Solving home studio computer problems

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More often than not, when someone calls me in a panic to save their studio in the middle of a session, the solution is simple.  But sometimes problems are more complicated.  If I can’t figure out what’s going on over the phone, I may need to visit their studio in person.  Once I’m there I can usually figure out what happened.  In some situations it may be best to call a software company’s technical support line.  Below are a few solutions to typical home studio computer problems.  Since I use a Mac, some of this may not apply to PCs.  A lot of it will though…

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Restart the computer

Simply quitting the program being used and restarting the computer solves most problems!  That’s it.  End of phone call. Session resumes. So if something strange is going on and you don’t know what’s wrong, try that first.  It also might be a good idea to restart in safe mode.  Safe mode is intended to fix most, if not all problems within an operating system. After restarting in safe mode, restart again the normal way and then see if your software is working better now.

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Trash preferences

If restarting the computer does not solve the problem, than perhaps something got corrupted…  One way to find out is to delete preferences files.  A corrupt preferences file can cause a program to behave erratically. It can, for example, cause crashes when the program opens or when a document needs to be saved. Deleting a preferences file can thus be used to troubleshoot an application. Over the years, “trash the preferences” has been the advice that I typically got from tech support people over the phone.

A great, free, simple utility to help in debugging Pro Tools is ProTools Prefs & Database Helper.  This program makes it easy to fix Pro Tools.  It deletes preferences and other files that might be messing things up for you.  Simply select what you want to delete or use the default selections and click the big trash in the middle.  Restart and everything should be back to normal.  Simple!

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Leave some room on your hard drive

A full hard drive slows down your computer.  Leave some room on it.  It’s a good idea to always leave at least 10-15% free on your hard drives to avoid problems like fragmentation or even drive failure!  Always monitor how much available space you have on your hard drives.

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Know where you save things

It’s important to be organized and know where your stuff is.  Applications go in the applications folder, documents go in the documents folder, etc.  And put all files related to whatever project you are working on in the same folder.  Right? I’ve seen computer desktops and external drives with loads of random files and folders everywhere. I’ve also seen some people not being mindful when saving new sessions.  In a mad rush, they click OK without even looking where their file is being saved.  No wonder why everything is all over the place and why there is confusion and frustration when I show up to solve the problem…  Take your time and pay attention to what you are doing.  Don’t hit OK or click on anything if you don’t know what’s going on.  Slow down!  Make sure things get saved where you want them to be saved…  Perhaps now would be a good time to take a few minutes and organize your desktop.  Copy files and folders to where they should be and get rid of anything you don’t need anymore.  This frees up space and unclutters your life a little. Just a suggestion…

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Backup your data

There is no better computer advice then this:  BACKUP YOUR DATA!!!!!!!!!!  Even though this is so obvious, a lot of people do not regularly backup files.  You should always have at least one backup of your files.  More is better.  You never know what might happen.  Hard drives fail.  Not only do I backup EVERY project I’m working on to multiple drives, I also backup my system and all my applications too using Carbon Copy Cloner.  Very important!

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Call Technical Support

Sometimes a computer problem is just user error.  Maybe you did something by accident or you don’t understand how to do something with the software you are using.  Call technical support.  Below are a few phone numbers for companies that have helped me solve computer related problems over the years.

Apple 800-MY-APPLE

Applied Acoustics Systems 888-441–8277

AVID 650-731-6100

East West 323-957-6969

Finale 952-937-9703

Glyph 607-873-2832

MOTU 617-576-3066

Native Instruments 323-467-2693

Spectrasonics 888-870-4223

Waves 865-909-9200 ext. 1

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