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11 Important DAW Maintenance Tips

This post focuses on some basic techniques for keeping your DAW running in primo shape.

It’s easy to take our computers for granted, but sometimes it seems like if you turn your back for a moment, your computer will destroy itself.

The reality is that computers are incredibly complex machines and that small, day to day things add up to create a catastrophe that seems to have come from nowhere.  Since we digital artists invest so much time, money, and love in our digital media, it’s important to treat the medium with respect.  Enclosed are some tips to help keep your DAW runnings strong.

  1. Don’t hard power down your machine unless it is absolutely necessary.  Windows, Mac, and Linux all have shutdown sequences for a reason: even if you hit ‘save’, the computer may not actually save all the data at that moment.  In order to improve performance, computers casually write and retrieve data from disks.  This means that a hard shutdown can halt your computer in the midst of its data crunching… resulting in corruption of your precious music.
  2. On a related note – invest in an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) that will keep your computer alive long enough to shut it down in the event of a power outtage.
  3. Take care unplugging external devices when the computer is on.  Both firewire and USB can provide power and that electricity can theoretically arc, causing blown devices.  Firewire especially seems prone to this.
  4. Defragment your disks (on Windows) – Windows’ filesystems, NTFS and FAT32, are pretty old at this point and the way they write data to the disk causes the disk to slow down as it fills up.  Defragmentation helps keep things flowing smoothly.  OSX and Linux filesystems such as HFS+ and EXT3 don’t have (as many of) these problems.
  5. Leave some hard drive space free or else you’ll deprive your computer of virtual memory, which it uses if/when your RAM runs out.  If your hard drive space gets low (particularly in OSX), your system will slow down a whole lot.
  6. Back up your data!  Read my post on backups for more information.
  7. If your computer is a dedicated DAW, leave it unconnected to the Internet until you need to update it.  This will help keep it safe and will prevent autoupdates from potentially hosing things.  Similarly, if things are working great, don’t update it unless there’s a compelling reason to and the new update is proven.  If it’s not connected to the net, security holes from running older versions of things won’t be as great and you can be more flexible with this.
  8. Uninstall programs you don’t need – try to have one program to accomplish a task.  If you have multiple programs that do the same thing, choose one or the other.
  9. Don’t install things you don’t need – many systems get slower the more things you have installed.
  10. If you ARE experiencing problems, software updates may help.
  11. Clean out the dust.  You’d be amazed how much dust accumulates inside a desktop PC.  The more dust there is, the hotter it’ll run.  The hotter it runs, the greater the chance of instability and the louder the fans will be.

If you follow these guidelines, adjusting for your particular needs, I guarantee you you’ll have fewer computer problems.  Or, you’ll at least be better able to deal with them when they arise.

5 Responses to :
11 Important DAW Maintenance Tips

  1. Joga Luce says:

    (1 and 5) and (4 and 5) are tied together.

    If your drive power goes out while writing to Vm it could confuse it later, although there’s plenty of other things that it could be writing to that get broked.

    Likewise the vm causes fragmentation that needs to be cleaned out pretty quickly if you use heavy workloads regularly. A seperate partition strictly for vm is sometimes a good way to go.

    Also vista’s new defragmentation program [which is really just someone elses, i forget who] is rebuilt to run on a schedule and also the run in the background consuming low resources! of course you’ll still want to disable it if you’re tracking or doing other disk heavy things, but now you no longer have to leave the computer alone completely. Also you don’t have to have 15% freespace anymore which is nice.

  2. Dan Connor says:

    Joga – You’re right. Those points are tied together but I decided to leave them separate none-the-less. Good to know they fixed some of it for Vista. That’s pretty much what EXT3 does… it defrags as it goes. I will admit to not knowing as much about Vista because hearing early on about Microsoft’s DRM policies on Vista were the impetus behind my move to Linux and OSX.

  3. Kristie says:

    I learnt about dust the stupid way. My computer started switching itself off at random intervals because it was overheating. It was like some kind of horrible student flat on the inside! All these years been doing all this system maintenance, but had never thought to physically clean the insides out lol.

  4. Dan Connor says:

    Kristie – Dust bunny colony!

  5. Good tips. I dont have any problems now. But if anything occurs, I will definitely apply this.

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