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Tune/Optimize Windows 7 for Audio Processing with Cubase

Its been a while since I wrote my article on tim-carter.com on how to optimize your computer for producing music. The old article was targeted towards Windows XP obviously, so here is a shot at how to get the best our of your Windows 7 workstation.

This article will target Cubase on Windows 7 and assuming you have a Windows 7 64bit operating system.

Hardware - The Computer
I will strongly recommend that you buy a SSD to run your operating system on and Cubase. This will boost your performance 10x over normal IDE and SATA disks. Having a fast processor is a very important factor as well. The faster the processor, the more VST plug-ins you can run without artifacts, and you can even lower your latency because your processor will have enough room to run everything. We will get into latency later in this article. The sound card that you choose is of course also a vital piece in your workstation. Whether you choose to get a PCI card or USB card doesn’t really matter that much, but there is some issues with USB sound cards that can cause clicks so I would advise that you download the following Hotfix from Microsoft that should solve this issue.

I really like using USB sound cards, because when you go out to perform with your laptop you can just take your soundcard with you and connect it to the laptop. Memory of course is a big faster, the more memory, the more VST plug-ins you can run. Also I strongly recommend to use ATI graphic cards because NVIDIA is known with some cards to have Audio issues due to the driver.

Here is short list of some hardware I would recommend

Crucial M4 128GB SSD (one of the fastest SSD drives on the market today, and totally stable)

CORSAIR Vengeance 32GB(4x8) DDR3 1866 (Very fast memory, and lots of it for a good price)

GIGABYTE GA-Z68XP-UD5 (Very stable motherboard, with tons of features)

Intel Core i7-2600 3.4ghz (3.8ghz turbo) (This processor really kicks ass and will run all your VST’s)

Rosewill BRONZE 1000W Modular PSU (Very stable power supply and versatile)

SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 6950 (Powerfull graphic card, will run up to 4 monitors)

Now remember to run more that 2 monitors on a graphic card you will need a DisplayPort to DVI ACTIVE adapter. Here is the link to buy it.

SAPPHIRE Active DisplayPort Adapter 100924 DisplayPort to DVI Interface

Antec Lanboy air (I have fallen in love with this case. It is so nice, you can configure it anyway you like)


Now that pretty much takes care of a computer that I would say is going to run anything you throw at it. If you want it even faster, I would suggest buying 2 CRUCIAL M4 so you can set them up in a STRIPE ARRAY (RAID 0). Stripping means that both disk are used as one big drive, and half the data is on one drive, and the other half of data is on one drive. So basically it can read the data double as fast. If you want to read more about raid look at this link.

One thing you have to remember though when doing this is that if one drive fails all the data is lost. And recovering data from a raid array that’s broken can be much more difficult that doing it from a stand alone disk. I would suggest you take backups of your data frequently. May I suggest using an image software perhabs. Here is a couple links to backup software that I would recommend.

Acronis True Image 2012 Home Edition

Shadowprotect 4 Desktop

Now if you are looking for software to recover data from your drive that is failing. Look here.

Runtime Software GetDataBack (I have recovered hundreds of drives with this software)

Now having said all there is to say about performance, I would still recommend you putting your Cubase projects on a RAID 5 array. RAID 5 is a performance and failover array, the minimum amount of disks is 3, but recommended minimum is 4. The reason I say you can run it with 3 disks is that it will work with 3 disks and if 1 drive fails you still have your data. But if you have 4 disks then if 1 of the 3 drives fail the 4th (hotspare) will take over. And you are pretty safe with this configuration. You could say, why not just run RAID 1 (mirror) its a lot cheaper because I only require 2 disks. That is correct, but RAID 1 is extremely slow compared to RAID 5, so I would recommend sticking with RAID 5.

So your ultimate config in your computer could be something like this.

2 x CRUCIAL SSD RAID 0. This would be your Windows 7 installation, and Cubase and plug-ins would be installed here as well. Keep your sample CD’s here also that will help in VST instruments that needs them and in your score of course.

4 x SATA DISKS (to keep cost down, you could of course go all the way with SSD ;)). Setup in RAID 5 with 3 disks for the array and 1 as a hot spare.

Now we could go more in depth and say well not we need separate RAID controllers, and yes it would perform better, but to keep cost down, I would use the onboard RAID controllers on the motherboard, they run very well.

Hardware - The Sound Card
Choosing the right soundcard for your computer can be difficult but the rule of thumb is that the cheaper the sound card, the worse the sound. The more you spend on your soundcard the better sound you will get, more features, and better latency. See the latency is not just up to your CPU it is also up to your sound card. I have tried many different soundcards in my time. Midiman, RME, Steinberg, Motu.

The one I am sticking with for the time being is

Moto 828mk3 (USB Soundcard with plenty of features, good sound, and low latency.)

You can of course choose a smaller version if you don’t need all the inputs and outputs. That’s totally up to you. The Motu 828mk3 comes with nice EQs and Reverbs that the DSP in the Motu card will handle. So more power back to the CPU.

I have also heard good things about Steinberg’s MR series. I have not tried them yet though. But I like the idea that the soundcard actually can run VST plug-ins, this will take load of your CPU.

You can of course buy DSP cards that can do this as well, but I like that it is integrated into the sound cards, and it seems like it comes with some decent effects to.

Hardware - The Midi Interface
Choosing the right midi interface depends on how many devices you have that needs to be connected via MIDI. Most small home studios actually don’t even need a MIDI interface because you can get a keyboard that runs MIDI over USB. But if you need more MIDI ports then I would suggest getting a good MIDI interface that has enough capacity for the future.

For most home users I would recommend this interface

Motu Express 128

NOTICE ! The Motu 828mk3 soundcard has 1 MIDI in/out port, so if you only need 1 and you buy this card, you don’t have to buy a midi interface.

Having the most current drivers for your hardware is a must. Developers finds bugs and ways to optimize their drivers constantly, and that goes for almost all hardware. So remember to check frequently for new drivers for your mainboard, graphic card, Sound Card, Midi Interface etc.

Check frequently if there is new firmware available for your Sound Card, Midi interface and SSD. As drivers, developers frequently updates Firmware for their devices making them faster and more stable.

Remember to check your mainboard manufacturers website for bios updates frequently. The go through many revisions before they are 100% stable and fast.

Sound Drivers
It is crucial that you use ASIO drivers for your sound card. ASIO = Audio Stream Input/Output. This sound driver protocol that was specified by Steinberg provides much lower latency that Direct Sound Drivers does. When you start Cubase the first time, it usually selects Microsofts direct sound drivers as default. This gives you latency when you play. You can read more about latency below. Make sure you download the real drivers for your sound card manufacture from their website and not just use the one that comes with windows. If your soundcard does not come with a ASIO driver (which it should if it is a good soundcard for making music), then you can download a emulated ASIO driver from ASIO4ALL

But again I most advice you to get a sound card that has ASIO drivers.

I will just touch brief about Latency in my article. You can read more about it id detail by clicking the link below this article. Latency is the time it takes for your computer to process your audio before it reaches your speakers and you hear a sound. Does this matter? It matters if you have a keyboard and you want to play along to a song that Cubase is playing. See if you have high latency then when pressing a key on your keyboard it can take along time before you actually hear the sound. So latency, is the delay from when you press a key to you hear the sound. If you have high latency it is almost impossible recording anything when you play along with your song and you try to use your keyboard. And even if you think you hit it right, and you look in your recording, you can see the notes are all over the place. So the lower the latency the better. But don’t set it to low, if you computer is not fast enough to process the sound in the memory, then you will get clicks and pops and sometimes even crashes.

Read more about latency here:

The article gives you some good idea about what latency is in depth, but I do not agree at all with his conclusion that Latency is not important. You need low latency to use your softsynths and to do monitoring, and in today’s market computers are fast enough. And the plug-ins kick ass. As an example I have my Virus TI-POLAR I love it, and it can work as a VST instrument and map through your computer. But here it actually shows you that the Latency is a problem. I do not map the audio through Cubase, I map it out through audio outs to my mixer so I don’t have Latency when I play around with it. Only when I want to record it in I do it through the interface in a bounce, it doesn’t matter.

Ok, that pretty much sums up a rough guide to good hardware and software. Now let’s get back to optimizing Windows 7 for Cubase and Audio Production.

The ultimate audio workstation would of course be a computer that has nothing enabled in Windows 7. This means no Network running, no auto recovery running, no antivirus software and no antispyware software etc. See everything you install and use on a computer that is running in the background takes up memory and cpu usage. This can affect your audio sequencer and cause spikes in your music during playback. A key thing for having your computer running without any spikes is that you have to disable the NETWORK. This means you have to disable all your network cards. WHY? Because the Microsoft NDIS driver causes audio clicks and pops. To find out exactly what you need to disable the easiest way is to download LatencyMon from here.

After you have installed this app open it up and click the play icon. It will then monitor your system. Let it run for like 10 minutes. IT will tell you if you have any problems with anything running. After a while stop the test. And go to Drivers.On the right you can see the Highest Execution column. Everything in this column that has more that 1 ms must be disabled. If you haven’t disabled your network, it will probably show you drivers related to network, like tcpip.sys, netby,sys, ndis.sys. You have to disable these services. To disable your network adapters do the following.

• Click “Start button”
• In the “Search programs and files” text box, enter “IP” and click enter
• Right Click every connection in here, and click “Disable”

Of course this will do that you no longer have internet. To get internet back, simply follow the steps above but instead of clicking “Disable” you click “Enable”

Some of the optimizer tools from NVIDIA and ATI that are running in the background to optimize your graphic card for gaming, should also be disabled. This can cause issues to. Generally the rule of thumb is that anything that can be disabled that you do not need when you are making music in Cubase should be disabled. Last thing I would recommend is to disable your antivirus and spyware software, at least for when you are making music. You don’t want anything to run on your file system, you need full performance for your audio tracks.

Now the first tweak and probably the most easy one to do is to change the performance setting in Windows 7. You can switch the setting to Background Services before you open Cubase. This will make Windows 7 prioritize the Audio driver more than programs. And you can always switch it back to Programs when you want a round of Battlefield.

To switch the Windows 7 performance setting do the following:

• Click “Start Button”
• Right Click “Computer”
• Click “Advanced Tools”
• Click “Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows”
• Click the Advanced Tab

There you can select between Programs and Background Services.
Now go back to the Visual Effects TAB

Here you have 4 options you can use. Normally Windows 7 is setup with Let Windows choose what’s best for my computer. And this normally on a fast computer has all the bells and whistles enabled. Like the Aero taskbars etc. All these things take up a lot of resources, memory, cpu, harddisk etc. If you click Adjust for best performance, all these things will be disabled. Windows will look a little more boring though, but it will help Cubase. And you can always put it back to Adjust for best appearance after you are done.

Lets go back to Performance Information and Tools.

• Click “Power Options”
• Click “Show additional plans”
• Select “High performance”
• Click “Change Plan Settings”
• Click “Change advanced power settings“
• Set “Turn off hard disk after” to NEVER
• Set “USB settings – USB selective suspend setting to DISABLED
• Set “PCI Express – Link State Power Management” to OFF
• Click OK

We need to disable power management for the USB Ports so do the following.

• Click “Start button”
• Right Click “Computer”
• Click “Properties”
• Click “Device Manager”
• Expand “Universal Serial Bus Controllers”
• Right Click Each “USB Root Hub”
• Click “Properties”
• Click “Power Management” Tab
• DeClick “Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power”

After this set your theme in Windows 7 but right clicking the Windows Desktop, click Personalize, scroll down and click “Windows Classic” this will give you all the classic windows and not use power on fancy menu bars etc, leaving more power for Cubase.

Lets take a look at what you can disable in windows devices.

• Click “Start Button”
• Right Click “Computer”
• Click “Device Manager”

I can’t really give you a list of what you can disable because it is different from computer to computer and what you have installed. You need to research what devices you can live with out. Google them, and see what they do and they see if you can disable some of them. This will also give you more power.

What I can suggest is that you go to the Disk Drives, and expand it, right click your hard disk and click Properties. Click the Policies tab and make sure that “Enable write caching on the device” is checked. Make sure that “Turn of Windows write-cache buffer flushing on the device” is NOT checked. You can gain some performance by having it checked, but in the event of a power failure you can have serious data loss.

Disable Indexing
If you have a SSD in your computer which we are assuming in this article, then we should go ahead and disable indexing.

• Click “Start button”
• Click “Computer”
• Right Click “C Drive”
• Click “Properties”
• De check “Allow files on this drive to have contents indexed in addition to file properties”

Disable Defragmentation
You really have no need to defragment your SSD because it is not a mechanical drive. Do the following

• Click “Start button”
• Right Click “Computer”
• Click “Manage”
• Expand “Services and Applications”
• Click “Services”
• Right Click “Disk Defragmentation”
• Click “Properties”
• Select Startup Type “Disabled”

If the service is started then click STOP.

Disable the Disk Defragmentation Schedule

• Click “Start button”
• Click “All Programs”
• Click “Accessories”
• Click “System Tools”
• Click “Disk Defragmenter”
• Click “Configure Schedule”
• De Click “Run on a schedule”

Superfetch & Prefetch
Lot of guides tell you to turn this off. I would advise not to do so. In my opinion it is worth more on than off, and actually if you disable it, it will make your computer experience slower.

Disable Windows 7 System Sounds
We should disable system sounds so Windows don’t use resources on them.

• Click “Start button”
• In the “Search programs and files”text box enter the following “Change system sounds” hit enter
• In the “Sound Scheme” drop box, select “No sounds” and click “ok”

Disable Windows Firewall
Last disable the windows firewall, it should be disabled because we have disabled the network, but lets make sure.

• Click “Start button”
• In the “Search programs and files”text box enter the following “windows firewall” hit enter

In here you should disable the Domain profile firewall, the private profile, and the public profile.

Disable Remote Desktop
Lets disable remote desktop also so it is not running in the background.

• Click “Start button”
• In the “Search programs and files”text box enter the following “remote settings” hit enter
• De check “Allow Remote Assistance connections to this computer”
• Click “ok”

If you want to read more about what services you can disable check out this link.

Links to Resources

Information about midi and audio




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Keywords for this article:
Audio Click and pops in cubase || optimize windows for audio production || ASIO drivers || midi drivers || superfetch || latency problems || latency monitoring

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Submit Comment

Comment submitted by Carl
Submitted date 2013-10-07 01:49:44

Hi Tim,

Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us: it makes our machines tremendously more powerful!

Comment submitted by James
Submitted date 2013-03-20 12:23:42
There you can select between Programs and Background Services.

This should be explained. Most say it should be set to Background Services. Why? That is what should be explained. :)

Comment submitted by Tim Carter
Submitted date 2012-04-09 20:51:00

Thank you for your comment Jared DesRuisseaux.


Actually why I recommend using a ATi over NVIDIA, is in general because of price, and because I have had less RMA on ATI cards

Comment submitted by Jared DesRuisseaux
Submitted date 2012-04-06 08:23:17

You mentioned that you recomend ATI Graphix cards and not NVidia. Well I had the ooposite problem recently - My $80 Daimond ATI card did NOT support OpenGL 2.0 or later (which is required for video playback in the new Steinberg engine), even with the newest drivers installed. However, The $40 card I use now is Asus Nvidia and works flawlessly, supporting OpenGL 3. And, its silent! (no Fan :)

Just thought I'd better mention that.

Thanks for all the helpful info on configuring Windows 7!


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