Reducing the CPU load on Windows

If you experience audio interruptions or slow performance when using Ableton Live, you may need to reduce demand on your computer's CPU. Follow the steps below to reduce CPU load on Windows computers.

To avoid performance issues, make sure your plug-ins and hardware drivers are updated to the latest versions, and install any available Windows system updates. You can find more recommendations in the Learn Live 11: Computer Performance video.

Monitoring CPU usage

As of Live 11, the CPU meter in Live can be set to display the Current (peak) or Average performance impact of Live's audio processing. The CPU meter in Live 10 displays average CPU usage only. CPU Meter values are not the same as the percentage of your computer's overall CPU used by Live, displayed in Task Manager. Learn more about  monitoring Live’s CPU usage on your computer.

Guidelines to reduce CPU usage

Audio settings
Graphics card settings
CPU-Intensive Devices
Audio file settings
Close Plug-In Device Windows
Optimize system resources
Reduce CPU throttling
Upgrade computer components

Audio settings

1. Lower the sample rate 
Open Live's Preferences → Audio. Lower sample rates help reduce CPU usage. Try setting it to a value of 44100 or 48000 Hz. Ideally, you should pick the correct setting before starting a new project, rather than changing it while working on an existing one.

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2. Increase buffer size
Always use a value expressed in powers of two; e.g. 128, 256, 512 or 1024. Keep in mind that higher buffer sizes can cause higher latency

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Learn more about Changing the buffer size/sample rate of an ASIO Audio Interface

3. Disable unused inputs and outputs
Open "Input Config" and "Output Config" and disable any unused audio inputs and outputs. You can disable the mono input pair corresponding to the stereo input for the same channels, or vice versa, depending on the type of inputs you're using. 

Graphics Card Settings

1. Update graphics card
Make sure your Windows graphics card drivers are updated to their latest available versions, since an outdated GPU driver can cause a variety of problems.

2. Integrated vs. discrete graphics card
Integrated graphics card refers to the graphics processing unit (GPU) built onto the same motherboard as the CPU. Integrated graphics cards do not have their own CPU and therefore use system RAM and system CPU. A dedicated or discrete graphics card is an expansion card using its own CPU to manage the graphics performance of a computer.

In case of performance issues caused by the GPU, you can try switching between discrete and integrated graphics.

3. Optimize graphics card settings

Picture_1.pngPicture_2.pngPicture_3.pngSimilar settings are available in the NVIDIA or Ati Radeon Control Panel and can be set per application:​Picture_4.png

4. Disable additional graphics card options
If your graphics card offers gaming performance options like 3D or frame rate related features, e.g. NVIDIA G-Sync, try disabling or uninstalling these.

5. Disconnect external or 4K monitors
Try disconnecting the external monitor. Using a 4K monitor increases the GPU processing load to run applications. 

Optimize CPU-Intensive Devices

Follow the steps in these guides to optimize CPU handling of your devices and plug-ins:

Managing CPU load when using Wavetable
Managing CPU load when using Echo
Optimizing CPU-Intensive Devices

Optimize System Resources

Other processes on your computer can reduce the amount of CPU available for Live.

1. Close other applications while using Live
To see CPU usage for active applications, open the Task Manager by right-clicking the task bar.

2. Deactivate Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the webcam
Deactivate Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the webcam while using Live to free up CPU usage.

3. Clear space on the system drive
We recommend maintaining at least 10% free space on the system drive for Live to perform optimally.

4. Prevent Windows from turning off USB devices
As a power saving feature, Windows automatically turns off USB ports if it thinks they aren't being used. Since USB audio interfaces need to be powered and available to Live, this function may cause CPU spikes if it is not disabled. See how to prevent Windows from turning off USB devices (external link).

Reduce CPU Throttling

Certain settings and configurations can throttle, or reduce the maximum capacity, of your CPU.

1. Plug in your laptop
To conserve battery power, the CPU may be throttled while intensive programs like Live are in use. Plug in your laptop while using Live. 

2. Choose the High Performance plan
Windows offers a number of power plans, some of which are more CPU efficient than others. The High Performance plan is recommended while using CPU-intensive programs like Live.

3. Check the battery life
Old and inefficient laptop batteries can throttle CPU resources. Replace them when necessary.

4. Clean your fans and vents
If fans and vents are full of dust or lint, they need to spin harder and longer to keep the computer cool. This results in thermal throttling, as the system's resources are increasingly reduced the hotter the computer gets. We recommend having your computer's fans and vents cleaned once a year by a qualified professional.

5. Make sure your computer is well ventilated
Make sure there is an adequate flow of cool air around your computer. Don't place it on a couch, cushion or fabric surface that could block the vents. If using your computer in a hot room, you could use an external fan or AC unit to cool it further.

Upgrade Computer components

Live's capabilities are only as powerful as your system. While the minimum system requirements give the absolute minimum specifications needed to run Live, ideally you'll want to get the most powerful computer that you can afford. Despite this, even the most powerful systems can still run into CPU issues depending on their usage.

If you're not able to upgrade your computer outright, you may find considerable improvements simply by upgrading individual components. Although in some computers it's impossible to upgrade components, if your computer allows it, try upgrading the CPU, upgrading the hard drive to an SSD (Solid state drive), or adding more RAM. 

Ableton offers these in-depth help and learning resources: