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Tweak Win-XP for pro audio software

Tweaking Windows 98 and win-ME can be found HERE

Windows is very in-efficient in the way it operates, especially in the way it handles streaming large files to and from a hard disk, such as the demands that audio and video recording and editing software place on a hard disk. When you need all the available power in your computer to finish off a large multi-track project, you will need every last bit of grunt out of your daw unless you begin making destructive edits. The following advice are safe and proven tweaks for win-xp on how to make your pc run better for both video and audio recording applications.

Keeping windows as close to standard as possible should be your goal, unless the default choices effect the way a DAW operates. I won't list all tweaks that can be applied to Win-XP as quite often they have adverse effects for DAW uses or effect your system stability. I would warn people away from applying tweaks that are not listed here from other sites as I have found many of them to have adverse effects to your system. Don't play around with "services" at all as you create many potential problems if you do that are very difficult to fault find. Disabling services only results in a slightly faster boot up time and wont effect the way windows operates once booted although some of the following win-xp tweaks will indirectly disable some services. If your interested in playing with services despite my warning a good site to visit is this one.

DISCLAIMER The owner and writer of this page takes no responsibility for any loss of work and/or damage to work, equipment, persons, family cat or any living or non living entity that may result directly or indirectly from using the tips that the following pages contain. Use at own risk. By continuing to read you agree that any negative effects from these tips are entirely your own fault and in no way mine. blah blah blah...

WARNING Some common sense may be needed when deleting files and carrying out other tweaks contained in my pages. ;-)


Background services This is the only important tweak to do, all the rest are not necessary. Below are some things you should do regularly to keep the machine running well.
Disable transition effects Second most important tweak for win-xp.  
Clean Out Your Startup Group Check Your Free Disk Space
Disable Automatic updates Delete all TMP files
Disable guest and rename admin accounts Delete all Temp Internet Files
Disable Remote Assistance and desktop Defragment Your Hard Drive
Disable Write behind Caching  
Turn Off Power Management  
Turn off System Restore on all drives  
Enable APM
  Tascams Tweaking PDF guide For more tweaks and general maintenance see this PDF guide.


First things first

Before beginning to tweak windows it is very important to first ensure that your Audio card and any other bus mastering devices do not share an IRQ with any other device besides IRQ steering or holder. Secondly you need to make sure that all your hard drives are using DMA mode to complete all transfers as this results in almost zero CPU overhead leaving more power to effects Details on both of these can be found HERE I have not included them here as I don't see them as a tweak but as an ESSENTIAL part of installing the drivers of your hardware.


Background Services

Why Change ? ASIO and all DirectX, VSTi etc. are classified as background tasks. With the computer optimized for background services, FX, virtual instruments and synths are given priority over graphics animations and other less important stuff. Changing this will without a doubt help lower latency and also greatly increase the amount of real-time processing of audio that your computer can handle.


This is the ONLY tweak you need to perform to win-xp, all the rest only give you small improvements if any at all, hence why I recommend you only apply this tweak if you are unsure of using windows xp and applying tweaks. Also make sure you check DMA and IRQ's which are found explained HERE. I don't classify irqs and dma as tweaks are they are so essential they should be done on all computers.


Disable transition effects.

Why disable ? Because these effects draw extra CPU power right when you need that power for other things. For instance.. You have Logic open for audio and midi sequencing and Gigastudio open at the same time for high quality midi sounds. As you multitask between the two applications windows wants to take heaps of CPU power away from your audio app's just to draw pretty little animation's of the window smoothly popping up. This will quite often result in glitches in playback. This tweak is essential if you use a cheap 8MB video card.

How to disable ? Right hand click on the desktop and select properties. Next select the Appearance tab, then press the Effects button. Disable everything in here as it all takes up CPU power which can be used better elsewhere. Another area to disable effects is this area.. START>CONTROL PANEL>SYSTEM>ADVANCED>PERFORMANCE SETTINGS>VISUAL EFFECTS> and select "adjust for best performance" if you like the look of win xp you can then re-tick the "Use visual styles on windows and buttons" which gives you back the windows xp look, and does not cause any problems doing so.

Disable Automatic updates

Why disable ? Windows is not very smart when it comes to deciding when to update the OS and install new and wonderful things that you'll never need. If you leave it enabled then there's a good chance that you'll lose a take from windows wanting to search for an update. You can manually update from the windows update icon which is found on the START>PROGRAMS and up the very top.

How to disable ? START>CONTROL PANEL>SYSTEM>Automatic Updates> then select the manual option.

System Restore

System restore is a feature of windows that monitors any changes you make to your system and allows you to roll back the computer and undo those changes if they have an undesirable effect. This sounds great at first but once again windows can do this at the most annoying times, not to mention the amount of wasted disk space. The less free space on a drive the slower the drive is. More on that here... If you like this feature you can always manually add snapshots of your computer at any time. Norton Ghost is also another much better tool for doing this sort of thing, one which I trust much more than MS system restore..

START>CONTROL PANEL>SYSTEM>system restore> and then tick the box to disable.


Disable Remote desktop and assistance

This two features of windows allow other people to connect to your computer and control your computer. For security reasons it's a good idea to disable these two features.



Write Caching

By default, Windows is set to enable disk "write  caching" which basically means that rather than writing files to the hard disk immediately, Windows puts the (audio and other) data in RAM first, waiting for a chance to write it to disk. Unfortunately, if you're recording a lengthy bit of audio, this "chance" may never come, and Windows will simply run out of RAM and try to dump any audio (or other) file/s currently in RAM to your hard disk. This can potentially cause data loss, audio glitches and other "fun" stuff.

To turn off write behind caching in WINXP... DEVICE MANAGER>DISK DRIVES> and for at least the hard drive you use for audio disable the write caching in the drives settings.

Turn Off Power Management

By default, Windows will shut down your hard drive after a period of inactivity. This feature can cause significant slowdowns, because your drive then has to power back up the next time it's accessed. The delay can easily be a second or more. This delay will be noticeable if your disk cache has been working well and your system hasn't had to access the drive for a long period of time, but a sudden change of events makes the system look to the drive. Read above what the Vcache does.

The wisdom of turning off hard drives in order to save power is questionable anyway. This practice causes them to wear out much more quickly, and the amount of money you save will be pennies per year, if that--the amount of power a modern hard drive consumes is that negligible. Reducing the life span of a useful drive that will cost $200 to replace in order to save a dime just doesn't seem like a wise move.

In laptop computers, the situation is a little bit different since your primary concern is battery life, rather than performance or longevity. You have little choice but to use power management on your laptop; however, keep it turned off on your desktop computer.

Start > Control Panel > Power Management > Power Options> Home/office desk > Turn off hard disks > Never.


Disable the "Guest" account. Rename the "Administrator" account

This is for security reasons and is not necessary to do.

This is only valid for Windows XP Pro:

Administrator Tools --> Computer Management --> Local Users and Groups --> User folder --> Right click "Administrator" and select "Rename." Do NOT disable this account. You may need it someday.

This is only valid for Windows XP Home:

Everyone on XP Home, by default, has Administrator privileges and the User name is "Owner." If I know that, so does everyone else on the planet... change the name and password your account.


Start --> Control Panel --> User Accounts --> Choose "Owner" --> Select "Change my name."

Also, you should (will) place a password on your account.

Start --> Control Panel --> User Accounts --> Choose "Owner" (or what ever account you named it above) --> Select "Create a password."

Most, if not all, recording software, games and applications require you to have "Administrator Privileges" to install them and sometimes to use them.


Enable APM

This is not necessary, however if you install windows as "Standard PC" you may find that windows will not turn off your computer for you when you tell windows to shutdown. This is easy to fix by....

right hand click on the desktop>select properties>SCREEN SAVER>POWER>APM> and tick the box to enable. Now windows will turn off your computer after selecting "shut down".


Removing Messenger / MSN

Click on the start menu and select Run.
Copy and paste "RunDll32 advpack.dll,LaunchINFSection %windir%\INF\msmsgs.inf,BLC.Remove" into the text box and click on OK.
Let the process complete and MSN will be gone after a reboot.


Fast-User Switching

Available on XP Home Edition and on Professional when it's not part of a domain, fast user switching lets users of the same computer switch between accounts without logging off. It's a great feature when Mom, Dad and the twins all share the same computer, but keeping multiple user accounts active is a burden to a Pc's memory usage.

When more than one user is logged on, each user's settings remain active and the programs activated through his or her account remain open--even if someone switches to another user account. Sally left Word, Excel and Barbie Fashion Designer open and Bobby comes along, switches over to his account and attempts to play Red Faction, he will notice a definite degradation in performance compared to the last time he played it when Sally wasn't logged in.

Windows XP automatically disables fast user switching during installation if the computer has 64MB of RAM or less. For best performance, make sure only one user is logged in at a time, and if that becomes a nuisance, disable the feature altogether: go to Control Panel\User Accounts, click the "Change the way users log on or off" button, and uncheck "Use Fast User Switching".

Lose the Screen Savers

The need for screen savers evaporated in the early 1990s when monitor refresh rates increased, but people continue to buy them. There is absolutely no compelling reason to use them; from a technical standpoint, they do far more harm than good. The real danger with monitors is not the picture becoming permanently etched onto the screen; it's the phosphors wearing out from being overworked. Many screen savers have nearly as much movement as a fast-paced video game and make the monitor and CPU work about as hard as well. If your system is doing routine maintenance like scanning for viruses, checking hard disks for errors and correcting them, or de fragmenting hard disks--things it should be doing automatically, a screen saver interrupting those tasks will make them take much longer. If you're waiting for the computer to finish some time-intensive task, the screen saver steals valuable RAM and CPU power from that task. It also creates one more task for the computer to juggle--and one more reason for it to crash. Some screen savers have been known to crash systems.

Using the Blank Screen screen saver that comes with Windows is a good idea; it doesn't use any CPU power, and it gives your monitor's phosphors the opportunity to really rest, saving wear and tear on the monitor and reducing its power consumption. If you want to protect your monitor, use Blank Screen and give it a time-out period of 30 minutes. The use of any other screen saver causes more harm than good.

Some monitors eliminate the need for any screen saver altogether. If your monitor has digital on-screen controls, it may also have its own power management. If that's the case, set your monitor to put itself in power-saving mode after 30 minutes, which allows you to dispense even with the Blank Screen screen saver.

Lose the System Sounds and Desktop Schemes

The Microsoft Plus packs for Windows contain some gimmicks such as desktop themes than cause icons to spin as they're clicked. Unless you have an extremely high-end computer turn that stuff off. In many cases, it takes longer for the computer to spin the program's icon than it does to load and launch the program.

You also want to turn off animated cursors and system sounds, as these toys can steal large amounts of memory and CPU time. If you need system sounds to warn you of important things like critical events, program errors, or incoming mail, go ahead and use them, but refrain from assigning sounds to every event. On the majority of systems, I go into the Sounds control panel, select the schemes box, and set it to No Sounds.

If you want to express your creativity without dragging down your system or alienating your friends, family, or coworkers, there are other, less expensive ways to customize your system. Try coming up with your own color schemes, or changing Windows' font sets and sizes instead. Right-click on the desktop, select Properties, and click on the Appearance tab. Use those settings to express yourself, rather than CPU-hogging cursors and sounds. You can also try playing around with Lite-Step



Compressed Drives Don't use compressed drives for obvious reasons, more power to the CPU.

Virus Protection  While it is essential to have protection, don't leave it running in the background when recording. This goes for all programs especially ICQ. If u must have programs loaded then get more RAM, 512 Mb is the bare minimum for win-xp 1 gig is where its at these days especially with VST instruments or Virtual instruments. More things that run means more latency is needed and less tracks/effects.



Check Your Free Disk Space

If the free space on a hard disk falls to below 10% of the size of the drive, performance slows to an absolute crawl. The easiest way to quickly check your available disk space is to go START> My Computer>click once on C: The drive's capacity and free disk space will appear in the lower pane of the window. In Win-xp holding the mouse pointer over a Drive in My Computer, will pop up a message with the free space for you. As you will see by the next few topics free disk space really does impact your system more than what most people realize because of multiple factors.....read on.


Delete all .TMP files (temporary files)

Temp files are where the computer places information temporarily while it writes that information to disk or waits for you to tell it where that information is to go. What happens if you have heaps of TMP files in your computer, is that the computer goes to create the 00001.TMP file and that name is already taken up by another file so it then tries to use 00002.TMP file and if that one exists I'm sure you can guess what then happens....All this wastes both a computers time and power... After a year or two of using windows, you may find heaps of TMP files which waste space and CPU power.

Start > Search> Files or folders > "*.tmp" will probably turn up some temp files. Ctrl-A-Shift-Del-Enter will banish them without sending them to the Recycle Bin.

TIP Windows XP now has a program built in which does this for you called. "Disk Cleanup" and is found with the system tools on the start bar. Manually checking is still a good idea.


Delete all Temp Internet Files

Internet Explorer cache (I.E. uses an inordinately high 10% of your available disk space for cache by default) and your Internet Explorer cookies. If you delete the folders where the cache and cookies are stored, Internet Explorer will rebuild them next time it's launched. I don't recommend newbies do this, instead follow the TIP below.

TIP Once again you can change a setting to stop this from EVER becoming a problem. INTERNET EXPLORER>TOOLS>INTERNET OPTIONS>ADVANCED tick the option "empty Internet temporary file folder when browser is closed" If you have a slow modem then you may wish to decrease the maximum space for these files instead.


Defragment Your Hard Drive

After you maximize your free space, you want to Defragment your drive using Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter. Defragment whether Windows reports that you need to or not. There are strategies for de fragmenting, third-party utilities such as Norton's Speed Disk normally perform better than windows defrag.

Defragment your drive after you remove any large quantity of data from your hard drive. You should also make a habit of de fragmenting your drive once a month. Before an important recording session is also a good time to spend the time defragging (and I don't mean playing a quick game of unreal tournament)*smiles*.

The less free space you have on your hard drive, the faster your drive will become fragmented !!! The previous few topics are beginning to seem not so stupid after all.


Clean Out Your Startup Group

Loading programs in to RAM will force the computer to use the swap file for your important programs, see next topic below. I suggest using Startup Control Panel from this sites free software download area to unload all programs that load at startup. Virus protection should be removed or disabled since you can run it when it is needed. i.e.. When your downloading programs or checking e-mail.

TIP Windows has a program which can help although its not as good as the startup control panel software. START>RUN>"msconfig".... Use the Startup tab to untick everything except your audio cards mixer app. Win-xp hides all important programs from the user, which makes it very easy for newbies.