Run your computer RIGHT....

n-track will improve manyfold

Okay, folks, for those of you who didn’t know, I work for a privately-owned computer store, and spend all day long fixing people’s issues. Most of them are caused by stupidity (stupid being defined as doing something you KNOW you shouldn’t, but doing it anyways: i.e.: accepting an email attachment from a total stranger and then you wonder why your system is now being held hostage, lol!).

First of all, you have to understand how a computer works, and the basic parts in it. You have the CPU, which is like the motor in the car, it’s where the actual work is done. A single core cpu can only do one thing at a time, a duo can do 2, a quad core can do 4, and an AMD 6-core can do, well, six, lol. The trick is, the cpu clock cycle is so fast that it can switch back and forth between each individual process it’s running that we cannot even detect it. For example, a 2 Gigahertz processor can perform 2 BILLION actions a second. So, while you’re playing solitaire, it’s also telling your video driver to refresh, moving your mouse pointer a quarter of an inch, and checking a file for viruses. Not all at the same time, mind you, but switching back and forth so fast that it looks to us like it’s at the same time. A multiple core computer is doing the same amount of actions as a single core, but PER CPU.

Memory (or RAM) is where the work is actually being done. When you open a program, it is actually copied to the memory chips (ram sticks) inside your computer, and running in there. Figure each megabyte of memory as a marble. Yahoo Messenger uses 100 marbles, windows uses 150, etc. Now, when N-track is running, each wav file AND the effects on it are also in your memory. If you have 10 wav files with no effects, you are still looking at an average of around 500 mb of memory that n-track needs to run that song. As you can see, pretty soon, you run out of marbles. This is why it is IMPERATIVE, when you’re in your studio, to turn off extraneous programs and processes, so as little of the CPU and Memory is distracted away from n-track as possible. Certain effects also hit your cpu and memory harder than others. For example, record a single track and in playback, see how much cpu it’s using (in my version of n-track, cpu % is in bottom left corner of window). Now, put Pitch Shift plugin on the track, one octave down, with accuracy of 16, and see how much of your cpu time is being taken up by that one track. For this reason, if you have a track with a lot of effects on it, and you’re happy with the sound of that track, sometimes it’s best to just mixdown that one track and import it back in, so that your cpu isn’t being eaten up by the effects that it’s trying to process.

Okay, storage means your hard drives. Remember that…Memory is NOT how many mp3’s your computer will hold, Storage is. Keep your hard drives defragmented at least monthly, and you will see a significant increase, because Windows won’t have to hunt all over the hard drive for the bits and pieces of your files, they’ll all be in one place.

Now, for those of you who’ve heard of the Windows Registry, let me explain it to you. Any action that windows does is controlled by that registry. When you click an icon to go on the internet, Windows looks in that registry to find out WHERE the program is that gets you on the net, and what other programs it needs to be running too. It’s like a monster phone-book with all the numbers and addresses that Windows MUST have in order to function. That registry gets trashed up over time with bad links, dead links, etc, and slows your system down, because it has to sort through the trash to find the good links. This is where a registry cleaner such as C Cleaner by Piriform software (it’s free, folks) is so vital. It cleans bad links out of your registry, so that Windows can find what it needs without wading through mud and garbage. When a virus or malware takes over your computer, it goes in the registry and changes the links. Your internet will have to go through the virus before it will run, your antivirus will be told NOT to run or update by the virus-controlled registry, etc. Many times, when you clean the viruses out, the anti-virus program has NO WAY to find out what registry entries the virus derailed, and when you take the virus out of the chain, you have a broken link and your system stops working at all, because Windows no longer has a link in that registry telling it what to do. So a good anti-virus that PREVENTS your computer from getting taken over in the first place is a must. I recommend Avast. It’s free, constantly updates, and did I mention it’s free? lol! BTW, for all you Norton fans, I get more infected computers with Norton installed on them than any other Antivirus program, so that should tell you how good it really is, huh?

Okay, back to memory. 32-bit operating systems can only access or recognize a MAXIMUM of 4 gigabytes of memory. Also, many times you may put 4 GB in, but it will say there’s only 3.23 or 3.5. This is because the PCI bus is assigned that last fragment of memory address in the allocation scheme, so it’s blocked off from any program to even see that it’s there. Your pci bus isn’t using it, it’s simply how 32 bit originally was set up, and they didn’t discover the flaw until it was too late. Remember, there was a time when it was unheard-of to have 4 gigs of memory, and even 1 GB would cost you a month’s pay! No one could imagine that there would ever be a need for 4 gigs of memory, 15 years ago when the 32 bit architecture was locked in place, lol!

64 bit Operating systems can address considerably more memory, although that is artificially limited by designers. This limit is 4 Petabytes, which is 4,000 Terabytes of memory or 4 MILLION GB of RAM. Needless to say, it’s highly doubtful that we’ll ever see 1,000,000 GB sticks of RAM, considering the highest available now is ddr3 at 4 gb per stick.

Now, one way that Windows and other operating systems get around limitations in Memory is by utilizing what is called VIRTUAL MEMORY. The operating system sets aside space on your hard drive, and once you start running out of RAM, it starts running your data on that space on your hard drive. Since this is THOUSANDS of times slower than writing it in electric memory, that’s obviously not the best solution, but in the old days of WIN 98, etc, that was the only option they had. In Windows, this virtual memory is called Pagefile, and in Linux, it’s your swap partition. If you can keep your RAM up high enough that Windows never needs to write to pagefile, you’re doing good :)

So, I will now tell you how I set up my system to run, and you may find that setting yours up along the same lines will improve the operation of your recording studio.

First, the drive that contains windows is kept as free of extra stuff as possible. I keep extra data, such as movies, games, music, programs, downloads, etc, on other drives, because Windows will run MUCH smoother if it doesn’t have to dig thru 50 million files on it’s own drive to find what it needs to run.

For the same reason, I do not keep the working folder(where my sng files and wavs are) on the same drive that my windows is installed on. Windows can access them and make them available much faster to the program if they’re not on the same drive that windows is busy trying to read so it can run my antivirus, lol.

I turn off ALL extra programs while I’m recording. This frees up more cpu and memory for n-track to access while I’m recording.

I have set aside a minimum of 2 gb pagefile on each of my 5 hard drives. NOT because I particularly like wasting the space, but because if windows has to write to pagefile when n-track is eating up memory with 15 tracks with 4 effects on each track, it will pick a drive that’s NOT being used for anything else at that moment and put the data in THAT pagefile, which does speed the performance up.

So that’s it, folks. Long winded, but probably necessary so you’ll understand WHY you may run into some of the issues that you do. Keep your registry clean, and keep your hard drives defragged. Make sure you don’t have any viruses interfering with system operation and slowing you down. Keep as much RAM as your system will physically accept on your drive so that windows will write less to pagefile and have plenty of space to run your program in your ram.

Above all, remember that human beings designed and built computers and operating systems, and therefor they will be as flawed and error-prone as we are, lol, so don’t expect perfection out of your pc, because you will NEVER get it…


Thanks danny, great post, we’ve learnt a lot!


Hi dannyraymilligan:

That was a great READ…
It (the post) should be placed on/in the “Tips-and-Tricks” folder of the Board… OR…
maybe a new Department… ???? Moderators ????
Then, added to as the How-and-Why of Computer Maintenance progresses… Without all the replies, of course…
Questions do arise, and/but other questions do lead to other answers…

I can see it does make for much commitment and all… BUT…
it can start the budding Creative Musician off on the right Track, so-to-speak…


Thanks Danny, a really good post

I have an older XP computer that I have been using to run n-track, but I have upgrade n a few times and performace issues are starting to creep in. Things like sticking in playback, especially when processing multiple midi tracks. I was searching this forum to see if I maybe ought to refresh my PC back to its original shipped config and start again. This would blow away all the fragments of stuff I had on it when I was using it for music and as a workhorse. Maybe I will use a few of your tips first though - see if that helps

Could you tell us how you go about stopping extraneous programs from working while you are recording. I can’t see an ‘easy’ way of doing this.

I like the idea of seperate drives. I used to have a similar setup on a much older rendition with n-track 2 (I think)

So, how much memory do you consider is a minimum for recording with Windows 7 - 64?
Do you think a dual core can run Windows 7 - 64 successfully? I have an AMD Athlon 64 X2 with 2 gig of memory.

Quote: (bax3 @ Mar. 02 2011, 5:26 PM)

So, how much memory do you consider is a minimum for recording with Windows 7 - 64?
Do you think a dual core can run Windows 7 - 64 successfully?
I have an AMD Athlon 64 X2 with 2 gig of memory.


RECORDING, as in just tracking audio input is NOTHING.

I routinely record 24 channels at 24/44.1 with a MOTU 24 i/o interface in an old Athlon 1600 PC with ONE gigabyte of RAM and Win XP x86. I can't MIX on the thing because it has no CPU horsepower for very many FX plugins. I take the projects home and mix on a Q9400 quad-core machine with 6GB RAM on Win 7 x64.

Straight-up audio tracking = minimal CPU use.
Audio recording (overdubbing) while monitoring FX plugins on previously recorded tracks = mucho CPU use.
Mixing with buttloads of FX plugins and VSTi's = heavy CPU and RAM use.


PS Of course, I'm talking REAPER here... there may be no depths to n-Track suckiness if the same rules do not apply.

and it helps if you do a disk clean up and defrag now and then.

I just did a disk clean up over last night and regained 30G in disk space WOW! and since the defrag things seems to be working a lot better go figure. :laugh:


Let’s talk hardrives!!!

Yes I defragged that hardrive and recovered all that space…but a month later CRASH…system disk error insert system disk and press C, I also ran a bunch of antivirus programs on it…which got me to thinking…

We put a lot of stress and wear on our hardrives…I used to think the larger the better…but now I’m thinking that’s just further out the reader/lazer arm has to move…

I did a re-format of that hardrive when it crashed but this time I only partitioned and formatted 80G of it (my bad sectors seemed to be in the outer regions of the disk)…seems to be OK, a lot quieter when it runs now and no unusual scratching sounds coming from the disk.

I’m thinking about the newer flash drives for my next rig…

Anyone have any experience with them they’d care to share? ???


and then, clean the fluff out of the cpu airways and fan :laugh: