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Buying software/hardware….know your stuff!

We’re quite a few years into the digital age, but along with it comes its fair share of problems. We’ve all been in situations where we are driven crazy by our computers and can’t get things to work??! Things have got much easier as software and operating systems are simplified. In most cases when you download or buy software it pretty much installs itself with the simple on screen instructions. But all doesn’t always go smoothly…. Perhaps the new software won’t see certain drivers, audio interfaces, midi or even crashes! It gets very frustrating when you just can’t get the software to work or even start up. It can also get very costly if you end up taking your computer to a shop or call out a specialist to get things up and running. Quite often there might to a quick and easy fix to your problem or even a bug in the original software (very annoying???).

Most software today has many versions that you can update yourself. For example, iTunes, Reason or Ableton live. You’ll see Ableton 4, then version 4.0.1, version 4.1.0 etc. It’s also the same with the operating system on your computer, Windows XP (PC) and OSX (Mac). These updates are created to improve the overall running of your computer and (especially with software) to iron out previous bugs that have been found in the original software. So this is a major factor to take onboard before you buy your software.

You must also make sure that your computer can run the software in the first place. ALL software companies will give you system requirements, you’ll find this on the box or their website. Here you must to check if you have enough processing power, ram and room on your hard drive. Importantly check the compatibility of your computers operating system (what version you need to run the software). Be 100% sure everything matches up. So many people think that you can simply buy any software and things will work fine. This is the root to many people’s problems, simply not checking all requirements. Get in the habit of doing this!!


Because we’re a few years into the digital age, we’re starting to see loads of second hand software for sale in small adds and EBay. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying second hand software as long as the owner has the original disks and authorisation codes (remember to re-register in your name). The software may be a few years old and may be written for an older version of your computers operation system and wont work at all on the new operating system. Remember you wont get you money back buying second hand, it was your fault for not checking everything.


Spending a few hours researching the product that you want to buy can be the best way to avoid any problems at all. Most software companies have forums on their websites where you find the most valuable information. Here you find a load of people chatting about their problems and bugs that they’ve encountered, LEARN FROM THEIR MISTAKES.

A simple half hour reading session and you’ll soon be an expert on your chosen software. You’ll see many problem topics with an army of geaks resolving the problems. They’ll advise what version of the software you should be running, and settings (preferences), operating systems and tell you what bug you may come across and how to fix them. In most cases something small and simple causes the problem. I came across this with my digital desk in the studio the other day. A system error suddenly appeared. I thought this was something serious, the desk simply wouldn’t work. I visited the website forum and searched for similar problems. An internal battery costing a mere £1 was the cause; imagine how much this would have cost me if I’d sent the desk to the repair shop???

This is also a great way to research new and (especially) second hand Hardware. Final Scratch for instance is on its second incarnation, so we’ll see plenty of the first generation for sale second hand. There’s no hiding that fact the first version was riddled with very annoying bugs, but these are fixable in most case. But some ‘tweaking’ may be needed. So be careful, research the bugs and ask the seller if these have been resolved on the hardware side.


I really hope this information prevents you any unnecessary pain. I know how frustrating it can be when things don’t work, especially if you don’t understand computers.


15 April 2007 Blog