Many of us have one primary computer that everything is kept on at once. This single system supports your email, games, browsing, music, tweeting, movie and audio editing programs, photo collection, etc. This can be quite a burdon for one system to keep up with which is why you may see a performance increase by simply bringing back that old system sitting in your closet or heading to your nearest secondhand electronics dealer.
Right now, I’m sitting at my home office desk with two screens in front of me. One belongs to my iMac which I use to record and edit audio and video, render HD footage, edit photos, and screencast. The other is a Dell system that I bought from Discount Electronics, which specializes in selling older model refurbished systems. The Dell required an investment of about $150.00 and currently works as a file server, iTunes share server, browser, video player, Twitter and Facebook client, and extra audio recording device.
A second computer that handles routine scheduled tasks such as email will save clock cycles on your higher performance system for use in games and media editing where the power is actually needed. Distributing tasks to the older system like managing shared drives, running social network programs, IRC, and your often demanding iTunes playback is also a great way to give the new system more room to shine.
Let’s say you’re in to video editing and use your primary system for this task. Did you know that in professional production houses their editing machines typically have only editing software loaded and running at any given time? Often, they’ll have a system or set of systems that do nothing but render video all day while their editors work on dedicated editing machines apart from their day-to-day office system they use for email and office documents. This is done to allow maximum clock cycles and resources to be dedicated to the demanding task at hand which makes for an easier and better experience.
Many gaming houses and LAN gaming establishments wipe everything off their systems except for the games they host. This is done as part of their optimization routine to make their systems run as smoothly as possible for their clientele. Windows machines typically have an abundance of background services running constantly to keep up with the many productive programs people install on their systems. Email, iTunes, and other programs eat away at your RAM even when they appear to not be running. Installing them on a second system and completely wiping them from your gaming rig is a great way to improve your gaming experience.
Having two systems running is also a great way to multitask. Many people attach two monitors to a single system in order to be more productive and this can work, but at home I’ve found running things on two separate systems allows me the freedom to do things like browse the web for maps while enjoying Guild Wars in full screen, chat with friends on pidgin without slowing down a video render, and play and change music on the fly without having to switch out of Call of Duty.
While there are many programs on the market that insist they can boost system performance, if you have an old machine sitting in the closet that can very well run the day-to-day programs, it might save you from having to upgrade before you really need to.