So, as in #1, the plan is to get a dedicated processing/editing machine.

What you get it entirely up to you, what your budget and OS preference is.
If you have technical person who looks after your machine(s) then it’s worth asking them how much it costs for a home-built machine Vs a pre-built one.

Any IT person worth a salt will be able to put together a high-spec machine for a lot less than a shop bought one (including labour time)
For example, my current editing machine cost me £1000 to put together.

It’s based on the latest Pentium processor (i7) which has 8 virtual CPU’s. It also has 12gb super fast RAM (1866), a 1Gb ATI graphics card (single) and SATA Hard drives (faster read/write to the memory). I run Windows XP64 on it, but that’s through personal preference and because Adobe’s 64 bit version of Photoshop isn’t available for Mac‘s.
To buy a PC of the same spec would have cost me easily £2000+ (and even more for a MAC PC)
Plus, because I installed the operating system myself, I left out all the programs that are unnecessary which makes the system faster, more robust and virtually impossible to be ‘hacked’.

It’s important to use a 64bit Operating System if you have more than 3Gb of memory (including graphics cards) as 32 bit operating systems can only see 3Gb of memory. It also means that applications that are 64bit ‘ready’ can access all the memory available.
For example, my XP64 only takes 600Mb of the system memory, so I allow Photoshop 10Gb of the remaining memory to use as scratch space (working space for processing)
Which is plenty 🙂
With a 32 bit operating system (or program) it won’t see more than 3Gb

I trialled the 64 bit version of  Windows 7 a few weeks ago and it was pretty quick and a huge improvement over Vista. Everything worked well including communication to my cameras (kinda important) and the connection to my Epson 9880. My performance score was 5.6 – the weakest link being my hard drive speed, so I put in an SSD (solid state disk) which brought my score up to 7.3 (7.8 being the max)
But in the end I decided to stick with XP over Windows 7 mainly because W7 requires a few more button clicks to perform regular tasks which is a step backwards in my eyes. Looks pretty and for a normal PC use it’d be fine, but for my work/editing machine I chose efficiency and function over looks.

In the end the machine has to fit your needs for the work you do. the Operating system and specification of it are normally defined by use and budget, but it’s best not to skimp as if you get a machine that saves you 30 minutes a day waiting for it to process by doing it faster, then youve saved 2-3 hours a week and what’s that worth?

More tk…..

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