Operating System Recommendation

Hi All,

I am a newbie to Audacity and am purchasing a new laptop in two weeks. I will be using Audacity mostly to record clarinet using Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and to exchange files with my son playing a guitar and his wife playing drums. I plan on partitioning it with Windows 8.1 and Ubuntu 14.04. I see that Audacity works with both, but are there differences in its functionality between the two operating systems? Hopefully I would get the same answer if I asked this question in the Windows forum. In any event I would prefer to use it with Ubuntu.

Thanks in advance for your responses.


The sound systems are different, but Audacity is pretty much the same on both.

I have two competing recommendations in one sentence. Get a large, Solid State internal drive.

Live audio (and video) work in real time. There’s no such thing as: “Hang on a second while I arrange my drive sectors.” Musical notes come repeatedly and in real time.

That’s the obvious benefit, but then there’s the “less likely to break when you drop it” thing. And they don’t get hot or make noise.


While Solid State Drives have certain advantages, I don’t think there are any practical issues in recording live to a mechanical hard drive.

I’ve used Audacity to record dozens of LPs so far (essentially a ‘live’ re-recording of a recording - the recording is in real time), and I’m not aware of a single drop out or bit glitch, and I’m using an old, low spec external USB 2.0 hard drive, and a low power net-book (circa 2009 9" ASUS - very low power, 1GB RAM, etc). Since I listen to every second of the recordings with headphones to de-click them with the ‘Repair’ function, I’d notice a drop out.

I’ll make an educated guess that Audacity is buffering enough of the live sound in RAM to account for any reasonable seek times on a mechanical drive. They then get written in a burst to ‘catch up’ with the live sound.

And for reference, I’ve also been recording live uncompressed US HiDef broadcast video to a mechanical hard drive. This has a higher bandwidth than Audacity live audio, ~ 5GB/hour. I did have very occasional video dropouts with an older USB drive (4 years old - and cheap), and no drop outs with a newer, but still cheap external USB drive.

Maybe I’ve been lucky? I’d be curious if others have seen problems with spinning drives.


I’ve had no problems using spinning drives, even for quite large multi-track projects (30+ tracks).

The ACX videos recommend, very strongly, to record to a fast external drive.


They never said why they’re so insistent on that point. I don’t agree. If you have an SSD, the (laptop) computer doesn’t heat up and make noise and there’s no problem pushing off the work to an external drive later. My laptops that had spinning drives did heat up and I had to periodically wait for them to cool.


That is in part dependent on the recording software. Several of the ACX videos use ProTools. To get ProTools to record without drop-outs will often require as second, fast hard drive (separate from the system drive).

To get ProTools to record without drop-outs will often require as second, fast hard drive

Unless your system drive was blisteringly fast. See: SSD.


Recent hard drives (HDD) should not give too much problem recording, I agree.

However current Audacity is too slow manipulating existing data, which shows up especially on Windows in long delays when editing and zooming/fitting projects. An SDD is likely to be more responsive in these cases. We do hope to work on these delays sometime within the next few releases.


In relation to this topic; you can mount the temp directory which Audacity uses at run time into memory using tmpfs (if you have enough memory - 8GB+) and then a disk does not come into the equation whilst recording until the data is committed to disk by exporting it or if the memory is filled and some of it’s contents are pushed into swap space. Fedora Linux mounts tmp as tmpfs by default iirc.
SSDs are one of the best upgrades you can purchase for a computer but the main benefit of them is read access time.

Because the inner workings of the Linux operating system are more transparent than Windows it allows you more free and easy access to using kernel technologies like tmpfs to tune your system in a way that is more specific to your use case.

Even Windows does let you use a RAM disk :wink: but the main issue is that Audacity is only a 32-bit application on Windows. We don’t turn on the /LARGEADDRESSAWARE flag when compiling Audacity, so even on 64-bit Windows, Audacity can only get 2 GB of RAM allocated to it by the system whereas it could get a theoretical 4 GB if that flag was on (and if the user turns on 4 GT tuning).