Optimizing Your Computer For Music Production

Optimizing Your Computer For Music Production

In my work producing music I am often looking for ways to squeeze that last bit of power out of my processor and over time I have found a few different ways of tweaking my machine to do just that.
The following is a list of tweaks and tricks that I currently use to get the most out of my computers and although the guide is directed more at people who use their computers for intensive applications such as video games, audio/graphics editing etc, it should still be of some use to everyone.

N.B:  I currently use Windows Vista and as such these tweaks will mainly apply to Windows Vista and 7 users, however, XP users can still pick up some useful tips along the way.


1. Disable Aero and Transparency
It may look fancy but the transparent Aero theme used in Windows Vista and 7 is quite frankly a waste of valuable resources.

To do this:
Press the Windows Key on your keyboard and select Control Panel. (Make sure your control panel is set to classic view – to do this click classic view on the left hand menu)
Next, double click on the Personalization icon to open the personalization menu.
Click on windows colour and appearance.
Click the Open classic appearance properties for more colour options text.This will open up the appearance settings menu. Select Windows Vista Basic (Aero Basic in windows 7) by clicking once on it and then press the apply button.

For those of you who want to go hardcore you could use the Windows classic theme, however, the difference between vista/aero basic and classic seems to be negligible.


2. Disable Your Screensaver
We all love a nice screensaver (ooh wow that really looks like a fish tank) but they are one of the worst offenders for stealing computer power, particularly if you are running Audio, graphics or video programs.

To disable you screensaver press the Windows Key on your keyboard and select Control Panel.
If you have been following so far you should already be in classic view, if not, click the Classic View text on the left hand side. Next, Select Personalization and click on Screensaver.
Now, on the new screen select none from the drop-down menu, then, click apply.
If you really want to use a screensaver, try windows logo, as this seems the be the least offensive for using RAM .


3. Change Mouse Pointer Style
This is not a massive resource saver, however, I would recommend it all the same.
Press the Windows Key on your keyboard and select Control Panel
Next, Select Personalization and click on Mouse Pointers.
You should now be looking at the mouse properties box, from the tabs at the top click Pointers.
At the top of the new menu you will see a dropdown menu marked scheme. From here select NONE and click Apply.


4. Change Power Options (laptop users)
This is a pretty important tweak, especially for laptop users. When set to conserve power, the windows power management system limits the speed of your processor in an effort to keep the temperature down and negate the need to use cooling fans, thus, saving power. It ‘allegedly’ also spins the hard drive down to a lower speed in order to save power.
Be warned that this will make your battery run out a bit quicker, but it will make your computer faster when using more intensive applications (games, DAW’s, Graphics programs, etc.)

Press the Windows Key on your keyboard and select Control Panel.
Select Power Options.
Click the circular button next to High Performance to activate high performance and then click Change Plan settings.

Set Put the computer to sleep as never for both plugged in and on battery. You can set the rest of the options to your own personal preferences, however, make sure the computer can never go to sleep without your say so.


5. Turn off Drive Indexing
When drive indexing is enabled Windows will automatically search your drive and create a list of the files on there, this makes the windows file search run quicker, however, this is an ongoing process running in the background that is really unnecessary.

To disable Drive Indexing press the Windows Key on your keyboard and select My Computer.
Right click on your hard disk drive and select Properties.
Select the General tab from the top of the menu.
At the bottom of the menu you should see ‘Index this drive for faster searching’ next to a text box.
If this box is checked, un-check it and click apply.

Repeat this for all of the hard drives installed on your system.


Tips and Tricks

Tip 1# Try to keep 30-50% of your total space on each hard-drive free and never let free space fall below 10%.

Tip 2# Use a good defragmentation program to manage the space on your hard-drive.
I use O&O Defrag as it has many different methods of defragmentation. If you often play video games, use audio engineering applications or video editing software use O&O defrag to defragment your hard drive using the COMPLETE/modified method.

Tip 3# Use Disk Cleanup to delete old system restore files and junk files. To do this press The Windows Key + R and in new box type cleanmgr.exe then press run.
Click More Options and select the clean-up button at the bottom of the screen, this will delete all but the most recent system restore point and should free up a lot of space. Go back to the disk cleanup tab and select the options you would like to clean.

CATUION: Do not select Hibernation File Cleaner if you regularly use hibernation on your system.

Tip 4# Use an ASIO Driver, for good, low latency audio recording.  A universal version of this driver for Windows is available at: http://www.asio4all.com/

Tip 5# When you are recording external audio set the buffer on your audio driver as low as your computer can manage to avoid problems with latency. When you are mixing increase the size the buffer as latency will no longer be an issue, however, try increasing the buffer in increments as you need to find a good balance between audio driver performance and processor performance.

Following these tips should free up a reasonable amount of resources and help to stop your computer from cramping up.

If any of you have any problems feel free to leave them in the comments section below and I will try to help.

Ryan Davies is a Freelance Composer & Sound Designer for Video Games, Film and multimedia. If you need sound or music for a project you are working on, you can find Ryan on Google+ or get in touch via Twitter (@rynde) or LinkedIn