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When I do anything that makes my computer busy, the audio stutters. Usually it's just a couple of stutters, but if something happens that really spins up the CPU, it sometimes makes machine-gun noises for an extended time.

This happens in both iTunes and Napster.

I thought I remembered there being a way to give audio playback precedence so that it was never interrupted by other processes - is that possible?

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Is it always the CPU that causes the stuttering or is it possibly accompanied by heavy disk IO? Does the stuttering also happen in Windows Media Player? What about VLC? –  Goyuix Oct 24 '09 at 15:00
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3 Answers

Vista (and Windows 7) should automatically boost the priority of multimedia applications, but it is possible that Napster and iTunes implement their own decoders and the OS just isn't aware of what is actually going on. Try opening the Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc), find your process in the processes tab, right click on it and change the priority from Normal to Above Normal or even High.

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OK, I'll give that a try. Will it remember that setting? –  Herb Caudill Oct 23 '09 at 14:55
    
No dice - still getting the stutter, even when I set the priority to "Realtime". –  Herb Caudill Oct 23 '09 at 15:09
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Probably won't help, but the corollary is to lower the priority of other apps. Use task manager or process explorer to determine what is making the computer so busy. I'm not listing this as an answer because it doesn't fix it and it'll make whatever else you're doing slow! –  outsideblasts Oct 23 '09 at 15:17
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Sometimes that's just the cost of doing business on a PC. Your machine has finite resources in terms of processing, ram, and storage. Try to figure out which is your bottleneck: using task manager, are you using most of your RAM? Then try adding more or closing a memory-intensive app. You can add columns to the "Process" view of task manager and look at what apps are consuming the most disk IO resources. Many antivirus apps decrease HDD read performance drastically.

Frankly, Napster and iTunes are both resource hogs. You might have better luck with a lighter-weight client like VLC Media Player.

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I'd also suspect lack of memory. Could be CPU or harddrive but with normal computer use this should not be an issue. Not enough RAM can definitely cause stuttering. –  user12889 Nov 19 '09 at 22:12
    
No, Actually I have a very fast machine (HP EliteBook 8530W), plenty of memory available (typically only using half of my 3GB) and a brand-new solid-state hard drive with lots of free space. And it happens with any audio app, including things like WinAmp that are a lot lighter-weight than iTunes and Napster. I've tried disabling "system effects" (SoundMax "Sonic Focus Processing"), without which it sounds worse and still stutters now and then. –  Herb Caudill Nov 21 '09 at 3:22
    
You might want to check and see if there are any other drivers available from the audio card manufacturer. If audio is the only system affected, that might be a sign that the drivers are buggy or inefficient... –  Matthew Nov 24 '09 at 19:52
    
Would be interesting to know if it happens with certain types of files. MP3 vs. AIFF vs. WAV etc. Do some codecs require more overhead? –  menns Jan 7 '10 at 16:35
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up vote 1 down vote accepted

This turned out to be a symptom of a much deeper problem. Long story short, HP ended up replacing the motherboard on my 8530W, and the audio stutter (along with lots of other performance issues, overheating, and intermittent hardware failures) has disappeared.

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