Question: How do I keep my DAW protected? As a technologist, tech support guy and bona fide nerd, if I had a dollar for every time I was asked that question, well I’d be… (insert clichè as you will).

Here's a similar question from an actual working musician:

I want to be able to DJ, track and mix on my DAW, but also use it for office work, Facebooking, Photoshop, and downloading movies, sharing torrents, oh, and gaming too. Just a little bit though.

Is that even possible?

-Walter S
Los Angeles, CA

The answer, Walter, is a YES… with an IF or a NO… with a BUT. How you proceed is your choice, but I assure you, unless you follow this advice, you will find yourself up a paddle across the street.

Yes, if…

Yes, you can run a studio, a small business, feed your twitter monster and steal all the cracked plug-ins you like on the same system… if you are careful.

To define the term careful in this scenario, I'll break it down for you like this:

Use proper file management.

Set up parent folders or even partitions on your drive to accommodate the files for different applications. Properly separating your office files from your recording files will help you to manage and locate data. Combine this with regular defragmentation and a proper backup system for your data, and your files will stay clean and crisp.

Set it up right the first time.

Install drivers and applications correctly, making sure you have the latest firmware and updates available. Always check the manufacturer’s website support links for your products.

Have good antivirus software.

Or, have a virtual machine installed on your system. Have both if you are a ‘sketch surfer’ or an ‘ad clicker’. You know who you are, and you know what I mean. I recommend, Avast which is free, btw. If you're not using Avast, do your research as not all virus protection is created equal.

Get a tune up.

Know how to trim down your operating system and services, and tune your performance in your control panel. Remove or turn off all of those built-in applications that bog your system down. If you aren't sure how to do it, Google and YouTube are amazing resources.

Create a great workflow.

Gauge how conservative you need to be with your workflow environments. See which ‘Defcon’ category you fall into (below), and follow the advice that is given. And remember: be honest with yourself. It’s much better to be safe than sorry.

Levels of Defcon

Defcon 5: Low Risk

You have installed a pro-audio program and a set of virtual instruments. You use Microsoft Office and have your photo collection saved on your system. Occasionally, you surf the web, browsing YouTube videos, scrolling through newsfeeds, and spitting out tweets to your followers.


Give your OS a tune-up, double check your file management and backup systems, and turn on Windows Defender. You can install Avast if you like, but just remember to turn off the active shields when doing audio or installations. This will give you back valuable system resources.

Defcon 4: Moderate Risk

You use pro-audio gear and you DJ a bit. You sometimes download freeware, and torrented music. On occasion you will pass the time playing your favorite RPG online. You like to browse the web, and have an addiction to late night Amazon purchases.

Your penance:

Keep your files straight, and again, tune your OS. Use Windows Defender and install Avast. Get your hands on a good virtual machine for your browsing habits, and use that virtual drive to download and scan ALL of your freeware/torrents. Do NOT install a torrent share application on your system. Get in, snag your files and get out.

Defcon 3: High Risk

Ok, Mr. Defcon 3… You are the average user just like Defcon Users 4 & 5. Except for your inclination to view content and materials intended for mature audiences. You have a system for clearing your browsing history, without it being too obvious. You have your search history turned off.

Route to recovery:

Follow the advice above and do the following: Set restore points, often. Increase the size of storage allowed for restore points (in system protection). Do ALL of your sketchy surfing and downloading inside a virtual machine that is equipped with Avast. Any materials downloaded from sketchy sources STAY in the VM. No ifs ands or butts.

Defcon 2: Very High Risk

This level is a bit dodgy, but not all members of Defcon 2 are heathens. Those of you who do your online banking and bill paying definitely fall into this category too. You often forget to sign out of your bank site, you store passwords and financial records on your system and you download cracked versions of movie releases before they are officially released.

Proper treatment:

Abide by the requisites given in Defcon 3, but seriously consider having at least two separate user accounts on your PC, each set up and tidy (as defined above). Make your pro audio performance user the administrator, and do not take it online AT ALL. Then have a non-administrator account that is for your regular everyday use. You could even be so bold as to have a work, studio and personal user account, each tailored to the function it serves.

Defcon 1: Severe Risk

Last, but not least, Bienvenido Defcon 1. You have a timed lock down on your system. You delete ALL search and browsing history… always. You have folders upon folders strategically ‘hidden’ on your PC. You haven't paid for a piece of software, song or movie… ever. Your credit card numbers, user ID’s, passwords, bank account and social security number are all on a word doc titled “Account Information” stored right next to your stolen-mp3 archive. You haven't run a virus scan in a year because you are “afraid what it will come back with.” You, my friend, are nearly hopeless... nearly.

Stairway to heaven:

Defcon 1, you are going to adhere to all above instructions. However, I suggest having multiple images for full factory restorations readily available, as ultimately you are on borrowed time and are going to need them. A dual-boot system might be your best case scenario: have two functional operating systems installed on two separate hard drives. One set up for reasonable, responsible usage, the other setup as your miscreant profile. But, be warned that even this can’t fully protect you from cross-contamination between drives. Your only path to purity would be to have swappable, removable, bootable drives. Or, a complete change of lifestyle.

The No, with a But.

Can someone really keep themselves up and running, multitasking and multi-functioning, while throwing caution to the wind cruising through the inter-realm? No, but you can have oodles of applications coexisting so you can make beats and write papers, record an artist and do your taxes all whilst gazing upon the LED mecca our DAW has become.

You just have to be careful. More importantly, you have to be smart. Our DAWs are investments in our homes and lifestyles. They can have diverse roles within our daily-daily, but you must not cross the streams irresponsibly. Nothing is foolproof folks, but the outline I have provided above will definitely help to keep you inbounds.

Until next time Sessionvillagers, this is Sound Advice.