Having recently acquired a new custom-built PC, various steps implemented to optimize its performance and usability were taken note of. While not an expert in such things, i figured to share these tips in case they may prove useful. Keep in mind that this guide is presuming that you already dabble in audio production and are upgrading to a new—from an existing—system.
Why Windows Instead of Mac?
For me it’s primarily a matter of maximum processing power per dollar spent. My budget was 3 grand which with a Mac Pro would land 6 cores and 16gb ram. Instead, i got 16 cores and 32gb ram (for $300 less). Future-proofing is also an issue. I don’t want to have to go buy a completely new computer in 3 years. My custom-built PC has an enormous enclosure with a bunch of unused bays which can be used for additional drives or whatever at any point in the future. It’s also water-cooled with silent fans, leading to extremely quiet operation. While i did love my 2007 Macbook Pro before it died, Apple is just not as practical for the budget-conscious. Also that stuff about needing a zillion adapter dongles doesn’t sound very appealing. This PC has plenty of ports of all the types needed. And what about Linux? Cool idea, but… i like VSTs.
Why Desktop Instead of Laptop?
I don’t perform live much these days, focusing more on studio work, so for me this was a no-brainer. Even when i do perform live i still use a small-form PC with a monitor instead of a laptop. It might not look so hip, but it has never frozen on me during a gig. Ok, so now on to the optimization tips…
Set Up Audio Interface (because it’s important)
•Essential first step. Make sure it works!
I found out the sucky way that my USB-3 Zoom UAC-8 Audio Interface doesn’t like to talk to AMD motherboards properly. I determined that Asio4All provides functionality, allowing me to actually use all of the inputs and outputs from the UAC-8.
Word to the wise: when deciding between Intel or AMD, check the compatibility of your interface or other important hardware first! It seems that generally Intel is a safer bet.
Remove “OneDrive”, “3D Objects” and “This PC” From the Sidebar (because fuck that shit)
Microsoft is always trying to shovel some stupid new bullshit down your throat and force you to use it. It’s continually annoying, and they don’t seem to understand the vast majority of people don’t like it.
OneDrive? No thanks, i use Tresorit, Google Drive and Dropbox. Check out https://www.tekrevue.com/tip/remove-onedrive-file-explorer-sidebar-windows-10/ to (mostly) remove it.
“3D Objects” Folder? Don’t care. Go away.
Check out https://www.howtogeek.com/331361/how-to-remove-the-3d-objects-folder-from-this-pc-on-windows-10/ to kill it.
“This PC” in Sidebar? I don’t want it in the sidebar. You assholes. Let me customize my layout. To do it: https://www.tenforums.com/tutorials/5352-add-remove-pc-navigation-pane-windows-10-a.html
Remove Bing and Cortana (because fuck that shit)
When i search for a file on my computer, the last thing i want is web results to pop up. If i want to search the web, i’ll open up a fucking web browser and do a fucking web search. And as far as i can tell, Cortana is absolutely useless.
Fuck you, Bing: https://www.neowin.net/news/the-windows-10-spring-update-no-longer-lets-you-disable-web-search-in-start
Fuck you, Cortana: https://www.techadvisor.co.uk/how-to/windows/disable-cortana-3633483/
UPDATE: Bing eventually came back, so i used this: https://pureinfotech.com/disable-web-search-windows-10-version-1803/
Pimp My Explorer (tabbed folders oh my)
Staring at bright white strains my eyes and i’m not a huge fan of it.
Using the dope-ass free app QTTabBar you can customize your folder backgrounds. Mine are a nice beige color now. You can also customize lots of other stuff about Explorer folders, the awesomest being TABBED FOLDERS. Yeah, you know you like tabs in web browsers. They are just as useful for file exploring. You won’t realize how much you’ve been missing them until you try them. Especially if you are often doing stuff requiring lots of folders to be open simultaneously.
Using QTTabBar you can add lots of functionality to Explorer, such as creating custom toolbars and command buttons, navigation history, click events, extra view, folder groups, custom sounds… it’s nuts.
Transfer Your Ableton Factory Packs
Obviously this step only applies to Ableton Live users.
DON’T re-download and re-install all of your owned Factory Packs! That’s too slow! And you might not be able to find some of the older ones! Instead, install the latest version of Live on your new system and follow this: http://mariogiancini.com/transferring-ableton-live-packs-folder/
Optimize For Audio
Check out this nifty guide Ableton put together with various tips for optimizing your PC’s performance. Further, check out the Cantabile Glitch Free Guide it mentions for even more advanced tweaking. I did a lot of the stuff, not all of it.
Install Essential Applications
Now that you’ve accomplished the basic setup, here’s a list of sweet free programs which can enhance your workflow going forward. The following are performodule tested and approved…
•VLC and/or foobar (robust media players with surround sound, encoding, cd rip, etc). Lately i’ve been using foobar tons.
•Audacity (misc. audio operations. i primarily use it for making proper 5.1 surround wavs)
•LAME for Audacity (best-quality mp3 encoding; less important if you own Live 10 as it already has mp3 encoding of comparable quality)
•Bulk Rename Utility (save massive time and effort with batch-renaming prowess. Super, super useful)
•SpaceSniffer (hunt down storage-eating clutter)
•7zip (archiving/unarchiving utility, including ability to unarchive multiple files at once from context menu which is so nice)
•Opera and/or Firefox (web browsers. i use firefox for wordpress stuff, opera for most everything else)
•paint.net (photoshop alternative. Be sure to check out the awesome range of dope free plugins providing new tools and effects)
•f.lux (reduce eyestrain at night)
•OpenOffice (spreadsheets and shit)
•Orban Loudness Meter (vu meter + for system audio)
•Steam (even if you don’t play video games, adds the swanky capability for gamepads to control the mouse, plus custom-mapped commands per application)
•Sublime Text (nice text editor; not free but with an unlimited evaluation)
•Dolby Atmos for Windows (listen to any 5.1 surround- or atmos-encoded material binaurally with headphones. It actually works really well and is pretty awesome. Costs $15 via in-app purchase from the Dolby Access app)
Clean Up the Context Menu
After all this customization, your context (right-click) menu on the desktop is probably over-bloated with unnecessary entries. To cut the clutter and pare your context menu down to the key items you actually use, check out this guide: https://www.online-tech-tips.com/computer-tips/windows-right-click-context-menu/
Hate Automatic Updates? Go Extreme.
Getting fed up with Windows’ sporadic and seemingly mindless updates? Time to roll up the sleeves and get dirty: https://www.easeus.com/todo-backup-resource/how-to-stop-windows-10-from-automatically-update.html
If you intend to apply any system modifications, please proceed very carefully. I take no responsibility if you mess up your system somehow! My PC is running fine after implementing all of these, but that’s no guarantee they will work perfectly for you as well.
Got any sweet suggestions of your own? Know of any awesome workflow apps which make life easier that i failed to mention? Feel free to comment.