Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers
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Old 26-02-2012, 05:28 PM   #1
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Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers

Hey guys, Im sure many of you noticed my last thread, three pages of me pulling my hair out trying to find the cause of insane cpu spikes while running Live 8. Fact is, the problem I had is actually very widespread, as I found out once I started to do some research. Im sure many of you already knew a lot of what I just learnt, but for those who dont, I thought I would share.

First off, even if you dont have massive cpu spikes and latency issues, and even if you think your production software is running perfectly, you may be able to squeeze more performance out of your machine which could free up more cpu and memory for bigger projects. For any of you gamers out there, high latency can cause poor performance while running games as well, so its worth optimizing your system for low latency.

The first thing you should try is a latency check, using the Sycon DPC Latency checker. Its free, and lite to run. you can get it here:
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If the program tells you there are drivers causing latency, (which I bet for many of you it will), you should then try this other latency check program. Now you could cut to the chase and just get this one, but I personally found it nice to have both while troubleshooting, one quick and simple, one more in depth. This one however, Identifies the specific problems causing latency on your machine. Also a free download:
[Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]
.

Once you have Identified the problem drivers, do some research. Some problems have an easy fix, like a driver update or a patch. Some require a bit of work; disabling devices in device manager, rolling back to old drivers, tweaking the registry etc. Just work through it, there is likely a solution for your problem posted somewhere online. Dont forget to make system restore points before you do anything drastic!

If the programs find no major latency issues, you can still optimize your system for music production. You should start by doing the usuall maintenance, defragging, disc cleanup etc. A couple programs I found very usefull for maintenance are "Puran Defrag", "Everest home edition" and "Slim Computer".

Puran isnt your typical defrag, and does much more than the one that comes installed with windows. It can defrag your boot time, and has an optimize function that makes things run smoother and quicker in general. You can get it free here:
[Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]


EVEREST Home Edition is a system information, system diagnostics and benchmarking program. It provides a lot of information about your system that is otherwise tricky to find, like the make and model of all the internal components, driver versions etc. The full version even gives you the temperatures for every component in your system that has a thermometer. You can get the free version here:
[Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]


Slim computer is a program that "helps you optimize your system with push-button controls that let you disable services, remove links & uninstall the software you never asked for." It basically brings everything together with one clean interface and shows you all the useless programs that may have accumulated on your computer over the years. It then lets you decide whether to keep the programs or uninstall them. You can get the free version here:
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Another great way of optimizing your system for music production, gaming or any cpu intensive application is with the use of scripts. A script is basically a set of commands which can be used to temporarily disable services which you dont need while producing. There are a lot of things running on your computer, taking up precious cpu and memory, that simply dont need to be running while you produce. Using a script to disable them is a quick and safe way to optimize your system. You just download the script and place a shortcut on your desktop. Anytime you want to produce, you can click on it and let it do its thing. Nothing is permanent, it all restores upon restart, and you can also run the program again at any time to restore everything for normal use without restarting. Here is the script I have been using for my windows laptop:
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. And here is where you can find more information about this script: [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]
. I should note however, I noticed that the latency actually slightly increases when I use this script, so I likely will only use it for certain applications. You should check to see whether the latency increases or decreases when you use the script also.

For those that DO find latency issues, you may have the exact same drivers causing issues that I had on my computer. Since the process of troubleshooting these problems was tedious to say the least, I would like to potentially save some of you the time and trouble.

I run windows 7 and a Nvidia Geforce GT 240M graphics card, but I have discovered that ALL Nvidia cards have this problem with all OS's. If you have a Nvidia card, and have found latency issues using "latencymon" then the driver "nvlddmkm.sys" has likely been identified as the cause of some of that latency. As it turns out, thousands of people have problems with this driver, and there seems to be nearly as many possible solutions. Nvidia is aware of the issue but is yet to fix it. I will leave it to you to research the possible solutions for your case, if any. Many people have found that the problem with the Nvidia cards is caused by a program called "powermizer". This is a Nvidia program that helps save battery power when not running cpu intensive processes. A solution which works for many is to disable this powermizer program. That can be done manually by changing values in the registry, or it can be done by using this program which disables it for you:
[Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]


I tried the powermizer switch and it didnt help to reduce the latency caused by the graphics driver. But it may help for you. Either way, I have found that this problem alone does not cause enough latency to produce the cpu spikes my computer was experiencing. So if you can not fix it, its not the end of the world.

There are two other drivers which are commonly known to cause latency with windows laptops. They are "ACPI" and "NDIS".

ACPI is a driver for your power management system. The power management system in general is the cause of a lot of latency issues with windows laptops. To minimize the latency caused by this driver you should select the "performance" option in your power management settings, and also should disable the "Microsoft AC Adapter" and "Microsoft ACPI-Compliant Control Method Battery" devices in device manager, under the "Batteries" menu. Be warned that, once you have done this, your computer will no longer indicate your battery life, and will no longer optimize your system for minimal power usage while running on your battery. If you run your laptop on battery power a lot, you might be better off leaving these devices alone at the expense of high latency. If you leave it plugged in 99% of the time, like myself, then it is probably worth disabling. You can always enable them at any time either way. After you have made this change, run Latencymon again, if ACPI or some variation of it is still near the top of the list for latency, (which in my case it was), you can take the battery out altogether. I found removing it and disabling the devices solved this driver issue completely for me. Removing the battery also helps contribute to lower running temperatures because the charger is not operating and because the battery is a large dense mass that retains a lot of heat.

NDIS is a network adapter driver. It is also very commonly known to cause latency issues. I have found the only way to solve this problem is to disable the wireless network adapter. This does NOT mean simply hitting the button on your computer. You must disable it in device manager under "Network adapters". Placing a shortcut to the device manager on your desktop makes it more convenient to make these changes often.

If your lucky, all this work with drivers etc will solve your problem. But there are other causes to cpu spiking. One is your cpu overheating. You should run this simple and free program: [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]
to monitor your cpu core temperature while at high loads with something like ableton, if the temperatures exceed the specified "tjmax" temp, you might have a hardware problem or simply a problem keeping things cool enough. You might also notice that ableton Spikes at the same moments the max temp is exceeded. This could be caused by a heatsink which has come loose from the cpu, something you should check when you try the tip in the paragraph below. If you find that the heatsink is not still in contact with the cpu you might want to buy some Artic Silver thermal paste and make the simple repair yourself. Something like so (maybe simpler) :
This has been known to lower temperatures 6 to 10 degree's on average, even just as an upgrade and not a fix. Arctic Silver is always superior to the stock paste. Even if you dont find this necessary, the least you can do is keep your laptop as cool and well ventilated as possible. Run that program for a while in the task bar and you will get a good idea of how your computer runs, heat wise. Cooling pads are great too.

Another thing that can make a HUGE difference, yet often goes overlooked, is cleaning the dust out of your computer. I just did this today with my laptop for the first time in 3 years, and it has made an enourmous difference. The cpu in ableton was noticeably lower, very odd. I will never underestimate dust again. Just be careful how you do it. Static is your enemy. Dont use anything nylon, like a nylon brush for example. Your best bet is to use a q-tip first to get the big dust balls off the fan, then use a small compressed air computer cleaner. Dont spin the fan with the air cleaner though. A motor backwards is a generator, you dont want to be inducing voltages. I have seen many people say the spiking issue completely dissapeared after doing this, I kind of wish I had started with it, instead of ending with it.

Low latency isn't the end all, be all. It certainly helps with music production though, and if you can make all the tweaks necessary, at the end of the day that latency monitor with little green bars all the way accross is pretty rewarding. The ultimate goal is to make producing as fluid and natural as possible. If your computer can't keep up, it really puts a damper on your creative process.

Even if this saves one person from the headache that it has been for me to troubleshoot, than its been worth my time writing it. Enjoy!

Last edited by Deep Dose; 02-10-2013 at 05:03 PM..

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Old 26-02-2012, 05:31 PM   #2
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Re: Important findings concerning latency, optimization and Nvidia graphics cards

This is what it SHOULD look like, when things are running smoothly:

Before making the changes I listed, there were huge red spikes

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Old 27-02-2012, 06:57 AM   #3
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Re: Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers

Hopefully I never hit this problem. I will just self-destruct my face.
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Old 27-02-2012, 08:08 PM   #4
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Re: Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers

Just a little disclaimer: All of this stuff may or may not fix your problem. Unfortunately Windows, Ableton and Nvidia seem to have lots of compatibility issues that need fixing, so for some of you, the best you can hope for is an update that fixes your problem.

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Old 28-02-2012, 06:08 AM   #5
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Re: Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers

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Hopefully I never hit this problem. I will just self-destruct my face.

Yeah thats pretty well how I felt for a while
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Old 29-02-2012, 12:37 AM   #6
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Re: Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers

So glad you posted this.

I have an Nvidia video card and have also been having the same problem with Live; (I just put it down to the large amounts of freeware vsts I use, (many still in beta versions, I'm sure)).

I'll be following some of your suggestions to identify and fix the problem.

repped.

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Old 29-02-2012, 05:23 AM   #7
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Re: Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers

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Originally Posted by Sincock View Post
So glad you posted this.

I have an Nvidia video card and have also been having the same problem with Live; (I just put it down to the large amounts of freeware vsts I use, (many still in beta versions, I'm sure)).

I'll be following some of your suggestions to identify and fix the problem.

repped.
Hey glad to help man
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Old 01-03-2012, 04:21 PM   #8
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Re: Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers

I think its just easier to go with macs
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Old 01-03-2012, 10:55 PM   #9
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Re: Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers

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I think its just easier to go with macs
haha, i knew it was only a matter of time.
Thats true, and if you buy me one I will definitely use it

I know they are great. But im a broke college student so this beast will have to do me for now.

PS: I wont allow this thread to derail into a PC vs Mac war. Not happening, but thanks for the input either way

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Old 02-03-2012, 12:16 AM   #10
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Re: Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers

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Originally Posted by hardwiredpro View Post
I think its just easier to go with macs
Not helpful, and somewhat pointless. Like this:

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Old 05-03-2012, 07:03 PM   #11
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Re: Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers

Quote:
Be warned that, once you have done this, your computer will no longer indicate your battery life, and will no longer optimize your system for minimal power usage while running on your battery.
Also - there are no low-battery warnings that pop up or automatic hibernations. The pc will just switch off immediately when the battery dies. If it's always plugged in that won't be a problem, but I unplug mine sometimes - so I found out the hard way .
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Old 06-03-2012, 03:19 AM   #12
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Re: Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers

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Originally Posted by scyn View Post
Also - there are no low-battery warnings that pop up or automatic hibernations. The pc will just switch off immediately when the battery dies. If it's always plugged in that won't be a problem, but I unplug mine sometimes - so I found out the hard way .
ohh haha, yes, something I should have specified as well. I hope you didnt lose any work. Thanks!

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Old 09-03-2012, 03:49 PM   #13
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Re: Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers

Spam!


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SPAMBAMGONE!!
Ahah Thanks!

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Old 14-03-2012, 06:34 PM   #14
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Re: Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers

thank you very much for this excellent tutorial! The problem I had fighting those terrible cpu peaks was that I was always looking for just the one solution to the problem. It took me a long time to figure out that they are caused by a multitude of problems, often severely influenced by hardware temperature.
Now you offer a comprehensive overview of contributing factors, which is great. I can try everything step by step and I'm sure I can greatly improve the performance of my laptop.
much obliged.
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Old 14-03-2012, 09:15 PM   #15
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Re: Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers

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Originally Posted by Jordi Bouman View Post
thank you very much for this excellent tutorial! The problem I had fighting those terrible cpu peaks was that I was always looking for just the one solution to the problem. It took me a long time to figure out that they are caused by a multitude of problems, often severely influenced by hardware temperature.
Now you offer a comprehensive overview of contributing factors, which is great. I can try everything step by step and I'm sure I can greatly improve the performance of my laptop.
much obliged.

Hey thanks, I am more than happy to help! It took me a very long time to figure out many of these solutions too, and like many, I was naturally inclined to think that "its a computer, its most likely one silly problem I'm just not catching". But I was wrong, and just like you I discovered it was a combination of things. And you are also right that HEAT plays a bigger role than I had ever expected.

If money were no issue, I could picture myself having spent money for someone else to find the problem, which likely would have cost a fortune and still been less effective, considering the odd mixture of problems I had. I now have a far better working laptop, and a much greater understanding of how it works.

Stay tuned for my 'cheap mans' laptop cooling solutions (im a currently a broke college student )
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Old 15-03-2012, 12:05 AM   #16
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Re: Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers

Deep Dose - very thoughtful and informative post- thank you! In fact, your post above is the reason I found the IDM forum. It came up in an Internet search on the DPC latency problem. I have been going round and round with the DPC latency issue on my DAW notebook computer for a couple of years now, and I know most of the suggested fixes, after dozens of hours researching on the Net and fiddling with settings. I still have occasional problems with DPC spikes, as shown in the TheSycon latency checker, but it's much less often than it used to be.

My basic system information:

Clevo-based (Sager) notebook PC, model M570TU
CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q9000, 2 GHz
RAM: 4 GB
Display: Nvidia GeForce GTX 280M

I bought this notebook in August 2009. I'm running Windows XP SP2 on it- I haven't had a compelling reason to move up to Win 7 yet, but I may upgrade sometime this year, or when the app software I use requires it. In my audio work, I typically run one of the following: Reaper (current version), Ableton Live Suite 8, and Pro Tools LE 8.0.5.

Your suggestion to automate the disabling of windows services via scripts sounds good. I used another approach to this- hardware profiles. Hardware profiles includes Windows services in the configurations, so I created a few different profiles, depending on my intended use of the computer. I have a hardware profile for regular use, with networking enabled, etc.. another profile for use with my SIIG dual-port firewire card and the M-Audio ProFire 2626 audio interface. And a third profile to use with the notebook's on-board firewire port and my Digi 002 (Pro Tools LE) interface. The two audio profiles are mostly the same, except for the enabling of the relevant firewire ports in Device Manager.

In the Device Manager, I have disabled everything not related to audio, i.e. all network adapters, the NVIDIA display (I'm runnning the generic Windows Display driver), disabled power management on all USB Hubs, in fact, I disabled all USB Host adapters except the one for the mouse port... disabled the Microsoft ACPI-Compliant Control Method Battery, etc.. also the on-board audio drivers (Realtek High Definition Audio) since I'm running external audio interfaces.

I have whittled down the number of running Windows services to about 15 in my audio hardware profiles, as showing in the Windows Task Manager. Even with this bare-bones config, I still get occasional DPC spikes while running Ableton Live, less often in Reaper. The DPC problem happens more often while running very slim audio buffers in my interfaces, i.e. 64 samples. So I'll usually bump up the buffer settings to 256 or 512 samples, if I don't need the low audio latencies for a particular situation.

One odd thing I have noticed, monitoring the DPC latencies while running Ableton Live- if Live sits idle for more than a few seconds, I often start getting the yellow and red spikes. But if I keep a CPU utilization of 20% or higher, while live is idling, I stay in the green (DPC latencies below 100 microseconds). In Live I have done this by loading up a (muted) track with several instantiations of the Melodyne VST plugin. This eats up some CPU cycles and keeps the utilization up. I know this is a workaround, and I shouldn't have to do it, but it seems to keep the DPC spikes in the green! Btw this is with a test Ableton Live Set being run in a loop, with about 50% CPU utilization showing in Live, and CPU core temps running in the range of 45-50 degrees C at that load. My CPU core temps are 35-37 deg. C. when the notebook is idle- no audio apps running.

Another monitoring program I've been using is the RightMark CPU Clock Utility, "RMClock 2.35", found over here: [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]

This has good CPU monitoring facilities, but it doesn't seem to allow me to set CPU parameters. I was wondering if you or anyone else reading this thread might know of another CPU clock utility which allows one to set various CPU clock multipliers and frequencies, on notebook computers such as my Sager. The Sager does have a CPU throttle button on the front panel, which lowers the CPU multiplier to 6.0 and voltage to 1.163 (normally, the CPU is running 7.0/1.275). The CPU clock at this lower power setting comes down to 1.58 GHz (from 2.0 GHz at the normal setting). Sometimes, if I'm getting the DPC spikes, I can get rid of them by switching to the lower power setting. Pulling out the AC adapter plug and running the notebook on battery power has the same effect- the CPU goes to the lower power setting, which results (most of the time) in removing the DPC spikes.

It's been a while since I've cleaned the dust out of the computer, and as you point out, the extra heat generated by having dust in the machine may be a major cause of the DPC latency problem. I often notice that the DPC spikes starting coincides with the notebook's fans going to a higher speed. I think I'll open it up today and get the dirt out.

--Doug

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Old 15-03-2012, 08:48 PM   #17
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Re: Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers

This is a very wonderful thread, as recently I've been encountering these problems myself, wondering what to do about them... Thank you very much for the info, guys.

I found great use of the audio service reset script:

net stop "Windows Audio"
net start "Windows Audio"

As basic as that. But I'm wondering if someone might be able to help with making a bigger script(s), one that stops unneeded services, and one that resumes them. I'm not so into making sripts, but I imagine it would be similar the one above.

And thanks again for your effort, appreciate it!

Also, in LatencyMon I found something in the 'Drivers' Tab, named Hardware Abstraction Layer DLL. Googled it and it looked like it wasn't exactly a driver. It seems to have the highest ISR count and I couldn't figure out what exactly it is, but I read this description:

Quote:
One of the key design features of Windows is that it supports multiple hardware platforms without the need for complete different versions of the OS. This support is accomplished through the HAL, which is implemented via the kernel-mode hal.dll module. All Windows components access hardware via the HAL, and multiple HALs are available that are specific to different hardware platforms.
That's on hal.dll. Should I be looking at this as the sum of all drivers that are being accessed, or is there something more to it?

------------------
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Old 18-03-2012, 11:08 PM   #18
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Re: Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers

Followup to my previous post- I opened up the Sager notebook and thoroughly cleaned out all the dust and dirt. There was quite a bit of dust in there, particularly on the insides of the GPU and CPU heat sink fins (the fans blow air through these, exiting the back of the notebook case), the fan intake screens on the bottom of the notebook, and the fan blades themselves. After cleaning, I find that CPU core temps have dropped about 3 degrees under the same CPU load - they're now between 44 and 47 degrees C. Idle temps are about the same as they were before.

I've been working on a session in Ableton Live for several hours yesterday and today, and have not experienced any DPC latency issues causing audio problems using the ProFire 2626 firewire interface. And I'm running the interface at a buffer setting of 64 samples! And now, when idling in Ableton Live, I am not getting any yellow or red DPC spikes (instances of DPC latencies above 1,000 and 2,000 microseconds).

From my experience, I concur with Deep Dose that keeping your computer meticulously clean of dust and dirt (so that it can run at the coolest temperature), goes a long way towards alleviating the DPC spike problem, as well as enabling your system to handle larger sessions.

In addition, the following have helped greatly reduce or eliminate the DPC latency issues on my system: (ymmv)

1. In the Device Manager, disable all device drivers that aren't specifically needed to run your audio app. And I mean ALL. Here's a partial list of what I've disabled on my Sager notebook:

* Microsoft AC Adapter
* Microsoft ACPI-Compliant Control Method Battery
* NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280M
* USB Human Interface Device
* Secondary IDE Channel (don't need the optical drive to run my audio apps. If I need to burn a CD or DVD, I boot up a different hardware profile with this device enabled).
* OHCI Compliant IEEE 1394 Host Controller (the notebook's onboard firewire. I'm using a SIIG Express Card firewire interface)
* 1394 Net Adapter
* Direct Parallel
* Realtek ...PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet NIC
* Modem Device on High Definition Audio Bus
* Network Controller
* Unknown Device (might be the fingerprint scanner on this notebook)
* Realtek High Definition Audio (the notebook's onboard audio. I'm using an external firewire audio interface, so I don't need the onboard one)
* All USB Host controllers except the one my mouse is on.

2. Disable the NVIDIA video driver and use the generic Windows display driver. I am running 1600x1200 pixels, and Medium (16 bit) color depth. This seems to work fine for the audio apps I run (Reaper, Ableton Live, and Pro Tools LE). My next challenge will by to try to get the NVIDIA driver to play nice with my audio apps, since some of what I want to do involves audio post-production for video. Video does run okay using the generic Windows display driver, but not full-screen! I have to run any video in a small window for the video updating to be acceptable. It would be nice to be able to run the video window full-screen on a separate monitor from the audio app.

3. Disable all background Windows apps, like the ones running in the System Tray, or being run from the Startup folder (example path: C:\Documents and Settings\(Username)\Start Menu\Programs\Startup). This includes virus checkers, app update services, app "quick start" services, etc.. you don't need 'em running while using audio apps, and they may cause problems by taking CPU cycles away from your audio app, or the firewire bus, at a critical time. Go to each System Tray icon and see what program is running the task. You can sometimes configure particular apps to disable a System Tray service upon computer bootup. Or, using Regedit, you can look in the Windows Registry in the key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\Curr entVersion\Run and see what tasks are being run. I have sometimes deleted keys in this location, when I was sure that I didn't need the service to run, i.e. Intuit online updating, etc..

4. Disable all Windows services that aren't needed. My notebook is running great with just 14 Windows services showing in Windows Task Manager. I recommend either using scripts as Deep Dose mentioned, or using Hardware Profiles in Windows. If you overstep and disable a critical Windows service, you may put the computer into a state in which you can't do anything (been there, done that!). If you have a separate Hardware Profile that you configured this way, you can just reboot the computer and choose another hardware profile. The point is to always have a hardware profile that you can boot up with, separate from the one in which you're "experimenting" with disabling drivers and Windows services.

5. Use a good contact cleaner like Caig Pro-Gold or DeOxit on both ends of the firewire cable. I have found this to help the DPC latency problem sometimes. You might also want to try a different firewire cable.

6. Plug 'n' PRAY.

--db
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Old 19-03-2012, 03:50 PM   #19
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Re: Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers

This must have been what caused issues on my old computer. It crashed often when due to spikes and I had huge latency even with projects that werent that big. When it should run it without any problems.
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Old 22-03-2012, 02:19 PM   #20
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Re: Things you should know about Ableton cpu spikes, Latency and Nvidia drivers

Hey guys, great input. If anybody else finds a new solution to any of these problems, feel free to contribute!

I can tell just by how quickly the views have risen that these issues are pretty common. Would be great if Nvidia, Ableton or Microsoft took notice. Not gonna hold my breath though

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