my simple rules for spec'ing a new PC

 

Overview

These are some simple rules I have learned about specifying optimal computers by using/programming/modding/building computers for over 30 years.

how much RAM?

16GiB RAM should be enough for everyone for doing photoshop and other tasks, and you can run multiple programs and still turn off virtual memory! the system I am basing this against has 64GB, and rarely was I able (even with adobe applications) to use past 20% of 64GiB of RAM, which is 12.8GiB.

32GiB is plenty for future growth. but I will say that if you want your box to last a while, MAX OUT THE RAM. eventually, programs get heavier. they just do. more features and more functionality, more drivers, etc. as programs get bigger, they require more RAM.

12GiB for photoshop, and that's doing huge panoramas. I was unable to peak the RAM on my box at 64GB, and I had ps, pr, ae, and sb running. on my old 32-bit box, only one of those would max out the RAM easily. so don't go for 4GiB unless you are ONLY ever going to do gaming. with 12GiB, you can disable virtual memory for more speed if you don't care for memory dumps or sleep mode.

number of threads/cores win7ult64 uses:

windows treats intel threads like CPUs and AMD cores like CPUs.

usually 7 threads while it is running on average or even with a fair number of adobe programs running, it RARELY goes over or under this. doing batch parallel builds I can top out the processor's thread count for about 2 minutes - used to take days on my 9-year-old box, which is equivalent to the lowest end $350 machine. for your reference, the new machine has 12 threads and most of them are unused (and it saves me on power usage).

antivirus allocates about 80 threads and the OS allocates 1000 threads according to task manager. you can consider these to be asleep.

I used to say that 500 cores would be probably be more optimal, but since finding out that those are all asleep and I only needed just a few more threads to get my system running well, I am glad to say that unless you are doing a cloud server doing parallel computing tasks like Azure or a cloud build server, you don't need that kind of power. an intel 4-core should be enough for pretty much everyone.

audio DAWs will make use of more threads, but it's because you are telling it to, not necessarily because it needs it - the number of threads used out of the total count is configurable in the program's preferences. there are a number of programs like that: adobe applications, audio DAWs, media encoders, media converters, for example.

if you want computer to last you a while:

  • get a desktop! the parts are replaceable cheaply and easily (both are important!) compared to laptops, tablets, surfaces, ultrabooks, and phones.
  • minimum 8 threads (intel) or 8 cores (AMD), but use a proc with as many cores and threads as you can get - some applications use threads like crazy. I hear minecraft is cpu-bound. I am not games person and don't care for games - I have stuff to do that keeps me busy.
  • if you can, max out the RAM at the start and save yourself the mess-ups, misconfigures, and hassles of upgrading later. windows can always use the rest for disk cache and you will enjoy the extra speed when you reopen apps, OR you can use the extra RAM for RAM disk.
  • add 3 or more monitors, you will wonder why you didn't do it earlier. get a nice long desk from the office supply store. put the printer elsewhere and get a wireless printer.don't put stuff on the floor where feet kick up dust and the carpet fluff is. - well,whole system MIGHT fit, just concerned about total weight. forget traditional computer desks for this kind of thing.
  • after you have had your machine a while and have installed a bunch of programs, your pc will be slower. also, the newness and "fastness" will wear off after a period of time of getting used to it (that entropy factor is built in...). when I bought my system I wished I had bought the dual core, would have been faster, it was the better proc at the time. would have saved me time and headache and waiting. ahh, but it's the hard disk slowing things down - but I also understand that compared to SSD's, hard disks last longer (5 years).

if you want something good enough that does the job well and you can afford

  • use a proc with 7 or 8 cores (AMD) or 4 cores and 8 threads (Intel), such as an i7 (intel is better, I can assure you) - doesn't have to be the enthusiast top-end desktop proc or a xeon. if you were considering an i3 or i5, you will still thank yourself later.
  • 12GiB of RAM will let you do huge panoramas with photoshop. in fact, you can run multiple adobe programs at once and do this, and disable virtual memory for more speed if you don't care for memory dumps or sleep mode.
  • 3 mopnitors is good, you will wonder why you didn't do that first when you try it. but I have the pc on my long desk where my printer is and that's not likely to change due to the danger of dust buildup etc. near the floor where feet kick up and the carpet is. - well,it MIGHT fit, just concerned about total weight.
  • after you have had your machine a while and have installed a bunch of programs, your pc will be slower. also, the newness and "fastness" will wear off after a period of time of getting used to it (that entropy factor is built in...). when I bought my system I wished I had bought the dual core, would have been faster, it was the better proc at the time. would have saved me time and headache and waiting. ahh, but it's the hard disk slowing things down - but I also understand that compared to SSD's, hard disks last longer (5 years).

"is this build good?"

it is if you think it is. and if you can afford it. you are the one who has to buy the machine, so you are the best judge of what fits youir needs.

these are basic guidelines for an optimal system.

what I think would be a good machine

to me, 32 cores to me would make a nice proc. intel only makes a 10-core proc right now. I would want something faster than SSD's and more reliable than hard disks for storage when someone can invent it:

  • reliable over at least a 15-year period of 365/7/24 use (most electronics might only last 10 years with continuous use possibly due to metal migration?)
  • large, handle 10TB or larger
  • fast, at least as fast as SSDs, maybe faster - I don't like slow, and currently hard disks are my biggest bottleneck to productivity, but I need them right now
  • impervious to g-force
  • impervious to magnetic fields
  • impervious to cosmic rays flipping bits? I hope
  • affordable

so I have to wait until technology becomes available that makes this possible on the desktop.

I think the storage thing can be done. and the proc thing can probably be done with optical or quantum computing or something like it.