Audio / Tips and Solutions

Upgrade Now or Later, Part 1: The Digital Labyrinth

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New hardware and software products are developed and introduced at a dizzying rate. From plug-ins to pop-filters, it never stops. It’s a full-time job just trying to stay informed of the latest release. Like the sea bringing endless swells to the shore, the industry brings innumerable waves of new marvels to our doors. When we see something new, we are instinctually intrigued. Frequently, the intrigue multiplies, expands, and turns into GAS (gear acquisition syndrome). It’s normal to have GAS, but you don’t want GAS to embarrass you, send your clients running, or even worse, ruin your life. In part one of this two-part series, I’d like to look at the convenient, hazardous, and amazing world of software upgrades.

Play It Safe—Back It Up

Many wise and learned folks have preached the Golden Rule of Software Upgrades: “Never go down the upgrade path during a project.” There’s a lot of wisdom encrypted in that statement, and I agree with it, in most cases. Upgrading in the middle of a project can easily interfere with your ability to recall sessions properly that were started prior to the upgrade. Losing just one plug-in in the upgrade could be catastrophic for your sessions. Losing a virtual instrument that was heavily used on a project would be a major problem. Maybe no plug-ins or applications were negatively affected during the upgrade, but it took a lot of time to complete.

Upgrades frequently take more time than you expect. The time taken to perform an upgrade may rob you of time that could’ve been spent with paying clients. Lost time may equate to lost money. Oh, the precious monies. On the flip side of the shiny upgrade coin, changing your system could fix problems like that one bug that sincerely annoys you or periodically crashes your rig. So, upgrading may be the solution IF things don’t go wrong. It’s really easy for things to go wrong. I don’t mean to strike a little fear into your psyche; I mean to strike immense fear deep into your psyche.

Due to how quickly the upgrade can morph into a downgrade, it’s important to have a safety net or contingency plan. With that in mind, I’d like to suggest a slight modification to the Golden Rule of Software Upgrades, “Never go down the upgrade path without a backup.” Back up your system correctly and you’ll have the power to revert to it if the upgrade goes horribly wrong. If the upgrade goes well, having that backup does you no harm. Although digging into the process and options for backing up a system are not the primary mission of this piece, check out software such as Acronis True Image, Carbon Copy Cloner, or Paragon Backup & Recovery for examples of easy-to-use and effective backup programs. What I suggest is making a bootable backup to an external drive. A bootable backup allows you to run your system from it. Install the upgrade on the backup drive so you can test it without affecting the main drive.

Paragon Backup & Recovery 15.0 Home Software

Find Your Match

Let’s assume that you have your system safely backed up. Obviously, you do, because you’re not the type to head down the creek in a canoe without a paddle. So, your system is backed up and you’re enticed by a new plug-in or OS that looks like everything you didn’t know you wanted. How do you decide whether to upgrade or not? First and absolutely vital, check for compatibility. Software companies usually list the system requirements for their products on their website. Since the compatibility information resides somewhere between Dullsville and BoringTown, manufacturers often bury it out of the way in favor of more interesting information. Don’t be surprised if you have to dig or snoop around for it. When you do find it, it’s a matter of verifying your system details. I’m talking about things like operating system, RAM, and processor specifics. If those don’t match up with the software’s system requirements, you’re cruisin’ for a digital bruisin’ if you do the deed anyway.

When it comes to the operating system and apps, some are dangerously easy to upgrade (AUTOMATIC UPDATES). If you enable automatic updates, the software update that automatically occurs may break functionality of other intertwined programs. Most of the time, installing a new version of your existing software will replace the older version that was previously installed. In case you’re wondering, there is no quick and easy “undo” after you’ve installed software. Sure, some programs have an uninstaller, but that won’t reinstall your original version. Why would they give us the power to destroy with such ease?! Well, with great power comes… you know the rest.

Learn from Recent History

If you are a little scared about upgrading, that’s good. Fear can be a great motivator. Let it push you to become a better buyer. Thankfully, you don’t have to travel this road alone. There are support groups available just a web search away. It seems that for every one person who doesn’t upgrade, there are boatloads of people who do. They’re on the Internet and they frequently post their experiences, especially if there were problems. Research what other people have gone through and learn from it. Perhaps you don’t know where to look, though. For example, imagine this fantastic, make-believe app “Phase Phixer 4,” which was released two days before the day after tomorrow. You could hop on the ol’ e-lines (INTERNET) and search for “Phase Phixer 4 problems.” Start simple. Even a search as basic as that is likely to turn up some useful information. Plus, there are many forums dedicated to specific programs. The time you spend researching can spare you from massive regret and ensure your enjoyment of the new goodies you get.

Excited Much?

Don’t let the pre-production process discourage you. There are amazing plug-ins, apps, and add-ons that are absolutely worth your time. For example, consider audio restoration software such as Izotope RX6 or frequency response calibration software such as Sonarworks. For many, the efficiency they offer and the miracles they work far outweigh any tedium involved in the process of obtaining them. Watch product videos, listen to examples, try demos, and read manuals. The biggest problem you’ll find is having a shopping cart that is too small for all the wondrous items you want. To make your life easier, I have a few extra suggestions. Keep your installer files; you won’t have to download them again if you need to reinstall those products in the future. It’s not uncommon for companies to remove installers from their websites when they release new versions. Also, organize a list of your third-party software and login information for various online accounts. No one likes the pain of forgotten usernames and passwords. You may have to reauthorize plug-ins and apps, but it depends on the original authorization method. After performing an upgrade, please test older sessions and test your workflow.

SONARWORKS Reference 3 Complete

In conclusion, upgrading your software or putting new plug-ins in your system can be as easy as learning your ABCDEs.

Allocate extra time

Back up your system

Check compatibility details

Do your due diligence

Enjoy your new goodies

Click here to read Part 2 of our Hardware Upgrade series.

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