Your Win 95 Computer and Audio


90% of all PC computers that are purchased for digital audio are set up to run typical office, graphical, educational and entertaining applications. THe commercially available machines come preconfigured with numerous programs are pre-installed for you. These machines work well to manage your spreadsheets, print your charts, publish a news letter, handle your accounting, play games, and surf the Internet. These computers are available via mail-order, you local computer superstore, and neighborhood family run store. The prices seem reasonable and bench mark claims make it all look very attractive. All you need to do is install your Audio hardware card and new software and your set! More of a dream than a reality for those wishing to persue intense real-time audio.

Knowing what you want your computer to do for you will save you time and money when it comes to being productive. If you are planning to use your computer as a Digital Audio and MIDI Workstation, Desktop publisher, Fax Machine, Office, Internet, and Accounting machine, be prepared to make a few compromises with the operation of the computer. You will either optimize it for Studio work or for office work. If you want everything to work well on one machine be prepared to spend more time tweaking your computers's settings than actually being creative or productive.

Whatever you are going to use your computer for "the most", will dictate how you use the PC's resources. This document is intended to help you gather and understand the information you need to get the most out of your computer when you set it up for digital audio. Many of you may be considering buying a new computer for DAW work; specifically tripleDAT and TDAT16. This guide will help you when placing your order. The technician can set your new studio computer up to at least these minimum standards. Over the course of it use, you will fine tune your system to best handle the tasks at hand.

There can be a number of hardware and software difficulties that arise when real time demands are placed on computer hardware. The size of digital audio files and demands placed on your system components are be coming less significant.

Consider this; 10.5 meg per stereo minute at 44.1k; almost any computer can handle playback of one or two files while recording another.

10.5 meg X 16 tracks = 168 meg per stereo minute starts to place demands on your system hardware. Adding basic real time processing such as volume and pan, can bring even today’s power systems like a PII 300mhz with 128 meg of RAM with UDMA IDE drives to its virtual knees. Why?

Hardware and software configuration

Most PCs today are setup 3 different ways.

The following are some tips that could very well increase your system’s performance without needing to spend anything more than some time to test each setting, table and compare the results.

For starters, ensure that your System BIOS and your SCSI BIOS (if you have SCSI) are configured optimally. Unless you are confident you know what you are doing, let the computer technician building your system know your audio needs. The BIOS is not a friendly place and the wrong settings here could have seemingly disastrous results. For the Computer technician setting up your hardware: Make sure that the BIOS PnP is configured to make it easy for the user to add a plug and play device without the prayer. If you can, have the technician install your hardware and software "before you get it". That way you can be assured that all is working correctly. Ask for a listing of the BIOS settings. They could easily print each screen.

Once Windows 95 is installed, the most current drivers for your new components should also be installed. Set your Video resolution to 1024x768 and colors to 256. There is no need to run full 3d capabilities of your Video card. Turn off some of the acceleration features.

Do not double the disk size with disk compression programs. Clean the "autoexec.bat" and the "config.sys" file after the initial installation of all your hardware. Windows does not use anything from hear unless you have older devices installed that are not Windows 95 compatible or have no Windows 95 drivers. This will put your system into DOS compatibility mode and slow everything down.

Stop all unnecessary programs form loading with Windows. You do not need instant access to your spreadsheet, or office documents in the middle of a session. Turn off things like "Fast Finder, First Aid, System Agent, Virus protection etc." This type of software intercepts all disk access and can cause audio performance problems due to delays and CPU usage. All you really need is Explorer and your application. Keep it efficient, simple and maintain your hard disk frequently.

Windows 95:

Check the Version of Win95. There have been several releases of the CD ROM


4.0.950 - Get the upgrades form Microsoft (Service Pack)

4.0.950a - Get these upgrades from Microsoft (krnlupd.exe, oleupd.exe, dsktsupd.exe) These will not upgrade you to the B version or OSR2 as it is commonly referred to. Your system will just run much better.

4.0.940 B Current new computer release (you will need drivers for more current technologies like UDMA IDE controllers and USB controllers)

The earliest releases were buggy and require updates from Microsoft to correct various anomalies. The latest release contains support for most peripherals such as video card, modems, sound cards, and controllers. Even though your system may appear to be operating optimally, you could be starving your video card with a driver that is not current. Don’t rely on Microsoft to supply you with the most current support for all your hardware. Surf to the Microsoft site for the latest upgrades according to your OS version.


Windows 95 will normally ask you to restart after each one of these parameter changes, so it is recommended that you close all applications and save any important data before making these changes. Make these optimizations one at a time. After each optimization, restart and check you system performance by running your real-time software (tripleDAT) with a project that taxes the computer. Use this same project or arrangement as your benchmark. Make note of DSP and system readings for comparison so you can measure the resulting differences they make.

Virtual Memory

By default, Windows 95 manages all virtual memory in what is called a "swap file" This file is resized dynamically as the operating system runs. Windows does this when it see fit to resize. Other disk activity during audio playback can product undesirable results.

Setting a permanent size for the swap file will improve overall performance of systems that run from one hard drive. Running the operating system commands, application files, recording and/or playing audio direct form the disk, and dynamically resizing the swap file on a single drive (regardless of its speed) greatly impedes performance.

By setting the virtual swap file to a fixed size, the need for Win'95 to resize this file is eliminated and disk activity during playback will be minimized substantially, thus improving TripleDAT/TDAT16’s or other realtime audio software's performance.

To Set The Swap File Size Permanent:

  1. Click Start on the Windows 95 Taskbar. Click Settings and choose Control Panel. 
  2. Double-click the System icon. 
  3. Click the Performance tab. 
  4. Click the Virtual Memory button. 
  5. Click the option Let me specify my own virtual memory settings. 
  6. Choose the drive that will contain the Swap file (If you have a multi drive system, you can partition one of drives to include one at the size you wish for the swap file) 
  7. Set both the Minimum and Maximum values to 125% of your installed RAM preventing repeated resizing of the swap file. 
  8. Click OK to keep your changes. 
Write Behind Caching

By default, Windows 95 is set to enable disk write behind caching. This function allows Windows 95 to write disk files in the background at some later time, rather than at the moment you initiate a disk write procedure. When recording soundfiles in TripleDAT/TDAT16, the data is written to the disk in one continuous stream of data. Any background writing operations have no chance to write their cache. When write-behind caching is active, Windows 95 tries to put the data in RAM first, waiting for an opportune time to write it to disk in the background. This opportune time never comes, and Windows 95 runs out of RAM space, interrupts TripleDAT/TDAT16 trying to quickly empty its cache to disk, and potentially loses incoming data, causing audio problems in the recording.

To Turn Off Write behind-Caching:

  1. Click Start on the Windows 95 Taskbar. Click  Settings and choose Control Panel. 
  2. Double-click the System icon. 
  3. Click the Performance tab. 
  4. Click the File System button. 
  5. Click the Troubleshooting tab. 
  6. Check the Disable Write-Behind Caching For All Drives checkbox. 
  7. Click OK to keep your changes. 

By default, Windows 95 caches all disk reads to RAM. Read caching can be an advantage for TripleDAT/TDAT16. Problems can occur, when Windows 95 dynamically resizes the amount of space allocated for the read-cache buffers. This can cause audio performance compromises during playback and CD burning.

To Limit the Maximum File Read-Cache Size:

Editing this parameter requires that you add some lines to a critical windows file. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with this at all, ask for help from someone who knows Windows 95. Before you begin make a copy of the system .ini file on floppy to restore from should you inadvertently modify anther setting.

  1. Using Windows Explorer, navigate to your Windows folder, and double-click the System.ini file to open it into the Notepad application.
  2. Search for a section labeled [vcache].
  3. Create another blank line under the [vcache] heading and type MinFileCache= 1024 and another line with MaxFileCache = 4096. If this entry already exists, just change the size value. Make sure the upper case and lowercase letters are maintained, otherwise this line will not work. Some programs will set a limit for you depending on their needs. These values are a starting point.



(This limits the maximum file cache size to 4096 Kilobytes (4 Megabytes). You can experiment with different sizes, but the size specified should be in increments of 1024 and it is recommended that the Max size not be made less than 2048.) If you are running VST, you will notice that this size is set to 20480 (20 meg) as this is what VST wants.

Save the file and close Notepad. Restart Windows 95 for this change to take effect.

Double Buffer *** USE with Caution ***

I found reference to this item at the WinAnnoyances site. In some cases, depending on your disk configuration, Windows 95 may create a double buffering scheme for handling disk transfers. This can cause serious audio problems during record and playback and only affects SCSI.

To Disable Double Buffering:

This is another setting that you make to a core system read only file. Without this file your system will not even start! This is better left to someone with a good working knowledge of Windows 95 like your computer technician.

  1. Using Windows Explorer, navigate to the root directory of your boot drive.
  2. Right-click on the MSDOS.SYS file and select Properties from the popup menu.
  3. Uncheck the Read Only checkbox.
  4. Click OK.
  5. Double-click on the MSDOS.SYS file and choose Notepad to open the file.
  6. Scroll through the file looking for a section labeled [Options].
  7. Create a blank line under the [Options] heading and type DoubleBuffer=0. If this entry already exists, make sure it is =0, not 1. Make sure the upper case and lowercase letters are maintained, otherwise this line will not work.
  8. Save the file and close Notepad.
  9. Right-click on the MSDOS.SYS file and select Properties from the popup menu.
  10. Check the Read Only checkbox.
  11. Click OK.
  12. Restart Windows 95 for changes to take effect.
CD-ROM Auto Insert Notification

Win95 default setting for any CD ROM drive is set to constantly check the CD-ROM for the insertion of a CD so that it may automatically run the CD setup program or play any audio on the CD as soon as it is put in. To do this it reads the CD drive at frequent intervals to check if you have inserted something new. This can result in audio performance difficuylties during playback and recordings because it forces Windows 95 to stop all other running applications when it does its duty. This will also interfere with the ability of a CD-R burner to write a CD by causing the SCSI controller to check the CD-R at the same time a CD is being burned.

To Disable CD Auto Insert Notification:

  1. Click Start on the Windows 95 Taskbar. Click Settings and choose Control Panel. 
  2. Double-click the System icon. 
  3. Click the Device Manager tab. 
  4. Click the plus sign next to the CD-ROM listing to expand the list of CD-ROM devices. 
  5. Select your CD-ROM and click the Properties button. 
  6. Click the Settings tab. 
  7. Uncheck the Auto Insert Notification checkbox. 
  8. Click OK to keep your changes. 
Follow this procedure for all CD-ROMs installed.
Video Cards

Some video cards can interfere with the PCI bus and/or DMA operations. Many of the newer hardware accelerated video cards will install with their own own program and augment the settings tab in the Windows 95 Display Properties control panel. Find a reference to PCI bus retries or DMA bus mastering, and try disabling this option. If you see any references to 3D acceleration disable the circle, eclipse, and rectangle draw. Reduce the colors to 256 and set your resolution to 1024x768. If you have trouble seeing the screen, use 800x600. You may not get to see everything in your window you would normally see at the higher resolution.

Graphics Hardware Acceleration

Some video cards hardware acceleration interactions can be controlled directly from the Control Panel in Windows 95.

To Reduce Graphics Hardware Acceleration:

Click Start on the Windows 95 Taskbar. Click Settings and choose Control Panel. 
  1. Double-click the System icon. 
  2. Click the Performance tab. 
  3. Click the Graphics button. 
  4. Adjust the Hardware Acceleration slider control one notch to the left to lower the setting. 
  5. Click OK to keep your changes. 
Computer Role

Windows 95 allows you to select different role types for your computer system, and it appears that memory and disk handling may be treated differently depending on the type selected. Selecting a different role type may be the solution.

To Change the Computer Role Type:

  1. Click Start on the Windows 95 Taskbar. Click Settings and choose Control Panel.
  2. Double-click the System icon.
  3. Click the Performance tab.
  4. Click the File System button.
  5. Change the typical role of this machine to Network Server.
  6. Click OK to keep your changes.
  7. After restarting Windows 95, if the problem persists, try adjusting this setting one notch lower, until the desired results are achieved. If the lowest setting does not work, it is recommended that you reset the control to back the highest setting. *PII CPU should have the "read ahead" set to full*
Media Control (only if necessary)

Earlier system with little RAM (16 or 32mb) could cause some resource difficulties. By default, the Media Control Interface (MCI) will allocate a certain amount of memory to buffer from 2 to 9 seconds worth of audio for the default audio wave device. This can introduce a double buffering condition and may cause glitches when using TripleDAT/TDAT16.

To Disable the Wave Audio Device:

  1. Click Start on the Windows 95 Taskbar. Click Settings and choose Control Panel.
  2. Double-click the MultiMedia icon.
  3. Click the Advanced tab.
  4. Click the plus sign next to the Media Control Devices listing to expand the list.
  5. Select the Wave Audio Device (Media Control) and click the Properties button.
  6. Select the Do not use this Media Control device option button. (OR click the Settings button, and adjust the slider control all the way to the left to the minimum setting.)
  7. Click OK to keep changes.
These simple optimizations will increase your over-all audio performance. Always make paper notes when you are makeing any changes to your operating system. Happy tweeking!

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By Anton Bernhardt 1997
© Copyright Anton Bernhardt - All rights reserved 1998

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