Submitted by thewhippinpost on Wed, 09/08/2006 - 11:48.
Tune your PC for optimal audio performance

Optimising your PC for audio work can be critical if you want to reduce your temper-to-creativity outburst ratio!

Frozen music applications, stuttering playback, recording, or the dreaded BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) can be minimised with a fully optimised Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).

Tune-up Your PC for Audio

Optimise Windows PC for Audio - XP

Tune-up your PC for ultimate audio performance

Tips on this page:


Disable Processes

Switch to Network Server

Ultra Hard Drive

Increase Swap Drive Space

Unload Fonts

Hardware Acceleration

Disable Active Desktop

Cubase SX - Optimising XP and Windows 2000


Below are several suggestions you can try out if you want to optimise your Windows-based PC for the ultimate audio performance.

Obviously, good care should be taken when trying any of these suggestions. If you're not a dab-hand at general PC care then you should exercise caution and make back-ups where needed.

In particular, read the disclaimer before employing the last tip for optimising Windows for Cubase SX

Good luck!


Defragment your hard drive regularly - Once a week is good. This will ease the pressure on the hard drive and speed up access times.

Over time, files get scattered all over the hard drive causing fragmentation, meaning the HD has to work harder to collect them for use. Defragmenting basically gathers them up and bunches them close together meaning the mechanism that sweeps the drive to read files, travels less "distance".

  • Right click on the drive you wish to defragment
  • Click Properties
  • Choose the Tools tab and defrag your drive from here.

Whilst you're at it, do a ScanDisk too to keep your drive in good shape

Disable Processes

Surprise background tasks performed by your computer can cause clicks, stutters, and just general must KILL THEM!

  • Disable screen saver
  • Disable virus scanner

Switch to Network Server

Some machines may benefit from significant performance gains by being set up as a Network Server - NOTE: the word some!. Downside is apparently the risk of data loss if it crashes. Therefore, it's really only recommended on stable machines, and where you notice an actual improvement:

Right-click on the My Computer icon on your desktop:

  • Select FILE SYSTEM

Where it says Desktop Computer:

  • Select Network Server instead
  • Restart Computer

Your computer has now had a boost!

Ultra Hard Drive

If you have a relatively new PC, chances are you will have an Ultra DMA hard drive. Unfortunately, Windows 95 and 98 are not set up to take advantage of the enormous speeds they are capable of working at. But it's simple to fix...

Open the Device Manager, click on the Disk Drives' section listed, and select the icon for the UDMA drive. Now click on the Properties button and then on the Settings tab. Check the box labelled DMA. Close all dialog boxes, and then restart your system.

Start » Settings » Control Panel » System » Device Manager » Disk Drives » Properties » Settings

Increase Swap Drive Space

When using large files that require more memory than your RAM allows, Windows has to make a decision on where to temporarily store the excess info. Basically it looks for a space on your hard drive which it can dump to, and/or pull from, as and when it's needed (hence why it's important to regularly defrag your drive). It manages this transfer through Virtual Memory.

Ideally your Swap Drive - or Virtual Memory - should be at least twice the size of your conventional RAM.

So if you have 64Mb of RAM then your swap drive should be 128Mb. Navigate to System Properties thus:

  • Start » Settings » Control Panel
  • Click: System » Performance » Virtual Memory
  • Select, "Let me specify my own virtual memory settings"

You can now set your own Virtual Memory settings. Depending on your hard drive space, try to set it to the maximum you possibly can.

Unload Fonts

If you have lots of programs installed chances are they've in turn, installed their own fonts, Over time these can accrue to a lot more than you actually use. The removal of a lot of fonts will bring about a noticeable performance improvement.

Control Panel » Fonts

From here you can remove all the fonts that you never use.

Hardware Acceleration

If you experience interruption in audio playback while the screen redraws, or when you move the mouse, or drag program windows around, or even while VU meters are moving, try turning "Hardware acceleration" down a couple of notches.

  • Control Panel » System » Performance » Graphics

Disable Active Desktop

Users of Internet Explorer 4 or later should ensure that Active Desktop is disabled.

  • Start » Settings » Control Panel » Display » Web

Cubase SX - Optimising XP and Windows 2000

Read disclaimer (below).

Before trying this, check your motherboard manual and the manufacturers' soundcard details - some soundcards don't recommend Standard PC.

If you're suffering from pops and clicks in your audio streams with no obvious explanation, read on...

First, look at the System Device Manager and check the IRQ's for all your devices. If they are the same (or many of them are) chances are ACPI is messing wid ya mind. If they're not, LEAVE WELL ALONE! Go no further. Stop here.

Buying a PC with Windows 2000 or XP pre-installed will often mean that it's not optimally configured for music applications.

When Windows goes through its installation routine, by default, it sets itself up in ACPI (Advanced Configeration and Power Interface) mode.

This applies a variety of internal settings that can affect the performance of the machine when it's placed under the sort of strain complex audio work can produce. In particular, an ACPI configured PC will generally route all IRQ assignments to just one IRQ, even if others are free!

Simply put, this'll mean any hardware on your machine - audio and graphics cards for example - may struggle for bandwidth across the PCI Buss on the motherboard (or, as someone in the film Full Metal Jacket quoted: It's "like sucking a golfball through a hosepipe!").

When you start throwing complex GUI's and high-res screen redraws through the graphics card while still trying to shuffle 16 tracks of 24-bit/96khz audio around, these two processes can begin to steal resources and lead to graphics problems, audio glitching and popping - Cubase SX is particularly sensitive to this and it's likely that ACPI is the culprit!.

If this sounds familiar, try this:

  • Open Control Panel
  • Go to Hardware Settings
  • Click the small '+' sign to the right of the computer entry

...if it says ACPI Advanced Uniprocessor PC, chances are your audio and graphics card are sharing IRQs...uh oh!

Windows XP users should

  • Right Click on ACPI
  • Select Update Drivers
  • Select from list
  • Select "Standard PC" (at the bottom)
  • Hit Apply.

Windows will now reboot and reinstall all of your hardware, assigning each item to an individual IRQ

Windows 2000 users, should not do it.

W2K doesn't like it and can't handle ACPI properly.


Some people warn that you should only convert from ACPI to Standard PC when installing the operating system, not after. Which leaves me, and ultimately you, wondering if this info will help you at all as I have to hereby dis-associate myself from any ill consequences whatsoever that may befall your computer if you follow this advice.

Sorry about that, I hate it too when I come to that fork in the road, do I, don't I? - If it makes you feel any better, this same advice was touted in Computermusic magazine...but that doesn't mean you can hold them responsible either!

For more information cruise on over to and/or Knowledge-base - Locate the article entitled, "ACPI Kills Audio Performance".