAT or NTFS.

  1. FAT (File Allocation Table) is the native file system based on the Windows 9x kernel (including 95, 95a, 95b, 95c, 98, 98se and ME).
  2. NTFS (New Technology File System) is the native file system for operating systems based on the Windows NT kernel (including NT4, 2000 and XP). During the installation, Win2K or XP will ask if you want to convert the installation partition to NTFS. If you need compatibility for Windows 98 – especially if you want to dual-boot – don’t convert.

While NTFS offers a number of improvements over FAT32, most of these are not applicable to audio, and you won’t see a major performance difference between the two. Also, de-fragmenting your drives (something you should do every week) is substantially quicker in FAT32. Be aware that Windows 9x cannot read data on NTFS-formatted drives. Generally speaking, you should use FAT32 if you are doing a parallel installation with Windows 9x/ME, or if you will need to work with files created with a FAT32 system (opening old song files, working with others using FAT32-based systems, etc).

One exception would be if you’ll be working with video or other large files in excess of 4GB; or if you also use your PC to browse the internet or the computer is part of a LAN running XP Professional. Only NTFS can limit access rights to your files and therefore provide the security needed for a networked computer. In this case, select NTFS for all partitions except those which are to accommodate your audio data later.

Also of interest: NTFS can read the “resource fork” of SDII files from MacOS, and can therefore recognize the timecode stamps used in these files; FAT(32) can’t do this. If you do a lot of work with ProTools or other MacOS-based DAW applications, you should consider at least one NTFS partition in your system. (Note that this does not imply that your NTFS-based system can mount/read from a MacOS drive).

Windows will begin it’s file copying, once it’s done it will restart your machine.

It’s a good idea from here to enter into the BIOS to stop the CDROM from being the first boot device.

  1. Instead, designate the Hard Drive as the main boot
  2. Exit out and restart to begin the XP installation
  3. Enter your Name, etc
  4. Enter your Windows Key & name your computer

Hit Next to continue Installation. If you have a NIC card it will ask you what type of Installation do you want to choose: Typical or Custom. Choose Typical for faster install.

Now you have a fresh install of Windows XP.

When XP starts up every time you get that annoying “Take the XP Tour” pop up… click on it to open the tour. Once in the tour simply exit out and it wont open up anymore.

Turning off Windows Messenger from start up
Double click on the Messenger icon in the system tray to open it. Skip thru the internet and sign up stuff. When Messenger loads, go to tools and Options then Preferences and uncheck ‘Run this program when windows starts’

Switching to Classic Mode

Switching to Classic Mode is much better for system performance because it uses less colors and un-enhanced graphics:

  1. Right-click on your desktop, and then click Properties.
  2. Click on Themes tab.
  3. Set Themes to Windows Classic.
  4. Click on the Screen Saver tab.
  5. Set Screensaver to None.
  6. Press the Power button near the bottom.
  7. Power Scheme choices: You can have the monitor turn off but set Turn Hard Drives off to “Never Hibernate”. If this is Enabled un-check it. This is mainly for Laptops but uses a very large chunk of data.
  8. APM: Enabling this will allow your computer to shut down properly when in Standard PC mode so hit “OK”.

Click the Appearance tab

  1. On the Windows and Buttons menu, select Windows Classic.
  2. Press Effect button.
  3. Deselect all options.
  4. Hit OK.

Click the Settings tab. Set your bit depth to 16Bit. This is optimal for Audio machines due to less colors for video drawback which in turn gives you better audio performance.

Optimizing the Start Menu

  1. Right–click the Start button, and then click Properties.
  2. Click Classic Start menu.
  3. Click the Customize button to select items to display on the Start menu.

By default, selecting the Classic Start menu also adds the My Documents, My Computer, My Network Places, and Internet Explorer icons to your desktop.

Optimizing Computer properties

Right Click My Computer and select Properties:

  1. Click System Restore tab, and check the “Turn System Restore” to OFF on all drives.
  2. Click Automatic Updates tab, and Turn Off Automatic Updates.
  3. Remote tab: Uncheck all options to turn off Remote Assistance.
  4. Advanced tab: Press Settings tab under Performance.
  5. Click Visual Effects tab, and set to Adjust for Best Performance.

Advanced tab_Processor Scheduling:

  1. Set this for Background Services
  2. Click Memory Usage, and set this for System Cache.
  3. Virtual Memory: Press Change and let your PC monitor/change this for you.

Restart your machine. When you come back the first thing you should do is defrag the main drive even if it doesn’t say it needs it. This way the swap file has been truly set and you’re ready to continue.

Modifying the Windows XP Services

**Always make a back up of your registry before accessing and making any regedit or services tweaks**

Start Menu. Go to  “Run” and type in regedit. Hit OK. Hit the Drop menu for Registry and select Export Registry. You will want to save this to another drive for safe keeping.

Stopping the annoying Pop-up Balloons from your system tray is a Registry Tweak:

  1. Start menu>Run. Type in “regedit”
  2. Hkey_Current_User\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Explorer\Advanced
  3. If “enableballoontips” is there set the value to zero
  4. If it doesn’t enter it in as a new DWORD and put the value to zero

Now you want to turn off certain “services” that are running in the background that we don’t need while recording or playing your Audio Software.

Hit Control Panel>Administrative Tools

Double Click on Services. You will be presented with a list of what to disable. Keep in mind this list is for a computer that doesn’t use the internet or a network in any way. If you have a Network Card or modem of any sort, pay attention to those services and what settings are selected otherwise you won’t be surfing the web any time soon.

  1. Alerter: Set to Disabled.
  2. Application Layer Gateway Service: Set to Disabled.
  3. Application Management AppMgmt: Set to Manual.
  4. Automatic Updates: Set to Disabled.
  5. Background Intelligent Transfer Service: Set to Disabled.
  6. ClipBook: Set to Disabled.
  7. COM+ Event System EventSystem: Set to Disabled.
  8. COM+ System Application: Set to Disabled.
  9. Computer Browser: Set to Disabled.
  10. Cryptographic Services: Set to Disabled.
  11. DHCP Client: Set to Disabled (Set this to Manual for Internet)
  12. Distributed Link Tracking Client: Set to Disabled.
  13. Distributed Transaction Coordinator: Set to Disabled.
  14. DNS Client: Set to Disabled (set this to Manual for Internet)
  15. Error Reporting Service: Set to Disabled.
  16. Event Log Automatic: Set to Disabled.
  17. Fast User Switching Compatibility: Set to Disabled.
  18. Fax Service: Set to Disabled.
  19. Help and Support: Set to Disabled.
  20. Human Interface Device Access: Set to Disabled.
  21. IMAPI CD-Burning COM Service: Set to Manual.
  22. Indexing Service: Set to Disabled.
  23. Internet Connection Sharing: Set to Disabled.
  24. IPSEC Services PolicyAgent: Set to Disabled.
  25. Logical Disk Manager: Set to Disabled.
  26. Logical Disk Manager Administrative Service: Set to Disabled.
  27. Messenger: Set to Disabled.
  28. MS Software Shadow Copy Provider: Set to Disabled.
  29. Net Login: Set to Disabled.
  30. NetMeeting Remote Desktop Sharing: Set to Disabled.
  31. Network Connections: Set to Manual.
  32. Network DDE: Set to Disabled.
  33. Network DDE DSDM: Set to Disabled.
  34. Network Location Awareness (NLA): Set to Disabled.
  35. NT LM Security Support Provider: Set to Disabled.
  36. Performance Logs and Alerts: Set to Disabled.
  37. Plug and Play PlugPlay: Set to Automatic.
  38. Portable Media Serial Number: Set to Disabled.
  39. Print Spooler: Set to Disabled.
  40. Protected Storage: Set to Disabled.
  41. QoS RSVP: Set to Disabled.
  42. Remote Access Auto Connection Manager: Set to Disabled.
  43. Remote Access Connection Manager: Set to Disabled.
  44. Remote Desktop Help Session Manager: Set to Disabled.
  45. Remote Procedure Call (RPC): Set to Automatic.
  46. Remote Procedure Call (RPC) Locator: Set to Manual.
  47. Remote Registry Service: Set to Disabled.
  48. Removable Storage: Set to Disabled.
  49. Routing and Remote Access: Set to Disabled.
  50. Secondary Logon: Set to Disabled.
  51. Security Accounts Manager: Set to Disabled.
  52. Server: Set to Disabled.
  53. Shell Hardware Detection: Set to Disabled.
  54. Smart Card: Set to Disabled.
  55. Smart Card Helper: Set to Disabled.
  56. SSDP Discovery Service: Set to Disabled.
  57. System Event Notification: Set to Disabled.
  58. System Restore Service: Set to Disabled.
  59. Task Scheduler Schedule: Set to Disabled.
  60. TCP/IP NetBIOS Helper Service: Set to Disabled (set this to Manual for Internet).
  61. Telephony: Set to Disabled.
  62. Telnet: Set to Disabled.
  63. Terminal Services: Set to Disabled.
  64. Themes: Set to Disabled.
  65. Uninterruptible Power Supply: Set to Disabled.
  66. Universal Plug and Play Device Host: Set to Disabled.
  67. Upload Manager: Set to Disabled.
  68. Volume Shadow Copy: Set to Disabled.
  69. WebClient: Set to Disabled.
  70. Windows Audio: Set to Automatic.
  71. Windows Image Acquisition (WIA): Set to Disabled.
  72. Windows Installer: Set to Manual.
  73. Windows Management Instrumentation: Set to Automatic.
  74. Windows Management Instrumentation Driver: Set to Manual.
  75. Windows Time: Set to Disabled.
  76. Wireless Zero Configuration: Set to Disabled.
  77. WMI Performance Adapter: Set to Disabled.
  78. Workstation: Set to Automatic.

Once set, close out of the services and restart your machine. You are now ready to modify the Registry.

Modifying the Registry

Intel Chipsets need to have UDMA 66 enabled for Win2k and XP. This also enables UDMA100. You will need to add this value: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class\{4D36E96A-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}000

  1. Right click and select New “DWORD”.
  2. Type EnableUDMA66 and hit Enter, and Double click it and put the value to “1”.

It should the look like this:
Again, this is really only for Intel chip sets.

Remove the Shared Documents folders from My Computer: Windows XP user interface provides links to all of the Shared Documents folders on your system at the top of the My Computer window.
Delete this Key:

NTFS Disk Performance: The NTFS file system is the recommended file system because of its advantages in terms of reliability and security and because it is required for large drive sizes. However, these advantages come with some baggage. You can modify some functionality to improve NTFS performance as follows:

Disable creation of short names: By default, NTFS generates the style of file name for compatibility with MS-DOS and Windows 3.x clients. If you are not supporting these types of clients, you can turn off this setting by changing the default: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Filesystem
NtfsDisable8dot3NameCreation set value to 1

Disable last access update: By default NTFS updates the date and time stamp of the last access on directories this update process can slow performance. To disable it go to:
You will need to enter this as a new Dword:
NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate set value to “1”

Reserve space for the master file table: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem.
You will need to enter this as a new Dword
NtfsMftZoneReservation set to “1”.

Reboot after making changes.

Speed up the Start Menu in Windows XP: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ControlPanel\Desktop
MenuShowDelay file set to “1”.
Click OK. You will need to restart your PC to see the results.

Increase IRQ Priority of CMOS Real-time Clock: Improve overall system performance by increasing the IRQ priority of the CMOS real-time clock.
You will need to enter this as a new Dword:
“IRQ8Priority” set to “1”.

Windows Explorer caches DLLs (Dynamic-Link Libraries) in memory for a period of time after the application using them has been closed. This can be an inefficient use of memory. Go to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer
Create a new DWORD sub-key named “AlwaysUnloadDLL” and set to “1”.
Restart Windows so the change can take effect.

Speed up CD Copying to Hard Drives: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem

  1. You will need to create a Key here.
  2. Right Click on the FileSystem folder and select New>Key.
  3. Name it CDFS.
  4. CacheSize, this must be added as a binary value, then type in this value: ff ff 00 00
  5. Prefetch, this key must be added as a DWORD value, then type in this value: 4000 hex
  6. PrefetchTail, this key must be added as a DWORD value, then type in this value: 4000 hex

To Disable Dr. Watson: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\WindowsNT\CurrentVersion\AeDebug
Delete the AeDebug key

Other Windows XP Tweaks:

Now is the time to Install your hardware drivers if you haven’t done it already. It makes no difference what order you install the drivers in.

Only after all the hardware drivers are done installing should you load your software onto your PC.

Turn off CD Autoplay: Go to Start->Run->gpedit.msc
Computer Config -> Administrative Template -> System
Double click Turn off Autoplay
Enable it.

Control Panel_Double click Sounds and Audio Devices: Go to the Audio tab
Set the Playback and the Recording settings to either your built in soundcard or a soundblaster (If Applicable). Check Only Use default devices down below

Go to the Sounds tab: Under Sound Scheme choose No Sounds. Press No to saving the previous Scheme, and hit Apply.

Do this for all NTFS drives:

  1. Open My Computer>Right Click on C:Drive and select Properties.
  2. Deselect Allow Indexing Servicing.
  3. Hit Apply.
  4. Select Apply Changes to C:\ subfolders and files.

You might get a message that says Access Denied. Press “Ignore All”.

By default, Windows 2000 logs the I/O traffic of your hard drive. While this is a very useful setting for servers, for workstations it doesn’t do anything except use up system resources. To disable it:

  1. Go to the run menu and type diskperf -n.
  2. Hit Enter to disable this logging.

Disable Error Reporting:

  1. Control Panel>Performance and Maintenance.
  2. System>Advanced tab… Error-Reporting button.
  3. Select Disable Error Reporting.
  4. Click OK
  5. Click OK

Uninstall unwanted components (good for non networked computers):

Locate sysoc.inf (windows\inf\sysoc.inf) on the main drive and make a backup of it.

Open the Sysoc.inf file. Each line of text in the file represents a component that can be displayed in the Add/Remove Windows Components dialog. Delete the word HIDE for any component that you want to see in the dialog (do not erase the commas). Save the Sysoc.inf file, then close it, and reboot your computer. The Add/Remove Windows Components dialog will now display the items you want to remove.

These tweaks and performance enhancements take a lot of time to sort out, but it’s worth the effort. If you are not familiar with making system changes to your PC, ask a knowledgeable friend to help you. If, on the other hand, you’re feeling bold, my advice to you is take your time. Follow each and every instruction, and don’t jump around to different sections because there is a logical order to each and every change I’ve posted here.

I’m sure that after you finish optimizing, you will notice a huge difference in the speed and stability of your DAW.

Thanks for looking.



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