Optimize Pro Tools: Use An External Hard Drive

| Optimize Pro Tools, Pro Tools, Tips

Looking to get the most out of your Pro Tools system? Do your sessions tend to slow down when you get a few tracks in there? Do you get error messages a lot? Here’s a simple tip for you that will help. Buy and use an external hard drive alongside your internal system drive. This can be either firewire or USB 2.0 (depending on what ports your computer has) and can come in any size of course.

How will an external drive help?

Here’s the idea: your main system drive is where your operating system, programs/applications, and plugins are installed. When you record in a Pro Tools session, you are saving the audio onto your hard drive. As you begin laying down more tracks, Pro Tools is trying to not only wd driveoperate the software and plugins off of your system drive, but it’s trying to read from and write audio to the same drive. This tends to bog the drive down causing errors or slow system performance.

The solution is to use a separate hard drive designated as your Audio drive. You install Pro Tools and all your software on your main system drive like normal, but when you create a new session you save it to your external drive. Now when you record audio it will be writing to one drive while your system drive is free to run Pro Tools. It’s a beautiful thing.

Other perks

Not only will having an external drive help system performance, it helps your mobility. If you record on a friend’s system or in another studio you can bring your drive and record the session there while leaving your main computer at home. Then just bring the hard drive back home, hook it up, and Pro Tools will read the session perfectly.

porsche-lacie-500gb-external-hard-drive

Some Options

Here just a few options for good external drives to look into. At the end of the day all that matters is that it works with your computer and is quiet!

Western Digital 500GB – $89
Lacie 1TB (i.e. 1000GB) – $109
Super portable Western Digital 320GB – $89

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153 Responses to “Optimize Pro Tools: Use An External Hard Drive”

  1. Fridrikur

    Great article, but you left out one crucial part. Pro Tools functions best with external firewire harddrives. Pref. fw400. None of the hard drives you showed have firewire ports. Firewire is alot better for recording streaming audio since it does not use the system bus. The latter can not be said for usb2. So go Firewire. Digidesign even recommends a firewire over an internal pci drive.

    Reply
  2. Graham

    Hi Fridrikur! Great point about Firewire drives. I have used many with great success in my Pro Tools rig. The only reason I didn’t recommend them is because for all intents and purposes USB 2.0 is becoming the future in computer audio for plug and play devices.

    Most PCs don’t have firewire ports and just look at Apple’s latest line of Macbooks, dropping the firewire port. Plus you see so many new audio interfaces going the route of USB 2.0, including Digidesign’s newest interface, the Eleven Rack.

    So yes, Firewire 400 is a fantastic option if you have it, but USB 2.0 will be just fine. Cheers!

    Reply
    • nate

      That is simply not true. USB 2.0 is not good enough to handle a large amount of tracks. There will be slow implementation over to USB 3.0. For now Firewire is around, and will be used in the future. Just look at the in house hardware used by Digidesign, Digirack 002,003, Command Console…ALL Firewire.

      Now, while there may be USB options, you are giving the actual opposite advice as given by AVID.

      I am using a NEW macbook pro and I have a firewire port.

      You are just wrong on so many levels…

      Please professional or interested professionals who want to record music, do not listen to advice given above.

      He only mentions USB drives, which are CLEARLY STated as inadequate for recording, as only a few drives are accepted…

      Reply
      • Graham

        Hi Nate,

        First of all I dont only mention USB. If you read my post then you see I mention firewire and USB. Secondly, I have been a Pro Tools user for a decade now, and I try to follow the Digi/Avid guidelines for everything so I can get the best results. Whether it’s a computer or hard drive setup. Firewire has always been the recommended choice for Pro Tools, no denying it.

        My point is that just because it’s not officially supported on the Avid site doesn’t mean it’s not a good option. You take a risk when you stray, to be sure, but that’s no reason to try something. I’m actually currently recording to (and have mixed from successfully) a USB 2.0 drive on Pro Tools 10. So yes, it works fine. Also I’m currently mixing on a Mac Mini Server with Lion Server (which isn’t officially supported either) and it works flawlessly.

        Reply
      • francisco

        hi, i’m going to buy a macbook pro, i have a question: i need one port for the external drive and another for my audio interface…. what should i do?? i have checked the adapters but they are all for 34mm express cards, and the sdxc slot is tne macbook pro 13.3″ is 32mm

        thanks

        Reply
    • Mr. Sarcasm

      This is just not acceptable. You are taking time out of your day to tell readers that they can use a USB 2.0 hard drive efficiently with their PT set up?

      This is just crazy! Don’t you know that if they show up at the PT swap meet they are going to get laughed out of the room?! Now these people are not going to go out and buy the most recent and upgraded method of data storage, which is obviously the only one that is acceptable for any professional user, which we all are. I can’t believe that you would give such horrid advice and then claim that you use these devices successfully with Pro Tools and have no issues what-so-ever. You make me sick! I shall sit at my screen and nitpick your every keystroke and every word of “helpful” advice because I have done all of the research and because I KNOW that you are spreading filthy, filthy audiophiliac lies..

      Sincerely,
      Mr. Sarcasm
      CEO – Sarcasm Group International Inc.
      1234 Your Mom’s House Rd.
      Sarcasmville, IL 12345

      Reply
      • Darius

        Shut that noise up. I use protools 9 and use an audiobox 1818 and a little 2 channel interface that usb 2.0. Both work perfectly. My usb external hard drive works perfectly as well. I’ve never even used the FireWire port on my MacBook Pro or mini.

        Reply
      • A. Fru

        Just another bloody idiot spewing gibberish at someone who’s genuinely trying to help. Close wikipedia and Go to bed BOY!

        Reply
          • Mr. Sarcasm

            Right, CNN? They definitely didn’t read the address either..
            At least now I can check “Troll Someone On The Internet” off of my bucket list.

            Mr. Sarcasm OUT

            Mr. Sarcasm
            CEO – Sarcasm Group International Inc.
            1234 Your Mom’s House Rd.
            Sarcasmville, IL 12345

  3. Tom

    I was thinking the same thing about Digidesign recommending the use of firewire and Not usb 2.0 because they say it isn’t compatible. Can anyone clear this up? I am getting error messages and my new computer does not have a firewire port.

    Reply
    • Graham

      When in doubt, try to use what Avid recommends. People however still run into issues with different drives and different ports. Try getting on the duc.avid.com support forum and see what people say.

      Reply
  4. Kevin Waddell

    If you’re on W7 and PT9, DO NOT use a firewire drive…it must be usb2.0
    Firewire is still okay for mac…..400 or 800

    Reply
    • nate

      I’m sorry but this is a joke…Firewire is the only recommended and optimal connection for Protools. Check all their in house hardware. None of it is usb2.0…plus USB 2.0 is much slower than Firewire and for track heavy songs, IT WILL NOT DO.

      Do not use a firewire drive with W7 or PT9? Thats a joke, dude please stop giving professional advice when you clearly do not know what you are talking about. I don’t even read this website but to clear up bs that you posted Kevin.

      Please do use a firewire drive for W7 and PT9.

      Reply
      • James

        A lot of the M-Audio line of interfaces, which are designed for use with Pro-Tools M-Powered, are USB2.0 and they work fine. I think it depends on whether you’re recording at 96kHz, or in HD at 192kHz, for which I think you’d definitely need Firewire.

        Reply
      • Kevin

        You should relax, I use USB and it works fine too, graham gives all kinds of options and people can decide for themselves.

        Reply
      • Eric

        You should know that the connection used to plug your interface into your computer has nothing to do with how many tracks you can play back in your daw. Your track count is solely based on the speed of you computer, NOT the speed of your interface connection. Your interface is only going to play the output of your 2 buss which is stereo. The only limit your interface provides is how many SIMULTANEOUS recording inputs you can have at the same time. You’re the one who looks unprofessional by not even knowing this basic information. Anything faster than USB 1.1 can easily handle at least eight simultaneous inputs. Come on man…Go drink another Mountain Dew in your mother’s basement.

        Reply
      • Eric

        I guess my point is, you could have a million tracks in your DAW ,if your computer could handle it, but your interface will only see a stereo output so for PLAYBACK even the lowly USB 1.1 is just fine…

        Reply
  5. LACHLAN

    Hey there,

    I’ve been using an external hard drive for Pro Tools editing. However I’ve only just realized that when I process a sound in Audiosuite (I’m a sound fx editor so I use audiosuite rather than RTAS) the new sound gets copied onto the HD of my computer.
    As you can imagine this gets messy as my main session is on my external and my rendered files are on my local HD

    Does anyone know how to change the location settings for rendered Audiosuite sounds?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Graham

      You’ll want to tweak your Disk Allocation setting in the SETUP menu. Make sure it’s all set to the right hard drive.

      Reply
      • Kelvin

        Hi Graham I’m not going to debate about what’s wrong and what’s not,because I have been uusing Ableton Live and I know the ins and out but I just want to try Pro tools,and yes rim planning on upgrading my laptop to a 8gig ram and get my self a graphics card I’m using Pro tools 10 HD,and I always get the message Error application has been compromised Question?Will that be because of low RAM,And issue of Graphics Card and yes I will get an external harddrive!but seeing the negativity of USB 2.0 and Firewire I’m comfused

        Reply
        • Graham

          No problems with USB 2.0 or Firewire drives. Really. Tracking to a different drive than your system drive is crucial.

          Reply
  6. Blaine

    This is a sort of related question about how when I am using a VST like Structure to, say, import a Sibelius score and use Structure’s orchestration samples. The more banks I use and the more complex the score, the more chance of having buffer overflow issues. Would it be preferable (or even possible) to have the samples Structure uses located on the external drive? Or does it just load the samples as soon as you create each patch, so it’s a non issue? Anyhow, I am experiencing the buffer overflow issue a lot in this type of instance. Maybe I just need to go higher than the 8 GB RAM I have running on my Windows 7 64-bit.

    Reply
  7. Dakota Knight

    what is wrong with windows 7 and pt9 firewire?
    I have pt9 and the mbox 3 pro (requires firewire)
    I am investing in a computer to work it all, but I cant afford a mac, and everyone says not to mix W7, PT9 and firewire, but nobody says why.

    What happens?
    What is so wrong with the combination?

    Reply
    • Graham

      Dakota, I don’t use Windows so I couldn’t tell you. Head over to duc.avid.com for support. Those guys are great!

      Reply
  8. Angel

    As you mentioned here most PC’s and Macs don’t have fire wire ports. Next step would be USB. Ive looked at Glyph Externals but they are very pricey. And Ive also heard that they’re made with Seagate drives. Now, that being said. I know RPM Speed has to be 7200. Im fairly new to the world of recording and everything Ive learned so far is from your site and youtube vids. (Thank you btw) So, when looking for External Hard drives for recording is Average Seek Time,Cache Size, and Transfer Rate important to look at?? If so, what is the best specifications to look for??

    Thanks in advance. God Bless..

    Reply
  9. Graham

    Angel – I try to see what drives Avid recommends for Pro Tools and take it from there. Have had great success with Lacie drives and OWC (www.macsales.com).

    Reply
  10. JP

    I currently use w7 64-bit, PT9, and the profire 2626 which connects via firewire. I started with plenty issues but discovered workarounds that fixed the problems I’d encountered. These fixes included disabling a internal usb root hub that shared the same irq as my firewire audio device and using a standard VGA driver because the newest driver available for my Radeon x1600 will work fine with w7 but isn’t supported which equals less efficiency and compatibility and caused some performance hogging while tracking….but no more firewire issues. A Texas Instruments chipset is also the key. Luckily my motherboard (Intel975xbx2 w/Dual-core 3.2) includes this chipset. Updated hardware drivers are essential, except for the firewire which has to use legacy drivers to work best. If you don’t have on-board firewire then there are PCI firewire cards available with this chipset. I do notice issues with video at times when plug-in drawing is required. Clicking on the plugin again cures and so will a new video card, but I’m cool. Not a huge price to pay to use W7 64-bit and PT9. The only other upgrade I’ll do is bumping my memory from 4gbs to 8gbs. Since the original subject was harddrives, I use a sata 320gb 7200rpm drive for my system and a separate internal 320gb 7200rpm drive for audio. Hope some of this info helps.

    Reply
  11. CP

    Graham,

    I’m currently using a MacBook Pro 15″ 2.66GHz INtel Core i7 with 4GB RAM and a LaCie Firewire 800 external harddrive with an Mbox 3 Pro running Pro Tools 9 on OS X 10.6.8

    Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of erros in Pro Tools regarding buffer size, and also am having some latency problems. I’ve optimized my computer for Pro Tools, adjusted the buffer size up and down, used delay compensation, made tracks and plugins inactive, the works.

    I have a few large sample libraries, EWQL Symphonic Orchestra and Omnisphere that are also running off of the same external harddrive, and I’m thinking that may be the problem . Is it inefficient to use the same harddrive for samples that Pro Tools reads and writes audio to? If so, is the solution to get another hard drive, one for samples and one for audio, and daisy chain them? I would like to keep the massive sample libraries off of my internal drive. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Graham

      CP – It sounds like you’ve found your problem. It may just be too much running off the same hard drive. I don’t use huge samples like that so I can’t speak directly to your problem, but it’s worth asking around on the DUC forum at Avid.com

      Reply
    • francisco

      i’m going to buy a macbook pro, i have a question: i need one port for the external drive and another for my audio interface…. what should i do?? how do you connect the external drive and the audio interface?

      Reply
      • Graham

        You can daisy chain hard drives and interfaces over firewire. Done it for years. Or go with a firewire interface and a USB 2.0 hard drive.

        Reply
        • Dominic

          My imac only has 1 firewire port which is connected to my M-BOX PRO, however my M-BOX PRO has 2 Firewire ports, can I connect an external drive to my M-BOX PRO and daisy chain them that way?

          Reply
          • Graham

            You sure can. Some interfaces handle daisy chaining like this better than others, but I used to do it with my Digi 002 forever. No issues.

  12. Simon

    Is USB 2.0 fast enough to handle like 8 channels of audio at the same time? sounds to me that it would be slow but I have never tried it.

    Reply
      • nate

        No its not technically faster:

        hat with a Western Digital My Book Studio 2TB Western Digital My Book Studio drive connected to a MacBook Pro, copying a 1GB file took 23 percent less time over FireWire 400 than over USB 2.0, while duplicating that file using FireWire 400 on the WD drive took 10 percent less time than when run over USB 2.0, and that FireWire 800 proved 35-58 percent faster than USB 2.0 in various tests on the MacBook Pro with the My Book Studio. Similar comparative results were noted using a compact Verbatim portable drive with the MacBook Pro.

        Reply
        • Pro Tools Pro

          Nate

          Unfortunately your obvious textbook antisocial personality is self-defeating. Graham offers a great amount of helpful insight. His technical “errors” can be quickly and easily corrected, unlike your flawed character. Just exactly what have you contributed to mankind recently?

          Keep up the good work, Graham!

          Reply
          • Isaac

            @Pro Tools Pro, Thank you for shutting that guy up. Geez! @Nate has a firewire cord up his butt or something.
            @Graham is the man…Nuff said. Thank you for all your insight. It has helped me tremendously!

  13. Simon

    Wait. So if i have a laptop I could record to a usb if my internal harddrive is too slow to handle 8 channels of audio at the same time? If that’s true than I have opend alot of doors right now!

    Reply
  14. josh

    can you use a western digital tb hdd thats usb3.0 on a g5 to run pro tools sessions on? or do you need firewire for that computer.

    Reply
  15. josh

    I know they don’t have 3.0 the hd runs 2.0 on 2.0 computers but has the 3.0 capability. Really what i wanna know is can i use the 2.0 usb on the g5 to run pro tools sessions from the drive. It has a rpm of 7500 I believe. So will it run as smoothly with that as it would with a firewire hd.

    Reply
  16. josh

    The read and write to the drive is what I’m question will the 2.0 write and read the same as the firewire 800 or 400?

    Reply
  17. Graham

    Avid doesn’t usually “promote” USB hard drives, but I’m sure you can get better performance from a USB external than running it all on the internal drive. It’s worth hunting around the Avid support forum.

    Reply
  18. Jordan

    Hello there. How do I need to configure my system?
    -imac 2.4 ghz
    -PT 8
    -I use Komplete sample library
    -internal HD and 1tb OWC HD

    Whats the best way I should coonfigure my system?

    I need help please!

    Reply
    • Graham

      Not sure since I haven’t tried it. I would check the avid forum to see if someone has!

      Reply
  19. Cedric

    I just bought a Mac Book Pro, PT 10 & an M-box. So, what kind of external hard drive should I get & how much space??? I’ve been reading through & ppl have mentioned USB/Firewire but I need a clear answer for my specific situation. I use Pro-tools to record audio & make instrumentals w/ my Akai MPK 49.

    Reply
  20. Daryl

    I am a complete Newbie to Pro Tools. I am using PT9 MP. You are talking about USB 2.0 and Fire wire. Fire wire is great but where does that leave the rest of us, people like me who don’t have over 3 grand to plunk down for a Mac Book Pro? For what I want to do I can go back to Sonar X1 Producer and get quality results and it won’t cost me the farm. I’m not going to be a professional musician, guitarist or any of those things. I play and sing at my church and for my own enjoyment at home.

    Reply
    • Graham

      Hi Daryl. I’m not sure what you are referring to. Right now you can get a brand new MacBook Pro (with Firewire) for $1199. There’s a refurbished one for only $929. I personally only buy refurbished macs all the time. Are you in need of a new computer? Is that why you bring it up?

      Reply
      • Kwaghe

        Hi Graham.
        Thanks for being there man for new entries like me. Benefited much from your contributions. I just acquired a place to start my home recording studio. I have no practical experience but i am a graduate trainee of Oxfordshire Scool of Audio,(OXSA) UK. My professor recommended i go the Protools way and adviced on some few interfaces including MBox. I have just placed order for my equipment including M Box 3 PRO, but for a new guy like me and having gone through this forum i have began to feel it will be too much for me to handle. I am thinking of swapping the fire Wire MBox with MBox 3 USB 2.0. Please i need your professional advice.

        Thanks man

        Reply
        • Graham

          I think either MBOX will be a great choice for you. One isn’t harder to use than the other. Just more inputs that’s all.

          Reply
  21. Alex

    Nate is right, FireWire is better hands down. USB/USB2.0 transfers data in spurts. FireWire has a constant flow of data transfer. This will cause everything to run a bit smoother. But I will say that I used a USB drive for many yets without a problem. It all depends on the size of your sessions. I notice up to about 30 tracks until I start seeing some lagging. But you also have to take your computer speed into account.

    Reply
  22. Gábor

    Before you buy an external drive just to make Pro Tools faster, check that it really is the bottleneck of the system – if the CPU load is 100% or you have no memory left and the computer starts using the swap space than it won’t help you at all.
    Also, a mobile HDD is good for mobility, but any of these will be slower than an internal SATA drive. An external drive will be enough for streaming the recorded audio but if you actually have a separate physical drive (not a separate partition on the same disk), you can save the system disk bandwith using that as well.
    It is also worth mentioning that if you use Kontakt, a big virtual piano or any virtual instrument that uses gigabytes of samles, it is nice to put them on a different physical drive inside the computer (external drives are not so good for this).

    Reply
  23. Cord

    Also, would it be better if I installed a separate internal hard drive for recording my audio files on instead of the external?

    Reply
  24. Cord

    Graham hopefully you can help me with this. I had previously installed pro tools LE 8 on my comptuer than upgraded to 8.0.5 and it was working beautifully. Recently I had to reinstall everything and now when I go to record more than 1 track at a time it freezes for a few minutes and then starts recording. All the plugins are the same everything. I followed the avid guide to optimize my machine to run pro tools better.

    Reply
  25. mrmikemrmike

    OFF TOPIC:
    Graham, I am just passing by and wanted to say I think you are doing a great job. I came across the site actually doing research on some plug-ins for a particular issue on a live track. And as a NARAS member, I can say “Yes I disagree” on some things you endorse, but that is a matter of taste so-to-speak not the techinicals. Thank you for spreading the word. I think this website and similar welldone websites often do a better job than NARAS in helping future engineers.
    ON TOPIC:
    One may use USB2, USB3, FIREWIRE, SATA PORTS, and THUNDERBIRD with varing degrees of success. I have used all the ports to some degree or another. Currently on this PC Audio Post rig, I am using an SSD for the XP OS(running Tools) and with an HDD for files via a SATA 3.5″ carriage. Keeping in mind I build my own computers. The 3.5″ drive is the project reel. I have recently added a SSD/2.5″ HDD cariage I have not tried as of yet, but thats around the corner. The reason I bring this up is HDD are not the perfect media for working with and archiving audio files. HDD are mechanical and can breakdown. ALWAYS do regular maintenance checks on what ever drives you choose to use, the MTBF for a HDD is finite. Sometimes no matter what port you choose to use, USB or FIREWIRE, when a drive is done, its done. AS a result, the sonic presentation may or may not be as good as it can be, or the drive just starts to fail causing a host of issues.
    Lastly, using MACBOOKS and NOTEBOOKS are convient, but no sustitute for a WORKSTATION. I use both and there is no one way of doing anything in recording. Past audio gurus have shown this time after time. The variance in the computer industry makes that even more so. If one way is not working try another way, but keep in mind you need well maintained drives.

    Good job Graham.

    Reply
  26. Brian

    Ok… at first I read this article and said “Graham drank the wrong koolaid”… I mean… my USB drive -=is=- a WD Scorp 250G 7200RMP Sata drive in a generic USB enclosure, but there’s no way the USB bus would be able to keep up with that kind of demand! At least that’s what I was thinking…

    So… here I am on a 3 year old computer… using a Line6 Toneport for a soundcard (USB!) but what do I have to lose, I’ll try it… Um.. wow, it worked! Handles my Sonar X1 projects (I average 10-12 tracks of audio) just fine, and it’s going to save me TONS of effort in transferring between the studio (basement) computer and the mixing (upstairs so my family doesn’t think I abandoned them) computer.

    Thanks for this great tip!

    Reply
  27. Anthony

    Hi Graham, first off I want to say you are doing a great job with your website and the youtube videos you posted up. I’ve been watching them almost religiously and I could see I’ve improved on my recording skills. My question is about external hard drives and getting the right one that would work with my Pro Tools program. Right now I Pro Tools 8 LE, I know I’m a little behind with Pro Tools, haha, but I’ve looking at the Glyph GT-050Q Single Drive Tabletop Hard Drive and Glyph PortaGig 50 both of which are 500 GB. Would be safe to get an 1TB external hard drive to run with Pro Tools? My computer is a Mac OS X 10.6.8 with 1TB and I’ve had people tell me that running 1TB drives usually cause problems while running Pro Tools. What could you recommend?

    Reply
    • Graham

      Hi Anthony,

      So glad you’ve enjoyed the site! I haven’t heard of issues with Pro Tools and 1TB drives, but you could always get a 500mb drive for your main audio drive, and then a second drive for backup now and then. I’ve had great success with drives from OWC (www.macsales.com) and Lacie

      Reply
  28. tom

    Graham,
    I own a macbook pro 2.66 ghz, 8 gigs ram, 7200rpm,)…… I noticed on my newest protools session that i’m using as much as 45% on the disk ( IN THE USAGE WINDOW) I just purchased a glyph 1 tb external hard drive, I’m hoping
    you can tell me how to optimize this setup with the external hard drive . I should mention i am not very experienced with computers, so if you could spell it out in laymens tems , i would be very grateful
    ,thank you very much
    tom

    Reply
    • Graham

      HI Tom, make sure that you create your new Pro Tools sessions ON THE EXTERNAL DRIVE. That will determine where your audio gets saved. Crucial step.

      Reply
      • tom

        thanx for your quick response,
        so the existing session i am working on (which i mentioned in my previous post) can not be moved over to the external hard drive ….so that my internal hard drive is not working so hard ?
        also I checked out some of your video’s ,great stuff !
        all the best,
        tom

        Reply
          • tom

            actually it’s : “save as copy” i found out if you just use “Save as ” to the glyph, when I reopen the session i am missing files, also DAE error’s 9060, 9031 come up. doesn’t happen when I save copy, I thought this was worth mentioning ….?

  29. Raghunath

    Hey Graham,

    Thanks for this aritcle. Makes a lot of sense. I just bought the WD 2tb Firewire 800 HDD and have a couple of doubts:

    1) Should I partition the drive or just use it as is?

    2) Since I don’t do a whole lot of audio work, would it be ok to partition and use the second partition for other data storage or a time machine backup?

    And before I forget I really need to thank you man. I got started with sound engineering like 3 weeks ago and I’ve learnt most of what I know from your videos. I literally knew nothing about audio production/tracking/mixing/mastering a few weeks ago. Your tutorials are not only informative, but also engaging. They actually inspire me to learn.
    In fact I tracked, mixed and kinda mastered my own track just a few days ago.
    You can listen to it here http://agletdesignaudio.bandcamp.com/
    Would love to get your feedback.

    Seriously, thanks a lot!

    Reply
    • Graham

      I honestly have never partitioned a drive so I’m not the guy to ask. Lot’s of info on this over at the Pro Tools support forum (duc.avid.com).

      Dude, your track sounds WAY better than my first ever recording. So glad my site has helped!

      Reply
  30. Michele

    Graham,

    I’ve been pulling my hair out with the whole firewire drive-with Macbookpro issue with protools (I’m using 9), and then I stumbled upon this thread! I’ve not been able to use fire wire drives with my 003 system (it constantly crashes) so I was recording to the system drive. I never thought a usb drive would be fast enough but I’ve been using one all day long now, running many tracks, samplers, etc and no problems. Thank you so much!

    Reply
  31. digital audio workstation

    I’m so delighted I dropped in to read this today! I’m
    unsure if I disagree with any of it actually .
    .. effectively said!

    I’ll subscribe for your RSS feed and bookmark your site so I could return to read even more. Thank you so much!

    Reply
  32. Wayne

    First of all I would like to thank you for all of the recording lessons that you provide.
    The problem: I connected two different external hard drives to my Mac OS X Ver 10.6.8 and when I pull up a session from pro tools it either gives me buffer size problem or my computer timmer keeps running and the computer locks up. The external hard drive that I AM TRYING TO USE IS A G/DRIVE. I connected by firewire and then USB. It happens no matter what i try to do. When I am playing back a session, I see the light on the hard drive flashing and the session sounds like it’s skipping and then a second later POOF… BUFFER PROBLEM.
    When I disconnect it and use the file I saved on the computer hard drive, NO PROBLEMS. I hope I was specific enough. Thank you.

    Reply
  33. Rory

    Hi graham, i have a imac running OSX mbox pro and protools 8le. I’ve been using ex hard drive via usb as imac only has 1 firewire port, how can i use a firewire harddrive as well as mbox pro which also needs firewire connection . Can you get some kind of splitter box? Thanks for your help Rory

    Reply
    • Graham

      Hi Rory, if your firewire hard drive has two ports on the back (many do) then you can hook up your Mbox to the hard drive and the hard drive to your iMac. Did this for years with my old 002 rack.

      Reply
  34. Lopes

    Hi, Im thinking , of getting a new IMAC for recording and editing, I have not seen a option for a second drive, and also they do not come out with firewire ports. Ill have to get a thunderbolt to firewire adaptor,

    Im hoping that it will not give me any problems connecting an M-audio projectmix I/O, I’m going to be recording 16 tracks simultaneous using ada8000 with projectmix I/O through ADAT.

    Will the external hardrive for recording audio via USB run just as well as a second internal hard drive for audio.

    Reply
  35. Joshua Krell

    I am currently running Pro Tools 10.03 with a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 and I’m wanting to record to a external usb 2.0 drive I bought. The drive is from a manufacturer called Seagate. However when I setup the drive for recording Pro Tools, Avid pops up a warning that says, “Eleven components in this drive corrupt Pro Tools files. Please remove the eleven components and then re-open Pro Tools.” Any thoughts?

    Reply
    • Michele Mercure

      Josh, I have never had that particular warning before but I have had problems with 3 different seagate drives. They seem to die very quickly. We have 6 or 7 at the studio and 3 of them haven’t lasted longer than 3 months. Our G-tech drives are more expensive but they last a long time and are not problematic.

      Reply
      • Joshua Krell

        Thanks for your advice Michele,
        I had heard about similar issues with Seagate, however I came to realization that drives are drives and are eventually gonna give out. So I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try since Seagate has warranty and so I could send it back if it died in a month or two. After these I’ve been having though, I think it might be a good idea to get a more reliable audio friendly drive.
        Thanks so much for your tip on G-tech drives. I’ll be sure to check them out.

        Reply
        • Michele Mercure

          Seagates warrenty is very limited and even though my drives died they would not replace them. I’ve learned that most of the time you get what you pay for and it’s better to get something good the first time. Saves a lot of headaches down the road.

          Reply
          • Joshua Krell

            Well thank you very much for your advice. I’ll be looking at G-tech and Glyph drives. You have been most thoughtful in your help. I really appreciate it.

  36. Richard

    I’m had a lot of luck checking into tower buss mastering. The Adaptec with two FW and three USB ports is still a fast ripper. Notebooks are easy to move but cannot compare to a tower’s performance. As long as an amp, speaker or computer is under 40# I’m O.K. moving them with my dollies and other stuff with wheels.

    Anyway, external stuff (even FW) is slow. My Tower System Buss Master works well with the Adaptec Buss Master so throughput is pretty hot (as it should be during boot image disk cloning). We have to get the DAW surface (and/or) Digital Recording console into the computer so FW and/or USB cannot be avoided (for the moment).

    I use three different drives, one for the system and app, one for the page file and one to send the work product to. Now If I were a real gearslut I’d add a fourth one with a Bus Mastering RAID card. No problem with WD drives but I’m using spinrite and testdisk along with the other usual suspects.

    I believe in Fans (SMART will rat out the temp) and a 2:1 ratio of fans to drives is cool. A laptop/notepad without a cooling pad makes for some hellish heat that cuts CPU performance in half. You guys probably know all this.

    I’m struggling to get second drives (for the page files) in the laptops
    which should make for some modest performance (along with 2Gb of RAM upgrades).

    I picked up a fancy Audio Card which should help the tower and the Laptop with a docking bay and two PCI slots. I’ll check into a new tower once the new FW, USB and PCIe are more common and cheaper with proven Buss Mastering
    from the usual suspects (RAID Cards).

    Just wanted to drop a note as to what I’ve been considering so that others might benefit as I’ve got a few questions myself that this forum could answer far better than I.

    Best Regards

    Reply
  37. Shon

    I just recently purchased a Glyph-2 TB 50 hard drive from B&H Photo and I’m trying to pair my Pro tools 7.4 running on a MacBook Pro OS X Version 10.8.2 and this is the message I get when I try and open a file;

    “GLYPH-2 TB” cannot be designated as an Audio Record volume because it is not a valid audio volume.

    When I go to the WORKSPACE section on Pro tools to change the Audio Volume it won’t allow me to change this portion; that’s when the message appears?

    Can someone help me with this issue I’m not sure if its a setup issue or a Hard Drive issue?

    Thanks for your help in advance!

    Shon

    Reply
    • Richard

      This is a can of worms as there are so many variables.

      Erase the drive and reformat (How this is to be done should be in PT docs somewhere).

      May be the fault of the formatting mode chosen.

      Is Your audio drive is set to “T” (transfer) or “P” (playback) instead of “R”(record).

      Journaling can create issues.

      Some suggest the (ugly) option of a PT re-install.

      Reply
  38. Jason billings

    I run a macbook pro and use the usb 2.0 connections for my mbox mini, which i use for my pro tools 10. i have never had any connectivity issues. for me the usb 2.0 ports have worked flawlessly. i have never used the firewire port and have had no problems so i dont believe the argument that you HAVE to use firewire has any basis. just saying.

    Reply
    • Richard

      Its all about the clams.

      Just got through testing an 8 channel multi-track with 4 clam shell CD players. I plan to work up 16 or 20 channel multi-tracks which would mean 8 or 10 clams respectively.

      This is the cheapest fail safe method I could come up with which could very well be mentioned elsewhere.

      I’m agnostic about computers and communication protocols but to test this stuff means putting it under a heavy load, hence the clams. Once I’ve got every input channel working its little heart out then its time for a little fun with effects. Usually it does not take long to break something but that tells me I’m (1)doing something incorrectly or (2) have finally exceeded the entire bandwidth of all integrated systems in the aggregate.

      Strangely some of the posters here sound like me so the related info is
      already here.

      Reply
  39. Ervs

    Excuse me. New at that port. What does look like? Firewire. Imma check google but just making sure. Gimme some link or photo. Thanks

    Reply
  40. George

    Hello Graham, I just purchased an iMac which has a 800 Firewire Port, the Digi Design 003 which has a 400 Firewire Prot and Pro Tools 10. Which External Firewire Hard Drive do you recommend? Do I need to get one that has both 400 and 800 ports?
    Thank you,
    George

    Reply
  41. Sam from OZ

    Hi Graham,

    It’s good to see there’s still more and more people getting this information a few years on. You’ve helped many a budding soundie and have been a motivator to myself so I thank you for that.

    I have used both Firewire and USB 2.0 external drives with success. Whatever works for you works I guess. I wouldn’t worry too much about what Avid supports guys. There’s way too many pieces of hardware for Avid to fully test out there which is why there are alot of options out there that aren’t “supported” but still work.

    Mountain Lion although software, for example, worked without issue well before it was officially supported.

    Keep up the good work mate, this months Duelling Mix is a fun one!

    Sam from OZ.

    Reply
  42. Sam from OZ

    ^^ Windows 7 – apologies, not Mountain Lion. There was a new update for that.
    You know what I mean anyways!

    Reply
    • Sam from Oz

      I’m using a USB 3.0 external with PT9 on a mac book pro retina no problems. Have even used the same external on a PC with USB 2.0 only and has worked flawlessly. My one is a 1TB WD my passport FYI.

      Reply
  43. arnold

    I keep getting errors showing up on protools and it’s most likely because im recording onto my macs drive. okay say you have a motu with firewire hooked up to your computer already. where do you plug in this firewire external drive?

    Reply
  44. Mason

    Hey Graham, love the site, been watching the youtube videos.

    Probably a good idea to mention you need to be looking for a drive with at least a 7200 RPM spin rate, even for your internal drives when working with audio.

    This is the single most important thing when deciding on your hard drive. Transfer speeds mean nothing if your write speed can’t keep up!

    By the way, look for my EP in 6 months! You’ve inspired me.

    Also, what band is that Christian Rock band with the female singer? I really like her voice.

    Reply
    • Graham

      Hi Mason,

      If you’re referring to one of the songs in my first 5 Minutes video series on YouTube then her name is Annie Lawrence.

      Reply
      • Mason

        Thanks Graham! That was who I was referring to. She really does have a beautiful voice.

        Reply
  45. willaim

    would it be better to get a thunderbolt enabled drive or a usb 3.0 since my new mac doesnt have firewire ports ?

    Reply
    • Graham

      Yep. This article is about 3+ years old. Most macs had firewire back then. Go USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt for sure.

      Reply
  46. Richard V. Hale

    I do not buy new computers (OMG !!!). If there exists (or if one could be cobbled together) a compatibility matrix it would be helpful to me. I’ve been burned badly by Avid because of older releases that never worked on platforms they claimed to support (7.4 to 8.4 on XP). I’m impressed with this thread as many appear to be pushing the envelope. So I’m asking, maybe even begging because I’ve got a Music Pastor that wants some tracks and uses pro-tools. I can give him Cubase, Cakewalk, Audacity, etc. but no pro-tool project files. SO I’M *** OFFICIALLY BEGGING ***. If there does not exist an ACCURATE compatibility matrix (as I suspect) then there is an indictment to be had against Avid that no Abbey Road studio rebuild can white wash.

    Before all the Avid aficionados get their panties in a knot remember that Avid (reportedly) did not bother to use floating point arithmetic until 10. That basically says it all to any senior engineer with a multi- disciplinary background (hardware, software, solid state physics, etc).

    I actually feel like I’m beating a dead horse and would love to be proved wrong.

    Reply
    • Mason

      You could export your session to OMF. Pro Tools should *Theoretically* be able to read the session data.

      Alternatively, finalize each track and export each individual track as a WAV file. Then he can load up the WAV files in his preferred DAW.

      Reply
      • Richard V. Hale

        Open Media Framework would seem to take care of 90% of this issue, THANKS.

        W.R.T. to each track the WAV files imported onto the DAW might theoretically be thrown upon the mercy of the platform process and/or thread scheduling of the track tasks running in parallel in the application and the O/S.

        Running the test on my machine would be good before sending it out. Having a matrix of PT, HW and SW configurations (and maybe Firm-Ware, bios, etc.) compatibility would still be nice.

        Any benchmarking running an increasingly large number of tracks on any given DAW might bump up resource (main memory, page swapping, etc.) in a way that would be hard for me to predict.

        I’d like to know about any platforms running RAID configurations. That
        might allow an older system a longer life. I’m sorry, this could go on forever. Like which resource (Number of CPUs, Main Memory, Disk Array,
        etc.) become a choke point for any given number of tracks.

        Don’t mean to be whining, just gotta know in case I become the stuckee in such a scenario. Thanks again and God Bless (Amazing Grace).

        Richard

        Reply
        • Mason

          Bouncing each track to a WAV (assuming proper signal flow), would give you your final processed sound per track. All he’d have to do is import the WAV audio. It would work from Any DAW to any DAW. WAV is a standard file type for just about every DAW.

          As for RAID settings and what not, can’t help you, although for my quad-core processor with hyperthreading, I set number of cores to 7 (out of 8) at 95% load. You could do max cores at 85%, or if you’re running an optimized OS, you could get by with max cores at 95%. But unless you’re system is optimized (all unnecessary services turned off), you’ll need a little extra processing power for the OS itself.

          Reply
  47. ricky m

    so i think ive flooded my macBook with so many audio recorded tracks that now when i push the record button it says ‘no record volumes designate’ how do i make space??? can i delete alot of old tracks that i dont use anymore? PLEASE HELP.

    Reply
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  53. John V

    Wow. A lot of posts on this, too many to read really.

    I use Win7 and Pro Tools 10 (started with pt 7 LE). Let me make 2 points.

    (1) It doesn’t HAVE to be external. Just don’t use your C drive. If you only have one internal hard drive YOU CAN ADD A SECOND INTERNAL DRIVE and even a second hard drive controller.

    (2) Firewire is faster than USB 2, but external PC drives can be eSATA, which means they connect directly to the hard drive controller, not going through USB interface. eSATA is faster than firewire. I have tried this and I have tried a second internal hard drive. Both work very well if you have a decent drive.

    Reply
    • John V

      P.S. Regarding my point (1) above, don’t confuse LOGICAL drives with PHYSICAL drives. Just because there’s another drive letter on your PC (say, D: for example) doesn’t mean it’s a separate PHYSICAL drive. You need to use a separate PHYSICAL drive.

      Reply
  54. Jozeph

    So many haters on here when he is just offering simple advice. Use an additional harddrive however you want! External, internal, usb, firewire – stop complaining! Egoism is getting in the way of simple advice when those who finished Audio Tech 01 at a Community College come on here to argue their pointless points.

    I for one have used various external drives for over four years; all connected via USB 2.0. I have NEVER had any problems even with large sessions. It works much better than doing everything on your C Drive. Maybe the guys complaining should watch the “minimal plugin mindset” video instead of brown-nosing Firewire all night.

    Thank you Graham for all your work and tutorials. Many of them have helped me tremendously.

    Reply
  55. Ben

    Hi, I am PT10-11 user.

    My question is:

    I keep my audio files and libraries on two dedicated external drives. Still there are some libraries left on my main drive (Steven Slate Drums3 and other NI Kontakt libraries). I want to move them to external drive. Yet they are too big to put then on already existing external drive.

    So can I keep my libraries on TWO dedicated external drives? Lets say, one drive for East-West libraries, second drive for Kontakt libraries (third drive for audio projects)? Would this work well? Or should I necesarilly keep all my libraries on ONE external drive?

    Thanks! Your site is awesome!

    Reply
  56. Mike Mangeoglu

    Hi Graham, Thanks for the article. I bought a Lacie external and now save all my sessions onto that drive. One question, do I need to go into “workspace” and change the record/transfer settings for the drive or should I just leave it? I’m a little confused, Is saving the session in the external the only thing I need to do to cut down on cpu?

    Reply
      • Mike Mangeoglu

        Thanks, I just went into the workspace and saw that the external was already set to record, I just changed the internal to playback mode. After hearing the debate from all sides I’m going with that. My computer is flying now because I upgraded the ram. I have 2 tb of space on the ex and I’m going to take the chance that I may lose some music if the shit hits the fan. I’m rolling the dice, I locked it with time machine as well. Thanks again Graham.

        Reply
  57. Curtis

    Hey guys I want to know if anyone has used thunderbolt drives with pro tools I was getting the message that my FireWire was not sending the info fast enough so I’m thinking g about doing thunderbolt

    Reply
  58. Jesús

    Hi Graham,

    Great article. I’m just wondering about the speed of the drive you were using when you wrote this article. Even better if you reference the model :)

    Best regards,

    Jesús

    Reply
  59. Ben

    Guys, how much of free space should I leave at my libraries external 1 TB drive? Is 250 GB good enough for smooth performance?

    I use it for NI and EastWest instruments.

    Reply
  60. Mac

    Firewire suffers so often hardware incompatibility that it would be crazy to advice this solution without pointing exact devices that work together without problems.

    Reply
    • Graham

      On a Mac there are hardly any issues at all. For PCs, I would recommend the Pro Tools forum at duc.avid.com – They have great FW chipset recommendations.

      Reply
  61. Ben

    I use two external 7200rpm 64 Cache drives for audio and libraries.

    Let’s say I’ve got new external SSD drive. Which one of external drives would you replace with SSD? Libraries or audio? Which of those usually demands more speed?

    Reply
    • Graham

      I don’t have any SSD drives, but I would probably put the samples on it since they are a beast to load a lot.

      Reply
  62. John

    Im a little confused, some people recommends to have libraries on external hard drives, and thats what Im doing now, having contact libraries, clips and multi tracks on external hard drive, but for the read write optimisation should I have to write my audio recorded files on the external hard drive or internal?

    Reply
  63. Randon

    I use a firewire 800 external harddrive with my internal but still run into cpu limitations with large track counts and multiple plug-ins, I’m also maxed out (according to apple recommendations) with 8gb of RAM. I’m thinking about upgrading my internal harddrive to a SSD drive. Would that improve performance and allow me to use more plug ins?

    Reply
  64. Harvey Smith

    Hi, Graham,
    Just wanted you and all the rest of the people with home recording studios, that the best performance tweak that I did for my computer was when I got a “SSD” drive as my main “OS” and program drive! Of course, I also put all my plug-ins on this drive too.
    Now, I use to use 3 internal 7500 rpm HHD drives. 1 for “OS” and programs, #2 for all session files, and #3 for all raw audio tracks, of course, I’m not using a lap top, but I never seem to have any problems with this set-up. No error messages or anything. I did notice some slow down when working with many tracks and or plug-ins, but everything worked just fine.
    Now after installing the “SSD” drive as my main drive, it work so much better that I install a #2 “SSD” drive too, which I use just for session files and raw audio tracks on. I cannot believe the improvement this made to my recording and mix sessions!!!! My last project that I just completed had 89 raw audio stems, then of course I add all the busses, plug-ins, etc. So it was one of my biggest projects since I install the 2 “SSD” drive and I could not believe how well it handled the session! I did notice a little slow up but very little compared to what it use to do!! Now, with the “SSD” drive dropping in price (I saw several adds the past few day for very good drives at about $70.00) now would be the time to conceder this option. Of course, you lap top guys will still need an external drive, but installing a “SSD” drive for your internal drive is very well worth it. Also installing a “SSD” drive in a external case, firewire or USB 3.0, if your computer has one, would work the best, but USB 2.0 with “SSD” still work better that any other drive you put in that external case.
    Just some food for thought, works so well for me, I just had to let you guys know.
    Thanks Graham, for what you are doing for us guys who are still trying to get better at this mixing thing!

    Reply
  65. chris

    Great work u are doing here MR Graham.am new into recording.as a beginer what kind of DAW,interface nd mic do i need for my worship production?

    Reply
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  67. Mike Mangeoglu

    Hi graham. I keep getting stoppages in protools due to cpu overload. Im doing all the right things,i leave 1 processor free. I dont even use more then 13tracks. My cpu is usually at 50 percent. I cant seem to pinpoint it. Other sessions never stop even with more plug ins. My mac mini got a clean bill of health at the apple store. I reset my quartet, still happens. Any ideas?

    Reply
    • Graham

      I would post this over on the Pro Tools forum (duc.avid.com) – There could be so many variables.

      Reply

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