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Old November 7th, 2009, 04:12 PM   #1
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Components Upgrade for Video Editing

I am wanting to upgrade my Dell XPS 420 to a high performance video editing system. I'm very new to hardware upgrades and have a couple questions.

RAM:
The 420 supports up to 8GB of DDR2 800 RAM and I want it upgraded to the max. I did some searching at Newegg and came up with this page that lists all the available RAM that should be supported by the 420. I'm leaning toward the A-DATA for the sole reason that has gotten many positive reviews. If you have any other recommendations please let me know.

Hard drive:
My XPS 420 already has one RAID 0 1TB (2x500) hard drive. But have been told may times to never have the OS/software and videos on the same drive. So, I have been looking for a high performance HD to store Windows and my apps on. Then came across the 10,000 RPM WD VelociRaptor. Now, currently my RAID 0 is drive C. Will I need to reassign drive letters to install Windows on the new drive, if yes how is this done? What else needs to be done to successfully transfer Windows to a new drive?

BluRay Drive:
I'm also thinking about upgrading my DVD drive to a BluRay drive. Is the width of these drives universal so BluRay would correctly fit in the old DVD slot?

Operating System:
I'm also wanting to upgrade from Vista to 7. But have heard that 7 has issues with e-sata drives, is this true?

Is there any certain order these should be done in? Should I attempt to upgrade it myself or have a more experienced person do it? If you have any suggestions please let me know. Thanks!
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Old November 7th, 2009, 04:37 PM   #2
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Mitch,

Sorry to be so blunt, but the questions you rightly ask and the fact you are here on this forum make me believe you are more of a creative type than a hardware guru.

Get a pro to confer with you on what you want, what your expectations are and what the bill will be for that. In itself it is not difficult but you do not sound like the guy who has the experience and expertise to make this an effective and satisfying upgrade. Add to that that Dell makes it pretty hard for DIY type of people to upgrade a system and my conclusion is, get a reliable person to do it for you.

You know, of course, there are three kinds of people:

Those who make things happen,
those who watch things happen, and
those who wonder what happened.

You do not want to be in the last category, so get professional support.
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Old November 8th, 2009, 12:53 AM   #3
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Harm: what he is asking to do is not so hard.

Ram: very simple to upgrade. The A-DATA is fine. (wow, DDR2 ram prices have shot up quite a bit - just a few months ago, it was $50 for 4GB)

Hard Drive: for the money, I HIGHLY recommend the Intel X-25 80GB SSD(Solid State Drive). I just got one two months ago and its AMAZING how fast it is. For example, during windows booting up, literally, as soon as you see your desktop, you are ready to go. No waiting for programs to load. Photoshop opens in 2 seconds. If you are worried about only having 80GB, I have installed in Win 7 x64: CS4 Production, Cinema 4D, XP Virtual PC, Nuke 5 with 35GB free. Take out XP Virtual PC, and I had about 40GB free. And I have the page file on another drive. Furthermore, no moving parts to break.

Blu Ray drive: there is only one to get: Newegg.com - LG Black 8X BD-R 2X BD-RE 16X DVD+R 5X DVD-RAM 6X BD-ROM 2MB Cache 8X Blu-ray Burner - Bulk Model WH08LS20K - Blu-Ray Burners I looked into getting one a month ago for backup and this LG is more reliable than the others.

Win 7 & eSata: I currently have a 1TB drive hooked up for backup with no problem. Actually, I think Win 7 does something I have never been able to do previously: turn on the eSata drive after bootup and just "Scan for Hardware Changes" in Device Manager. Prior to Win 7, I had to have the eSata drive on during boot up prior to the OS loading.

If you get Win 7, you should do a fresh install onto the new OS drive.

Here is the Intel SSD: Newegg.com - Intel X25-M Mainstream SSDSA2MH080G2XXX 2.5" 80GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid state disk (SSD) - Solid State Disks

This is the new generation(ie G2 vs G1) and is designed for Win 7 and is faster than G1. The only downside to this SSD is having to use a computer without one in it because you will think that computer is 10yrs old due to how slow it is compared to the SSD. One more example of how fast it is: I had 4 10,000rpm Raptors in Raid for Vista because I don't have patience and now I don't even want to use those 4 drives in an upgrade I'm doing. I'm rebuilding one of my extra PCs for regular stuff so I don't take any chances with my editing workstation, and I can't imagine going back to regular hard drives.

Any more questions, feel free to ask.
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Old November 8th, 2009, 06:05 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mitch Hunt View Post
...Is there any certain order these should be done in? Should I attempt to upgrade it myself or have a more experienced person do it? If you have any suggestions please let me know. Thanks!
Mitch, I agree with Harm. The reason is, it totally depends on what you mean by "high performance video editing system". There are MANY variables in those questions you ask.

I've been doing this for 25 yrs and we've built all our own systems for a long time. You would be much better served to first define WHAT YOU REALLY WANT TO DO, then HOW MUCH YOU'RE WILLING TO SPEND to do it...then ask a pro.

Trying to put "new wheels on a VW" doesn't do a blessed thing to make it into a Porsche...if what you're wanting/needing is a Porsche and you have the money to get it.

A few upgrades really do deliver a cost/benefit advantage, but most are a waste of time and money. If you really want the most bang for your bucks, shoot as high as your $$ will let you with a NEW SYSTEM, based on your real needs/wants. You'll be far happier in the end.

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Old November 8th, 2009, 08:03 AM   #5
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I think you are a little too hyped up. The system as it stands probably will be fine. Like someone said let your needs dictate your equipment choices.

Ram: I've never noticed any difference between brands. The expensive type is for overclockers. As long as you have 3.5-4gb ram you should be fine. Only 64 bit Os can take advantage of more than 3.5. So my suggestion is check the systems ram usage while working to determine if you really need more ram. Dell site says the 420 maximum ram is 4 not 8. http://www.dell.com/us/en/gen/deskto...psdt_420&s=gen

Hard drive: Raids are for ppl working with uncompressed video. Never and I mean NEVER use a Raid 0. If one drive fails you lose everything. What you need is space and lots of it. Use one of the 500g as your system drive the other as back up and then get 1-2tb drive as your video drive.
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Old November 11th, 2009, 06:21 PM   #6
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Thanks guys.

Steve I'm going to take your advise about the SSD. My machine has two empty drive bays. The first one measures 1" tall x 4" wide. The second one is right under the DVD drive and measures 2" tall x ~6" wide. I would prefer to use the first bay for the SSD and save the second for the Blu-Ray drive. But how would I mount the SSD? Would there be something wrong with using two Velcro strips, one mounted to the bottom of the bay and the other on the bottom of the SSD? Also, does the SSD use the same connections (power and data) as a regular hard drive?
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Old November 11th, 2009, 06:46 PM   #7
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Nothing worng with using velcro. In fact, using velcro would be better than what I am doing. I have the SSD in a non-static wrapper from a 3.5" drive sitting at the bottom of the 5.25" bays. I am just too lazy to doing anything at the moment.

Yes, SSDs use identical Sata data & power connectors.

Just in case you see other SSDs with more capacity and/or lower price and are tempted, please understand the most important aspect to SSD performance. This is very technical but I will explain it as simple as possible. The way SSDs store data is different from hard drives. Over time, SSDs become fragmented which hurts performance. Some vendors implement different ways of limiting the amount of performance degradation. Intel has the best and easiest method - its built into the firmware so the drive takes care of itself by constantly defragmenting for the best possible performance. The only time I noticed any slow down was when I had Firefox's cache located on the SSD(and I ONLY noticed it in Firefox). Also, this fragmentation issue tends to make SSDs slower than the Intel even though they might be rated at a higher speed.

Intel's X25 SSD is so popular that Newegg was charging $500+ for it when the G2 drive was released in September due to such high demand.

There are only 2 things you need to change after installing Vista/7:
1) move the browser cache to any other drive
2) move the Page File to any other drive
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Old November 11th, 2009, 09:01 PM   #8
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One thing you've left off your shopping list is a new video card. Without a doubt a high performance video card is one of the essential ingredients. An NVidia quadro card is usually a good place to start (an FX1800 or something), but if you already have the GT8800 or GTX8800 these cards are close to identical with some features locked out. I don't really know a lot about other brands.

Other than that, probably seriously consider whether to buy something like a purpose built machine. You won't really get the full benefit of the extra RAM unless you have a 64bit processor and operating system. 32bit operating systems are limited to addressing 4 gig of RAM max and 2gig for any one application.

I don't know ifyou need to worry about the system drive or not - you could just store all your media on eSata drives.

I could get eSata drives to recognise after boot on both XP and Vista - the trick was to go in device manager and do a scan...
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Old November 11th, 2009, 09:51 PM   #9
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Will I need to get a non-static wrapper for my SSD also? Does the SSD get very hot while in use?

Here's the external hard drive I'm looking at Newegg.com - LACIE 2big Quadra 2TB eSATA.

I also plan on buying Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit 1-Pack for System Builders .

My current video card is an ATI Radeon HD 3800 512mb. Is this also in need of an upgrade?
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Old November 11th, 2009, 10:03 PM   #10
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No static wrapper is needed. I only used it so the drive doesn't sit on aluminum, although it really doesn't matter. When I got the SSD, I forgot to get a 2.5" converter to hold it so I just used what I had cuz I'm lazy.

To save you $40 or so, get Windows 7 Professional. Microsoft changed the features from Vista to 7. Now, 7 Pro has 98% of the features Vista Ultimate has. The only real feature missing is BitLocker for encryption, which is only valuable for large companies.

That Lacie drive is nice and your ATI video card is fine.
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Old November 12th, 2009, 06:00 PM   #11
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I just placed the order. Here's what I bought:


LACIE 2big Quadra 2TB External Hard Drive 301352U - Retail

Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit 1-Pack for System Builders - OEM

2x: A-DATA 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model ADQVE1B16K - Retail

Rosewill 18" Serial ATA II cable with metal latch, Model RC-18-SA2-BK, Black - Retail

Intel X25-M Mainstream SSDSA2M080G2XXX 2.5" 80GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid state disk (SSD) - OEM


Thanks again for your help!
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Old November 12th, 2009, 06:46 PM   #12
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Mitch,

Let me ask you bluntly, why get an SSD device on a FSB 800 mobo with outdated components? Are you interested in reducing the load time of your applications from 14 to 4 seconds when you have a 2 to 3 hours encoding job ahead of you?

Last edited by Pete Bauer; November 12th, 2009 at 07:29 PM. Reason: OT long joke
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Old November 12th, 2009, 07:49 PM   #13
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Hey Mitch,

To agree with Harm (usually a good idea when talking editing boxes), you're spending a bunch of cash to add/replace components to surround an old mobo/processor. You'll have nice peripherals surrounding an outdated system.

Nothing wrong with getting the Intel SSD if you want one or the large external HDD if you have the discretionary cash to buy them, but best bang for buck in editing performance would be to put that money into a new X58 mobo/i7/DDR3. Fast processor is first on your list.

Don't know if you're following the Benchmarking thread in the PPro forum. Here's my own situation (the last sentence in the post sums it up):

http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/1443032-post21.html

I tend to more or less follow Moore's Law...I build a new editing box when new systems perform about twice as fast as my current one...ends up being about every two years. IMO, when you're angling for optimum editing performance, money is better put toward a new system than trying to tweak the old one. I usually just reconfig the "old" computer for everyday use, and the "old-old ones" fall further down the pecking order and eventually just start gathering dust in the back room.

Harm uses a very large, expensive RAID system added into his computer, which of course works quite well. My current tactic for mass storage is to archive my files on a NAS, and pull ones I'm going to be using onto a less expensive RAID0 in the editing box (although it so happens that my current onboard RAID setup doesn't perform very well).

Harm: sorry to remove your joke, which I liked However if I didn't do it, the next mod would have.
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Old November 12th, 2009, 08:09 PM   #14
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Guys, I think I am somewhat to blame on why he is getting the SSD. I took the parts he wanted to upgrade and suggested alternatives. He very well could have a quad-core cpu in his XPS so I figured he was focusing on other areas to improve performance.

The SSD and external drive can be migrated to a new pc very easily, and they both will help performance while editing.

Mitch, if you don't have a quad-core cpu, then this is the most important component to upgrade to increase performance. I agree that the best bang-for-your-dollar is an i7 system which are only $700-800 at Dell.
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