Music computers are often best set up for the specific task of recording and mixing music, that means only installing applications that are strictly used in the audio production process. This is the number one tip because anything else could slow your computer down.
That being said it is pretty important that if your computer is online that you have sufficient anti virus and anti malware software installed and that it is kept up to date against new viral threats. 2 applications I use myself that I can recommend is Avira Anti Virus and also Malwarebytes Anti Malware. These have ensured my work PC’s are virus free. Few things are as annoying as getting a viral infection on your computer.
Keeping it clean
From time to time it is a good idea to visually inspect the insides of the PC, ensure you have the mains electricity switched off before putting your fingers inside a computer.
Ideally you would leave the mains lead plugged into the wall socket and ensure the power is 100pct switched off. This leaves the chassis of the computer earthed and reduces the risk of you introducing a static discharge to a very sensitive component which can end it’s life instantly.
It can be surprising just how much dust can accumulate inside the average PC. Dust build up often occurs on fans and case vent holes. Gently removing this with a slightly damp cloth reduces the risk of fire and also restores cooling efficiency back to normal levels.
OS updates, great, but be wary
Operating system updates can be a blessing and a curse for musicians and engineers, yes it is great the software companies update their operating systems but sometimes they can bring forth unexpected gremlins when certain OS specifics get tweaked. So do be vigilant and ensure you can uninstall any updates with relative ease when applying them. I have known a PC need an entire re-installation of Windows because the updates corrupted during install.
An uncluttered hard drive improves performance
Wherever possible clear out your main audio drive to allow plenty of space, this tends to result in superior drive performance and will avoid audio drop outs when working with high track count material.
It has been said before but backing up regularly is a must. This is 2 fold, your audio data and of course it is a good plan to back up your OS drive as well. Backing up your audio data can be done as often as you wish. The best method I have found for backing up the OS drive is to clone it in it’s entirety. There is a device called the Integral SATA Copy Station, buy a new hard drive and simply clone your configured OS drive. This way you can easily swap the drive in the event of failure and be back working within about an hour or less. Sure it might cost you $100.00 but it is a great comfort knowing should your computer hard disk die you can be up and running in next to no time.
Protect yourself against power cuts
A UPS (uninterruptible power supply) is a very valuable asset. A UPS allows you to plug you computer in and provide an all important 15 - 30 mins power supply window (from the built in battery) in the event that the mains electrical power is down. Usually they provide a beeping sounder that lets you know the main power is out and allows you to shut down in a controlled manner. Sometimes computers will fail to work after a power failure especially if they were writing important files to disk during this process or if there was important data that was not on disk but held in the memory when the power shut off. Secondly more problems can be caused when the power returns as there is often a voltage surge which can affect sensitive components. Many UPS devices these days have surge protection built in because they know this can be a problem. There are cost effective solutions at less than $80.00
Remove external drives with care
As well as the PC itself ensure your external drives are not covered with anything that will stop heat from escaping and ensure that you always remove the external portable disks from the computer OS using the correct means. Removing the disks from the computer without selecting them and safely removing can in the worst case end in lost data. As a rule portable drives tend to be very sensitive so if you have to move them around frequently do so as if the hard drive was a box of eggs.
Barry Gardner operates SafeandSound a low cost mastering studio based in London the UK. The studio offers a free mastering preview to new clients. We offer high end analogue equipment such as MANLEY, SUMMIT Audio, PMC, TC Electronic and are highly experienced in cd mastering.