Optimizing Windows for Audio – Pt 1

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Matthew Boudreau

Producer/Sound Designer
Matthew J Boudreau is an award-winning audio producer and sound designer. His work has been featured in Aural Stage Studios audio theatre productions 1918, Intensive Care and Dialed In. He is the lead sound designer on Blackstone Audio’s release of FinalRune’s The Cleansed, Seasons One and Two. He has also worked on the independent films The Big Bad by Gotta/Enk Productions and 25 Cents for Love by Starving Artist Productions. Matthew has worked with talent from all over the world, including London, New York, Los Angeles, Belgium.

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Regardless what Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) you run, processing audio takes a lot of horsepower and a lot of resources, especially if, like me, you run a lot of tracks and plugins.  Fortunately, there are a number of settings you can  adjust to speed up your Windows-based  system to perform its best.

Turn Off User Account Control

uac

You know that nag screen that tells you need administrator access to do this, and asks you if you’re sure you want to do that?  That layer of protection that annoys and frustrates you can also slow down your system as it analyzes what you are trying to run… every time you try to run it.

There are a number of debates on whether or not to disable UAC, many of which eventually degrade into name-calling and character assassination, instead of looking at the issue rationally.  The fact is that turning off UAC does technically make your computer less secure, but only in the way that asking “Do you want fries with that” makes you gain more wait.  Ultimately, the program only verifies that you have the choice whether you want to run software that is not licensed or verified through Microsoft.  And while the function also keeps ActiveX controls  and other potential malware-inhabited software from automatically installing on your system, so do most antivirus and anti-malware protections.

As for me?  I turn it off.

uac

Steps:

  1. Click Start and open up the Control Panel
  2. Click User Accounts
  3. Click Change User Account Control Settings
  4. Move the slider to Never Notify (Note: This will cause your computer to be less secure – see above)
  5. Click OK.
  6. Restart your computer

Update Drivers

Update your hardware drivers – especially for your audio interface, graphics card and network adapter drivers.

“What,” you ask, “I’m, working in sound.  How do my graphics card and network adapter enter into this?”

It all boils down to processor  consumption.  Newer drivers often update how efficiently your hardware uses your processor.  Always-on hardware, like your network adapter and graphics cards use a ton of processor bandwidth.  While most graphics cards have a built-in processor, older drivers often don’t use them effectively and the remaining processing goes to to the CPU.

There are a few ways to update your Windows drivers.  You can check Windows optional updates for the latest Windows drivers for your hardware.  You can also go to the vendor’s support section and make sure you have the most updated drivers.

IObit

I use the driver manager built into the IObit toolbox.  Advance System Care works well, too, but I prefer not to tie up my system resources with yet another program running in the background.

Uninstall Unnecessary Software

uninstall

Remove software you don’t use, especially bloatware that came with your computer.  Some of these programs run in the background on your computer and tie up RAM and processor resources.  All of them take up vital hard drive space, making your computer work around them to seek and access drive space.  A clean drive is a fast drive.

Reduce Startup Programs

Many programs install themselves by default to run on startup.  While this is a convenient way to quickly launch programs you use regularly, it can also tax your system resources.

ccleaner

You can use the MSCONFIG method or the fore-mention IObit software solutions.  I prefer using CCleaner, which shows not only what Windows software is running when you start up, but also how many of those resource-intensive Chrome apps and extensions you didn’t know were sapping your system of its will to process. That said, IObit’s Startup Manager gives you an evaluation of whether the software is necessary to keep running.

Defrag

Defragging your hard drives and registry optimizes the speed and efficiency of your computer to seek, access and write data.  Defragmenting is not required on a solid state drive (SSD).  On a standard HDD, however, it is invaluable.

defrag

While Windows comes in with a built-in Defrag program, I prefer IObit’s Smart Defrag and Registry Defrag (Part of the toolbox).  They works faster and the Smart Defrag can be set to run when you are not using your computer for an extended period.

Of course, that means you have another resource running in the background, so you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons and make that choice for yourself.

Restart

Restarting your computer frees up system resources and clears RAM of residual programs running in the background from other software.

restart

Working on your computer after a reboot is like working on a project after a good night’s sleep.  After the obligatory wake-up period, your system processes data more efficiently. And you don’t even have to offer it any of your life-sustaining coffee.

Anything you can do to decrease the time your computer spends locating data and places to put it, increases your computers performance.  That means more tracks, more plug-is and less hiccups overall. Next week, I’ll cover some more advanced tricks you can use to increase your system’s ability to process audio.