Computers are far from optimized for making music. They have many great features for making music, but the standard set up creates an environment for making music that is close to hostile. If you are a Music Producer, with a Windows 10 operating system, and you plan to use your computer for making music, then it might be an idea to tweak your system so that you avoid conflicts, freezing on playback or record, audio glitches, and full-on crashes, including the dreaded, Blue Screen Of Death.

Music PC

Small changes may seem trivial, but together they create an optimum environment making a world of difference to the performance of your Windows 10 PC.

With that said, here are 35 system tweaks for your system to keep you grooving and your system running smoothly.

Music Community

Hardware

1. Tip: Dedicated SSD Storage Drives

Use dedicated SSD storage drives for DAW projects, sound libraries, and plug-ins. Reduce unnecessary software on your Windows drive is on will guarantee better performance.

SSDs perform an average of 4-5x faster than HDDs and their slow mechanical parts. SSDs are more reliable and less prone to breakage if dropped.

Cables

Audio cable

2. Tip: Use Correct Cables

Connecting using the correct cables can help with DAW performance, by eliminating potential grounding noise and connectivity errors.

3. Tip: Use Included Cables

Where possible use the cables that come with your hardware. Some third-party cables, particularly generic branded, may not provide the required connection qualityfor that device.

4. Tip: Use Short Cables

The longer the cable the more vulnerable a cable is to cross-talk (i.e. noise bleeding from an external source, onto a signal as it travels through a cable). This is because cross-talk can occur from one cable to another as they lay side by side.

5. Tip: Keep Cables Apart

You need to give some thought to cable routing. Keep power cables, audio cables, digital audio cables and MIDI cables apart from each other. Digital cross-talk (digital audio and MIDI signals) is very bad for spilling onto analog audio cables and power cables. Investing in better quality leads can reduce cross-talk as the shielding is normally much better.

USB

USB

6. Tip: USB Ports

Match USB device port types. So:

  • USB 3.0 devices should connect to USB 3.0 ports
  • USB 2.0 devices should connect to USB 2.0 ports

While you can connect a USB 3.0 device to a 2.0 port and vice versa, that does not guarantee you will get good connectivity.

7. Tip: USB Hubs

Connect the sound interface you use to make music directly to your PC.

USB hubs are versatile, but they are not very efficient.

If you don’t have enough USB ports on your computer and you need to use a USB Hub, then use a powered USB hub. Passive hubs need to draw power from your computer and that adds strain to a system that is already being stressed. When external devices draw more power than the host machine or the hub can provide, loss of connectivity and performance can happen.

8. Tip: Stop your USB devices being suspended by your PC

Stop your USB gear from being disabled when your computer is left idle for too long.

  1. Open Control Panel
  2. Click Power Options
  3. Click the + button next to USB Settings
  4. Click the + next to USB Selective Suspend Settings
  5. Double click Enabled
  6. Click Disabled
  7. Click Apply
  8. Click OK

9. Tip: Disable USB Power Management

If your audio interface is a USB device, disable USB power management to free some USB bus bandwidth. Extra USB bus bandwidth can help your USB device to be recognized and reduce driver installation issues.

  1. Open the Control Panel
  2. Click on Device Manager
  3. Open Universal Serial Bus Controllers
  4. Double-click on the first USB Root Hub
  5. Select the Power Management tab
  6. Uncheck “Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power”
  7. Click OK
  8. Repeat for all USB Root Hubs

10. Tip: Disconnect ANY USB Devices You Are Not Using

If a USB device is not being used while you are making music, disconnect it from your PC. If left connected, a seemingly idle USB device will still consume PC resources that would be better devoted to your music.

Software

Software
11. Tip: Minimize Start-up Services

Disable all non-essential third-party start-up services. For example One Drive, Skype, SpotifyWebHelper, and iTunes.

12. Tip: Disable System Sounds

The last thing you want when you are mixing would be system sounds blasting from your monitors. The playback of system sounds through some audio interfaces will create issues with your system’s audio.

To avoid unwanted interruptions to your recordings, disable notification sounds and other system sounds. So:

  1. Open the Control Panel
  2. Select Sound
  3. Select the Sound tab
  4. Under Sounds Scheme, select No Sound
  5. Click Apply
  6. Click OK

13. Tip: Disable Notifications

In addition to the sounds you can disable the notifications that often trigger them.

  1. Open the Start menu
  2. Open the Settings menu
  3. Navigate to System
  4. Select Notifications & Actions
  5. To disable all notifications
    • Toggle Notifications to Off
  6. To disable individual notifications
    • Find the application in the list and set the notification button to Off.

14. Tip: Prioritize Background Services

Prioritizing background services allow your computer to run your DAW more efficiently. It boosts the performance of your PC’s audio drivers, which stops unwanted glitches, pops and dropouts.

You can configure Windows to prioritize either foreground programs / applications or background services. Background services usually run the system hardware. Because of this, changing priority to Background Services can improve the performance of your audio-interface driver.

  1. Open the Control Panel and select System
  2. Select Advanced System Settings
  3. Select the Advanced tab
  4. Click Settings under Performance to open the Performance Options window
  5. Select the Advanced tab
  6. Change processor scheduling to Background Services
  7. Click Apply
  8. Click OK

15. Tip: Disable Unwanted Windows Background Apps

By reducing unnecessary background tasks it is much easier to get a stable DAW. Often applications keep a small part of themselves running in the background, so they respond quickly when needed.

Communications applications, such as Bluetooth, wi-fi and networking, are often guilty of such an approach. Other common apps that do this would be Quicktime, graphics card utilities and updater apps, like those from Adobe.

Services have little impact on the CPU, until woken up when a call or notification activates them. This can cause a temporary increase in task priority, deprioritizing your DAW and your audio hardware. If left enabled they often cause throughput issues which we hear as audio glitches.

The solution is simple. Make your PC focus on your music. Stop your computer from doing unnecessary things in the background and free up processing bandwidth, reducing the number of triggers that change task priority.

  1. Go to the Start menu
  2. Select Settings
  3. Select Privacy
  4. Select Background Apps
  5. Switch any apps to Off that you don’t use, or need

Leave enabled/on:

  • Control panels
  • Your audio interface’s mixer software
  • Any audio interface utilities

16. Tip: Disable Fast Boot

Disabling Fast Boot makes your boot time a little longer, but it provides a better optimized, more stable system.

  1. Open the Control Panel
  2. Select Hardware & Sound
  3. Click on Power Options
  4. Click Choose What The Power Button Does
  5. Uncheck Turn on Fast Start-Up

17. Tip: Disable Windows Automatic Updates

Disable scheduled updates to stop Windows from updating while you are in the middle of a track. Disable third-party app updates too.

  1. Go to the Start menu
  2. Select Settings
  3. Select Update & Security
  4. Under Advanced Options find Choose How Updates Are Delivered
  5. Slide from On to Off

18. Tip: Manually Update Windows Regularly

While automatic updates of Windows should be disabled, you should still update Windows and other software on a manual basis. Performing updates can introduce instabilities to your system, but they can also introduce improved optimisation and new features. If a Windows update breaks your system and it cannot be fixed, you can always roll back the update.

19. Tip: Virus Scan

Manually run antivirus and malware scans regularly to ensure the computer isn’t infected.

20. Tip: Switch Off Animated Windows

Windows 10’s visual effects (animated windows etc.) use extra power that your PC could easily use for improving audio performance. If you don’t need them, switch them off.

  1. Open the Control Panel
  2. Select System
  3. Select Advanced System Settings
  4. Select the Advanced tab
  5. Underneath Performance, click Settings
  6. Select the Visual Effects tab
  7. Select Custom
  8. Untick Animate Windows when minimising and maximising
  9. Click OK

21. Tip: Switch Off Your Screensaver

If your DAW is running, like other priority changes, switching to the screensaver can cause audio glitches. Disable the screensaver.

  1. Right-click on Desktop
  2. Select Personalize
  3. Click Screen Saver
  4. Select None
  5. Click OK

22. Tip: Disable user account control

User account control can cause problems with read/write permissions.

  1. Open the Control Panel
  2. Select User Accounts
  3. Click Change User Account Control Settings
  4. Set to Never Notify
  5. Click OK
  6. Restart your PC

23. Tip: Remove Bloatware

This means removing unnecessary pre-installed programs that manufacturers include in their computers. Bloatware uses a lot of hard drive space and can use a lot of memory.

24. Tip: Always Run Your DAW As Administrator

Running your DAW as Administrator can correct issues you might encounter when launching your DAW. It reduces problems with MIDI, and problems that can occur when using some hardware drivers.

  1. Right-click on your DAW’s shortcut icon
  2. Select Properties
  3. Click on the Compatibility tab
  4. Check the box that says Run this program as an administrator
  5. Click Apply
  6. Click OK

If you launch your DAW from your taskbar, follow the instructions below every time you launch your DAW:

  1. Right-click on your DAW’s shortcut in your task bar
  2. Select Other
  3. Choose Run this program as an administrator

Drivers

Drivers
25. Tip: Install latest device drivers

Keep your hardware, such as synths, control surfaces or groove boxes, updated with the latest drivers. Visit the manufacturer’s websites for the latest downloads.

26. Tip: Update Your PC’s Graphics Driver

Out of date drivers can slow your PC down.

  1. Open Control Panel
  2. Open Device Manager
  3. Click the triangle next to Display Adapters
  4. Right-click on your graphics card
  5. Select Update Driver Software

27. Tweak: Update Network Adapter Driver

Use the latest drivers for any network card to maximize processing power available to your DAW.

  1. Click on Start menu
  2. Type Device Manager and press enter
  3. Click the triangle next to Network Adapters
  4. Right-click and go to Update Driver
  5. Select Search automatically for updated driver software.
    • If no driver is found, update the driver manually.
    • If a driver is found, double-click on the network adapter to see properties
      • In the Driver tab, find the driver version and the date
        • Use the model and the manufacturer shown in the General tab
        • Download and install the latest driver from the manufacturer’s website

28. Tip: Audio Hardware Drivers and Firmware

While some devices don’t require driver installation, most external hardware devices, such as audio interfaces, hard drives, and MIDI controllers, need dedicated drivers. Some devices may also require firmware updates.

If you’re experiencing playback and recording issues, installing the latest firmware and drivers for your interface might fix that. You can find your interface’s available downloads from our driver index page below.

Disconnect the hardware before installing a new driver. Follow the steps below to install the drivers correctly:

  1. Uninstall the current driver
  2. Disconnect the audio interface.
  3. Download and install the latest driver (and firmware if applicable) from the vendor’s website.
  4. Follow on-screen instructions during installation.
  5. Restart the computer
  6. Reconnect the interface.

Power & Disk Optimization

Power Optimization
29. Tip: Use The High Performance Power Profile (And Disable Power Conservation)

When you are making music, preserving the performance of your audio is always the top priority. Anything that relates to the conservation of system energy is a big problem when it comes to the maintenance of a stable audio performance. They cause issues with both playback and recording, and problems with your audio interface, even more so when you are using a laptop. So, when using a system for making music, disable any energy conservation settings.

Often the default power settings on Windows PCs prioritize energy conservation, but degrade your PC’s performance. Even the most basic music projects are likely to have power conservation problems.

This tip generally only works on desktops as most mobile processors are configured to save power and ignore whatever this option is set to.

Note: High Performance isn’t available as an option on Microsoft Surface or other tablets. All tablets are optimized to run designed to run on the ‘balanced power’ profile. Enabling High Performance causes increased system heat, which triggers CPU throttling much faster than a balanced power profile might.

For desktops, follow these steps to apply the High Performance Power Profile and for all systems follow instructions to disable power conservation activities:

  1. Open the Control Panel
  2. Go to Power Options
  3. Choose High Performance
  4. Click Change Plan Settings
  5. Set Put The Computer To Sleep to Never
  6. Click Change Advanced Power Settings
  7. Click on “+” to expand Processor Power Management
  8. Click on “+” to expand Minimum Processor State
  9. Type 100 in the % field
  10. Click Apply
  11. Click OK
  12. Click Save Changes

30. Tip: Optimize Your Hard Disk (Not Needed For SSD)

If you are using a hard disk for your system drive or for storing your audio files, optimization will improve load times and improve disk performance when recording audio or during play back.

  1. Right click on the Start menu
  2. Select File Explorer
  3. Select This PC in the left column
  4. Right-click on your audio hard drive
  5. Select Properties
  6. Uncheck “Compress this drive to save disk space”
  7. Uncheck “Allow files on this drive to have contents indexed”
  8. Click Apply
  9. Click OK
  10. Repeat for all drives you use for audio

Between Music Sessions

Maintenance
31. Tip: Perform Routine Maintenance Tasks

  • Disconnect ANY USB devices you are not using
  • Empty your Recycle Bin
  • Uninstall any unnecessary programs to save disk space.
  • Perform an antivirus and malware scan regularly.
  • Update any Music making software (DAW, Editors, VST, VSTi) and keep them up to date.

32. Tip: Avoid Repeatedly Moving Files and Folders

Don’t keep moving files and folders around. All the more so with virtual instrument libraries. Moving libraries might cause errors about failure to locate the libraries. With hard drives it can also cause file fragmentation causing unnecessary stress on your hard drives.

Before Starting A Music Session

Guitar, amp and fx pedals
33. Tip: Turn Off Windows Firewall And Anti-virus

These programs can interfere with your audio recordings, so make sure they’re turned off. Disconnect your PC from the internet while your Firewall is turned off.

Consider using Microsoft’s built-in antivirus software, Windows Defender, and uninstall third-party antivirus software.

34. Tip: Close all programs you’re not using

Free up your PC’s resources. Quit all unnecessary programs while using your DAW, don’t just minimize them.