October 10, 2013, by Jon Tidey
Building and maintaining a stable DAW system is not an easy task.
There are many things that can prevent it from working as it should, and it can be difficult to figure out the cause of any trouble.
Before you do any of these tips, make sure that the computer you have will actually work with the software you want to use.
For example if you want to use Pro Tools, there are specific approved components and doesn’t work with every operating system.
Check the compatibility section of their website first and save yourself a lot of frustration.
Step 1 – Make sure your software and drivers are up to date
For Windows I found a great program called RadarSync free edition to tell me what needs to be updated and where to download the latest version of the software and drivers.
A PC might have parts from a dozen manufacturers and tracking down new drivers can be a pain, RadarSync makes it much easier.
For updates to Windows, you can use their website, or use a program called AutoPatcher that gives you more options. It’s great if you have a few computers to update.
On the Mac side of things it’s somewhat simpler, system components don’t vary so much and the operating system updates will keep things right.
Use the Combo Updates from the Apple website rather than automatic updates.
Step 2 – Antivirus
You do not need anti-virus and anti-spyware software on a Mac a PC. Honestly, for the past year I’ve had no anti-virus or anti-spyware programs installed and I’ve had the windows firewall turned off.
I’ve also had the computer turned on and connected to the internet the whole time. I run a scan about every 4 months just to see and there’s nothing wrong.
There are 3 reasons why I don’t need it. 1 – I use Firefox which has always been a safer browser. 2 – I have a router with firewall, and 3 – Common sense.
Step 3 - Hard drives
For the best performance, record to a second internal or external drive, not the system drive.
This goes for macs and PCs. For external drives Firewire and E-Sata are the most reliable.
People say USB 2 is just as good or better than firewire, but that has not been my experience and the people writing the software you use for recording will agree.
Step 4 - Maintenance
Cleaning up a Mac and getting it ready to record is pretty simple.
—Open disk utility and repair disk permissions. Do this after any major upgrade or software installation.
—Turn off AirPort and bluetooth, these can reduce preformance
—Turn Time Machine off, if it’s on automatic it can interrupt the system and stop recording
—Turn off spotlight indexing on your recording drive - this can interrupt a recording
On a PC there are similar things to do.
—Turn off automatic updates, use autopatcher once a month for critical updates only
—If you insist on anti-virus software, turn it off when recording
—Run a defragging program once in a while, once a month or if you notice drive performance reduced.
—Run a program called Crap Cleaner to clear accumulated temp files and fix registry issues
—Turn off wireless and bluetooth
—Turn off disk compression and indexing
Step 5 – Keep it clean
Just because there are hundreds of free plugins available doesn’t mean you should get them all, it’s a really bad idea.
Similarly just because you can acquire expensive software without much effort doesn’t mean you should and if you do, expect problems.
It’s not worth the frustration. I’ve seen a lot of weird things happen due to plugins that were questionable.
The smaller your plugin folder is the faster the program will start and faster you can get working. Trust me on this, you don’t need a dozen different compressors.
Jon Tidey is a Producer / Engineer who runs his own studio, EPIC Sounds, and enjoys writing about audio on his blog AudioGeekZine.com. To comment or ask questions about this article go here.