Both Mac and Windows operating systems offer services that automatically check for system updates and even run those updates for you. The catch is that your DAW software and drivers may not work properly with those operating system updates. When most systems check for updates on a schedule, they could be going online without regard to what and how you’re using your system. This could potentially sap resources while you’re in the middle of a recording session.
Solution: I’d recommend checking periodically rather than the system checking for you. In the Mac OS, visit System Preferences from the Apple menu, and click Software Update. There, simply un-click “Check for Updates…” so that it doesn’t check automatically. Every few weeks, you can simply click “Software Update” from your Apple menu. After a brief search online, any Mac OS updates will be listed for you.
Windows (XP) has similar options to check for updates. You can stop updates from installing without your knowledge by clicking Start > Control Panel > Performance and Maintenance > System and finally clicking the Automatic Updates Tab.
Select “Turn off Automatic Updates” and click “Apply.”
To check for updates periodically in Windows, launch your Internet browser (Explorer) and choose, ”Windows Update” from the Tools menu.
CAUTION: Computer operating systems are often updated before some software developers can test, develop, and release compatible updates. Before you proceed with any operating system updates, it’s always important to check with your DAW software and hardware developers first in order to make sure their product will work with the new OS. This means EVERYTHING related to your workstation: your DAW software, hardware drivers, and extras like plug-ins. Most developer websites have information on updates and compatibility right at their website. A really good example of this is Digidesign’s website, where they clearly lay out compatibility guidelines at digidesign.com/compato, and all available updates at digidesign.com/download.
Which brings us to a few big operating system updates you should be aware of:
• Mac OSX 10.4 “Tiger”: Several developers found that their software required updates to work properly in Tiger.
• Windows XP Service Pack 2: adds several services that aid in the safety of your PC when online. However, these same services often collided with DAW software. Again updates were necessary to add compatibility.
So before you update, check first, and check frequently. And if you’re still not sure, ask the experts.