improving the performance of my PC

Discussion in 'Digital Cameras' started by LouisB, Oct 15, 2006.

  1. LouisB

    LouisB Guest

    Just wondered if anyone had any advice on how to improve the processing
    power of my PC.

    I've got a fairly high-spec PC built around a Shuttle frame. It includes a
    P4 3.0Ghz processor and 1GB of fairly fast RAM. I recently added a top end
    graphics card (Geoforce 7900GT with 256MB ram). I don't know how fast my
    hard disk is but it is a fairly decent Maxtor 160GB unit.

    Anyway, I've never been too impressed with the processing speed when using
    Photoshop CS2 and now with the new Lightroom Beta 4 it is pretty poor.
    Question is: can I improve what I've got, either by tweaking the system
    configuration or changing some of the components. I'd have expected a 3GHz
    unit with 1GB ram plus the graphics card I've got to be pretty decent.

    Any views would be helpful (other than get a Mac 'cos I can't right now!).

    LouisB, Oct 15, 2006
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  2. Before you can improve it, you need to find out where the bottlenecks are,
    and then tackle those. Are you running out of memory? Check the Windows
    Task Manager, Performance tab, Physical Memory, Available. Or listen to
    your hard disk! Is the CPU stuck at or near 100%? What happens with less
    resource-intensive software such as Paint Shop Pro (say V9)?

    David J Taylor, Oct 15, 2006
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  3. LouisB

    Bill Crocker Guest

    When editing photos, close any other applications that may be open such as
    your web browser, email, chat, etc.

    Delete your Temporary Internet files in your web browser, as well as any
    other temp files, and other files you created that you no longer use, or

    Uninstall any software/programs you don't need/use.

    Check your StartUp folder, and delete any programs in there you don't need,
    or recognize. Normally it should be empty, but many programs like to add
    useless junk that you don't need.

    Defragment your hard drive (weekly).

    If you're using Norton Anti-Virus, consider replacing it with something
    else. Norton is a resource hog and will slow down any computer. I tested
    several and my choice is Trend Micro's PC-cillin Internet Security Suite.

    Photoshop prefers, and almost requires a scratch-disk. A scratch-disk is
    preferably a separate unused physical hard drive. If your computer only has
    one hard drive, then you should buy a second one. It doesn't have to be
    real big. In the Preference settings of Photoshop, it will allow you to
    change the drive letter for the scratch-disk. When processing large photos
    this will help a lot.

    Robert Redwood's web site has an excellent explanation of a scratch-disk.
    Here is the link:

    Hope that helps!

    Bill Crocker
    Bill Crocker, Oct 15, 2006
  4. LouisB

    Gary C Guest

    Why not a separate partition on the 160gb hard drive?
    Gary C, Oct 15, 2006
  5. LouisB

    Matt Clara Guest

    Because that's still one drive, and you can only seek out info or write to
    it one item at a time. By adding a separate drive you double that ability,
    to a certain extent. I would further add that Photoshop should be installed
    on a drive separate from your operating system.
    Matt Clara, Oct 15, 2006
  6. LouisB

    LouisB Guest

    Would a dedicated USB 2 external hard disk be suitable? I'm just thinking of
    the bottleneck created by the USB port, even though it is the higher
    performance 2.0? I could add an external USB2 disk but I'm not sure if the
    shuttle will take a second internal hard drive.

    LouisB, Oct 15, 2006
  7. First, how is the swap file set up and how much crap do you have loaded
    into the systray and quick launch portions of the ask bar. Meaning once the
    system boots and before you open any application, how much free memory do
    you have? When was the last time you goy rid of your broswer(s)' caches
    files, windows temp files etc and did a good defrag of your hard disk?
    "fairly decent" Maxtor is meaningless. What rpm and spec is it? IDE, SATA
    etc.? I run two 10,000rpm SATA drives in a RAID) array on both machines as
    my primary system drive. Going to this by far was the largest noticeable
    speed increase in everyday use compared to anything else.
    Ed Ruf (REPLY to E-MAIL IN SIG!), Oct 15, 2006
  8. LouisB

    Bill Crocker Guest

    Any time you reduce the number of files on a hard drive that Windows must
    keep track of it's an improvement. If nothing else, the heads don't have to
    move as far, or as often for read/write operations. I have seen people with
    excess of 4,000 files in their Internet Explorer Temporary Internet Files
    folder. It cost nothing to do this.

    NTFS not requiring defragmentation is a Microsoft Myth that was part of
    their marketing hype when Windows NT 4.0 was introduced with NTFS. Granted
    it is better than FAT, or FAT32, but with the introduction of Windows 2000,
    a defragment utility was standard once again with the operating system.
    This carried over with Windows XP. Anytime you do any drive intensive work,
    such as database, spreadsheets, etc, disk fragmentation occurs. Photoshop,
    which you admit you do not use, is one such application. Even with a
    scratch-disk, it still fragments my primary drive more than any other
    application. You can definitely see it when you run the defrag utility. It
    cost nothing to do this.

    A "scratch-disk" is an Adobe thing! Even though Windows itself has a page
    file, for such things, Photoshop programmers have set up the ability to use
    a separate scratch-disk for temporary work files that Photoshop creates
    while processing photos. It can make a drastic differences in performance!
    Hard drives are very inexpensive these days. For the purpose of a
    scratch-disk, you could possibly find a free one from someone who upgraded
    to a larger drive.

    She has 1GB of RAM, which is adequate to run Photoshop.

    She already has a P4-3GHz, plenty fast enough for Photoshop, and there is
    not anything much faster out there, short of going to dual-processors.

    Bill Crocker
    Bill Crocker, Oct 15, 2006
  9. LouisB

    LouisB Guest

    OK, thanks for all the advice. Here is the current state of play which may
    help other users who experience the same problem.

    1. Did a msconfig and, shucks, finally got rid of all the crap being loaded
    at startup except for a few essential items, pretty much NAV and nothing

    2. Did exactly what was suggested by one respondent and went into PS and
    changed the location of the scratch disk to my second volume (my 160GB was
    divided into two volumes) which has about 30GB free on it.

    Both changes seem to have had a dramatic impact on my system. PS and
    Lightroom load very quickly and the amount of disk access seems considerably

    BTW, I had cleaned up my disk and performed a full chkdsk and defrag a
    couple of weeks ago so I knew that was not part of the problem. I suspect
    the key changed was the scratchpad location which was completely unknown to
    me and should perhaps be highlighted in PS setup.

    So, thanks for all the advice, it really helped point me in the right
    direction. The only upgrade I may think of doing is changing my RAM to
    higher speed and 2GB, as and when finances allow.


    PS A number of people obviously think I am Louise but if you look closely,
    it is Louis!
    LouisB, Oct 15, 2006
  10. It sounds as if this software is not well-written for the more typical
    single disk system - I'm glad you managed to make an improvement.

    Putting the scratch space on a separate physical disk may produce even
    more improvement. Assuming that you are not already memory limited, going
    for more and faster RAM may only produce a small improvement.

    David J Taylor, Oct 16, 2006
  11. If you have a SATA drive connection on your motherboard use that - it's
    much MUCH faster than normal IDE - you can pump 3Gb of data per second
    through the latest SATA spec. You'd probably need a new hard drive though.

    Run defrag every few months.

    Use spyware/virus cleaners.

    Close off all of the crap that windows decides its going to run when you
    start up - things like MSN, Quicktime, mail, etc.

    If you feel comfortable doing so you can shut down some unnecessary
    services. Right click on My Computer and select manage. Open up
    'Services and Applications' then Services. Shut down unnecessary tasks
    (but don't change anything you're not sure of!). One thing I would
    recommend turning off is Indexing Service - It basically makes a big,
    bloated log of all your file IO which, as far as I know, is supposed to
    increase the speed of searching from explorer - kinda pointless solong
    as you keep your files tidy anyway.
    Brendan Gillatt, Oct 16, 2006
  12. Brendan Gillatt wrote:
    What hard drive do you think will keep up with a speed of 3GB/s, other
    than to fill its buffer? Can you point to the tests showing that "SATA is
    MUCH faster than normal IDE"? A little faster, perhaps, but not "MUCH"
    faster for large transfers....

    David J Taylor, Oct 16, 2006
  13. LouisB

    LouisB Guest

    Couple of minor points: More RAM is a big plus for Photoshop, but I
    Unfortunately the Shuttle has a single SATA controller but the good news is
    I can squeeze in a second physical drive. For the ridiculously low price
    that hard drives now sell for (GBP 40 for a 160GB SATA300 7200RPM 8.5ms) I
    think I might just spring for one and see if it makes even more difference.

    RAM is still a bit steep. 2GB of decent compatible RAM is in the order of
    GBP 150+. I don't know if it is an urban myth but I recall reading somewhere
    that RAM above 1GB makes very little difference to the performance of
    Windows XP.

    Thanks again for all the advice

    LouisB, Oct 16, 2006
  14. LouisB

    veritas Guest

    I can relate to what you're going through .

    You know , I have a laptop ( I think 3 GHz P4 ) 514MB RAM , 60 GB Hardrive
    ( 50 GB freespace )made by Northgate ( an American company that went out of
    business April 2005 ) .
    I bought the laptop March 2003 (I bought the computer ~$1680 USD when I was
    living in Los Angeles ). Anyway , I can't even link a printer by USB cable
    before the available RAM just seems to disappear . When I press the button
    to print the computer freezes and I can't even shut it down without a reboot

    Having this in mind and considering your experiences ( or anyone else here )
    , do you think I can install , run PS and print photos ? It doesn't look
    like it does it ? :(

    What do I have to do ? Buy a new laptop ( I've seen one 2 GB RAM , 160 GB
    Hardrive , Chip 2-3 GHz ) I can get from Los Angeles shipped to me here for
    around $1400 .

    Do I have to buy a new external drive perhaps and link it by USB ?

    Any ideas , anyone ?
    veritas, Oct 17, 2006
  15. LouisB

    ASAAR Guest

    When was the last time you defragged the hard drive or checked the
    drive for sector errors? I've had computers crash when trying to
    print with a C: drive that didn't have enough disk space to allocate
    a sufficiently large swap file. I'm not sure if the swap file needs
    to be contiguous or not, but even if it doesn't, those two
    operations won't cost anything and might make the computer run
    faster, so that it crashes in even less time than it took before!
    And if it does help, you'll have gotten something for nothing! :)
    ASAAR, Oct 17, 2006
  16. LouisB

    LouisB Guest

    I can relate to what you're going through .
    Trust me, you really need to go through msconfig and turn off all the crap
    which is loading at startup. Most of it is probably seldom used or even
    unecessary. All you really need is your virus checker. Once you are not
    loading additional background apps I reckon your perfomance will improve. If
    you also take the time to do a full chkdsk and then defrag (probably best
    left running overnight) you could find a significant performance

    I also took the opportunity of severely weeding out and removing all the
    apps I thought I would use but never did - which is worth doing before the
    chkdsk and defrag.

    There is a body of thought which thinks that every year to 18 months you
    should entirely rebuild your software image from the operating system
    upwards which for me is just totally unrealistic but might be worth
    considering next time I have a long holiday and nothing to do!

    LouisB, Oct 17, 2006
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