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Windows XP Tweaks For Audio

By Craig Anderton | October 10, 2007

PRIORITIZE BACKGROUND SERVICES

ASIO works “in the background” compared to other computer tasks. So, it’s important to prioritize Windows for Background Services to minimize audio dropouts and related problems.

  • Right-click on My Computer and choose Properties. Click on the Advanced tab. Click on Performance Settings. Click on Advanced. Under Processor Scheduling, click on Background Services. Click on OK.

TURN OFF INDEXING

Indexing (the Mac has a similar function) builds a catalog of files in order to allow speedier searches, as the computer need only search this catalog to find particular files, rather than scan the entire hard drive. While convenient, indexing can degrade hard drive performance while the indexing occurs. One sign that indexing is occurring is if your hard drive shows lots of activity that doesn’t seem to relate to what you’re doing. Turning off indexing is simple — if you know where to look.

  • Double-click on My Computer to show the disk drives in your computer. Right-click on a disk drive icon, and select Properties. Click on the General tab. Toward the bottom of the window, uncheck Allow Indexing Service to index this disk for fast file searching. Click on OK.

CHOOSE HIGHEST PERFORMANCE GRAPHICS

Windows XP’s eye candy is fun, but it requires some CPU power. To maximize CPU efficiency for audio, set graphics for high performance, instead of best appearance.

  • Right-click on My Computer and choose Properties. Click on the Advanced tab. Click on Performance Settings. Click on the Visual Effects tab. Click on Adjust for Best Performance. Click on OK.

SET GRAPHICS FOR CLASSIC MODE

This is another graphics-oriented tweak. In case you’re wondering whether it’s worth it (these days, graphics performance tends to be offloaded to graphics cards, requiring less CPU), it does make a difference, and graphics performance can influence audio performance. 

  • Right-click on the desktop. Click on Properties. Click on Appearance. Under Windows and Buttons, choose Windows Classic Style, instead of Windows XP Style. Click on OK.

NUKE UNNEEDED STARTUP ITEMS

When you boot your computer, many programs install code that instructs Windows to load that code on startup. But do you really want, say, RealPlayer or iTunes Helper to be loaded into RAM and demand your computer’s attention? We thought not, so here’s how to prevent these from loading (and reduce boot time, as well).

  • Click on Start and click on Run. In the Run box, type msconfig. Click on OK. Click on the Startup tab. Uncheck anything you don’t think you need, including performance degraders like Microsoft Fast Find. After unchecking what’s not needed, click on OK.

TAKE CONTROL OVER SYSTEM RESTORE

System Restore has saved me more than once. It’s a cool feature, but you don’t need to have it on all the time, as it uses system resources. I simply set a restore point manually as needed (like before installing a new piece of software or swapping a driver). Here’s how to turn off System Restore. (Note that you can’t turn off system restore on your C: drive without turning it off on all drives.)

  • Right-click on My Computer and select Properties. Click on the System Restore tab. Check the Turn off System Restore on all drives box. Click on OK.

ELIMINATE THE BACKGROUND SCREEN

If you have a pretty desktop picture, it’s loaded into memory. If the picture is a large bitmap, you could be losing a few megabytes of RAM (this may sound insignificant, but every byte helps). You can reclaim this memory by setting a simple background color, like black.

  • Right-click on the desktop. Click on Properties. Click on Desktop. Under Background, scroll to the top of the list and select None. In the Color drop-down menu, choose the color of your choice. Click on OK.

REDUCE HARDWARE ACCELERATION

This is not a recommended tweak unless you have corruption with bit-mapped graphics (for example, dragging a window causes parts of it to disappear or smear). Also try this tweak if using the mouse causes freezes. 

  • Right-click on the desktop. Click on Properties. Click on Settings. Click on Advanced. Click on the Troubleshoot tab. Move the hardware acceleration slider one notch to the left of Full. Click OK, then click on OK again. (If this doesn’t solve the problem, repeat the procedure, but try moving the slider two notches to the left of Full. If this doesn’t solve the problem, look elsewhere for the solution — perhaps a new graphics card driver.)

INCREASE MONITOR REFRESH RATE

This doesn’t improve the computer’s performance, but it will make staring at the screen for long periods of time much more bearable if you use a CRT monitor (this tweak is not relevant with LCD monitors). The default refresh rate for most monitors is 60Hz, which can cause noticeable flickering. Raising this gives a steadier, less fatiguing image.

  • Right-click on the desktop. Click on Properties. Click on Settings. Click on Advanced. Click on the Monitor tab. Check the box that says Hide modes that the monitor cannot display. Under Screen Refresh Rate, choose a higher refresh rate, like 70Hz. Click on OK, then click again on OK.

GET NORTON OFF YOUR COMPUTER

I’ve known several people who bought a computer with a trial version of Norton Utilities installed, but didn’t subscribe to it, choosing to use some other kind of protection instead. This can lead to conflicts that bring your computer to a crawl, and using the standard uninstall option in Windows won’t clean out all Norton remnants. 

  • Instead, click here and download the Norton removal tool. Follow the instructions to remove all Norton components from your computer, but ignore the part where it wants you to reinstall the software.
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