There are a couple simple ways to speed up your desk-top computer without spending much money. The first, is to put in some more Memory chips. The second is to put in a Graphics card with at least 1 Gig of on-board memory.
10 years ago, memory chips were quite expensive, small in size and didn’t run very fast. Most computers that came from manufacturers which ran XP 32 bit or even 64 bit, couldn’t handle more than 1 Gig of memory, but it was the usual practise to factory install as little as 250 MB. Then came new Windows operating systems along with new CPUs/motherboards that could cope with 4 Gigs of memory; the very latest systems have support for 64 Gigs!
But if you have a desktop PC, it most likely will have less than 4 Gigs of memory installed. If you want to improve its speed so you will notice it, simply putting in up to 8 Gigs of memory will do the trick. Laboratory benchmarking tests reveal there’s a large speed increase from 2 to 4 Gigs to 8 Gigs of memory, and 16 Gigs of memory is where the speed increase tops out. After that, there’s no speed increase to be gained, even if your system supports 64 Gigs of memory.
I did this to a Dell factory bought desktop running Windows 7 which came pre-configured with 4 Gigs of Ram Memory, and it really made a hell of a lot of difference particularly to video encoding. But the Dell motherboard was limited to 8 Gigs of Ram and so I never got the chance to experiment with 16 Gigs. It cost less than $100 to buy 4 sticks of 2 Gig ram DDR3 memory (all of which come with a lifetime warranty).
I then had 4 1 Gig sticks of DDR3 spare. (If you’d like to have them, either for nothing or a nominal fee, just drop me a line via this blog.)
Dell only comes with a one year warranty, and I used my PC quite a lot so that 3 years later when it began to show signs of failure it wasn’t unexpected. The original hard disk (500 gigs) had started reporting S.M.A.R.T. errors when the system was 18 months old. Dell’s pricing policy was such that to get a replacement cost me over $120 + postage; however, the new disk they supplied was a stock hard disk you could get for less than $70 at any good computer parts store. Likewise, the PC’s CPU when originally installed cost $220; it was an Intel Dual Core running at 2.8 GHz (max rating 120 watts). These days you can pick them up brand new for $30.
However, 42 months after buying the Dell, the system shut down with a motherboard issue which couldn’t be resolved short of replacement. Dell quoted a new motherboard to suite the case and CPU @ $175 + postage, if they could get one.
I decided to bypass DELL completely, mainly because I hadn’t been very happy with the PC they sent me, from the very start. The day I got it, there was an issue with the Windows 7 log-on password. Once I’d set it up, and rebooted, the password wouldn’t work, and there was no way to get into the operating system. I phoned Dell, and it seems there was a technical issue with passwords that contained specific letters/symbols, but as I hadn’t used any of them, I couldn’t understand why my computer had failed so completely. Dell offered to sell me a replacement Operating System Installation Disk for $50, but I re-read their warranty policy and found there was a 14 days return period, during which you could get a full refund or replacement if the product was found to be faulty. But you had to pay for shipping.
I chose to pack the computer back into its cardboard box, and send it back to Dell for a refund. I had a post office directly opposite where I lived, so it was convenient, even though the box was huge, to carry. So, that’s what I did and it cost me $35 postage. Two weeks later I got a phone call saying Dell had received the computer & tested it and found it to be faulty in the Operating System only. My options were limited to getting a replacement only. They wouldn’t refund the $650 I had shelled out already.
Thus, I was “stuck” with a system I couldn’t really be happy with, from day one!
Video encoding when it had only 4 Gigs of memory, would often take 3 or 4 hours for a film that wasn’t even 80 minutes long. There were some times when a 90 minute film took over 24 hours to encode, which included frame resizing, colour correcting and frame rate change. I tried a new Graphics card Nvidia GeForce 650, and it helped a lot, but it wasn’t until after I put in the 8 Gigs of memory, I could do a 60 minute film usually in 2 hours or less.
And then after a year of 8 Gigs, the motherboard failed. This time I took it to a repair shop about 300 yards down the road & they tested it & found there was a short. It could not be repaired, but they could get me a replacement, a newer model, for less than $80; or a new CPU + motherboard for $140, which would come with a 3 year warranty and be faster.
I then got Dell’s quote of $175 and decided to go back to the drawing board and design and build a computer from scratch. I’d done it before, 15 years ago, to build an XP computer, and it ran perfectly well even after the Dell failed 2 times. But it was slow, far too slow to encode video. So a new computer was called for! I checked out what hardware was available from local stores and found I could put together an “almost state of the art” Intel 4th Generation i7 system for less than $650 if I used parts from the failed Dell.
I had 8 Gigs of memory, a fairly new 1,000 Gig hard drive, a fairly new Graphics card.
All I needed to buy was the Central Processing Unit, a motherboard that supported it, and a case with power supply. There wasn’t any way to get a “cheap” CPU, as the price seemed to be fairly standard everywhere; as for the motherboard, I went for an ASUS high performance board that supported USB 3.
I put it all together one Saturday afternoon, and powered it on. Because I was using a hard disk that had been a system disk in the Dell, it just booted up very quickly and within 15 minutes I was back on the road. Everything worked exceptionally well. The new i7 CPU (with 4 cores) was designed with many power-saving features and even when overclocked didn’t draw too much power from my power supply (max rating 84 watts). The case had come with a 500 watt power supply, whereas the Dell had come with a 300 watt supply. I realise I should have spent more on the case though. As it is, its much larger than the Dell, and only has 1 USB 3 socket up front. Plus, no sleep button. I can live with it however!
I kept using using Windows 7 Enterprise for 3 months until I obtained a copy of Windows 8 Pro; remember Dell hadn’t supplied any operating system installation disks, so once the system was wiped, there was no way, short of System Image Recovery, to get it back. It didn’t trouble me much. The only thing I liked about Win 7 was the Microsoft DVD maker and the Movie Maker. They both did excellent jobs, even when they took 120 minutes to complete a 60 minute film.
Windows 8 Pro took less than 10 minutes to install. What took longer was setting up all the account details and personalisation’s. Again, it worked really well, until I went on-line and it wanted to Update itself. In the first month there were over 1.2 Gigs of “updates” and it didn’t stop there, but with each month came huge updates that bit into my broadband limit. With 8 Pro, you had the chance to Upgrade to 8.1 free of charge and so that’s what I did. The download was over 3.5 Gigs and took nearly 6 hours of my slow speed 3G Wireless Broadband. What I got was an ISO I needed to burn to a DVD disk, which I did, and then it was a simple matter to install the new Operating System. Again, it took less than 11 minutes to get everything onto the hard disk. And then another 10 minutes spent setting up accounts and personalization’s. When I finally did get on-line, the Updates started coming again.
My motherboard supported INTEL RAID 0, 1, 2, 5 & 10. I’d heard that RAID 2, 5 & 10 were very good at protecting data should a hard disk fail; but I had also heard that RAID 0 greatly increased performance of the disk, so I went for that and changed my hard disk configuration into a 2 disk RAID 0 system. It didn’t take long, but putting the OS back in place was a little more complicated because there were lots of programs I wanted to install. The change in disk speed was absolutely dramatic!
Using a standard benchmark software tool, I found my system’s speed had increased almost 300%, and was now comparable to those which used Solid State Drives as system boot drives (min size of a boot SSHD is 240 Gig, min price is $220). It was quite unbelievable really. I was able to encode 120 minutes of film in less than 30 minutes! A 120 minute DVD took less than 4 minutes to create/encode.
Editing movies was just so easy now and so fast it was almost unimaginable. I could do colour correcting, frame re-sizing, brightness & contrast, gamma, frame rate etc. and it would take less than 30 minutes even on a 120 minute film.
(Don’t be fooled! most Manufacturers of Computers will charge you an arm and a leg for their new Intel 4th Generation computers. Most use i3 and i5 CPU chips. Many new laptops use i7 CPU chips because of their power saving ability, but you pay for it through the nose. A good i7 desk-top with 8 Gigs of memory and 1,000 Gigs of hard drive will set you back at least $1500, without a Graphics card. Laptops with i7 chips go for anything between $1400 and $4600. Some even have dedicated Graphics “cards.” If you want 16 Gig or even 32 Gigs of memory you can add another $300 to the base price; a graphics card, mainly used by gamers, will also add no less than $500 to your bill! The problem with manufacturers is they make their own motherboards usually, and their warranties are normally far less than 3 years. My Asus motherboard is under warranty for 3 years, and can automatically “tune” the i7 CPU chip away from its 3.5 GHz standard speed, up to 4.5 GHz speed without voiding that warranty! At 4.5 GHz video encoding is a breeze! USB 3 speeds reach 2.5 Gigs/second and the hard disk can read/write at more than 350 MB/second. Compared to XP, USB speeds were 10 MB/s, disk read/write was about 25 MB/s and video encoding took all day.)