I’ve had my main home PC for over four years now, and it’s been chugging along reasonably well. But lately, as I’ve been spending more time with Photoshop, I’ve had a bit of frustration with performance[1]. Not only that, but the hard disk was a bit suspect – even after a thorough defragging it was slow, and every so often the computer wouldn’t start the first time.

Now, ideally, I’d replace the thing with a new super fast dual-core monster, but the price of the kind of computer I’d like to have is a wee bit more than I can spend right now, so I decided to compromise. Yes, it was time to install an upgrade or two.

First came that dodgy hard disk – I decided to replace the two old disks (one 80GB[2] and the other 40GB) with one larger one. After some dithering, I bought a 300GB Seagate beastie. I would have settled for the 200GB version, but as it was just £10 more for the extra 100GB, and for twice the size of cache, I went for the bigger one. Installation and data transfer was a moderately painless operation.

Next was the memory – I’d been running with 1GB of RAM, which was quite respectable four years ago, but isn’t really enough for serious Photoshoppery. As it happens, the maximum RAM for this box (a Dell OptiPlex GX260) is 2GB – not quite as much as I’d like to have, but quite affordable from those nice and remarkably efficient Crucial people.

And finally, I replaced the DVD-ROM drive with a nifty DVD writer (of the all varieties, dual layer kind).

And I’m pleased to say that the computer seems quite happy with its new toys, and Photoshop performance has improved noticeably. That should keep me going for a while longer…

I did have some fun after changing the hard disk. Microsoft Office 2007 pretty much died on me. A full reinstall was needed, and that only worked after running the Windows Installer Cleanup Tool. That was fun. Once it was reinstalled, it behaved nicely and picked up all my settings from my profile.

But the most entertaining bit was a little Microsoft joke involving my sound card – a Creative Audigy thingy. When I ran Microsoft Update to update my reinstalled Office, it offered me a new sound card driver, which in a moment of weakness, I allowed it to install. This turned out not to be the best option. While it appeared to install, I no longer had any sound. And the volume controls were all disabled. Mutter.

So, I tried to roll back to the previous driver. This resulted in some very pretty and entertaining blue screens. Now that was fun. Eventually, I managed to get into the computer in Safe Mode, where I could disable the device and delete the driver files Windows kept trying to reinstall with unfortunate results.

After that, I was able to install the latest driver from Creative, which reinstalled the sound card properly without any of those amusing blue screens.

All good fun. :smile:

[1] Photoshop CS3 is a bit of a resource hog…
[2] An upgrade I added when the PC was new

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