Leif K-Brooks from Brattleboro, Vermont, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
There are a lot of problems and solutions associated with using old computers for audio production. Whether it’s the DAW not working entirely or virtual instruments crashing, there’s a lot to be had with audio production on an old computer.
Still, as challenging as some of the areas may seem, there are plenty of ways around recording on old computers. After all, people used these computers when they were in their prime to record, why can’t you now?
Thus, down below, we’re going to discuss a few critical problems tied to using an old computer for recording. After, we’ll go over some problems with using old software and we’ll conclude on some of the best DAWs for old computers and software. Let’s take a look!
Using Old Computers For Audio Production
Source:Cornellanense (talk) 07:14, 29 October 2008 (UTC), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Although there might be more problems with old computer software than the computer itself, there are still several issues you may run into. However, there are ways around it, as long as you’re patient.
Still, some of these issues may need a trial and error regarding older computers and how they operate with recording. Considering recording is a somewhat bulky area, you might as well do what you can to optimize everything.
Remember, as challenging as something may seem, there is always a lighter and faster option waiting for you that you can try out. Thus, don’t be set on doing something and work with what you can. Nevertheless, let’s take a look:
You Don’t Have Enough RAM (Optimizing Your RAM)
RAM tends to be the most significant issue when it comes to running everyday tasks on your computer. However, it can be challenging to see if your RAM is why the DAW is acting slow.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to do what you can to optimize your RAM out. To do this, go to your control panel on your computer and click on system. Once there, you should see various specs regarding your computer.
From there, you can either utilize an online application to help out your RAM, or you can change the custom size MB usage. There are plenty of YouTube videos that get into the nitty-gritty of it that should help you, so use your resources!
You Have Latency Issues
Latency is a time delay between the cause and effect of doing something. So, in recording, your instrument may record slightly after what you’re playing, causing several issues.
Latency typically has to do with the computer itself as opposed to software, despite what people think. Nevertheless, there are plenty of quick tips to help you solve your latency issue.
Consider setting a lower buffer size, freeze tracks, and use direct monitoring when you can. Lastly, make sure your drivers are updated for your old computer, as long as the software runs okay.
Your Computer Constantly Crashes
More common with older computers that can seem overwhelming to try and fix are computer crashes. Crashes can occur on any computer, no matter its age or how much of a perfect computer people think it is.
Still, there are plenty of ways to ensure your computer crashes less, especially when it tries to run a DAW. For starters, make sure your computer is vented correctly and doesn’t get too warm.
Often, computers will run something demanding like a DAW and overheat as a result. Besides overheating, remember to defrag your computer, check for viruses, delete unnecessary files, etc.
Your DAW Takes too Long to Load
If you find your DAW is taking too long to load, don’t worry, this is a widespread occurrence. Even if you’re more than confident in your computer’s ability, load times can vary greatly.
First off, make sure you have enough space available to run the DAW and the specific file you hope to end up saving. Having too little space can cause the DAW to take a significant amount of time to load due to low storage.
Lastly, consider prioritizing the DAW on your computer and make sure other applications are closed. Open up task manager, find the DAW, and set the priority to high. However, be mindful of how your computer reacts as some will crash due to this.
Problems and Solutions of Using Old Operating Systems For Audio Production
Outside of the few broad areas tied to using an old computer for audio production, the same can be said regarding old software. Since old software tends to go hand-in-hand with old computers, it makes sense why this area is worth looking at.
Keep in mind that most experts will tell you to upgrade your software, but if it’s the only software compatible with your computer, don’t worry about it. Only make sure your software is upgraded to the point that it’s most compatible with your computer-build.
Old software isn’t kept up to date like modern applications are, but you should be fine as long as you work around it. Just be mindful of what you’re doing, how you can improve it, and what it’ll mean for your DAW.
You Have Too Many Applications Up (DAW Won’t Work etc.)
Before you boot up your DAW, be aware of any additional applications you have on your computer. For the most part, whenever you’re recording, you should make sure that’s the only application up.
If you have multiple tabs open and other programs running, your computer will have a challenging time trying to run the DAW at its best. In fact, your computer may crash, or the program won’t run at all.
If this is the case for you, make sure you do what you can to eliminate any additional programs and keep the program running okay. Considering you’ll only need the DAW when you record, you should be fine in this regard.
You’re Not Optimized for Recording
Whenever someone discusses optimization, they tend to cite how vital it is for a computer to be at its best for recording. However, it can be a bit confusing what optimization is and why it’s essential for recording.
For those who don’t know, optimization simply means that something is at its best to perform. Like how athletes will work out and make sure they’re in their best shape for their shape, the same can be said for recording.
Thus, make sure you adjust processor scheduling, power options, USB devices, background apps, and much more. Click here for a good list on making sure you’re optimized for recording. Although this article is meant for windows 10, the same rules can be done for any older version of windows.
The DAW You Want to Use Won’t Run
More often than not, people run into issues with the DAW not running at all rather than it freezing or other random problems. First, make sure the DAW you’re trying to run is compatible with the software you have.
For example, if you’re using Windows XP, look at what software the DAW is compatible with. If the DAW isn’t compatible with your software, consider downloading an older option if you can. Considering most DAWs offer their older versions to download, definitely go with this route.
If you’re still running into issues with the DAW, it may be another factor. Worst-case scenario, try finding a free DAW to run and see how it operates before purchasing one. That way, you won’t have to worry about wasting money in a situation like this.
Your Mixes and Recordings Don’t Sound Right (Distorted, Off-Time, etc.)
Whether your recording’s playback is distorted, or your actual mix comes back heavily distorted, this is common for older computers. As a result, make sure you do what you can to run through the various reasons why and see how it’ll help your recordings.
For a quick list of how to fix it, make sure everything you’re using to record is set-up correctly. Make sure there aren’t any faulty cables, that you’re recording with the proper amount of gain, etc. Being aware of simple areas like this can help you a lot.
Lastly, be aware of any unnecessary stresses being placed in your system during recording. Also, be mindful of external gear with digital outputs, as all of it needs to be optimized.
Nevertheless, click here for a great list of various issues with mixing and recording and detailed solutions.
What DAW Programs Are Best For Old Computers/Software?
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As noted, before we conclude entirely, let’s take a look at some of the best DAW programs for older computers and software. Keep in mind, some of these programs may not be best fitted for your particular set-up.
However, they’re all highly regarded when it comes to working well for old computers and software. Also, be sure to click on each link to see how they’ll work for your set-up and if they’ll work at all. Nevertheless, let’s take a look!
FL Studio is an excellent premium DAW for PC and Mac with numerous older versions that can be worked with most older computers. Considering the DAW has been in the game for over 20 years, this is always an ideal highlight in this realm.
Some of its key features include synths, effects, tools, and countless other components that’ll boost your production. Plus, it comes with a wide range of samples, loops, and presets for you to select from.
Be sure to google FL Studio for the specific software you have, and you should be able to find options available. Either way, you should be fine, but always double-check with the specifics to see if it’ll work okay.
For a completely free option, consider checking out Reaper, and more specifically, Reaper 1. Anything after Reaper 2 may cause you issues to run on an older set-up, but Reaper 1 should still work great for you. It’s also available for MAC and PCs.
Some of its key features include a full multitrack audio and MIDI recording capabilities. It also allows users to edit, process, mix, and master everything they’ll need for a track. All in all, an outstanding DAW to check out.
Making Waves Studio V5
Although not entirely free, it’s challenging to find a more affordable option than Making Waves Studio. Similar to Reaper, make sure you stick with the older versions. Version 5 or earlier should work out great for you.
Some of its key features include up to 1000 track sequencing, audio sampling, looping, virtual instruments, MIDI, and much more. It’s a solid DAW that should work beautifully for your set-up. Still, make sure you go through older versions to see which is best for your PC or MAC.
Cubase is an excellent DAW that offers a free trial version and several premium options with some great tools. Some of its key features include editing, mixing tools, MIDI sequencing, audio plugins, virtual instrumentation, and much more.
Like all of the other options on this list, make sure to go through the various programs of Cubase to see which is best for your set-up. The company does an excellent job of highlighting what is best for what, so that should help you decide.
Now that we discussed a wide range of information regarding problems and solutions of using old computers for audio production, let’s quickly recap everything we discussed.
We began the article by explaining why you may run into issues with an old computer for audio production. From there, we went over the broad area of computer issues for older models and how you can work around it for audio production.
We discussed optimizing your RAM, latency issues, computer crashes, and your DAW taking too long to load. Although these aren’t the only issues associated with older computers, they’re still worth highlighting.
Afterward, we discussed problems and solutions for old operating systems. We went over having too many applications up, recording optimization, DAWs not working, and mixes not sounding right.
From there, we concluded by going over a few great DAWs for older set-ups such as FL Studio, Reaper 1, Making Waves Studio V5, and Cubase. All of which are worth checking out.
Be sure to go through the information presented and check out the various embedded links to see how you can get the most out of your computer. With that being said, get out there and start recording!
About the Author
Michael-B is a Music Producer, Musician, and Formally Trained (and was Certified by the Recording Institute of Detroit in 1986) Recording Engineer. As of 2022, He's built 3 home recording studios go back to 1987, where he wrote, played all the instruments, and recorded his music. Michael B is also a Writer, Chief Editor and SEO of TrackinSolo.com