Tech Tip: Optimizing Windows for DAWs

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As anyone who has struggled to get their Windows OS to play nice with DAW hardware and software knows, the process can be frustrating. The folks at Steinberg who make Cubase, Nuendo, and a vast range of hardware interfaces and controllers feel your pain. They’ve come up with an excellent checklist of things to do that’ll help get your computer talking to your DAW gear and applications without the glitches that can disrupt your recording sessions.

Steinberg UR824 with Cubase AI 6

Follow the 11 tips offered below to get your PC playing nice with all your DAW hardware such as the Steinberg UR824 with Cubase AI 6.

1. Please examine your system and make sure that all device drivers of the system are up to date. This involves the drivers of the audio hardware as well as the chipset drivers and the display card drivers. Also Windows should be up to date (Service Packs and updates/hot fixes). You should avoid using dedicated mouse and keyboard drivers, instead use the drivers provided by Windows!

2. Systems with shared memory display setups are not advisable. They often can be found on mobile systems (laptops).

3. In the Control Panel -> System -> Advanced system settings -> Performance Settings, you can find the option "Adjust for best performance". This option should be checked.

4. Audio interface related settings:

  • Onboard sound cards: If your mainboards provides an onboard sound card it should be configured to be the standard playback device in the Windows Sound and Audio Settings. Thus, the Windows system sound will be played back by the onboard device without affecting the audio signal of your audio interface or soundcard. However, if playback issues occur it can also be advisable to deactivate the onboard device in the BIOS of your system. Onboard soundcards cannot be recommended for the usage with our products since they do not allow working with low latencies due to missing ASIO drivers. Furthermore, some onboard sound chips are equipped with substandard AD/DA converters and only offer low signal quality (high noise level, non-linear frequency response, bad electrostatic shield).
  • Latency/Buffer Setting: If you experience audio drop-outs or crackles take a look at the "ASIO" part of the VST Performance Window (Devices menu). It indicates how much resources are left to calculate the audio data and forward it to the audio driver in time. If the latency is very low (which is corresponding to a very small buffer size) time might be too short for proper signal processing. Depending on the system, the audio interface and the running project, it might make sense to increase the latency/buffer setting. Please refer to the manual of the corresponding audio interface for details. Updating the audio driver might also improve the overall system performance and allow using latencies which weren't usable before. Generally, internal audio cards using the PCI or PCIe bus are able to provide lower latencies than external USB or Firewire based audio interfaces.

5. Any energy saving option should be deactivated or set to "none". The system should be configured for continued operations. If this is not done, hard disks will throttle in speed or toggle off after a while and some processors will down clock and slow down. Because of this, our products could stop functioning correctly. For current Cubase and Nuendo releases, please see #10 which covers this part.

6. Programs that are running in background can cause issues while working with our products or even already during installation. These programs are mostly configured to automatically start when Windows boots up, e.g. virus scanners, security software, firewalls, printer and media software. It is advisable to deactivate these programs and slim out your auto start. You can mostly configure this through the settings of the program itself or you must manually deactivate them through typing "msconfig" (without the "") via Start -> Run. A freeware tool that could help you organizing your autostart would be the CCleaner which offers the settings in Tools -> Startup.

7. Disable Hyper-Threading if your CPU supports it (e.g. Intel i7). Further information on how to disable it can be found in the mainboard or computer documentation.

8. Disable advanced power-saving and dynamic performance options for your CPU. This usually needs to be done in the BIOS or UEFI of your computer and includes Enhanced Intel SpeedStep (EIST), AMD Cool 'n' Quiet, Intel Turbo Boost, and AMD Turbo CORE.

9. Disable C-States in the BIOS/UEFI, if your computer's BIOS/UEFI gives you this option. C-States allow your CPU to sleep when idle, which may interfere with real-time applications such as audio. This option is often called "Disable CPU Idle State for Power Saving" in the BIOS/UEFI.

10. "Disable CPU Energy Saving". In Cubase 5.5 and Nuendo 5 (or later) you can find this option in the main menu under Devices -> Device Setup... -> VST Audio System. This option is disabled by default. By enabling it, the currently active power scheme settings of Windows will be duplicated, settings which are relevant to improve the system performance will be modified in this copied power scheme and will be used as long as the application is running. Quitting the application reverts back to the last used power scheme in Windows.

11. Using the DPC latency checker: This free tool of the company Thesycon analyses your DAW and checks for issues that interrupt audio streaming. Please refer to the manufacturer's website for further information on how to use it.

12. Processor scheduling (Windows XP only): It might make sense to set the processor scheduling to "Background services":

  • Go to Windows Start menu, select "Control Panels"
  • Start "System"
  • Select the tab "Advanced"
  • Click on "Settings" in the section "Performance"
  • In the window "Performance Options" select the tab "Advanced"
  • There you find the "Processor scheduling" options, set it to "Background services"

Tags: Audio Interfaces Software


# Patrick 2015-11-02 13:59
Why would you disable hyper threading? I've not seen that one before. Hyper threading was a bonus for DAW's, not a liability, in the past. Explain please I am surprised by this.
# xstevejx 2014-07-20 16:12
It would be better if Microsoft just FIXED Windows to no have latency issues. Mac OS X and Linux perform better than Windows does w/o having to tweak anything. Even an 30yo Atari ST has less MIDI latency than any Windows machine.
# robert 2014-07-20 15:10
are there any good articles about setting up a DAW using a Mac and an avid fast track and a mackie mixer ?
# WindowsUser 2014-07-20 12:03
Some of this stuff is good advice (but leans toward common sense) but the others are bad. I have been using several windows 8 machines, with pro tools and sonar. When I first build my machine I had hyperthreading on, turbo boost on and my asio driver was shared by everything my interface and my computer. Now I overclocked my CPU to 4.5 ghz pro tools bounces sessions stupid fast and it has not crashed. I did turn off turbo boost but hyper threading is still active. Is there a job I can get to help people get their windows machines up and running because it seems as if I am the only one in the world who actually has gotten it to work without any performance drawbacks.

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