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Basic Computer Tips & Troubleshooting

Having problems with your DJ software? Doesn't matter if it's rekordbox, Serato, Traktor, Virtual DJ, djay, etc... running on a Mac or PC, here are some simple things you can do or check to ensure your computer is running at its best and solve problems.

Use the lastest versions of the driver and firmware for your controller

Visit the Pioneer DJ Support pages to download the up-to-date versions of the drivers for your computer and firmware for your Pioneer DJ product(s). Always install the drivers BEFORE connecting your device.

Use the newest version of the software

No matter the software, updates are released on a fairly regular basis, not only to add new features and functions, but to resolve issues and squash bugs. Use the application's built-in update checker, or visit the manufacturer's website for downloads and information on changes.

If you are heading out for a gig, we recommend waiting until after the event to update to ensure everything goes smoothly. Be sure to have enough time to test it out on your system before performing live.

Ensure your operating system has the latest updates - carefully!

Whether you use Windows or OS X, Microsoft and Apple are constantly issuing updates and patches, and it's wise to ensure that your system has been updated, but only after checking with your hardware manufacturers and software developers for compatibility. Same goes for whole-version upgrades; sometimes it's best to wait until it has been tested and proven and/or official support status has been posted, or updated drivers / software made available.

Graphics problems

Running Windows and have issues with your display or graphics? The Windows Update is not sufficient to have the latest graphics card / chipset drivers. Always visit the manufacturer's website where they have tools available to check for you and update if needed:

NVIDIA
Intel
AMD / ATI 

If your computer has the option to switch the graphics chipset used, this may also present an opportunity for improved performance as some integrated video chipsets share mainboard system resources (like memory) whereas discrete video chipsets or add-in video cards will have their own memory banks. Check your system spec to see if this is something you can take advantage-of, and if your software allows you to select which chipset is driving it.

Update your computer firmware (UEFI / BIOS)

Most people don't realize that their computer also has a firmware. Apple releases firmware updates as part of their software update utility, but PC users must check with their computer or motherboard manufacturer for updates. They're not as common as software and driver updates, but they can, on occasion, address issues with networking, USB communication, audio devices, even processor and memory performance.

Scan for viruses / malware

Sadly, many users get infections without even realizing there's a problem -- on both Mac and PCs. Be vigilant and use common sense whether browsing the web, clicking a link in an email or accepting someone else's USB drive full of "music." There are many free tools providing online scans or downloads to search for and remove viruses or malware.

Clean up a bit

Consider cleaning up your system on a regular basis. Using an application like CCleaner (available FREE for both Windows and OS X) will allow you to remove old temporary / system files, as well as clean your registry (Windows), and modify which applications run at startup or as browser plugins. Doing this before scanning for viruses or malware can even speed up the process.

Check your drive for errors

Your hard drive, whether conventional or solid-state, is full of fallable data. Check it for errors once and a while.

On Windows, use the chkdsk command (specifically, "chkdsk c: /f" from an administrative command line -- more info on that here).

For Mac users, the Disk Utility provides a simple First Aid tool (in El Capitain), or for users of Yosemite or older, the Verify / Repair Disk and Verify / Repair Permissions functions do the same job.

Defragmentation is not as necessary as it once was, 

Disable background resource leeches

Plenty of applications install themselves with components that pre-load or run in the background. Adobe Reader does it, iTunes does it, even Traktor installs audio device drivers that run in the background if you didn't uncheck them during the software installation.

You can use CCleaner to show these on your PC (Tools > Startup), or on your Mac, open the System Preferences > Users & Groups > Your User and click Login Items to show which applications will auto-launch on login.

Want to see what other applications are using precious RAM and CPU cycles? On a Mac, go to Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor. Sort it by CPU to see the top current processor consumption at the top of the list, or click the Memory tab at the top and sort by Memory to show where all your RAM is being used. 

Within Windows, get the lowdown by opening your Start menu and typing Resource Monitor in the search field. Open it and same as for the Mac, check the CPU and Memory tabs to see where your system's resources are being used.

Notice anything on either list that shouldn't be there or is consuming more than it should? Consider uninstalling it or disabling it. With Windows, you may also have a service running which is causing problems - open the Services utility by typing services.msc into the Start menu search box. Be careful in there though, there are many things you could disable which could do more harm than good!

One last place you can check for background tasks is in the Windows scheduler. Simple tasks like checking for updates or disk cleanup are often scheduled to run on a weekly or monthly basis. Open the scheduler and disable any task you can either run yourself or may interfere with your DJ performance.

Change power settings

With most operating systems designed to conserve power and extend the life of the hardware and battery, you may find that some of these eco-options are the cause of your problems when in a demanding performance environment. Verify that your power settings do not allow USB devices or hard drives to "go to sleep" or timeout. These settings are sometimes located within the operating system power management, through the device itself (either via a setting utility or driver setting), or possibly even through the system BIOS.

On Macs, as of Yosemite, Apple introduced a function to allow applications to liberate resources if they're idle or backgrounded. You can prevent this from happening by finding any software you want to have optimized in the Applications folder, and open its info panel (click the icon, press command+I) and tick the Prevent App Nap box. Note that not all applications support this feature and it may not appear in the info panel.

Assert some authority

Depending on your user security settings, you may find that running the application in Administrator mode (Windows only) affords you better access to files and fewer problems. You can test out if this mode is better by right-clicking on an application or shortcut and selecting Run as Administrator.

Troubleshooting USB Problems

Many issues are actually as a result of the USB system. While USB is wonderful for its universal nature (heck, it's in the name!) and simplicity of plug-and-play, there are still a wide variety of configurations and standards used from computer to computer.

The most basic way to troubleshoot a USB device is to isolate which part of the system is causing the problem:

- disconnect all other USB devices
- connect directly; don't use a hub (not all devices are recommended for use with a hub)
- try another USB port on your computer
- change the USB cable
- update the device driver / firmware
- try the device on another computer
- check for a BIOS update

Some USB chipsets don't provide enough power to devices, so controllers like the DDJ-SB/2 and DDJ-SR may not function properly. Simply changing the USB port the device is connected to may resolve those problems.

Audio buffer / latency

A commonly asked question is "What should I set my buffer to?" and the answer is always "The lowest possible setting where no audio glitches or skipping occurs." This number will be different on every computer thanks to the hardware and software configurations, so don't set it to a certain number just because someone else did and it works for them.

Try the default value, and if everything works, try cutting that number in half. Test with everything maxed-out; engage all the effects, run the samplers, turn on pitch correction, etc. Make it so you're stressing the buffer and your computer. If it glitches, increase the buffer and try again.

Backup backup backup!

If your data is not backed-up, why not? A common complaint from users on the forums is "My computer died, how can I recover my music from my rekordbox export device?" As of this article's writing (Apr. 2016), a tool is in the works to do just that, but it still doesn't help that you're without a backup. Whether you use the built-in Windows backup function, a TimeMachine drive, or even an online service like Backblaze (my preference; $4/mo per computer for secure realtime cloud backup storage with unlimited capacity!!), you need to have a backup. Personally, I carry two cloned external solid-state hard drives of my music collection to every event, plus a third master copy stays at home, and I have a fourth copy (along with both my desktop and laptop documents) in Backblaze. If you spend any amount of time or money on building your music collection, there is no excuse not to have a contingency plan in case of fire / flood / theft or drive failure.

Upgrade your computer

If you are a DJ who is getting paid to play and your computer is 3-5 years old, it's time to consider updating your tools. You might say "But everything is working fine as it is!" and that's a perfect opportunity for you to have a functional backup computer. Newer hardware will ensure better performance and reliability.

Avoid AMD

If your computer has an AMD processor, unfortunately it is neither supported nor recommended for use with rekordbox or Serato DJ. Consider upgrading to an Intel processor-based computer instead.

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