Optimizing Windows for Audio
- Live Versions: All
- Operating System: Windows 7-10
Windows generally needs a few additional adjustments to ensure optimal performance for use with Live, and indeed any DAW. If you are experiencing any issues like dropouts, crackles or CPU spikes then you should take a look at the following steps to streamline Windows.
First make sure to read the following dedicated articles:
Disclaimer: Ableton can't be held responsible for any issues that are caused by changing settings of your operating system.
Before anything else, make sure you're running the very latest version of Windows, the latest version of Live, then update all plug-ins and the correct version of your audio interface driver.
On Windows, the best performing driver type is ASIO. Most audio interfaces generally come with a custom ASIO driver. Install the driver and then choose it from Live's preferences on the Audio tab:
Additionally, the third party driver, ASIO4ALL is available to download for free. It can be useful to those who may experience driver issues and have tested their manufacturer drivers without complete success. You can also use this for audio devices that don't come with proprietary ASIO drivers.
We recommend using a buffer size of one of the following: 128, 256, 512 or 1024 samples.
It's possible to set the Buffer size in Live's preferences → Audio Tab, however depending on your interface, you might need to click on 'Hardware Settings' to make the adjustment in the audio interface preferences. For additional information check this article:
Buffer Size can't be changed.
Note: If the controls are greyed out in Live, the setting can only be changed in the interface's Control Panel.
Enable the High Performance power plan
Open Control panel and go to Power Options. Then choose the High Performance plan:
In case your build of Windows 10 does not include the option to select a High Performance plan, click on the battery indicator and move the slider to "Best performance":
For advanced power plan settings, see our dedicated article: How to disable power throttling.
Minimize CPU use from other programs
Many brand computers come with pre-installed programs or utilities which run in the background. For best performance, we recommend using Live on a freshly installed operating system to minimize the amount of unwanted programs running. It is possible to uninstall such programs from the Control Panel, in the Program subsection.
Disabling the amount of programs that run automatically when Windows starts, will help to reduce CPU usage by unnecessary programs.
To view the startup programs :
- Start Button
- Type 'Run' to find the Run Dialogue (Windows button + R)
- Hit enter
- Type 'msconfig'
- Click the 'Startup Tab'
- Disable any unnecessary programs, eg. messenger apps, idle programs.
After trying all of the above steps, and still experiencing pops, clicks or drop-outs, then some detective work may be required.
Debugging with LatencyMon (Windows 7, 8 & 10)
To investigate the cause of audio drop-outs we can install a utility called LatencyMon, which is free to download here. LatencyMon will begin a scan of all running processes by selecting the 'Start Monitor' (play) button to the top left of the interface.
As LatencyMon scans we can take a look at the 'Drivers' tab to locate the offending processes. By selecting 'Highest Execution', and ordering the list, we have an accurate reference of what processes are doing what. The main offenders will have high execution times and as you can see in the following image, the network driver NDIS.sys is taking a large toll on our processing resources.
So what processes can I turn off?
This is in an important step, as some background processes are important to the running of your system, so it is not a matter of simply disabling the most expensive processes one by one. Usually by simply searching for the process or file name online, we can get a solid indication of what it is.
Here are some examples, of what can be common causes to audio drop-outs.
- Wireless adapter searching for signal → disable Wireless
- Anti-Virus → Turn off internet, disable Anti-Virus
- Bluetooth → disable Bluetooth
- Windows Scheduler → disable the process
- Processor Scheduling → disable scheduling as explained here.
Note: Windows relies on certain background processes to run correctly. If you are unsure exactly what a process is doing, it is recommended to keep it enabled. Any changes made are done so at the risk of the user.
Debugging with DPC Latency Checker (Windows 7 only)
This tool allows users to see a visual analysis of the computer's capability to handle the audio stream. Any processes that are disrupting the stream will be represented in yellow or red, whereas a consistent row of healthy green columns means that the audio stream is steady and should be without any drop-outs. It is free to download directly from here.
A steady row of green means represents a system well suited for real-time audio:
Red and yellow spikes indicate that there are problems that can potentially affect the audio stream:
Note: For Windows 8 users, the DPC read-out does not show correct values. The output suggests that the Windows 8 kernel performs badly and introduces a constant latency of one millisecond, which is not the case in practice.
More details on this can be found here, along with a more thorough guide to using DPC latency checker.
Disable System Sounds
- Control Panel → Hardware and Sound → Sound.
- Under the 'Sounds' tab, select 'No Sounds'.
Disable Visual Effects on Windows 7
By default, Windows 7 will have the Aero graphics theme enabled which can tie up resources otherwise useful for your audio performance. To disable this theme, along with other unnecessary visual effects, please do the following:
- Right-click on the Dekstop and choose 'Personalize' from the menu.
- From the Basic & High Contrast Themes section, select Windows Classic, or Windows 7 Basic.
- Select the 'Start' Button.
- Type 'Run' to find the Run Dialogue (Windows button + R)
- Type: "SystemPropertiesPerformance" and press Enter
- In the 'Visual Effects' tab, you have the option to select 'Adjust for best performance'. This will unmistakably make Windows 7 seem a lot less flashy as it disables animation, however if you are experiencing any graphics-related performance issues, this is a valid solution.
Defragment your Disk Drives
Data written to disk is generally assigned to the first available slot on the disk. If the file is quite large, which can often occur in the audio world, the file will reside on different physical locations on your hard-drive. Defragmenting is the process of re-organizing the data, which can speed up the disk reading and writing process.
To Defrag your disk:
- Start Button → All Programs → Accessories → System Tools
- Disk Defragmenter
Disable USB Port Power Saving
This allows the computer to power off USB devices to save power. This can be handy when on a laptop, however in most audio applications this is not ideal. To disable this, do the following:
- Control Panel → System and Security → System → Device Manager
- In the Universal Serial Bus controllers:
- Right Click each USB Root Hub
- Choose Properties → Power Management
- Make sure "Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power " is unticked.
- Open Power Options (e.g. by typing "Power Options" in the search bar of the Control Panel)
- Click on "Change power plan settings" on the power plan that is being used (has a bullet ticked)
- Click change ‘Advanced power settings
- In popup box, double click on USB settings and on USB selective suspend
- Then click on ‘Enabled’ and change to ‘Disabled.
The company Cantabile have created a very good guide on how to optimize Windows for audio processing. It is called the Cantabile Glitch Free Guide and can be dowloaded for free here.
Note: The above link leads you to third-party content.