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Setting a drive letter in Windows

Whether you’re making music on laptop or a desktop computer, the point comes when you want to archive your work and free up some space on your primary drive and you reach for an external hard drive.  Not that they’re only useful for storage – the use of external drives allows you to store sample libraries without consuming large amounts of disk space, (and also means that your DAW isn’t trying to write to the hard disk at the same time as it’s trying to read from it).  With USB3 and SSD technology, the connections can be lightning fast and load times significantly reduced.  The only problem with external  drives, (apart from having to find one more power outlet), is that Windows isn’t as helpful as it could be in allocating the same drive letter each time you plug in the external drive.  In this video, I show you how to make sure that the same drive letter is allocated each time.

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Docked and iLok’ed out of my comfort zone

twin-monitorsJuly was a trying month, one way and another, featuring more than its fair share of computer problems.  After my Vista PC finally stopped trying, I quickly tired of plugging all the bits of kit into my Windows 7 laptop that used to be permanently hanging from the Vista tower, so I bought myself a docking station.  Theoretically, this had a triple benefit – only one USB cable needed to plug everything in, I’d have more USB ports so I could set up my external hard drives permanently and I could use the now-redundant monitor as an extension to the desktop.  Where was the downside?

The words “plug and play” now evoke something of a hollow laugh. [Read more…]

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Hasta La Vista, Baby

windows_vista_logoFor a while now, I’ve been running two computers – my main “home” computer has been a tower system and I’ve had a laptop for making music, as the tower wasn’t up to running much in the way of music software any more, being  7 years old and, more pertinently, as it was running Windows Vista 32 Bit. However, it was still perfectly adequate for running Office, casual surfing of the net and reading e-mails, (although my Outlook file had grown to such a size that any new e-mail took more than a few seconds to open).   A couple of weeks ago, it wouldn’t boot at the first time of asking, throwing a DOS disk error, but like a fool, I ignored this harbinger of doom.  Well, not quite – I did something worse and, with hindsight, something that could have been monumentally stupid.

[Read more…]

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Adding a Solid State Drive (SSD) as an audio drive

mx100-2-5-ssdOne of the main upgrades that you can do to improve the performance of a computer is to replace the collection of spinning metal plates that make up your hard disk with something that has no moving parts at all – a Solid State Drive or SSD.  Although my PC is well specc’d for a laptop – 6GB of RAM, 750GB hard disk and Core i7 processor – that drive is a 5,400rpm model.  Which, for most things you’d use a laptop for, is fine, but not for audio, as the normal recommended speed is 7,200 rpm, which is not that common as an OEM component.  However, my laptop also comes with a spare 2.5” drive bay, so I installed a 512GB SSD drive as a second drive yesterday.  Normally, people install an SSD as a replacement for their primary drive, to get fast boot and load times for programs, but I had different priorities.  I don’t mind waiting a few minutes for Cubase to load, but it’s once I open a project that the hard drive really starts to get stressed.

[Read more…]

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Free[ze] up your computer’s resources

When I started recording music, effects such as an 1176 compressor or a Pultec EQ were very much the province of big recording studios and far beyond the reach of young students who struggled to find the price of a Portastudio. The same applied to keyboards – at its launch, Yamaha’s classic CS80 keyboard was yours for a mere £3,500, (or $5,800 or €4,200).Today, VST plugins offer us the facilities and sounds of the instruments and effects that they emulate at a fraction of the price of the real thing. And you don’t just get one, but the opportunity to have as many instances as you like of as many plugins as you like, until your PC grinds to a halt under the load.

So we need ever faster and bigger PCs to keep up with the demands of these CPU-cycle consuming, RAM hogging plugins. But there is a way round this and most DAWs offer you the facility to have your cake and eat it, without having to resort to rendering the individual tracks.