Tweaking Windows 2000 for Audio

By groovewerx
Mar 25, 2002
  1. before you start tweaking, ensure your pc is running correctly then make a backup. i will not be responsible for any negative effects these tweaks may cause:

    1. make sure you have no IRQ conflicts or memory range conflicts, if you have, your system will not run smoothly and may not even work at all for some things. you can check this by looking at the properties of each device and checking for anything being written about conflicts.

    2. make sure you have reliable drivers for everything. 2000 has a lot of commonly used drivers so you won't need many except for your audio hardware. the most recent drivers are not necessarily the best. check the known bugs/issues list. try the driverguide along with the manufacturers website. if you built the system yourself, make sure you've installed the motherboard driver(s).

    now begin tweaking:

    3. disable system sounds. they can hog the soundcard output(s) thus preventing audio applications from using them or worse, the system could make a sound when you're recording which may get recorded depending on what you're doing. (go to 'Start'>'Settings'>'Control Panel'>'Sounds and Multimedia' and select Scheme 'No Sounds'. while you're there, remove the tick from the box next to 'Show icon on Taskbar').

    4. disable screen savers. if a screen saver is enabled, the system will check periodically if any programs which are running have received an input recently thus preventing the program from doing anything for a short time. this can cause glitches in recordings and/or playback. (right-click on the desktop and select 'Properties' then click on the 'Screen Saver' tab and select "None" from the drop-down list).

    5. disable power profiles. this stops the system checking for activity similarly to disabling screen savers. (go to 'Start'>'Settings'>'Control Panel'>'Power Options' and select scheme "Always On" and then in the options for scheme 'Always On' set all drop-down menu options to "Never").

    6. disable any unnecessary applications which are set to run when the system starts up. this gives two advantages. firstly, it frees up resources such as memory for the programs you actually want to run. secondly, it reduces the chances of your pc crashing since less programs running means less for the pc to do. (go to 'Start'>'Programs'>'Startup' and remove any undesired programs).

    7. add the following line to your system.ini file after the [386 Enh] tag so it looks as follows:

    [386 Enh]


    this makes the system use RAM more often rather than the virtual memory. this improves system performance since RAM is much faster than the hard-disk. (note: do not use this option if you have less than 128MB of RAM installed) (Go to 'Start'>'Run' and type system.ini - a notepad will be launched containing the system.ini file. add the above line after [386 Enh] so it looks as above. there will be other lines in the section you're adding to, just add it before them. now save the changes you made and close the notepad - as ever, you will have to restart for the change to take effect).

    also add or edit the entry after the [vcache] tag in system.ini so it appears as follows:



    this limits the amount of your system memory (RAM) that windows uses as a buffer or cache when reading from or writing to disk drives to 16MB instead of the cubase default of 1/4 of your system RAM/Memory which is often too high.

    if the [vcache] tag does not exist in your system.ini, add it after the [386 enh] tag and it's contents so i looks as above.

    8. make sure your hard-disk(s) are not too fragmented. you should defragment at least once a week (if you've used your pc), before installing programs and before recording audio onto your pc.

    9. don't set your display resolution and bit depth too high, experiment with different settings starting from 16 bit 800 x 600 and working upwards with a reasonably complex song until the re-draws get slower then set it back to it's previous setting (when re-draws were acceptably quick). don't set your display to 256 colours as most new graphics cards do not accelerate this number of colours meaning your processor will have to do the work instead. rme advise that you keep the colour-depth at 16 Bits though this is not always the best setting.

    10. make sure hardware graphics acceleration is on FULL. this takes some load off your processor (right-click on the desktop and select 'Properties' from the menu. now click on 'Settings' then 'Advanced' then 'Troubleshooting' now set the 'Hardware Acceleration' slider up to full).

    11. enable 'Show Window Contents While Dragging' and disable 'Menu transitions'. this forces windows to maintain the graphical contents of any windows you drag around so that you can always see what you're doing and removes the surprisingly large amount of processor usage that menu transitions use. (right-click on the desktop and select 'Properties' from the menu. now click on the 'Effects' tab and ensure that there is a tick in the box labelled 'Show Window Contents While Dragging' - also un-tick 'Use menu transition effects').

    12. USB can be problematic with pc's which are set up as audio workstations - particularly those with VIA chipsets. for this reason, it is reccomended that you proceed with caution if using USB devices. if you have no USB devices, disable USB - this will free up an IRQ and prevent windows from 'pinging' or checking the USB port for new devices which it usually does a many times per second. (go to 'Start'>'Settings'>'Control Panel'>'System'>'Hardware'>'Device Manager' and double click on the USB section. Now select the USB to PCI host controller and choose 'Do not use this device (disable)').

    i have been advised that those with VIA chipsets should do the following:

    1. enable USB in BIOS

    2. install VIA's USB patch (in windows)

    3. disable USB in BIOS (if you are not going to use it)

    13. disable program menu scrolling. this, like menu effects uses a large percentage of the processor's time. (go to 'Start'>'Settings'>'Taskbar and Start menu' then click on the 'Advanced' tab and un-tick the last option 'Scroll the Programs menu' and infact all of the options there unless you use them).

    14. by default, windows 2000 logs the I/O traffic of your hard drive. while this is a very useful setting for servers, for workstations it doesn't do anything except use up system resources. to disable it, go to the run menu and type 'diskperf -n' (without the ' marks) to disable the logging.

    15. try not to install any software other than that which you need for your audio work. you can always create another profile in windows for other uses. microsoft office and virus checkers which constantly run (as opposed to those which are run when you choose to run them) in particular has been known to cause big problems.

    16. if you are experiencing pop/crackles from your soundcard especially when opening/closing sub-windows and programs, try setting your application priority to 'background tasks' instead of 'applications'. this allows the soundcard driver to have more of the processor time it needs. (go to 'start'>'control panel'>'system'>'advanced'>'performance options' and click the 'background services' radio button).

    settings i DO NOT reccomend:

    1. disabling double-buffering entirely.

    as a default, windows sets double-buffering (set in msdos.sys after the [options] tag) support to'1' which means 'use double-buffering only if required (some SCSI controllers require double-buffering). this is almost always fine, only disable (set to '0') if you have problems with disk access.

    2. changing computer role to 'Network Server'.

    this will simply allocated more cache space for programs which will use up a little more of your RAM/Memory.

    3. reducing graphics acceleration.

    this has the exact opposite effect of that which is desired. graphics acceleration takes the load of graphics processing off the CPU/Processor and allows the graphics card/videocard to do it instead.

    4. PLEASE DO NOT INSTALL NORTON. it is a nightmare.
  2. TS | Thomas

    TS | Thomas TS Rookie Posts: 1,319

    Ignore point 7. Nothing to do with Windows2000.
    On the other not recommended stuff ignore point 1 & 2, again nothing whatsoever to do with Windows 2000. All 3 of these are Windows 95/98/Me
  3. groovewerx

    groovewerx TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 16

    i should mention that these system tweaks provided by the good folks over at bluelife audio and have worked very well on my protools/cubase/wavelab/acid/rebirth/reason daw and on my photoshop/premier/after effects/maya box.
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