101

 

Windows Audio Optimization 101

 

Since Windows 95, audio professionals have been optimizing their system for improved performance. Still to this day, there are numerous background tasks in Windows that degrade audio performance, causing clicks, pops and crashes. Turning off resource hogging background tasks is known to bring low-latency, glitch-free DAW performance. Before we jump into the updated list of windows audio optimizations, it's important to understand the importance of quality hardware. A computer is the centerpiece of a game audio studio and by far the most important tool. The three main hardware components are a strong CPU, plenty of quality RAM and a dedicated audio drive. Both the system drive and external should be an SDD drive. These solid state drives have no moving parts and run much faster than traditional drives.

windosws audio workstation

 

If a PC is the centerpiece of your game audio studio, it will likely benefit from a performance and speed boost. Audio software, virtual instruments and plugins can cripple a computer and cause unwanted down-time. Ideally, you shouldn't even have anti-virus software on your DAW. Even when it's "off", it's still running in the background, and taking up RAM. Wireless LAN adapters are more problematic than wired ones, and should be disabled completely. Don't just "disconnect from the network" but rather, find them and disable them. It's also important to disable any power-saving features in the computer's CMOS/UEFI. This must accessed in the boot menu and varies from system to system. Put on the detective hat and get in there. The following tweaks are a good place to start. Windows 10 is the most stable OS version but many of these will work with Windows 7 as well as Windows 8. Always backup before optimizing your system.

Adjust the PC for high performance

The CPU may must be running at full speed all of the time:

1. Go to: Control Panel>Power Options

2. Choose "High Performance"

3. Then click the "Change plan settings" button. Make sure both power options are set to "Never".

Disable system sounds

System notification sounds can interrupt audio so it's important to disable them:

1. Go to control panel and select "Sound"

2. Go to the sounds tab

3. Under sounds scheme, select "No sounds"

4. Click "Apply" then, "OK"

Disable User Account Control (UAC)

This helps alleviate and prevent installation and registration issues. To disable UAC, click the start button. In the Search Box type UAC and press ENTER.

In the UAC window, slide the slider down to 'never notify' and press OK

System Restore and Indexing

1. Start/Control Panel/System and Security/System

2. Choose System Protection (on left)

3. Choose Continue (if UAC is active)

4. Select System Protection Tab (should be there already)

5. Select a hard drive listed under "Protection" that has "On" in the column

6. Select the Configure button

7. Select the "Turn off system protection" radio button

8. Drag the "Max Usage" slider all the way to the left to 1%

9 .Select the Delete button to trash current backups

10. Select the Ok button to apply the settings (you may get several warning dialogs that you have too little space allocated or that you are deleting old restore points. You can now disable the Windows Search Feature:

With the default Category Control Panel:

1. Go to Start/Control Panel/Programs

2. Select "Turn Windows Features on or off"

3. Scroll down to Windows Search and uncheck it

4. Select the Ok button to close the panel

Remote Assistance / Remote Desktop

1. Go to Start/Control Panel/System and Security

2. Choose System

3. Choose Remote settings (on the left side)

4. Select the Continue button (if UAC is active)

5. Uncheck "Allow Remote Assistance connections to this computer " option

6. Check the "Don't allow connections to this computer" option

7. Select the Ok button to apply the settings

Power Options

Go to: Control Panel>Power Options

Choose "High Performance"

Then click the "Change plan settings" button. Make sure both power options are set to "Never"

1. Go to control panel and select "Sound"

2. Go to the sounds tab

3. Under sounds scheme, select "No sounds"

4. Click "Apply" then, "OK"

5. Go to the Playback Tab

6. Select your device and click Properties.

7 Within Properties, Go to the Advanced tab.

8. Uncheck the two boxes under Exclusive Mode.

9. Do this for all devices under the Playback and Recording tabs in Sound Settings.

Processor Scheduling

In control panel select "system"

Go to "Advanced system settings" and then the "Advanced" tab

Click on "Settings.." under Performance to bring up the "Performance Options" window.

Go to the "Advanced" tab and set processor scheduling as "Background Services"

Click "Apply" then "OK"

Disable Windows Firewall, anti-virus and spyware software

These should all be disabled to ensure that no interferences occur during audio recording or playback and to ensure that maximum resources are available. To remain secure while your firewall and antivirus disabled, it is advisable to temporarily disconnect from any internet connections when working with audio. This will also make sure that no network adapters are conflicting with any audio.

Disable Visual effects

The visual features in Windows 10 can use resources that could otherwise help to improve audio performance. As a start, it is good idea to disable some of the visual features by doing the following:

Bring back up the "Performance Options" window by following step 3 above and clicking on the "Visual Effects" tab and selecting "custom".

Untick: "Animate windows when minimising and maximising" to help prevent glitches when minimising and maximising. You can also experiment with disabling other visual effects in the custom list to see how they improve audio performance.

Once finished, press "OK"

Disable USB Power Management

This helps prevent power issues with devices that are powered by USB.

1. Open Control Panel, then click on Device Manager.

2. Open the Universal Serial Bus Controllers menu.

3. Right click on the USB Root Hub in the menu and choose Properties

4. Go to the Power Management tab and un-check the the box to 'allow the computer to turn off'

5. Repeat this for each of the USB Root Hub's that show up in device manager

Enabling Write Cache

1. This helps alleviate poor hard drive performance. In Device Manager open the Disk Drives menu.

2. For all of your hard drives, right click on the drive name and select Properties

3. Go to the Policies tab and check the boxes to "Enable write caching" and "Turn off Windows write-cache buffer flushing"

(For external hard drives, change the option from "optimize for quick removal" to "optimize for performance")

(For internal drives, make sure "enable write caching" and "turn of Windows write-cache buffering" are both checked.

For external drives, just check "better performance" is selected

BIOS

Every computer has a BIOS and it's important to make sure yours is up to date. Check with the manufacturer to ensure you have the latest and greatest firmware update. Once inside your computers BIOS, look for "Intel Speedstep", EIST, or "AMD Cool n' Quiet", and disable it. These tend to downshift your CPU clock cycles to conserve electricity and can interfere with DAW processes on a PC and can degrade performance.

Advanced Tweaks

For those seeking to squeeze even more performance from their Game Audio Workstation, advanced tweaks will disable even more useless services that run in the background and drain system resources. Head over to Black Vipers list of Service Configurations and get to work. This site has been around for ages with detailed info on each Windows OS. Although it's geared toward hardcore gamers, your audio workstation will benefit greatly. Get in-depth hardware info with a diagnostic scan from HWinfo for detailed stats on each component in your system.

DAW optimizations

DAW Specific Optimizations

Let's face it. Some people use Pro Tools and others use Ableton, Cubase, FL Studio or Reason. Each program has a user forum where the community experiments with various settings. Here you can often find new performance tweaks while becoming more proficient.

Pro Tools - The Windows PT users forum has a wealth of helpful info. Check out this custom script a user made to instantly improve the performance of PT12 for Windows users: Avid Pro Community Here are the official optimization lists from Avid: Avid Knowledge Base

Ableton Live - Here is a helpful post from Ableton on Windows optimizations. Ableton Tweaks You can also join the official Ableton Forum and join the community

Reaper - A favorite amongst game audio professionals, this software is highly customizable and this forum post helps with general performance optimizations: Reaper Forum

FL Studio - Maximize performance on Windows with this official guide from Image Line: Optimizing FL Studio

 

Related:

Mac Audio Tweaks