Cakewalk SONAR X1 Picture Cache: Clean early and often

A few weeks back, I performed some not-so-insignificant upgrades to the system that powers my home recording studio. I bought the Session Strings Pro and Studio Drummer sample libraries for Native Instruments Kontakt, and they taxed the RAM of poor Windows 7 Professional 32-bit. So I upgraded to 64-bit, added another 2GB of RAM and reinstalled all the studio software.

At first, everything seemed fine. The expanded RAM gave Session Strings Pro and Studio Drummer much more room to grow, and a quick playback test of my Cakewalk SONAR X1 Producer projects showed no hints of disruption.

Another few weeks passed before I got to work on a demo in earnest, and at first, things seemed to be cool until I start bouncing tracks. That’s when SONAR popped up a vague dialog box: “General error”.

I tried saving my project. “General Error”. I rolled back a few edits in my history. “General Error”.

I’m not sure what voodoo I performed to get the project to save, but it meant losing some work.

My initial search of the problem on various forums yielded no helpful results. So I started dismantling my upgrades. I took out the extra RAM. It seemed to work for a while, but then “General Error” popped up again. I uninstalled and reinstalled software. “General Error”. I upgraded some VST plugins from 32-bit to 64-bit. “General Error”.

I gave up and worked on a novel instead.

I went back to the problem two weeks ago and came across this post in the Cakewalk forum that indicated something hogging up CPU resources. Sure enough, the “General Error” dialog appeared when I attempted to save when my CPU was running hot, at times at more than 90%!

What was causing the problem?

By sheer chance, I noticed the CPU would run hot when I expanded certain track folders. So for a while, I would work on one track folder at a time. This solution would not work for the long term. Next I saw that the clip pictures were not drawing properly. In fact, they never finished drawing. They would just keep churning and churning. Why would that be?

I looked at the Picture Cache folder and discovered nearly 1GB of temp files there. Cakewalk SONAR was trying to read and write to that folder, and it was burning CPU resources. Of course, I cleared out the folder.

“General Error” went away.

Yes. That was a long story just to say clean your Picture Cache folder early and often.

But it’s also a cautionary tale of debugging — the conventional wisdom is to undo the changes made to a system before the problems started happening. It’s also helpful to remember that those latest changes may not have anything to do with your problems at hand. It took me many weeks to arrive at a solution because I was determined to find the problem in the most immediate changes.