I slept on it and woke up in the morning with a revelation: I had to track down all possible active processes in the machine and stop them so that the computer just hosted plug-ins and nothing else.
I started delving into the options. System Restore was on, and as that contributes to background disk activity, I turned it off. I disabled automatic updates, all protections that scanned the hard drive (the computer was certainly not going to get a virus sitting on stage, unconnected to anything even remotely resembling a network), and went into msconfig to disable all startup processes other than the most basic ones. There were no peripherals aside from the E-Mu interface and the dongle. The computer was stripped to the absolute minimum. The last step was turning the power saver feature so that the computer didn’t go into standby until after 9,999 minutes. If we ever play a set that long, the computer will be the least of my problems.
Prior to rehearsal, I booted up the computer and played for about an hour and a half straight – with no problems. What a relief. Then Brian came over and again, the system worked fine for the whole rehearsal. I think the problem is now solved…we’ll see.
This was particularly encouraging as it was the last rehearsal before Summer NAMM. So at least I could leave feeling there would be a stable setup upon my return.
Incidentally, as a public service, here are some Windows XP optimizations you can do to make your computer more reliable in a live performance situation.
Give priority to ASIO: Right-click on My Computer and choose Properties. Click on the Advanced tab. Click on Performance Settings. Click on Advanced. Under Processor Scheduling, click on Background Services. Click on OK.
Turn off indexing: To prevent excessive drive searching, double-click on My Computer to show the disk drives in your computer. Right-click on a disk drive icon and select Properties. Click on the General tab. Toward the bottom of the window, uncheck Allow Indexing Service to index this disk for fast file searching. Click on OK.
Remove unneeded startup items: Click on Start then click on Run. In the Run box, type “msconfig” (without the quotes). Click on OK. Click on the Startup tab. Uncheck anything you don’t think you need, including performance degraders like Microsoft Fast Find, RealPlayer, iTunes Helper, and the like. After unchecking what’s not needed, click on OK.
Turn off system restore: You don’t need to have it on all the time, as you can always set a restore point manually if needed. Right-click on My Computer and select Properties. Click on the System Restore tab. Check the Turn off System Restore on all drives box. Click on OK.