Computer Optimization for DJ Use

Personal computers these days are powerful machines. That said, DJ software can put a lot of strain on your CPU, causing your computer to sometimes behave erratically when trying to do too many things at once.
Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to optimize your PC or Mac* for live performance that will allow your DJ software of choice to make use of as much processing power as possible. This will result in smoother operation and less chance of the set-ruining laptop crash eliciting cries of “I told you so” from the analogue purists ;-)

Firstly, try and make sure your using as much RAM as you can. 2GB is a good start, 4GB is better still. Your operating system can use up to as much as 1GB all by itself so when you start throwing in 4 track decks, samples and FX on top of that, your software will thank you for the extra resources to cope with it!

Secondly, look at how much free space you have on your hard drive. As a minimum you should aim to keep at least 20% free for system tasks and other virtual memory operations. If you start to run out of space, look at shifting some of your files to an external drive or sweep through and delete old and unwanted files. Many people choose to keep their library completely external and just use the internal drive for applications and day to day functions.

Thirdly, look at your USB ports. Even though your PC may have 4 USB ports, it is often an internal hub, driven from one main port. It’s worth finding out which port acts as the main input as this is where the most power will be drawn from and will be the best to power your controller or audio device. If you use an external hub, make sure that it has its own power supply as otherwise it will suck power from your computer, putting more strain on your system.

*This is not an exhaustive list but more of a quick guide to a number of settings you can easily tweak to get the most from your computer.

Windows XP

1. Go to and install the latest update. Restart your computer and repeat the process until you are fully up to date.

2. Turn off hard drive sleep. If you start your DJ software from hibernate or sleep mode it may not run at 100% (much like yourself!), causing audio dropouts and glitches so always restart your computer before launching.

Start > Control Panel > Power Options and set the 'Turn Off Hard Disk' ‘System Standby’ and System Hibernate’ options to 'Never'.

3. Turn off wireless networking. Your PC’s wireless card can kick in at any time and the last thing you want is it trying to connect to the club’s wifi right in the middle of an epic breakdown causing nasty USB dropouts. The same goes with Bluetooth.

Start > Connect To > Show All Connections and right-click ‘Disable’ on any LAN or High-Speed Internet connections.

TIP! Turn off Automatic Updates as well for the same reason.

Start > Control Panel > Automatic Updates and select 'Turn Off Automatic Update', press OK.

4. Boost your hardware acceleration settings by right clicking the desktop and selecting ‘Properties.’ Choose ‘Settings,’ then ‘Advanced’ and finally ‘Performance’ (sometimes ‘Troubleshoot’). Move the slider to the right to reduce CPU load.

5.  Windows considers audio processing to be a background task which can cause audio glitches where the system doesn't focus too much on what is going on with the audio.

Start > Settings > Control Panel > System > Advanced > Performance Settings > Advanced Tab and choose ‘Background Services’ instead of ‘Programs.’ This will reverse the computer’s attention.

6. Disable screensaver. Right click the desktop and select

Properties > Screen Saver > None

Windows 7 / Vista

Windows 7 and Vista is set-up for a wide cross-section of users and the user interface is designed to look pretty, play nice sounds and provide the best web browsing multimedia experience it can. All these bells and whistles result in a higher system overhead than XP and on lower spec machines it can provide less than optimal performance when running real-time applications.

1. 64-bit or 32-bit? I won’t go into too much detail here but make sure your software is compatible with your operating system. Click Windows start, right click on computer, choose properties and check your system type.

For more on 64/32-bit see Microsoft’s FAQ

2. Make background services a priority. Just like XP, Windows 7/Vista treats audio processing as a background task. Reverse this for DJing purposes.

Windows start > right click computer > properties > advanced system settings > advanced tab > performance > settings > advanced tab and set processor scheduling to Background services

3. Windows Security Settings.

WARNING!! - Be careful if you intend to use your computer online as this will open up your computer to attack if connected to a network.

Windows start > control panel > security centre

- Tell Windows update never to check for updates.
- Turn off Firewall.
- In Windows Defender, uncheck ‘Automatically scan my computer.’ Windows will carry on reminding you that your PC is at risk. Go to ‘Change the way security centre alerts me’ and select ‘Don't notify me and don't display the icon.’

4. Start-up services
When you turn on your PC, Windows will start to pre-load your programs, helping you reduce the load time when you open them. A half-launched program is helpful for the general user but at the cost of losing valuable processing power.
Disabling your start-up configuration will allocate more CPU cycles to running programs as well as helping Windows to boot-up faster.

Follow these instructions very carefully as disabling the wrong thing can damage your machine.

To disable 3rd party startup items:

Windows start > Run

1. Type 'msconfig' press OK > startup tab and turn off anything non-essential (iTunes helper, virus scanner etc)

2. Click 'OK' and 'restart'. Check the 'OK' box on reboot.

For those who want to disable as many non-essential services as possible you can be more aggressive. Only do this if you know what you are doing and are confident you are not turning off anything important.

To disable system services:

Windows start > Run

Type ‘msconfig' press OK > services tab. In the service tab select the box at the bottom of the screen to 'Hide all Microsoft services' then choose 'Disable all'.

If you accidentally disable something you need, then simply go back into 'msconfig' and reverse the items you need or to reverse the whole procedure choose the 'Enable all' option in each tab.

5. Maximise your hard drive performance.

Windows start > computer and right click each of your hard drives.

Choose ‘Properties’ go to the ‘General’ tab and make sure the ‘Compress this drive to save disk space' and 'Index this drive for faster searching' boxes are un-checked.

In ‘Properties’ > ‘Tools’ you can access the ‘Defragmentation’ option. As you use files, your computer will often hold them in other areas of your hard drive for quicker access. Over time this can lead to your hard drive becoming cluttered, much like a desk with lots of files and folders that you have been working from but haven’t put them back in the drawer. Defragging your disk regularly, cleans up this clutter and makes things easier to find, quicker.

6. Disable your Wifi/Bluetooth settings.

Windows start > right click computer > manage > device manager then right click on any device and choose disable.

Internet and wireless cards are found under 'network adapters'

7. Disable sidebar gadgets. These take up unnecessary processing power that could be better utilised in your DJ software. If gadgets are enabled, right click on its icon at the bottom of the screen, choose ‘Properties’ and uncheck the 'Start sidebar when Windows starts' box.

8. Set your appearance and personalisation settings to their most basic such as disabling the screensaver and sound scheme. Aero, while looking all transparent and pretty, its actually quite CPU intensive and should be disabled for optimum performance.

Windows start > right click computer > properties > advanced system settings > advanced tab > performance > settings > visual effects tab > adjust for best performance

9. Boost your power settings and turn off system sleep/hibernate modes. Image you step away from the decks for a minute and your laptop goes into shutdown after a minute. Try explaining that to the promoters!
Windows start > control panel > power options > high performance > change plan settings
Select ‘Never’ for everything when performing, but if your computer is not a dedicated DJ machine, you may want to change these settings back for day-to-day use.

Mac OS X

Mac’s are renowned for being reliable, high performance machines and for the most part they are. More suited to running high CPU applications such as audio and visual processing software, there are much fewer tweaks that it’s Windows counterpart. All of these tweaks can be accessed through the ‘System Preferences’ menu.

1. In the Energy Saver preferences, choose ‘Never’ in all settings for best performance.

2. Turn off Airport, Bluetooth and Time Machine by clicking the appropriate icon in the bar at the top right of the screen and choosing ‘Disable...

3. Turn off unnecessary start up items by entering System Preferences > Accounts > Login items and unchecking any items you don’t need to launch when you turn on your computer.

4. Macs like to multi-task. Make sure that any unused applications are closed properly. Holding Cmd+TAB will show you what you have open. Cycle through by pressing TAB while continuing to hold Cmd and press Q to quit an application.

Congratulations, you have just optimised your computer for maximum DJ performance. Now go mix!