Posted October 22, 2011 by Gavin Hoey in Articles

Building a Photoshop Power PC – Part 1

PC-1Every computer I’ve ever owned has had one thing in common and I’m not talking about the fact that they’ve all run a version of Windows. Whenever it’s been time to replace a PC I’ve always ended up buying one straight off the shelf and usually from a high street retailer.

Well now it’s time to upgrade again but this time I’ve decided to do things differently by building my own PC. Why? Well first it should save me a few pennies and second I can choose exactly the parts I want (within my budget) to tailor make a real Photoshop power PC.

As this is my first PC build I’ve spent the past few weeks researching what makes Photoshop run faster and which components I can afford on my £800 budget.

CPU & Motherboard
The CPU processor which is the brains of the computer. After a bit of research I ruled out the cheaper AMD processors as the latest Intel processors are far faster. The Intel i7 is the current top processor on the market, but it’s outside my budget, so I opted for the Intel i5 2500K. I ordered mine for Scan Computers who are also assembling the CPU, cooler and motherboard.

To make up for the lack of an i7 I’m having my i5 “overclocked” Basically this means the clever chaps at Scan are increasing the speed of the stock processor by around 20%.

Photoshop loves RAM so you’ll need lots and lots of RAM. My first PC had a tiny 16mb or ram, but for the new PC I’ve ordered 16GB which is roughly 1000 time more RAM then 15 years ago. I was chatting about RAM to an Adobe engineer a few months back and apparently if you increase your RAM from 4gb to 8gb and you’ll only see a small improvement in Photoshop speed. However going from 4GB to 16GB should double the speed of Photoshop.

Solid State Drive
SSD’s are the new “must have” add on for any power PC. An SSD is like a large memory card which runs at super fast speeds. So in theory with the SSD drive set as Photoshop’s scratch disk, things should run smoother and faster.

Hard Drive
I’ve opted for a 2TB hard drive for my main storage. It’s one of the newer SATA III drives which has a fairly fast data speed I’ll also be installing the hard drives from my old PC.

Graphics Card
If there’s one place you can scrimp a little, it’s on the graphics card. I’m not planning to do any “gaming” on the new PC and as Photoshop doesn’t really need anything special in the graphics department, I’m reusing my existing 1gb Radeon HD 4650 graphics card from my current PC. It’s about a year old and still has plenty of life in it.
(UPDATE: If you’re planning on using Photoshop EXTENDED and using it’s 3D tools then a decent graphics card should be on your shopping list)

OK, so the case isn’t going to make Photoshop run faster, but I’ll be looking at it every day, so it’s important.
For my case I’ve opted for the Fractal R3. It’s a low noise case which should reduce the background hum I sometimes get in my videos.

Here’s a list of all the parts I’ve ordered.

CASE: Fractal Designs R3
PSU: Corsair builder 500w
DVD drive: Pioneer DVDRW
Card Reader: Akasa AK-ICR
CPU: Intel i5 2500K overclocked to 4.5Ghz
Motherboard: Gigabyte GAZ68AP-D3
Cooler: Arctic Cooling Freezer 13
Ram: 16GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3 1600Mhz
Hard Drive: 2TB Western Digital
SSD: Corsair Force 3 120GB
Operating System: Windows 7 64bit Home Premium
TOTAL COST £830 inc VAT & Delivery

My office is now starting to fill up with components, but with a few key parts still to arrive the new build will have to wait. I’ll keep you informed about my progress

Gavin Hoey