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I have a problem at work. They've got me doing fairly processor-intensive image editing in Adobe CS5 pretty much daily. This would be fine except that I'm on an HP Compaq 6000 with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and Windows 7. The delay was tolerable when I was on XP - JUST tolerable. Now it's affecting my work. It can take as much as ten seconds to switch between applications, more if I'm going from say, Illustrator to Photoshop with a large image on the clipboard. Despite my 4 gigs of RAM, export to web routinely fails due to "insufficient memory" with large pages (I wouldn't be making them this large if it were me designing but unfortunately it's not my call so I have to find some way to deal with them). The machine locks up if I let it sleep more than 30 minutes and I have to do a hard reboot to get it back, so I shut it down before lunch and start it back up when I return.

I've raised the issue with my immediate superiors, who recognize the inconvenience but do nothing. I've talked to the IT department, which is mostly Windows people who know apparently nothing about hardware. Thinking it was a "bad machine," they sent me an identical machine as a replacement. The new machine's performance matches the previous one's. The only good thing about IT's lack of expertise in this area is that they would be unlikely to detect any changes I make to the hardware as long as I return it to it's original state before turning it back in (they lease all their machines).

So, right now I'm at the end of my rope, so to speak. The only way to address the issue is to take matters into my own hands and upgrade the machine myself, if possible. It's a fairly small disk (150 gigabytes), so I think I can clone it into an SSD over a weekend without IT's spyware being the wiser. The current hard disk is the conventional 3.5" size, so what I would really love would be to be able to fit two smaller HDD's in there: the SSD to boot from and maybe find some kind of a sled that would let me fit a laptop-sized 500Gb storage disk in with it. Also, if that sort of thing is at all possible, I'd like to switch out the processor for an i3 or something. But I don't know how to find out if the motherboard will support it.

Can anybody offer any advice/warnings/guidance that would help me decide whether to/how to go about this?

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closed as not constructive by soandos, Dennis, ChrisF, random Jan 14 '12 at 4:50

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sneak in laptop ;p – Journeyman Geek Jan 11 '12 at 1:01
Ha ha ha - didn't think of that, though I have considered building a quiet PC into my file cabinet and running that instead. But that would require actual "destruction" of property for case fans and such. – StormShadow Jan 11 '12 at 1:28
Its the simplest solution, and might not even tick off IT. Any modern system, even the cheapies might be better than what you have to put up with – Journeyman Geek Jan 11 '12 at 2:26
Why not just fire up performance monitor, log it to a file and then submit the data to your IT department. You aren't plan on paying for the upgrades yourself are you? If so, then what are you going to do when IT decides to re-swap out your computer after you have done these upgrades, because the sysadmin or your boss decides that he needs a faster computer more then you do? – Zoredache Jan 11 '12 at 3:25
When you speak of the "IT Spyware" are you joking at their expense or serious? Some spyware meant to monitor a PC may reflect such changes and could create silent logs or even put the PC into a lock-down mode. Also, before upgrading RAM, it might be worth seeing what usage you have currently. – Serodis Jan 11 '12 at 3:30
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Put the memory monitor in the background and see what it's doing. It sounds like it could be insufficient RAM and the slow switch is because it's having to swap on the virtual memory. It'd be good to confirm that first.

This is an intersting link on CS5 which gives hints for improving performance. You could send this information to the IT dept after complaining about performance again.

A quick rant first!

I still think this is the responsibility for the company to provide the tools necessary to do your job properly. But I understand your frustrations. I've been there, done that. Stick your toes in if needed.

Have you given them a demo of what you do and are you showing them how slow it is? Bring it up again with your manager. If he doesn't do anything, bring it up with his boss!

Tell them you need a higher spec'd PC to do the job. Tell them you're unproductive due to the slow computer and it's costing them money. Spell out how much it's costing them by estimating it.

e.g. Is a 1 hour job is taking a whole day? well lets say your burn rate (internal cost to your company) is $50 an hour then it's costing your company $400 a day for what could be done for $50. It's worse than that though if you consider lost productivity is loss of income. Instead of $400, it could be more like $1000. That's huge and I don't think this is unrealistic.

You point this out to them and if they still refuse to listen then I think go get a new job! haha. Ok.... moving right along...

Try these things one step at a time.

If you're sure you want to upgrade it yourself then obviously, memory first. According to the specs, it should take up to 8GB of RAM. RAM is relatively cheap so I'd go that path first. It's the easiest upgrade too, assuming you're on 64bit windows.

Another possible step is to move to a quad core processor. That's a more expensive upgrade though. But also easy enough to do. That'd make processing your image editing snappier. Actually moving to a quad core isn't really as expensive as a good sized SSD so I offer that as an option.

Finally, as suggest by yourself an SSD drive. It might be easiest just to put one into your PC and set put the swap file onto it. But, do the whole OS if you're confident. Also, you can set CS5 to use the SSD as a scratch disk.

hmmm, starting to sound like a new computer isn't it?

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Is he asking about hardware upgrade only? Software is more important. – Betterdev Jan 11 '12 at 3:33
@David - good point. He might be able to use a different tool rather than adobe cs5? or one that uses the GPU more. – Matt H Jan 11 '12 at 3:38
I opened up the memory monitor and you were right: slowdowns mostly occur when I'm getting lots of something called "hard faults." I looked it up and it's when the system has to swap out virtual memory from disk. I'm limited to the 32-bit Windows 7, so I can't install any more RAM. I think I could grab a USB stick and use Windows' ReadyBoost feature, though. I will try that. From a workplace liability standpoint, the next most likely solution after that would be to slip a small SSD drive in and use it as a swap disk only - I wasn't aware I could do that until you pointed it out. – StormShadow Jan 12 '12 at 0:45
@StormShadow - Have them install Windows 7 x64 its EXACTLY the same license. You can put a new i7 processor and 500GB SSD storage drive if you want, won't solve the underline problem, you don't have enough memory. – Ramhound Jan 12 '12 at 18:09
Not really convinced about ReadyBoost, but it's the cheapest option worth trying. Here's a good write up on it.… – Matt H Jan 12 '12 at 21:21

From the symptom description, this sounds like a memory issue.

The 6000 comes with 4GB as standard, so increasing this to 8GB would probably help signficantly. However, in order to take advantage of the additional memory (or even the full 4GB you currently have installed) then you will need to run Windows 7 64bit.

The slowdown - 10 seconds to switch applications - is very likely swapping the applications in and out of virtual memory. If upgrading RAM and OS is not an option, then using an SSD drive for the OS, applications and pagefile would probably help a bit, but upgrading the memory should be the priority.

Upgrading the processor when you are facing a memory bottleneck would not yeild significant performance increases, except perhaps within a single application - such as applying filters in photoshop.

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I would recommend a ram upgrade to 6 or 8 GB. You can buy a ram disk too. Then buy a cheap 2 terabyte hard disk or maybe a hybrid hard disk. Important thing is to tweak Windows and install a 64 bit version to use the extra ram. A good video card will offload the cpu. Disable every unwanted service and delete unwanted software. You will wonder how many services are running in the background but aren't really useful. It's like using Linux and running every possible server from the distribution. If you can buy a fast MMC card or USB stick and use Windows ReadyBoost technology. Disable the Windows indexing and logging service.

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