Audacity using up hard drive

This seems very wrong.

I loaded a 225 Megabyte .flac file into Audacity.

Then amplified it.

And at this point Audacity has sucked 4 GB from my hard drive.

When I am done with this process, then the hard drive returns the 4 gigs. This seems like a great deal of overhead to process a merely 225 meg file. It becomes a problem on a limited space SSD.

Is this normal? And if not, what can I do to correct this problem?

I am running Audacity on Linux Debian Wheezy stable, on the Crunchbang distro.

You missed the magic words: How long is the show? Audacity runs internally at a very high uncompressed bit depth (32-floating). So the first thing it has to do is uncompress the FLAC show. Then, if you do an effect or filter, the size doubles and then doubles again. It has to keep very high quality UNDO levels as you go.


It’s a recording of 1-hour, 18 minutes.

So, with this length are those figures I gave within bounds?

Also, does chosing to work on the original rather than a copy decrease the hard drive taken up in a significant way? I’ll test this myself, of course.

Normal enough. If the file is stereo 44100 Hz and and you are using the Audacity default sample format of 32-bit float, then 80 minutes takes 1.6 GB. If the FLAC is stereo 48000 Hz it will be getting on for 2 GB. When you amplify the whole track, that takes another 2 GB on top of the original 2 GB to support undo/redo.

If you change Default Sample Format to 16-bit in the Quality Preferences, you can halve those figures.

If you read directly there will be only minimal space usage when you import the file.

When you edit the whole track, one round of space will be taken as detailed above. So at 32-bit float and a 44100 Hz stereo file, the amplification takes 1.6 GB.


OK, this makes sense now. I’ll do the heavy lifting on my big desktop with endless storage space available. thanks…

Hey I’ve recently installed an SSD drive on my laptop due to my old hard drive completely failing one day. Now I’ve always used Audacity for all my recording sessions, however as I read about SSD perfect work scenario, I’m starting to think that it may be a bad idea considering how much pressure Audacity may put on it with uncompressed files and aforementioned size duplication.

Should I get an external SSD hard drive and do all my tasks on it or should I be fine with my SSD, and if so, how long have yours lasted you? Any noticeable slowdowns?

SSDs are not delicate flowers (unless you bought a very cheap one). They are multiple times faster than rotating metal. A friend of mine and I have similar machines except he has a conventional drive. I tried using his once and I thought it was broken it was so slow.

Past the speed increase, they’re shock resistant and don’t get hot.

I have a 5 year old laptop and the current one both with SSDs. I’ve never had one fail.


SSD’s are fast. That’s for sure.

However, some things need to be considered:

  • If left without power for longer periods (from weeks to years) they might lose all data. That’s in the JDEC specs, but hardly anyone reads those. So, don’t use them for archival of data.
  • Data recovery is pointless if they fail.
  • Power consumption isn’t always lower.
  • Heat also isn’t always lower.
  • You might think they are immune to magnetic fields, but some are more susceptible than classic hard drives.
  • Slow-downs and corruption do appear more than with classical drives. And, what’s really scary: the bigger the disk, the more failures.

The average user might not notice any of this, but if you’re running them as a cache to a storage array you will notice them after weeks.

Audio is a bit in between. A user who mainly plays audio will be very happy with an SSD. If you record lots of small sessions every day and transfer those to another computer, erase and start again the next day, your SSD might be defective in under a year.

When you run database applications on a server, SSD’s might simply be slower and less reliable.

Intel used to be the superior brand. No failures, no slow-downs. But the others did catch up reasonably fast. And newer drives keep appearing almost weekly. That’s one of the big problems: you never really know what you’re buying. The first generation Samsung SSD’s was very good. Then Samsung updated the controllers and users started seeing slow-downs. A fix has been out for a while, but not for all models. And for some users, the fix isn’t working. Samsung is not a bad brand, it could happen to every other brand too.

I run some storage devices with lots of disks in them. In the caching area these have all been replaced with SSD’s. In the storage area, however, spinning disks still rule. And that’s not because of price. It’s because of the risk of total loss of data without any chance of recovery. SSD’s get replaced every six months. We simply can’t afford to have one of these systems go down as hundreds of servers and thousands of applications depend on them.

On my personal laptop, i have a hybrid disk*. It has 8 GB of flash storage and 1 TB of spinning storage. It’s fine, it’s not as speedy as an SSD, but it’s also not as expensive and it’s bigger. The controller on these disks moves data around. Files that are often accessed will be cached on the flash part. It works well, but doesn’t speed up startup. Why’s that? It 's because I don’t start up the machine often enough. There are no real problems with it, but…

Disk cloning tools (CCC fi) succesfully clone the disk, but I can’t get the result to boot. I have only one of my data recovery tools that can read/recover this disk.

I’ve also seen unexplainable dropouts in recordings with SSD’s , but that could be a problem with first generation controllers or the OS.

Oh, and Apple’s hybrid disks (Fusion Drive: classical HD + SSD JBOD) don’t work at all for audio or video recording.

*Seagate no longer makes those.

The average user might not notice any of this…

Right. Since we’re not running servers and we do drop our machines when they’re running, SSD is almost always a benefit. As a straight swap-out, they’re almost always cooler and take less power to run. I’ve found periodic backups (to spinning metal) to be very valuable and in the case of insanely important shows, we double record and I immediately copy the work onto independent media.

This was a broadcast radio show. I usually use this graphic to point out how I did the main shoot, but that microphone assembly on the right was the backup recording, as it turned out, not needed.