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How to get the best performance on your Windows computer

Windows has come a long way over the past decade. Older versions of Windows had significant problems with audio & MIDI performance, but Microsoft have done a lot to improve that, particularly in recent years. However there are still a few tweaks you can make if you want the most stable and most efficient system for recording and playback.

Upgrade to Windows 10

If you are still using an older version of Windows by far the best change you can make is to upgrade to Windows 10, for reasons of both security and performance. Note that while some people might think that running an older version of Windows should give better performance, in reality this is unlikely to be the case. With Windows 10, Microsoft made significant changes to the audio and MIDI subsystems. So if you are using your computer for music applications, then Windows 10 will almost certainly give you the best performance regardless of the age of your computer.

Windows 10 Security and Performance

Windows 10 is also much more secure than previous versions, which, perhaps surprisingly, also has an effect on performance. In 2017 it was found that all computers, regardless of Operating System, were affected by two major security bugs. As of January 2018 fixes for these bugs have been released, but this fix may have a significant effect on your computer's performance, particularly on older Windows machines.

According to Microsoft:

“With Windows 10 on newer silicon (2016-era PCs with Skylake, Kabylake or newer CPU), benchmarks show single-digit slowdowns, but we don’t expect most users to notice a change because these percentages are reflected in milliseconds.

With Windows 10 on older silicon (2015-era PCs with Haswell or older CPU), some benchmarks show more significant slowdowns, and we expect that some users will notice a decrease in system performance.

With Windows 8 and Windows 7 on older silicon (2015-era PCs with Haswell or older CPU), we expect most users to notice a decrease in system performance.”

Windows 10 Upgrade for Free?

Note that if you are currently still running Windows 7, or Windows 8 or 8.1, you may still be able to get an upgrade to Windows 10 for free. Please see this article from ZDNet. We strongly recommend that all users on older versions of Windows take advantage of this offer while you still can!

Security Software

We do recommend that security software be installed on all Windows computers. However it should be noted that some security software can cause problems with audio and MIDI performance. A notable guilty party is Norton security software which can cause considerable issues. Unfortunately Norton software is often preinstalled on many Windows machines, or used as a sales device by computer stores. Regardless of what your salesman may have told you, we recommend that users do not use any Norton software, and if it is already on your computer we recommend uninstalling it and using different security software instead.  In our tests we have found the best results using the following antivirus apps, and we recommend that users install one of these:

Performance and Sleep mode

Most Windows computers ship with a Balanced Performance power plan mode by default. Although this is fine for most normal everyday computing use, you should get much better results for music applications by changing this to a higher performance mode. To do this, simply right click on the battery or mains power icon in your Taskbar, and select Power Options:

You will see a control panel like this open:

Ultimate Performance Power Plan in Windows 10

Choose High Performance or (if it is available) Ultimate Performance. Note that you may need to click on Show additional plans to make these options available to you. 

In High or Ultimate modes your processor should perform faster, and most importantly, your computer will not automatically go to into Sleep mode when you stop using it for a little while. We have found that allowing the computer to go into Sleep mode can cause problems with communication with your interface, so it is strongly advised that you disable Sleep in this way.