I get lots of questions about how I deal with this or that problem while doing my image editing on Windows. Most of these problems can be averted by setting up your system a bit different from the way it came home. This will improve performance and make your data much safer. My computers run much faster than most even when they are older models. Why? Read on!
For the Mac snobs… I use Mac, Windows, and Linux. All are good tools. None are perfect. I don’t love any and sometimes I hate them all. Anyway.. the principles here can be applied to Mac or Linux, but the details are different. I will focus on Windows for this post.
Part 1 – Using multiple hard drives
First… If your using the “My Documents” folder or the “My Pictures” folder you can just call those “My lost Documents” and “My wiped Pictures”. Because that is what will happen. Those are the worst places to store your data if you actually want to keep it. Here is the problem. Both of those files exist in a place on your hard drive where windows will overwrite them if windows needs to be reinstalled. And Windows can need to be reinstalled for as little as upgrading or changing some hardware, even if everything is working well. Worse, if you do have an issue with Windows and call Microsoft, the most common response you will get is “Wipe, Reformat the drive, and Reinstall Windows”. You then ask, “What about my data?” You are told, “you should have backed up”. You note that the data is fine, just a windows issue. They tell you there is no other way before hanging up. Nobody hears your screams!
Most importantly we separate our data from the operating system. With investing and such we are told to have an “exit strategy”, “diversify”, and “limit our losses”. But with computers we do the opposite. We don’t think past the current computer box. We want to cram everything on one machine and even on one hard drive. When we have a loss we loose everything having no way to limit the losses. This “Loose Everything Strategy” is actually promoted by the standard setup of most computers on the market. But there is a better way! When it comes to your data LES is not more.
Taking a side step I need to put this in here. If you have issues don’t “Wipe, Reformat the drive, and Reinstall Windows” with your data on the drive! You have 2 good options that will save your data if windows is messed up but the drive is fine.
- Boot up on a Linux live CD. Navigate to your data. Then copy it off your old hard drive.
a) You can do this by using another computer and going to http://distrowatch.com/ and downloading the Linux ISO of the version you seem to like (At this time I suggest Ubuntu or Mint for this task).
b)Then burn it to make a “live CD”. (Google “burning a disk ISO” if you need help burning the disk image).
c) Then put the disk in your cd, or dvd, drive and boot from it. You will now be running Linux instead of Windows. You don’t have to worry about any windows security or Windows login. [It is worth noting that the Linux boot disk will go right past your Windows security. That fact makes this task easier, but actually it should be noted if you think your data is private because you use a windows password anyone can go right past your login by booting with linux.]
d) Navigate to your data and retrieve it.
e) keep the Linux cd because it is a great tool to fix Windows problems. Everyone that uses Windows should have one handy.
- Put in a new hard drive and install Windows on the new drive. Then reconnect your old drive and run the system with both drives. Delete the old windows files as you have time. Do not put your files on the disk running Windows. Your data is now separated from the operating system.
So this starts with reorganizing your system by putting in a second (or more) hard drive. There are many advantages to having your data on a separate hard drive.
- Your data is safe from windows crashes! That is no small thing.
- You can upgrade computers just by taking your data disk out and moving it to the new system. No more expensive or confusing data transfers.
- Hackers with virus software look for your data stored in windows areas like “My Documents”, but your data will be on a different drive.
- Backups are really easy when you have your data separated. Just copy over the whole disk. No expensive and confusing backup software. No restore proses. Just copy and have useable files should something happen to your drive. I use allwaysync to make this process even easier. You can get this for free at: http://allwaysync.com/
- Your “My Documents” folder is full of program data. Many programs use this folder to store data about their program. Many issues with this… just keep your data by it self away from a “shared” folder with other programs even if it has a friendly name like “My Documents”. Also on this topic; because programs will install using this folder you can’t lock your documents down with a password if you would like to. The folder has to be available for programs. Really silly, but that is how the pros made this silly system.
- You can “share” your data on your local network for other computers to use, but not share your operating system hard drive at all preventing cross network viruses. One sick computer will not take everything down.
- Your system will run faster and better!
A) Your data will not cause fragmentation on the system disk and you can defrag your large image data much more efficiently having no system files mixed in with it.
B) Last but not least… the more drives in your computer the more you can spread out your “page file” and catch files. This is huge!!!
Lets talk about the “Page File” and catch files. Windows uses something called “Virtual Memory”. That is moving some things out of system memory and putting them on your harddrive temporarily. Then moving this data back as needed. In Windows this “Virtual Memory” file is called the “Page File”. You can have more than one page file if you have more hard drives (one per drive). If you set up more than one page file Windows will use the drive that is not busy and automatically switch between them. Thus increasing speed and efficiency of your system.
To do this on Windows XP you go:
Control Panel>System>Advanced>Performance Settings>Advanced>Virtual Memory
Leave one page file on your Drive C: and add more based on how many drives you have.
Setting initial size to 3000 and Maximum size to 6000 works well. Web searches will show various theories in optimizing this.
If you look into how Adobe suggests installing Photoshop on this page:
they say this:
Note: Adobe recommends that you set the primary scratch disk to a different hard disk than the one Windows uses for its virtual memory or paging file.
To set the scratch disk:
- Choose Edit > Preferences > Performance.
- Select the Active? box for each hard disk you want to contain a scratch disk. Note: Unless you have a drive that has considerable space open, and is defragmented regularly, choose more than one drive, if one or more is available
This means they know your system will run better with more hard drives. Not just one big one. The same principle applies to the Windows page file. Use your old computers hard drives. Pull them out before you dump the box and put them in your system. You may be surprised how many useable drives you have sitting around. I run with 10 drives in my main imaging computer, all just reused as I upgrade my systems. If I have not convinced you yet that you need to run with multiple hard drives please don’t cry to me when a Windows tech tells you to “Reinstall”