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PCRECORDING.COM - Windows Optimization for Recording

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Windows 95 was created for use in offices as well as in the home. In this capacity, it is a fairly quick and efficient system. However, digital audio applications make heavy use of real time processing, and in this case Windows 95 is not well suited. The good news is that with a little tweaking and optimizing Windows 95 can be made to run digital audio applications quite well. Note that Windows 98 is not much different than Windows 95 and these suggestions should work equally well in setting up a system using the newer operating system.

The following tips and suggestions were put together from personal experiences as well as recommendations from various hardware and software manufacturers. In many cases these settings will greatly improve your success in setting up a working system, but every piece of hardware and software is different and could require more work or different settings. In general though, this would be a good place to start.

Virtual Memory Settings

This setting alone could solve many problems. Normally Windows is setup to allow the virtual memory swap file to be resized dynamically as the system is running. While the swap file is resizing other programs can be delayed causing glitches or pops in the audio during playback. In order to avoid this situation it is best to set the minimum and maximum parameters in your swap file settings to the same values.

Setting your Virtual Memory Size.

  1. On your start menu click on SETTINGS and then on CONTROL PANEL.
  2. Double click the SYSTEM icon.
  3. Click the PERFORMANCE tab.
  4. Click on the VIRTUAL MEMORY button.
  6. Set the MINIMUM and MAXIMUM values to the same value. The best setting depends on your hardware and the amount of memory you have installed but I suggest at least 16MB and at most twice the amount of your physical memory. The most important thing is to make sure both values are the same.

Disk Caching

Write caching is another feature of Windows 95 that normally helps to speed applications but in the case of Digital Audio programs can be a big problem. In order to disable this feature follow these steps.

Turning off Write Caching

  1. On your start menu click on SETTINGS and then on CONTROL PANEL.
  2. Double click the SYSTEM icon.
  3. Click the PERFORMANCE tab.
  4. Click the FILE SYSTEM button.
  5. Click the TROUBLESHOOTING tab.
  7. Click OK to save the settings.

Read caching can cause similar problems to Virtual Memory in that Windows 95 dynamically resizes the read cache buffers. Again the solution is to set the minimum and maximum parameters to be the same.

Making changes to Read Cache Settings

  1. Open the System.ini file by typing "system.ini" in the Win95 Run line, click OK.
  2. Look for a section in the file named [vcache] There should already be one, but if not you can add it.
  3. Add the following lines under the [vcache] heading.
    MinFileCache = 2048
    MaxFileCache = 2048
    You can experiment with larger settings in increments of 1024.

Double Buffering

Some systems may be configured with double buffering for handling disk transfers. This can be another source of audio problems.

Disabling Double Buffering

  1. Locate your root directory on your boot drive.
  2. Right click on the MSDOS.SYS file and select PROPERTIES.
  3. Uncheck the read only box and click OK.
  4. Double Click the MSDOS.SYS file and open it in Notepad.
  5. Look for a section labeled [Options]
  6. Look for a line under the heading which says DoubleBuffer=1
  7. Change this to say DoubleBuffer=0
  8. If there is not a line at all add "DoubleBuffer=0"
  9. Save the file and exit Notepad.

Read Ahead Optimization

This is an additional area for optimizing HD performance for Digital Audio applications. You should turn off Read-ahead optimization.

Disabling Read Ahead Optimization

  1. On your start menu click on SETTINGS and then on CONTROL PANEL.
  2. Double click the SYSTEM icon.
  3. Click the PERFORMANCE tab.
  4. Click the FILE SYSTEM button.
  5. Move the READ-AHEAD OPTIMIZATION slider to the left (OFF)
  7. Click OK.

Video Cards

Many video cards can monopolize the PCI bus and interfere with DMA operations. One of the first things you should do is make sure you have the latest drivers for your card. Many new drivers provide applets which allow you to disable or modify certain settings for the card. If there is an option for PCI bus retries and/or DMA bus mastering or a similar option, you should try disabling these. If you are still having problems or your video driver does not have the above options, you can try reducing hardware acceleration from the control panel.

Reducing Graphics Hardware Acceleration

  1. On your start menu click on SETTINGS and then on CONTROL PANEL.
  2. Double click the SYSTEM icon.
  3. Click the PERFORMANCE tab.
  4. Click the GRAPHICS button.
  5. Move the HARDWARE ACCELERATION slider to the left one notch.
  6. Click OK.
You will need to restart Windows. If the problem remains, repeat the above process until the problem is solved or the slider is all the way to the left. If this did not solve your problem you should probably reset the slider to the highest setting (to the right).

Media Control

To keep the Media Control Interface (MCI) from introducing a double buffering condition in your system you may need to disable the Wave audio device.

Disabling the Wave Audio Device

  1. On your start menu click on SETTINGS and then on CONTROL PANEL.
  2. Double click the MULTIMEDIA icon.
  3. Click the ADVANCED tab.
  4. Click the plus sign next to MEDIA CONTROL DEVICES.
  6. Select the "DO NOT USE THIS MEDIA CONTROL DEVICE" option.
  7. Click OK.

More Suggestions

Compressed Drives

This may seem obvious but make sure you are not using compressed drives. Your computer must uncompress the files on these drives on the fly leading to obvious problems for real time hard disk recording and playback.

Close running programs

Make sure you are not running unnecessary programs in the background. You should clear out your start-up folder and the LOAD and RUN lines in your win.ini file. The win.ini file is located in your windows directory. Load it by typing win.ini in the Win95 Run line.


Newer versions of Win95 as well as Win98 include the option to format your drive with FAT-32. This can decrease wasted space on hard drives, especially if you have many small files. Unfortunately due to the smaller cluster sizes, it's also a bit slower than FAT-16. Audio files tend to be very large so you are better off with a FAT 16 formatted drive for audio applications. If you want to use FAT-32 to access larger partitions but would like to maintain "FAT-16 like" (larger) cluster sizes you can do so. Partition Magic is an excellent utility which will make this an easier task.


Defragment your drives. A heavily fragmented drive can put a noticeable drag on hard disk performance.

MS-DOS Compatibility Mode

Make sure you aren't running your hard drives or CD-ROM in MS-DOS compatibility mode. You can check this in the Control Panel | System | Performance window. If you see a message stating that windows is running in MS-DOS compatibility mode you should resolve the problem. The most likely cause is missing 32 bit drivers for your hardware.

CD-ROM Notification

You might want to try disabling auto insert notification for your CD-ROM drive. This can cause problems with some systems. To disable this go to the Control Panel | System | Device Manager | CD-ROM | Properties | Settings , and disable AUTO INSERT NOTIFICATION.