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Basic Pro Tools Troubleshooting November 6, 2009

Posted by ConnorSmith in : Digidesign, Pro Tools, Troubleshooting , trackback

If you multiply the number of Pro Tools versions by the number of operating system versions available, that equals a HUGE number of potential bugs and problems.  Add in plug-ins, additional hardware/software, and user preferences, and the number of potential Pro Tools problems skyrockets.  Even a simple bug can stop a session dead in its tracks.  Knowing how to identify and fix problems will help you keep your sessions running and your clients (and yourself!) happy.

While this article is aimed mostly at Pro Tools users, the general troubleshooting concepts apply to any other DAW out there.

So, when your computer suddenly bugs out (inevitably right in the middle of a critical session)– what do you do???

First things first – know your setup.

You should know exactly what version of your operating system and what version of Pro Tools you are using.  Keep a list of all plug-ins and virtual instruments that you have installed.  Hopefully your computer with Pro Tools is an “audio-only” computer, meaning a minimal amount of other programs/apps installed.  Know which pieces of hardware you are using, and keep track of when each device’s firmware received its latest update.  This may sound like a lot, but the initial compiling of the list should only take a few minutes and will save you a bundle of time when troubleshooting.  (You can also check out this post – the information I mention there holds the same relevance when troubleshooting your own problems).

There are two other things you should do initially.  First – check Digidesign.com for OS/PT compatibility confirmation.  There are lists of which version of Pro Tools is happy with a certain operating system version.  If you are using versions that are incompatible with each other, switch over to a working pair.  Typically this is as quick as downloading either a PT or OS patch and installing.  Second – trash your Pro Tools preferences (see this article for instructions).  Trashing PT preferences fixes a large percentage of problems, so go there first.

Now that those things are out of the way, its time to ask yourself some questions:

Question 1 – Has this problem happened before?

This is a very important question to answer.  If it’s a problem that hasn’t happened before, it likely means that a recent change in your setup brought this bug to life.  If this is a recurring bug that is just getting more annoying as of late, its time to look at your system as a whole (see above) and track down the problem.

Question 2 – Has anything in my setup recently changed?

…and by “anything”, I do mean anything.  For example, this isn’t just limited to new software updates.  Anything from installing new hardware to changing the order of gear in your rack to the type and length of Firewire cable connecting your interface is considered a change.  If you reorganized your rack, perhaps something got unplugged.  If you are using a longer Firewire cable, perhaps your interface doesn’t like it.  Everything holds significance.  However, 95% of the time, it’s the software changes that cause the biggest problem.  Whether you are on a Mac or PC, when the automatic software updater asks you if you want to install new items, say NO!  If you system is currently working, don’t change anything.

If something did change recently (say a plug-in install or OS “dot” upgrade), you will want to backtrack and see if that squishes the proverbial bug.  Since you know that its critical to back up your system before an OS upgrade (J), you will have a backup to revert to should a problem arise.  If you suspect a plug-in is causing a problem, move it to the “Unused Plug-in Folder” and try again.  If you installed multiple plug-ins, drag all plug-ins that aren’t the standard DigiRack plug-ins into the “Unused Plug-in Folder”.  Then, assuming everything works in that state, drag plug-ins back one at a time (restarting PT each time) to find the offender.  Of all the Pro Tools troubleshooting questions we receive on TheStudioFiles.com, about half are fixed by preference-trashing, about half are fixed by uninstalling offending plug-ins, and the last few percentage points are actual hardware/software/OS problems.

Question 3 – Does this problem happen in every session?

If you take a situation that is causing a bug in your session and try it in a blank session, does the bug follow along?  For example, imagine you are working in an orchestral scoring project (lots of virtual instruments), and every time you bounce to disk, your computer bugs out.  I would close that session, and make a new session, adding a small number of Vis.  Try to bounce files in that session.  Figuring out whether or not the problem is global or only appearing in one session will help narrow down the potential instigators.

Question 4 – Have you been keeping consistent backups?

This may seem excessive – but I recommend cloning your system drive every week in addition to cloning it before any software/OS changes.  I also backup my media drives (drives where project files are contained) in the middle and at the end of every work day.  It really only takes a few minutes, and this will save you from debilitating system/HDD crashes and random DAW bugs.

Of course, The Studio Files team is happy to help any and everyone with their troubleshooting problems.  We usually respond quickly, but having some basic skills in troubleshooting your rig can save you time (and money!), especially for the small bugs.


The Studio Files


1. Alex - March 21, 2010

Ahoy Team Awesome!
i’ve browsed about here, digidesign, m-audio forums, etc and thus far i have yet to find a solution to my particular issue that works for me.
Following is a synopsis of the issue, all the specs i can muster, and what i’ve tried so far.

Dell Latitude d620
Windows XP Professional ver. 2002 service pack 3
1.99 GB RAM

Pro Tools 8 M-powered
M-audio Midisport 4×4 Anniversary Edition interface

Other music software installed: Reason 3.0, Cool Edit Pro 2.0, Noteworthy Composer 2 trial version, Finale Reader, Notation Composer 2.2 trial version

PT will not recognize my midi interface.

1. Checked drivers in device manager to make sure M-audio drivers were installed rather than Windows Drivers and updated where necessary.

2. Plugged the device into a different USB port and repeated the previous process.

3. Restarted computer and repeated the above.

4. Ran the digidriver application.

5. Downloaded MidiFix and utilized it, restarted, and repeated steps 1 and 2.

6. Cursed digidesign intermittently.

7. Checked device/OS/software compatibility. All seems to be correct.

8. Realized i hadn’t installed the latest firmware and did so.

i’ve done everything i can think of besides stay on hold with tech support for hours so that they can tell me to do things i’ve already tried. Any insight would be much appreciated. i can provide more specs/info if necessary.


2. jaime chavarria - May 12, 2010

hello i have pro tools M powered 7, i’m using a mac G5, everything was working fine i hadn’t done any work on pro tools or my computer for almost a week till this evening, anyways when i try to open my songs that are on my external drive i get a massage from pro tools saying ” this session is saved on a volume set to transfer only, if permitted set the volumes in question to play back and or record, in the workspace. otherwise choose ok to save a copy of this session and its media to a valid playback volume. The session copy will automatically open from the chosen location” like i said i never had this window before and i haven’t install anything new in my computer. hope you can help me.

3. Brendan - June 1, 2010

I am fairly new to ProTools. When I open a new track and click the rec button, the track volume peaks, as if there is feedback, but there is none. It records no sound, but the volume stays peaked. What am I doing wrong? I am using the MBox2 on a Mac10.6.3, ProTools LE 8

4. Benzilla - January 2, 2011

Nice Blog friend! I’ve been browsing this thing looking for a few answers the one most currently is, “How do I get my Xpand! plug ins to work on my PT LE 7.4?” I just can make heads or tail out of this thing right now! I recently switch to a PowerMac G5 from a PC and I thought it would be a synch but it obviously is not. If you can help shoot me a line to 4mata.studio@gmail.com


5. Damon Sink - January 14, 2011

Benzilla: What OS are you running on that G5?

6. Jackie - June 13, 2011

I’m using protools 8 thru a p.c. with mbox 2. I get this crackling noise
thru my monitor speakers which makes it imposible to hear or record. I checked cables and everything. I pluged my ear phones directly on to the m box without anything conected and I can hear the crackling.
Can you please help me with this problem.
ps. Sometimes the crackilng stops for a moment but soon comes back.

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