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Tuning WinXP for Recording

Got a PC as a dedicated DAW? If so to optimize your system for recording you need to tune WinXP for recording.

Before Install Windows

As a final resort, to free up IRQ's, you can consider disabling unused devices in the BIOS. For example,
  • There are very few devices that still use COM or Parallel ports, disable these and this will give you extra IRQ's.
  • If you don't use your motherboard USB, then disable this.
  • Always best to keep your DAW off the Internet - diable any on board NICs
  • Any other unused devices can also be disabled in the BIOS if it lets you

    Tuning WinXP

  • It is best to reboot after a series of changes to clean the slate of any system components that may be running. For example, make all of the Service changes at once, and then reboot before making other changes.
  • Check all of the running applications in your System Tray. Turn off any you do not need, as they take up memory and resources, as well as increasing boot time. The general procedure is to right-click and uncheck settings like "load at startup" and "run in background". Then exit the applet. In particular, disable Windows Messenger
  • Stop unnecessary apps from running on boot-up by removing their shortcuts from your Start Menu Startup folder.
  • Disable visual effects in Control Panel -- Display -- Appearance -- Effects. Turn off things like "Show window contents while dragging".
  • To speed up screen redraws, set colour depth to 16 bits in Control Panel -- Display -- Settings.
  • Turn off the screen saver in Control Panel -- Display -- Screen Saver. On this same panel, set monitor power saving to "always on" and turn off any hard disk or CPU power down features.
  • In Control Panel -- Sounds and Audio Devices turn off system sounds as these can interfere with recording.
  • In Control Panel -- System -- Advanced choose "adjust for best performance" under Visual Effects and "adjust for best performance of background services" under Processor Settings. This ensures the lowest latency with ASIO drivers.
  • Disable "fast user switching" in Control Panel -- User Accounts Change
  • Disable unnecessary "System Services" in Control Panel -- Performance and Maintenance -- Administrative Tools -- Services. This can save between 12 and 70 MB of RAM. However, doing so is for advanced users only. Be sure you know what you are turning off! For a detailed reference see the Black Viper site. Some of the following tips assume a knowledge of these Services.
  • If you wish, disable System Restore to reclaim about 3GB of space.
  • Disable Themes to save 4-12 MB RAM by going to Control Panel -- Performance and Maintenance -- System -- Advanced -- Performance Settings -- Visual Effects and selecting "Adjust for best performance". Then disable the Themes Service.
  • Disable Automatic Updates
  • In XP Pro, turn off "Remote Assistance" and "Remote Desktop Sharing" in Control Panel -- Performance and Maintenance -- System -- Remote.
  • Disable "Disk I/O Performance Logging" by selecting Run from the Start Menu and typing diskperf n.
  • Disable "Write Behind Caching" in Control Panel -- System -- Hardware -- Device Manager. Select each drive, choose Properties and uncheck "Write Cache Enabled".
  • Check DMA settings in Device Manager (access as above). Under the "IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers" branch of the tree, do the following for both Primary and Secondary Controllers: right-click, select "Properties", go to the Advanced Settings tab, ensure "Transfer mode" is set to "DMA if available" and "Device Type" to "Auto Detection". If these options do not exist, you likely need a BIOS update for your motherboard.
  • Disable AutoPlay so CDs don't start up automatically.
  • After all of your installations, uninstalls, and optimisations are complete, defragment your hard drives. Do this periodically or after major file changes. If you followed the partition advice given earlier, you can quickly defrag your current work partition after each work session.
  • Download BootVis from MSDN and run it now and whenever the system changes significantly. It will optimise files on the disk for fastest sequential access during boot-up.
  • Processor scheduling should be set to background services and not Programs (Start > Settings > Control Panel > System > Advanced > Performance Settings > Advanced Tab > Background Services)
  • Disable Fast User Switching (Start > Settings > Control Panel > User Accounts > Change the way users log on or off > Untick Use Fast User Switching)
  • Switch Off Hibernation
  • Do Not Map Through Soundcard
  • Startup and Recovery Options (Start > Settings > Control Panel> System > Advanced > Startup and Recovery Settings > Untick Automatically Restart)
  • Disable Error Reporting
  • Fix Swap File (Virtual Memory) (Start > Settings > Control Panel > System > Advanced > Performance Settings > Advanced > Virtual Memory Change > Custom Size. Set initial and maximum size to the same value). It's also a good idea to defrag your drive after changing Virtual Memory. If you have access to a third party defragging utility (like System Suite, Disk Keeper, etc.), it's preferable to defrag with it, rather than Windows defrag utility, which doesn't do a true reorder of a swap file. (Note: Some users advise disabling virtual memory for increased performance. This is not practical for all systems.)
  • Speed Up Menus (Start > Run > Regedit > HKEY_CURRENT_USER > Control Panel > Desktop Folder. Set MenuShowDelay to 1)
  • Disable Offline Files
  • Disable Internet Synchronise Time
  • Disable Hide Inactive Icons
  • Disable Automatic Desktop Cleanup Wizard
  • Disable NTFS Last Access Time Logging (NTFS File Systems Only) (Start > Run > regedit > HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > System > CurrentControlSet > Control > Filesystem. Add a new DWORD value - "NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate" and set value to 1.)
  • Disable Notification Area Balloon Tips
  • Disable Disc Indexing Service
  • Disable write behind caching

    Other Helpful Tips

  • Complete your security setup by modifying your accounts. For XP Pro disable the "Guest" account and rename (not disable) the "Administrator" account.
  • Do not customise the Virtual Memory swap file, despite some recommendations to the contrary.
  • Do not install virus scanning apps that load in the background or run as services.
  • Do not install RealPlayer, Quicktime, games, or any other large multimedia system. In fact, install only what you need to get work done, at least on your audio boot partition. Play around with new plugins and fun stuff on your other OS copy.
  • If you change the Windows registry manually (recommended for experts only), make the change to a .REG file, and archive all of these so you can replicate the changes easily.
  • Note where apps store their configuration info and try to standardise this. Don't forget to backup this data.
  • To improve system stability, at the cost of slightly decreased performance, go to Computer -- Tools -- Options -- View and turn on "Launch folder windows in a separate process".

    These links are where the above information came from: MusicXP.net XP for Audio

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