Most musicians will be waiting some time before running Vista, so if you can’t upgrade to a new OS, upgrade the OS you’ve got. Our friend Brad, aka Internet indie singer-songwriter star Brad Sucks, is getting into laptop performance and wants some tips for tuning Windows XP. He writes:

I’d be interested in asking your readers how they set up their laptops for live performance OS-wise. I’ve been giving some thought to doing a dual boot WinXP install. So I can have one install as my desktop, mail, etc. And another one with say XPlite or nLite with Live set up, audio drivers and everything ready to go for rock steady live performance. Wondering if anyone has experience with doing this, if it’s worthwhile, what their favorite tools are, etc.”

Both of those items sound like great advice to me. Setting up multiple accounts works well on both Windows and Mac OS X, in fact, though generally it’s been XP where I’ve most wished I had done this. (Thank you, annoying pop-up balloons and rampaging Logitech webcam drivers.) I also like the idea of using nLite for a custom OS install in emergencies, though nLite is also good at cleaning out settings and tweaking Windows to your liking.

But, Windows mavens, any further tips? (And I imagine a lot of this — like the multi-install — would work just as well on Vista.)

  • MichaelG

    Amazing. I was just doing some research on this today. I'm even considering doing the dual XP boot. I'd love to see some resources on doing this.

  • JB

    Consider that having 2 XPs will complexify things a little. I had a dual boot for a while, and it slowed me down with all that rebooting. It can get weird to have a schizo-computer. I felt it was too much of a compromise, and i just upgraded.

  • TJ

    I use a free app called autoruns to deselect those system options I don`t want when making music and then just reboot.

  • Dual boot is the only effective way of having a clean and fast. The audio installation/partition should be the first one (i.e. C:). HDs are faster there because of mechanical issues. Double booting is very straightforward.

    I used to use those shrink-my-win programs but chances are to get more troubles than advantages (missing components, services). Just keep your windows clean: install only audio programs and device drivers. The follow the advices on

    My "old" Pentium-M 745 with 1Gb and 7200rpm HD still performs like a champ.



  • sorry… I missed a word: "[…] a clean and fast SYSTEM"

  • Go to and check out ProcessMonitor and ProcessExplorer. These are extremely helpful in showing you what's actually running, what's accessing your hard drive, and so on.

    Another favorite of mine is CrapCleaner, which frees up hard drive space and (more than anything else I've tried) keeps the registry free of cruft.

  • audioworld

    I use dual-boot on my HP notebook with good results. I bought Acronis Backup Suite and Acronis OSSelector, and made a second fresh XP install with the original license number from HP (Windows registration did not complain). Than I stripped this second install from every app, service and autostart I do not need for pure music production (so no network service, no internet, no usb-autodetect, no virus scan, no defender, no windows-update etc..).

    Inmportant is to choose a very different desktop for the second install, so you know where you are.—-) i also formated 10MB in reiser FS for an experimental SUSE install, this also works well.

    the standard install with internet is the default startup in acronis OS selector, with the option to go into the music or LINUX install on startup. As I store all the internet downloads on a separate partition, I can easily download updates and registration files (Native Instruments..) from the web, reboot, and have those files available in the music installation.

    one only has to void to store anything in "my files" because those are different for the os´s, of course.

    works very good for me, never had a crash or freeze or slowdown while performing live with the music installation!

  • The things I can recommend as an extra: XPlite. Almost essential for a slimed OS.

  • I'm curious — everyone here dual-booting, or is anyone just using separate user accounts? The latter should be possible, as well, and can be less work than two separate XP installs. I think mainly it requires being careful when you install to install for one user only … though not installers are good about that. I tend to keep my non-music install as clean as possible, too.

  • art

    Ableton Live custom windows interface

    When I use Live in a live environment, I run it as a 'Custom user interface' or 'shell' in Windows XP Professional. Basically what this is if you aren't familiar with it, is replacing Explorer with Live as a shell. This means there is no desktop environment, no taskbar, no start menu, no applets running, etc.

    There are many advantages to this when using Live – improved stability, free memory, improved performance, etc. The disadvantage is you lose a practical way to multi-task. (But who needs multi-tasking when you only need to run Live live?)

    To accomplish this in Windows XP Pro, type 'gpedit.msc' in the run command. This brings up the 'Group Policy Editor'. Under 'User Configuration' / 'Administrative Templates' / 'System', there is a setting called 'Custom user interface'. By default this setting is 'Not Configured' (meaning Explorer).

    If you select 'Enabled' and type in the path to Live (or any application), Windows will boot into Live upon startup without anything else running.

    You must include parenthesis if the path to Live contains spaces – ex. "C:Program FilesAbletonLive x.xxProgramLive x.xx.exe".

    Restart computer!

    If you do the above & wish to change the setting back, just hit CTRL+ALT+DEL to bring up the Task Manager, hit New Task (Run), type 'gpedit.msc' and change the setting back to 'Not Configured'. Restart and you're back to Explorer. If you use a sound device that requires an applet to be running all the time, then I don't really know what your success will be. I used to use an Emagic EMI USB card that installed itself as a system service and always ran at boot-up. I never had any problems running Live as a shell. If you decide to give it a shot, it won't mess up your system in any way. If for instance you enable this setting & the path or program is not found upon boot-up, Windows$ will load the default Explorer shell.

  • Art, that is frickin' fabulous. I'm trying that this weekend.

    I set the baseline tuning for my music desktop with advice from the sites devoted to tuning machines for gaming like Tweak Town to start. Then for the details.

  • Hey art is it possible to use this to boot multiple programs, and if so ho would one go about doing that? I am using traktor for djing and need to be able to start bome's midi translator in the back as well as the drivers for the bcd2000 is that a way to get that to work??

  • typodaemon

    art, that's a great tip!

    Scootside, I've been playing with this some and here's how I managed what you're looking for. I made a batch file, mine was just C:daw.bat, but you could realisticly put it anywhere. I set the batch job as the custom user interface and then filled the batch job with everything I wanted running. Here's what it looks like:


    start /DC:mediaRejoice rejoice.exe

    start /D"C:mediaBome's Midi Translator" MidiTranslator.exe

    start /D"C:mediaLive 6.0.3Program" "Live 6.0.3.exe" "Live 6.0.3.exe"


    'start' is a command line utility that launches other programs. It has a couple options you might find useful (like process priority). Here I'm using the /D option to tell it what directory to look in for the executable. Quotes are necessary for a path that has spaces or abnormal characters in it. And then the name of the program to run appears last. Ableton Live's line is a bit different, because start has an option to change the title shown in the window of the program you're starting… so the first string it find in quotes ends up being the title, the last one on that line is the executable to run (again, quotes are necessary because of the spaces in the name).

    Here's a tip: make sure Bome's doesn't minimize to the system tray, or you won't be able to adjust its setting (as you probably can't get to its interface)

    Also, if your batch doesn't work you can use the task manager to launch explorer, fix things, and then try rebooting again – you don't need to set the default interface through gpedit and reboot to run the normal gui. To further that, you can just run your batch job through explorer to make sure everything launches right before you reboot for a real 'dry run'.

    Thanks again art, extremely useful 😀

  • i use art's technique and then control-alt-delete to open my firebox mixer for assigning cue out set&forget, then after i close live, "new task" explorer and i'm back to normal.

    also a goodidea to make your default set your live set so when you get to a gig all you have to do is connect the wires then turn on and you're ready to go (i did this last night and it was beautiful)

  • These are some fantastic tips. I'd never thought of using Live as shell. Brilliant. And that command-line .bat looks terrific.

    I guess we're going to need the Mac crowd to strike back with some equally geeky tips. (And I'm sure here, the Mac users can provide some — not the usual snarky "it just works" crap. Let's find an excuse to use UNIX shell scripts even if we don't have to …)

  • sasarasa88

    For those running Win XP Home, you can have the same functionality just adding the following to the registry:

    1) Add the following key:


    2) Under that key add the following string:

    Shell = filename.exe

    where "filename.exe" points to the file you want to execute.


    . Find "Custom User Interface".

  • audiolemon

    thanks sasarasa88

    I went to the policies folder but there is no system folder only an explorer folder. do i have to create a system folder beside the explorer folder and create the string in that folder?

    Also if i revert back to normal windows would i do it through the task manager or do i have to delete the new string and restart?

    i want to try this but i'm weary of the registry so i want to get it right. thanks for the help.

  • Gustin

    I was doing some research on dual partitions xp and found a site that goes through a step by step specifically geared towards audio use.

    Creating a Dual Boot XP Installation

  • audiolemon


    I tried anyways but I couldn't get it to work. I added a new key called System and put a String labelled like you said. I then restarted and it still booted into windows. I deleted the expolorer folder that was in Policies folder and restarted but still booted into windows.

    I also tried to find "Custom User Interface" in the site that you linked to but I can't find it.

    Pity I really like the idea of booting straight into Live. If you can think of where I'm going wrong I'd be glad to know.

  • sasarasa88


    This is what I tried:

    1) Like you mentioned, the existing key in my system was HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionPoliciesExplorer

    I added a new key named System under HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionPolicies

    so that System and Explorer are in the same hierarchy level.

    2) Under this System key add a String entry whose name is Shell (left hand side) and value is the path and filename of your intended application (right hand side, under the Data tab)

    I just checked again and the entry "Custom User Interface" detailing the above is in the middle of the following page

    There, one can find a list of the registry entries modified by the group policy editor (available only on Win XP Pro). These settings are valid for Win XP Home, though.

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  • Dave

    Hi, I just found this page. Really good tip. I've just experimented with starting more than one application without a batch file. It's just a case of separating with a comma and a space as in DOS. ie

    "full program location", "full soundcard driver location"

    Quotes are necessary and a space after the comma. After doing that I had Cubase auto starting along with the driver for my Hammerfall.

    Next will be to test parallel port settings in order to start the midi interface at the same time. Also to use gpedit to try and find where to permanently set the process priority of the programs. Don't know where the string is as yet.

    Anyway just thought I'd leave a post which is something I rarely do.



  • I don't believe Art's suggestion would be any different than simply hitting ctrl+alt+del, then on the "processes" tab, finding explorer.exe and clicking "end process".

    No restarts or configuration required.

    When you'd need windows back, ctrl+alt+del to the "applications" tab, click "new task" and type in "explorer".

    Either way, Live is no shell

  • thanks fellas….i've been searching for this for almost two years!!