Alright just as a warning this post is a bit geeky but hey who isn't these days with the majority of us constantly upgrading to the latest shiny smart phone, Internet TV and/or tablet that seem to keep getting refreshed every few months anyways right? I felt like writing about my just completed PC upgrade for those of you out there who are thinking about what can be done to speed up your computer without buying a new one or breaking the bank.
Ever since I started using hardware intensive programs like Photoshop and Lightroom, my somewhat dated home PC has been struggling to keep up. To remedy the problem, I would loved to have gone in and picked up the latest 27" all in one Apple iMac from the store and be done with it but money doesn't grow on the trees around where I live and besides, I already have a decent PC that just needed a little bit of upgrade love. Being that it's already a quad core CPU system running 32bit Win7, I just focused on a couple key components that were the major bottlenecks in my system. Once they were upgraded, it made a significant difference in overall responsiveness. Also it didn't cost much either so I'm sharing it with you for your informative reading pleasure. Here's the what and why I upgraded the components I did and for how much.
1. Probably the biggest bottleneck for computers since it's existence has been the platter/spinning with mechanical arm style hard drive. The past several years, solid state drive (SSD) based hard drives have improved dramatically and now dropped low enough in price, making it an attractive option over the traditional hard-drive, at least for use as the main system partition where the OS runs. These suckers connect the same way as traditional hard drives and work pretty much like a usb memory stick or camera memory card. They are still no where as cheap per gigabyte as traditional hard drives but I was able to pick up a 40 gigabyte OCZ Agility 2 series SSD for $100 from Newegg.com. I'm using it just for my system partition where Windows and key applications run like Photoshop and Lightroom run since it's only a 40GB drive. I've installed all my other lower priority/less used applications on the secondary partition which is a traditional hard drive that is much higher in capacity. SSD is the future of hard drives. Actually it's safe to say, it's what's in now. If you look at computer manufactures today like Apple, IBM, Dell, etc., you will see this as an upgrade option when building a system on their website. With exception to adding more RAM, if you're looking for the biggest bang in performance for the buck, this is the upgrade I recommend.
2. At the office, we've been running 64-bit operating systems for a good while now but I've held off on doing so at home because I really haven't had a need to but now I'm doing things on the PC that demand much more system memory aka RAM. This upgrade actually involves two components. In order to use more than 4GB of RAM which is what I had, you have to be running a 64bit operating system. Long story short without getting too technical, a 32bit OS can only see and address about 3.3 gigabytes of memory. With a 64bit OS, you can use much more. For example at the office, we have servers in our data center running 64bit Windows Server 2008 with roughly 100 gigabytes of RAM installed. That's a lot for one system and also expensive! So I ended up buying two more sticks of RAM totaling 4 GB bringing the system total to 8 GB. I also installed the 64bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate so the system could take advantage of using all of the memory.
I also picked up a cheap 2 terabyte external USB 2.0 hard-drive to backup and store all of the photos from our ever growing picture library. This isn't a performance upgrade per say, but more of a capacity and insurance upgrade since we all should be backing up our files to at least two storage mediums and ultimately have one of those mediums stored at a different physical location. This is a whole other topic I'm not going to get into but if you only have your files stored on one device, you really should be backing it up to a secondary storage medium or even up to a Internet storage provider.
In total, the upgrade (SSD hard drive and RAM) cost me about $185. If you include Windows 7 Ultimate, the total would come to $385 but luckily I had a free copy. It was well worth the price and time to reinstall the OS and applications on the new speedy SSD hard drive. Windows boots up to the desktop in roughly half the time as before, which I can thank the SSD hard drive for. More importantly, Lightroom and Photoshop running in parallel performs much snappier even when making numerous consecutive memory and CPU intensive actions that used to bring my PC to a sluggish crawl.
Now if I inspired you to go upgrade to an SSD drive, you will not be disappointed, but be sure to read up on before buying because there's some key features you want like TRIM support that I didn't get into for the sake of keeping this post short. Hit me up if you have questions!