Windows Sound and Music "Glitching" Issues

Part I: Why does my Windows sound sometimes "glitch?" Windows is a rich and complex OS designed for multi-tasking users whose tasks must share access to scarce system hardware and resources.  Unfortunately, despite multiple decades of incredible advances in PC and CPU architectures, there are non-trivial, complex interactions between applications, processes, and devices in even […]

Part I: Why does my Windows sound sometimes "glitch?"

Windows is a rich and complex OS designed for multi-tasking users whose tasks must share access to scarce system hardware and resources.  Unfortunately, despite multiple decades of incredible advances in PC and CPU architectures, there are non-trivial, complex interactions between applications, processes, and devices in even the most advanced personal computers that make a supposedly "easy" task -- like playing back music without occasional glitches -- much more difficult than it may seem at first glance.

Another way of thinking about this:  it seems odd that a modern >$2000 PC may sometimes have trouble seamlessly playing back music when $20 CD players can effortlessly playback music without glitches. 

So why do many $2000 PCs occasionally glitch while playing back music?  The quick answer is this:  Windows is not a single-function device like a CD player.

A slightly longer answer goes like this:  even an average Windows machine today is commonly used simultaneously as a media player, word processor, presentation projector, spreadsheet number cruncher, authoring tool, photo editor, media server, video recorder, music composition tool, communications device, search engine, virus detector, data compressor and decompressor, and backup manager.  And these are only a few of the possible tasks and processes that are run at the same time on the hundreds of millions of Windows machines that are in use today.  Each of these tasks or processes, in isolation, would hardly tax the resources of modern PC hardware.  But in our multi-tasking world, unavoidable resource conflicts do sometimes occur between the huge and diverse ecosystem of Windows hardware that enables these tasks.  Even on the most expensive, brand-new machine, occasional glitches can occur if and when the system attempts to divide its finite resources among these multiple, diverse, independent, power-hungry activities.

What is a glitch?

A glitch is a perceivable error, gap or pop in the sound caused by discontinuities in the audio signal during playback or recording which result from processing or timing problems.  Glitches during music playback can sound like a loud "pop" or like a brief slice of silence randomly inserted where your music should have been.  Some customers have also described what "glitching" in their own words as:

  • audio stops a little bit
  • breaks up
  • choppy
  • clicking
  • corruption
  • crackle/crackling/crackly
  • interruption
  • jitters
  • jumpy
  • skipping/skip/skips

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Windows, Windows Vista, Sound, Audio, Musci, Troubleshooting