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Protools M-Powered and Laptop (Hard Drive help Needed)

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by j.kernodle, Mar 8, 2010.

  1. j.kernodle


    Nov 23, 2008
    South Carolina
    Asked this question at digidesign users conference, but thought I'd throw it out here as well.

    Okay, I've got an M-Audio fast track pro that I want to start using with my HP windows laptop. The Protools M-Powered Essentials software that came packaged warns not to use the hard drive tied to the OS (the C:/ drive), but digidesign also warns not to use external USB drives.

    Well that kinda leaves me stuck. These M-Audio boxes are designed to be portable recording interfaces, what kind of hard drive am I supposed to use for recording/playback if I can't use a USB or the built-in?

    Any of you out there using a Fast Track with M-Powered essentials? Where are you saving your files?
  2. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Do you have a bay on your laptop for an extra drive? Mine has two hard drives in it...the second drive (a 500gb) is where the files go.
  3. pfschim

    pfschim Just a Skeleton with a Jazz bass

    Apr 26, 2006
    SF Bay Area
    hmmm, macbooks do not have additional bays in them for add on secondary HD's and macs are supposed to be the shiz-nit for digital recording. Not sure what they are getting at.

    All OS's will do some writes and some housekeeping stuff that could have an unexpected effect on a laptop recording session.

    I use a laptop to do basic recording with USB interfaces (no more than 2 tracks at a time though), and I have not had any interrupt issues myself. Of course, I am not using protools either, so maybe it is particularly sensitive to OS background activities.

    I know you can tune your system for recording, there are lots of good guides on how to do this.

    good luck, and have fun recording
  4. j.kernodle


    Nov 23, 2008
    South Carolina
    PF, thanks for the response. Yeah, the Macbooks don't have secondary bays, but they do have Firewire, Protools does support Firewire Hard drives. If you have any links to the guides for system tuning that you've used successfully please let me know. I've got Protools M Powered Essentials up and running, but I get really bad intermittent distortion on playback on any of the prerecorded samples, as well as bass guitar recorded thru my interface.
  5. shrigg

    shrigg Joy Decision Bassist/BL, AudioKinesis Beta Tester Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2007
    Traverse City, MI
  6. aBoMoFo


    Jun 16, 2008
    Houston, TX
    Protools can be just fine and happy with external enclosures. I don't have my 003 with me right now so I am doing this from memory. Some steps might be missing.

    Boot protools with all the HDs you are going to use attached. Go into "disc usage" screen. Make sure all drives are set to "Target" or "Record". This tells PT "Hey you can use these for your sessions.

    I'll check on the actual menu flow to get to this screen tonight. Hope this helps.
  7. Bardley


    Nov 16, 2007
    Louisville, KY
    ProTools likes firewire drives for the fast transfer rate. USB drives are not "officially" supported. They may work, but there could be issues. You need a firewire card in the expansion slot, if you have one.
  8. Yup, what they are getting at is that you want a firewire (or faster via some kind of express card) hard drive. You CAN record to the OS disk, and you may find it causes you no problems but it will be a restricting factor with big projects (you may get the 'pro tools can't get audio from the drive(s) fast enough message).

    Tiny laptop hard drives are also not that robust compared to their larger counterparts, and are a lot more prone to failure. Its taxing on the drive to run the OS, program and seek audio all at the same time and not advisable. Even an additional internal laptop drive will probably not cut it for audio recording, its not a limitation of macbooks or any other 1 drive laptop, its just something you don't do if you are running vaguely large projects.

    However, for getting ideas together etc i'm sure its fine. You can get pro tools to record to the system drive, its more a case of they know how bad a practice it is to the point of saying you can't do it. I'm not sure if it is still the same but there was a point in time when digidesign support would not give you any help with an issue until you verified you were NOT running the project off the system drive.

    Similarily, a USB drive will probably be ok for small to medium sized demo's etc but will be a restricting factor on the computers performance.
  9. j.kernodle


    Nov 23, 2008
    South Carolina
    hey folks thanks for all the help. the reason I asked the question is because i get intermittent distortion on playback of audio clips and preset loops. I'm trying to eliminate the distortion, but the first thing I keep hearing is "are you using the system drive" I could get a firewire card that will fit in the expansion card slot on my computer. That should solve the drive problem. Hopefully that will help with the distortion.
  10. Hmm, none of the problems mentioned above are related to distortion etc. At worst you get lots of messages saying 'pro tools can't get audio from the drives.... etc ' and no playback, and possibly over tax a drive in the long term.

    Distortion means that something, somewhere, is going into a process 'louder' than the process can handle. If you can record fine with no clip lights on any of your input gear, and it is just playback then look at you signal path after the audio leaves pro tools. Are you overdriving the pro tools output (or a plugin in the session)? (bring up a master track to check) or overdriving the m-audio output (to be honest, that should be no differnet to overdriving in pro tools, but it could be a bug in the driver or something, unlikely though).

    Maybe you are hitting your speakers too hard? If there are no red lights ANYWHERE in the signal path then it will probably be something to do with the stages AFTER the audio leaves your computer.
  11. crow01


    Sep 1, 2008
    this might sound stupid, but I had a similar case of distortion on audio clips. The wireless network card was causing interference for some reasons. So I deactivate the card while playing with protools.
  12. j.kernodle


    Nov 23, 2008
    South Carolina
    interesting crow. thanks for the idea. I'll try that.

    In the meantime, I've loaded protools on my desktop. Seems to be working okay there. Still don't have second hard drive there, but installing one won't be too big a deal. Its not portable, but at least I can start learning to use it.
  13. fu22ba55

    fu22ba55 Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2009
    The Protools ninjas I know say firewire is preferred for external drives over USB (and even USB2) because of how the two different specs work: firewire is supposed to provide more "consistent" read/write access, while USB2 provides faster overall performance, but it comes in "bursts."

    You can totally use the same HD for system and recording, but Protools likes to hog your HD while you're tracking... allocating a lot more space than it actually needs, which may freak out your system a bit.

    If you're internal HD is big enough, it shouldn't be an issue. If it's TOO big (over 250GB), then your HD has to work really hard moving all over the place to find the data, etc.

    I'd go with an external firewire drive (they're cheap enough nowadays).

    Also... if you're on an intel-based mac, I'd take a hard look at Logic pro. I find Logic chokes much less often than Protools. Might just be me though.
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