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02. How to optimize the overall Audio Performance for Windows

A fast processor and enough memory (RAM) are important for a high-quality sound card (interface), but they do not always guarantee that a computer will perform well when using Audio or DJ applications.

Check the following 5 options whenever there are performance issues on a particular PC. In case there is no issue at all, follow this rule: “Don’t touch a running system!” The optimization options below are written in order of reasonability.

Step 1: USB – Optimization #

1) As all computers are created differently, some USB ports may not be provided with the same amount of power and can share resources with other components. This can create problems such as audio interrupts and/or dropped samples. Try using the different USB ports on your computer until you find the one that works best.

2) It is also recommended to disable the USB port’s power management through Device Manager:
– Open the Device Manager in your system settings.
– Under “Universal Serial Bus Controllers”, Double-click on the USB root hub.
– In the Power Management tab, uncheck “Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power”.
– Repeat for all USB root hubs

3) Regarding USB hubs: Only quality-powered USB hubs should be used. However, it is recommended NOT to use a USB hubs during the driver installation and/or Firmware updates. Once the drivers are installed and you are certain that your sound card works as expected when connected directly to the computer`s USB port, then, test using a USB hub. As well, when connecting multiple devices to the same hub (such as external hard drives), keep in mind that they all have to share the USB ports bandwidth. This means that it is more likely to run into problems when the bandwidth limit of the USB port is reached

Step 2: Power Configuration – Optimization #

By design, laptops are configured to use as little power as possible in order to be operated on battery. This, however, is not desirable when it comes to audio applications. It is then preferable to use your computers power supply and to configure your laptop to run as a normal desktop computer:

Start > Settings > Control Panel > Power Options

a) For Windows XP
– Power Schemes should be set to “Always On”
– All other settings should be set to “Never”

b) For Windows Vista / 7
Under “Select a Power Plan”, choose High Performance

Your computer could have specific power options in the BIOS that may also require to be changed. Consult your computer’s documentation or the manufacturer web site for more details.

Processor (CPU) settings
Recent laptops incorporate a feature that reduces the speed of the processor. This allows to save energy, but again, is not desirable for audio purposes, as it may induce pops, clicks, and noise. This feature, known as CPU Throttling, SpeedStep or SmartCPU, is usually turned OFF when the computer’s power scheme is set to ALWAYS ON/ High Performance, but may also require changes in the BIOS.

Also, if your computer uses an Intel Pentium IV 3Ghz processor (or higher), it is recommended to disable HyperThreading from the computer’s BIOS. Regarding these features and their possibilities, please see your computer’s documentation or the manufacturer web site for more details.

Step 3: Hard drive and partition – Optimization #

Ideally, you should use multiple hard drives when working with audio and video applications; one is used for the operating system and software, while the others are used for the files being played and storage/backup. If this is not possible, creating multiple partitions on the same hard drive is the next suitable solution, which can provide similar results, preferably with fast drives (7200 rpm).

When using a USB external drive, please refer to the USB recommendations previously mentioned in Step 1.

Step 4: Internet & Antivirus #

Ideally, your computer should be dedicated to DJing performance, and as such, wouldn’t need to connect to the Internet. Under these circumstances, antivirus, firewall, and similar protection software should not be installed, as they can create problems during audio playback by constantly scanning the hard drives.

However, if you also use your computer for the Internet and obviously require protection software to be present, you can take the following steps to reduce the risks of disturbances before a performance:
– Disable your all protections programs (Antivirus, Firewall, etc)
– Disable any WI-FI or network connections
– Disable all communications software (Messenger, Skype, etc)
– Close all download applications (Bit-Torrents, etc)

Step 5: Software Applications #

It is always best to perform a clean install of any operating system, but as is often the case with many manufacturers, your computer probably came with Windows pre-installed and you were provided with a way to restore your system in case of a problem. A downside with this method is that the manufacturer also installs many programs and applications that you may never use, but might utilize precious memory and processor resources even if they are not running.

– Uninstall any applications and programs that you don’t need or use.
– Some programs may give you access to an option or preference menu that could allow you to prevent some taskbar applications from running or launching at startup. Disable the AutoStart for these Programs.