Does your DAW need a wash and brush up? As producers we spend a lot of time trying to get the best performance from our studio computers. Here’s 10 of my suggestions for getting the best from your Windows Digital Audio Workstation.

This is not a detailed discussion but of course if anyone would like to go into more detail on any of the subjects then please feel free to comment.


Go 64 Bit (Hardware)

Intel i7

Most modern motherboards can run a 64 bit Operating System. Even if your host application does not run natively 64 bit – There is still a lot to be gained by switching to a 64 bit OS. I’m not going to go into a rambling lecture on this now but to put it simply – A 64 bit system enables you to use more of your computer’s memory.

Ahh but a 32 bit application can only use up to 2GB of memory at a time.

This is true. But this also means that every 32 bit application can use the maximum.

Also you may have noticed with a 32 bit system that even if you have 4GB of RAM, Windows only sees 2.6 or 2.8 or some percentage of that full amount. Your system will only see what windows has left after reserving some for its own purposes. Downer!

With a 64 bit system and OS – Windows will see the full amount.

Steps 2 and 3 are of course integral to this scenario.

How do I do it?

Simple – Make sure your motherboard and processor will handle 64 bit. Make sure your sound card and other peripherals have 64 bit drivers available. Get a 64 bit OS (See below). Install… Done.


Increase memory

DDR3 RAM

Memory is life. If you have a slightly older system it may even be worth getting rid of your existing memory and adding a new set that will allow the maximum for your motherboard. Older memory can be very cheap. If you are building a new rig – think about this from the start.

How do I do it?

Well if you’re in the UK – Go to Crucial and use their Memory Advisor. Remember, to get best performance most memory has to be in matched pairs (DDR2) or matching sets of 3 (DDR3). For example, my current machine has 6 slots. I went for 6X4GB which gives me 24 GIG of RAM. Nice.


Get Windows 7 64 Bit

Windows 7 64 Bit

Obviously all this harping on about 64 bit requires a 64 bit OS. Windows 7 rocks. Simple as. Many folks had bad experiences with Vista and are still afraid to move from XP. Believe me – Make the move – you will not regret it.

How do I do it?

Well that’s easy. Check the above requirements. All OK? Buy Windows 7. Install… Done.


Get a faster hard drive and dedicate it to audio

WD Velociraptor

Hard drives are very cheap these days. But many folks still use a single drive for the OS and everything else. Getting a separate drive for your projects can make a huge difference to performance and stability. Especially if you go for a faster drive. There are lots of options (too many to discuss here). Solid State is becoming affordable but still quite limited in capacity. Also some are not as fast they lead you to believe. The Western Digital Velociraptors are still great and get a WD Black for your media too while you’re at it.

How do I do it?

Search for the best deals on drives. There are many ways to clone or copy info from one drive to another – That’s another subject.


Go 64 Bit Native

Cubase 6

OK. So you have your 64 bit OS running but still some of your plugins and VSTi are only available in 32 bit versions. So you are forced to:

  •   Run in 32 bit mode
  •   Run 64 bit using bitbridge (Cubase/Nuendo)
  •   Run 64 bit using jBridge

All are options that work to a degree but you simply cannot beat using nothing but 64 bit plugins and VSTi in a 64 bit host. Most developers are conscious of this now and are starting to release 64 bit native versions of their software. There are still some that are lagging behind. For me (and many I know) it is a very important part of making a new purchase… Do you have a 64 bit version and if not when?

Don’t complain about the Bitbridge – It is trying to do an almost impossible task. Instead complain to your plugin developers and get them to go 64 bit now!

Once this step is taken, your system will be taking FULL advantage of ALL memory. You can then start to run some very large projects, samples sets etc. with much more stability and much less hassle. (Anyone who uses Kontakt for orchestral work for example will appreciate this).

How do I do it?

Check with your favourite plugin and VSTi developers. You may be surprised how many are actually available in 64 bit. Refuse to buy unless the manufacturers promise they are going to release 64 bit version soon.

 

Organise and back up!

Project Folder Maker

Running a DAW is like running your studio’s business. The more organised you are the easier things become for you AND for your machine to handle. We’ve all come across those folks who have trouble finding files and projects and songs. The same folks who never reply to emails and forget to return your calls, making their clients (or potential ones) suffer. Well – Would you want your DAW to suffer in the same way?

Also, anyone who has ever lost data will know – There is no such thing as backing up too much. The cost of your DAW is always large for sure but your DATA is what is really worth its weight in silicon.

How do I do it?

Get organised. Make folders in advance. Anticipate what you might need and where you might need it to go. Use my free Folder maker if it helps. It might take you a few extra minutes to set up before you start work but will save you HOURS later on.

Get a decent backup solution before it’s too late. I use a number of external hard drives for this but to save on space I have started using a USB > SATA Docking Station. Simply plug the station into a USB port. Then buy any number of normal SATA drives and slot into the station. Voilà – Loads of external storage – One hub – Less physical space.

USB - SATA Docking Station

You can find some of my applications to help in this area at the Applications section of this site.

 

Uninstall unused Plugins

You know how it is – We all like to try demos and we all have stuff lying around on the DAW that never gets used. It’s arguable that unused plugins don’t affect the performance of your DAW. But one thing is certain, the simpler the set up – the better.

How do I do it?

Be bold. Remove that plugin that you haven’t used for months.

 

Hacks and tweaks – No thanks.

If you search around you will find many complicated and clever ways to tweak your registry and various other things in order to apparently increase performance. My advise on this: Windows 7 – No need to worry. Yes, in the days of the old dinosaur XP there were a number of standard (and not so standard) tweaks. Some were almost essential.

Windows 7 really does everything for you. No need to waste time on too many tweaks.

How do I do it?

Get Windows 7 – Relax – You’re in good hands.


Use Crap Cleaner

Crap Cleaner

But erm, you just said…

Ahhh well… The one and only tweak I ever use and recommend. Crap Cleaner. It’s not really a tweak anyway it just helps you get rid of crap. Getting rid of crap is always a good thing. Especially when it is just crap and nothing useful.

How do I do it?

Download CCleaner It’s free. Set it up and run once in a while. Even the registry cleaning side of it is OK.


Ask questions


Never be afraid to ask. There is no such thing as a stupid question. There is always something to learn… Always.

How do I do it?

Swallow pride – Politely ask question. Receive knowledge and friendship in return.

 

I know there has been a big emphasis on 64 bit here but it is something I really have had a very positive experience with. Especially now that the technology has started to catch up. These are my personal opinions. Everyone has opinions right? My hope is that – at the very least – it may get a few people thinking about making the move to 64 bit and getting organised and backed up.

You can find my current DAW system info here: http://www.pendlebury.biz/papbiz/sysinfo

If you have any thoughts or further suggestions I would be very glad to hear from you. Just use the comments area below.

Thanks for reading.