When I first installed Windows 7 64-bit I hadn't optimized the system for DAW work. Apparently Windows 7 has alot of background things happening that rob resources.
I ran DPC Latency Checker and without SONAR or any other program running it was showing the system was not optimized to be a DAW. One thing I had not done was turn off any service that was not needed. I didn't even do simple stuff like change Windows to be optimized for speed and not appearance.
I documented what I did with my system and I think the system is now highly optimized for DAW work. I advise researching anything you are not familiar with. These tweaks have worked on my system. I am not responsible for anything that may happen with your system if you decide to try any of these. My advice is to apply each tweak separately, reboot, run the Latency Checker to see how things are coming along and document, document, document! Documenting helps greatly if something happens where the system has to be rebuilt or maybe a Microsoft update changes something.
The below tweaks are best applied to a dedicated DAW system, which is the recommended type of system for DAW work:
>> Start->Right-click Computer->Properties->Advanced system settings->Advanced->Performance:Settings->Visual Effects
Select "Adjust for best performance"
>> Start->Control Panel->Appearance and Personalization->Personalization->Theme
Under Basic and High Contrast Themes, select "Windows Classic"
The "Themes" service can now be stopped
Start->Control Panel->System and Security->Administrative Tools->Services
Change Startup type to "Manual"
Click the "Stop" button
>> Start->Right-click Computer->Properties->Advanced system settings->Advanced->Performance:Settings->Advanced:Processor scheduling
Select "Background services" in the "Adjust for best performance of" section
>> Start->Right-click Computer->Properties->Advanced system settings->Advanced->Performance:Settings->Advanced:Virtual memory->Change
Set C: drive (OS) to No paging file
Created paging file on a drive that is not your OS and is the least used drive in the system. For size using the recommend size and enter this figure for the Intitial size: and Maximum size:
>> Start->Control Panel->System and Security->Power Options->Show additional plans
Select "High Performance" then click "Change plan settings"
Change "Turn off the display" to never
Click "Change advanced power settings"
Expand "Hard disk" then "Turn off hard disk after": Change setting to "0"
Expand "Display" then "Turn off display after": Change setting to "0"
Click "OK" then click "Save changes" in the "Change settings for the plan: High performance" window Reboot
>> Core Parking: Run "regedit" and search (F3) for 0cc5b647-c1df-4637-891a-dec35c318583
Change the "Value Min" and "Value Max" to 0
Press F3 to find the next entry as the number of instances depends on the number of power profiles in the system (3 found in my system)
>> Windows 7 Fault Tolerant Heap: Run "regedit"
Go to this key HKLM\Software\Microsoft\FTH\Enabled and change the value to "0"
This disables the Fault Tolerant Heap entirely on the system
>> In SONAR 8, 8.5 and X1 (only do this for quad core processor systems)
In Options->Audio->Advanced tab click Edit Config File (aud.ini)
Changed "ThreadSchedulingModel" from 1 to 2
>> Turn off System Restore and file versioning
Start->Control Panel->System and Security->System->System protection
Select hard drive where Protection is set to "On"
Click "Configure" button
Select "Turn off system protection"
Repeat for other drives with protection on
>> Turn Windows Features off
Start->Control Panel->Programs->Turn Windows Features on or off
Uncheck "Windows Search"
Uncheck "Tablet PC Components"
Uncheck "Windows Gadget Platform"
Uncheck "Remote Differential Compression"
>> Disable Remote Assistance and Remote Desktop
Start->Control Panel->->System and Security->System->Remote Settings
Uncheck "Allow Remote Assistance connections to this computer
Ensure "Don't allow connections to this computer" option is checked
>> Disable IPv6
Navigate to HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip6\Parameters\
Look for "DisabledComponents" entry
If not there, create it by selecting "New" from the "Edit" menu and then click "DWORD (32-bit) Value"
Modify the "DisabledComponents" entry by double-clicking it
Enter "FF" as a hexadecimal value to disable IPv6 over all interfaces and prefer IPv4 over IPv6. Other values are possible but they only disable specific components. "FF" disables all IPv6 components
>> Stopped the following Services and changed their "Startup" to "Manual"
* Bluetooth Support Service
* Windows Media Center Receiver Service
* Windows Media Center Scheduler Service
* Windows CardSpace
* Peer Networking Identity Manager
* Peer Networking Grouping
* Remote access Auto Connection Manager
* Remote Access Connection Manager
* Remote Registry
* Smart Card
* Smart Card Removal Policy
* Remote Desktop Configuration
* Tablet PC Input Service
* Remote Desktop Services
* Remote Desktop Services UserMode Port Redirector
* Windows Defender
* Windows Remote Management (WS-Management)
* Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service
* Parental Controls
* Nero Update
* IP Helper
* Offline Files
* TCP/IP NetBIOS Helper
In the "Turn Windows Features off" section the "Windows Search" feature is turned off.
I have since found that I liked the feature and turned it back on. There doesn't seem to be an issue with having turned it on again. This feature has been around in various forms since Office 2000 and had been known to take over a system when it decides it needs to do maintenance - usually at the most inopportune time. So far I haven't seen this to be an issue - yet.
WOW! What a cookbook list of things to do. I had no idea there were so many settings and processes that could be altered to speed up the computer. I presume you still keep your internet connection available for software downloads and OS updates. Do you keep basic applications on your system, such as MS Office, email, etc ? I would also guess you have removed all extra 'junk' that usually comes with new computers, like games, advertising links, that sort of thing. Are you running any antivirus or firewall programs? How do you handle HD optimizing... are you using the standard Windows defrag or do you have a recommendation for HD tuneup software? Thanks John for posting this helpful information for all of us.
I disable non-essential devices like the second network port that is built in to the system board, the floppy controller (no floppy drive installed) and a couple other devices. The internet is accessible and I only get updates from Microsoft, Cakewalk, Adobe and some of the other third party add-ins for SONAR like BFD2.
The system is a dedicated DAW. Office, email, and anything non-DAW related is not installed. That stuff is loaded on my other computer (the one I am writing this on). Applications like Office install many little things that start to eat away at system resources. Email opens up the whole can-of-worms of vulnerabilities.
One other thing that is not installed on my DAW is virus protection (VP) software. VP software can be the biggest hog of al. It can and will cause issues at the most inopportune times - like recording the best take so far. In the 2 years of use I've not had any virus or spyware issues. I did recently rebuilt the system with Windows 7, 64-bit but that was because I wanted to upgrade and move to SONAR X1 64-bit.
Systems need to be rebuilt on ocassion. It's like a car motor, given time it will need to be rebuilt. Unfortunately, with computer OSes the time between rebuilds is sooner for the heavier used and abused systems. A dedicated DAW will last much longer than a system that does everything else. Its like the difference between the Sunday driver and the guy driving 100 miles a day to and from work.
Disk Defrag: I use the built-in Microsoft Defrag utility. There's no reason to use anything else. Before Win7 I used a batch file to defrag all the drives that was scheduled to run every night. With Win7 you can go through a Wizard to create a defrag schedule.
Missed a couple questions:
Extra 'junk' that usually comes with new computers, like games, advertising links, that sort of thing:
Since I build my own computers I install the OS from the Microsoft retail version of Windows. You can usually buy the OS for a "builder's price" at the same time you buy the components to build the computer. This saves you money and the headaches of all the crapola that OEM OS installs include with their systems.
Are you running firewall programs?
A custom built PC definitely gives you many more options and is flexible. I am not opposed to building a box for others and have considered it in the past. Distance and providing hardware support in the hereafter is where problems might arise. I'm looking at the PC systems on Sweetwater and the prices and choices are a lot better than the 2 years ago when I built my own. For me I would still build my own but the systems I'm seeing at Sweetwater will definitely do the job for you. And with them you get free lifetime support, a 2-year warranty and it will be optimized for audio out-of-the box. You're budget would be the only limiting factor. That would be the first thing to determine. Even their top-of-the-line tower system is priced at about what it would cost for me to build one. And if I remember correctly, they will install your DAW software. You'd have to talk with a rep about this. What I remember is you have to provide the software to them with serial number and registration information. I don't see this as a problem since you can start working right from the point the system is delivered.
An off-the-shelf non-DAW PC can work but you really need to understand all the components in them and what can and cannot be done as far as memory, hard drive and card slot expansion. As was mentioned either here or somewhere else, a lot of OEM tools are installed along with all the Windows stuff. This pollutes the OS right from the get go and can be removed. Remants are almost always guarenteed to be left behind. Installing the OS from a non-system restore disk (a retail version) is the recommended thing to do. A caveat to doing this is support. Should you ever need support from the manufacturer their answer to you having installed a bare OS is it is not supported. The only way to get support at that point is to do a system restore using their disks.
It's not an absolute necessity to have a dedicated PC. It is recommended because it leaves out a lot of the possibilities for problems that arise from having non-DAW programs installed like Office, virus protection the high probability of problems resulting from generic internet surfing, email and a 1,000 other performance killing possibilities.
I haven't run into a generic PC being used as a DAW that hasn't eventually had problems. Audio processing is very intensive. Think of it like this. Each audio track recorded at 44.1k is equal to 44,100 samples per second that has to be processed. Multiply that by 2, 3 or 4 audio tracks plus plug-ins, soft synths and you'll begin to see how intense this can get. If you are dealing with several audio tracks most of the time and careful about what is installed on the system and the websites you visit then the headaches can be avoided.
There are things to do to prepare a system for recording audio. The tweaks above are definitely a start and I would recommending researching what each does to understand the impact. The additional things to do takes a little bit of time and should be done before using the DAW software. This is well worth the effort to regain performance. First thing to do is disable the network connection. This prevent any internet access from getting in or out. Next, start shutting down all the running applications that are visible in the system tray like virus protection, OneNote (Office uses this), Ad-Aware, Spy-Bot, sync programs and anything else you see in the system tray.
The next task is a little more problematic but can be the place where many performance stealing applications can be found. If you open up the "Task Manager" (pressing CTRL-SHIFT-ESC is the quickest way to summon it) select the "Processes" tab. For Windows 7 make sure to click the "Show processes from all users" button and for pre-Windows 7 check the box for the same. What you do here is read the description on the right for each process running. If it is a third-party product like "Adobe Acrotray" or "Adobe Flash Player" highlight it and click the "End Process" button and confirm to end the process. Don't stop any "svchost.exe", audio interface, video, MIDI or Microsoft OS processes. If you have any questions on what a specific process is look up the Image Name found on the left at http://www.processlibrary.com/. For example, if you search for "KHALMNPR.exe", which is a common Logitech process, you'll find this is a non-essential process and can be stopped since it is not involved in running the operating system. However, "winlogon.exe" should never be stopped because it is a system process.
Documenting what you've done in notepad goes a long way in repeating these tasks much faster in the future.
Here's the defacto list of safe services to turn off. Make sure you read first.
Black Viper's is definitely one of the sites I used to do the tweaks I did. Many services can be turned off but like you said, make sure you read about them first.