Comparing Pro Tools on SSD to HDD

Pro Tools on an SSD

My SSD upgrade on my music/Programming desktop took a while due to my mistrust of Microsoft OS upgrades where complex software such as Pro Tools would not work. Indeed, if you Google “Windows 7 Pro Tools” you will find 767 million results, of which many of them are stating that the 2 do not mix. However, on reading some of them, there is a community of Pro Tools users out there stating that Windows 7 and Pro Tools do work even in the 64-bit guise.

As I do more and more work on this desktop system now (as opposed to my Ubuntu, SSD marriage on my trusty laptop) I went for the upgrade.

The SSD is a 240GB A-Synchronous SATA III drive which I have discussed before (see SATA III on a SATA II PC), which I have installed Windows 7 64-bit Ultimate. I went for the top version of the OS, as it was the same price as the Professional version, but don’t think I will use the extra Bitlocker function or additional languages (though my wife uses Mandarin on her laptop – so if she ever used this desktop, we have that extra option).

My main use for the Dell XPS 420 (3GB RAM), with an ATI Radeon HD 3870 graphics card (with dual DVI outputs) is to run as my Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). I’ve been a bedroom musician for about 22 years now, and like to blast away – I say blast – it’s probably more mellow than that these days (I turned 40 this year).

I learned about Midi on an Atari 1040 STFM (with Mono Chrome monitor) running Cubase back in the early 90’s and built up a list of equipment:

Korg M1 Synth
Roland RD-300 88-key Keyboard
Roland S-760 Sampler (500GB SCSI Drive and CDROM)
Roland Super JD990 synth module
EMU Morpheus synth module
Cheetah MS6 Analogue Synth module
Casio VZ-10M Synth
Korg Poly 800 – Analogue Synth
Midjay Midi workstation
Korg 168RC Mixer
Behringer Eurorack 16chn rackmount mixer
Casio HZ600 Synth
Alesis AI3 – ADAT Optical interface (8 analog inputs/outputs to 1x ADAT 8chn in/out)

A few rack mount compressors, sound processors etc, Acoustic and Electric Guitars, Hohner Bass, King Alto Sax and an Indian made Trumpet I bought on Ebay for £1 (£60 shipping) – you get the idea.

A few years back I took the plunge and decided to migrate from Cubase to Pro Tools. My experience of DAW on a PC had never been very satisfactory running Cubase. On the Atari 1040 STFM it was amazing – never ever crashed and was a joy. However, recording audio on it was not an option.

So I moved to Cubase, but was never that happy with it. I even spent £600 on a SONORUS Pro PCI ADAT card to go with the Korg 168RC mixer. Which, although worked fine until I upgraded to Windows XP, and the new motherboards didn’t support the old PCI interface..

My Pro Tools setup was one up from the cheapest option withe MBOX 2 Factory bundle which came with version Pro Tools Le 7.4:

Mbox2 Pro Tools

Which gives a Stereo In and Out via USB connection to the PC. On later versions of Pro Tools the MBox 2 could also be used for the main audio output for the PC. This was very handy as it negated a need for an extra pair of channels on the mixer (I always struggle with channels as the Korg 168Rc only has 8 analog inputs – even using the AI3 I was still short so ended up buying the Behringer rack mount mixer). Now the MBOX2 is also my PC’s soundcard. Turns out that for Windows 7 an upgrade to Pro Tools 8.05 was required in order to get this to work.

I’m getting ahead of myself. My PC has had a Windows XP Pro build for a couple of years (since it’s last rebuild), running on a Seagate 500MB Hard Disk Drive (ST3500620AS). I also have a 1TB Samsung HD103UJ which I store all downloads and data. It really needs another wipe and rebuild, which I will do in due course. I always leave it until I’ve been using the new OS for a while in case I need to copy something over that I have missed.

The PC now has 3 drives, 2x with an OS. After looking for a Boot Loader to install I found GAG 4.10 which allowed me to boot from the CD that you create from it. You then get a add your Operating Systems to it from a very simple menu system (screenshots available at ).

This allows me to boot to Windows XP or Windows 7 without having to unplug. However, Windows XP was built in Native PCI mode (RAID turned off) and I converted the Windows 7 Ultimate to AHCI Mode (RAID Turned on) as per my blog at SATA III on a SATA II Motherboard update So this needs changing before the GAG Menu pops up. For those worried about doing it – you boot from the cd, install it on the Hard Disk (it stores it on the MBR for you) – if you don’t want it just uninstall in (there is an option in the menu to do it). I have installed Windows 7 under key 2 and Windows XP under key 3 (though this swaps when I change the BIOS over).

I recorded the 2 boot times. Note: I have taken the GAG menu out of the clips – will do a separate clip to show that. This is one of the best reasons to upgrade your PC to both the new version of Windows as well as upgrade to an SSD. I may be an advocate of Solid State Disks – but I’m now also a fan of Windows 7. The 2 are perfect partners.

So now to Pro Tools.  The difference is not so much apparent when playing a track that you have created, but more in the boot times.  I’ve loaded up both OS versions with plenty of plugins.  The following track has 15 separate tracks (11 Audio, stereo Acoustic Guitar, 5 tracks of electric guitar, bass, vocal, backing vocal, a couple of instrument tracks for drums (EZDrummer) and a Synth plugin).  It was originally recorded in Windows XP (this version is 8.04) – Windows 7 Ultimate has been upgraded to 8.05 to enable the MBOX2 to be used as the windows soundcard (as discussed above).  The Camstudio screen capture software failed to work on Windows XP while Pro Tools was loading so I had to record it with the video camera.
NoteFor those who may not use Pro Tools – the software effectively loads in every plugin that you have installed on your PC whether you use it or not which is why it takes so long to load.

Compare load times with Pro Tools on an SSD (Win 7) vs Windows XP HDD

I haven’t had a chance to do any long sessions with the music gear yet – but when I do I’ll post an update to report any findings.

Compare load times with Pro Tools on an SSD Vs Windows XP on HDD

Of course this is not a very good comparison – It’s not supposed to be competitive.   It’s to show how the difference the technology has moved on.  For anyone still holding onto Windows XP running Pro Tools – ditch it and upgrade!

Next up is to clone the SSD onto the HDD (wiping XP off of it) and then I can compare the SSD with the HDD.

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *