Hard Drive Management for the Studio
When recording, as well as mixing , on a computer, quite often the first bottleneck that limits you is your hard drive. There’s a very simple solution to this, simply get a fast external hard drive, and select it as the recording destination. Or in the case of mixing, store the project folder on the external hard drive.
Also, if you have software instruments, store your sample libraries on another separate external hard drive. And make sure the hard drives are connected to the computer with a connection that is faster than USB 2.0. Adequate connections are USB 3.0, FireWire, or thunderbolt.
Ok, that was the quick and simple explanation. Now, here’s why.
A hard drive has a limited speed which it can read information, and sometimes they’re not that fast. There’s 2 main types of hard drives. Solid state drives, called SSD, and Hard Disk Drives, called HDD.
An HDD uses a head which reads information from a spinning disk. Kinda like an old record player, but more sophisticated. The disk can spin at a speed of 5400 rpm, or 7200 rpm. A faster spinning speed will naturally provide faster read speeds. The head will move to the appropriate place where the information is stored. Some drives have multiple heads, but is still limited to streaming information only from where the head or heads are physically located.
An SSD uses flash memory which has no moving parts, And is able to access multiple streams of data instantly and stream them simultaneously.
Regardless of which type of drive it is, it is still limited to how fast it can read and write information.
Your computer has an operating system, which constantly needs to access the hard drive. Every once in a while, the operating system will have a spike in activity which will cause a spike in reading information from the hard drive. In the event that the hard drive is already operating at full capacity, the operating system will get priority. So if you are running your session from the same hard drive that your operating system is on, your daw is competing with the operating system for bandwidth from the hard drive.
Recording and play back from the DAW will often have multiple tracks being recorded and played back simultaneously. This is a lot of information going to and from the hard drive, and the hard drive needs to be able to keep up.
Another advantage to using an external hard drive is that you can invest for an extremely fast drive to run larger sessions with higher track counts.
Another consideration is if you are using sample instruments, such as a midi piano. If you play a 6 note chord, that’s six streams of audio that need to be read from the hard drive. For this reason, I like to put my sample libraries on another separate hard drive so that it doesn’t compete with the operating system, or the recording drive.