The Photoshop Computer

Learn how to choose the right hardware to build your own computer optimized for Adobe Photoshop CS2 and learn how to tweak Photoshop to take advantage of the new hardware.

Operating System

selecting a computer, the first step is to select the operating system. There
are two main operating systems to use:

  • Mac
    OS ®
  • Microsoft ® Windows ®

which operating system to use is based on your preference. If you’re upgrading
your computer, stick with the same operating system so you don’t have to
purchase another license for the software you already have. Otherwise, ask
yourself the following questions:

  1. Which operating system am I most
    comfortable with?
  2. Is there any software I need to use
    that’s only available in a specific operating system? (ex. Apple Aperture)

does not perform its best when used with Microsoft Windows Vista RC1. Although Photoshop
is compatible with Windows Vista RC1, there may be some performance issues. For
example, opening the “Save for Web” tool takes longer to load than Windows XP.
With that said, keep in mind that Windows Vista is currently still being worked
on and many bugs and tweaks should be resolved in the finalized version.



computing allows Photoshop to use approximately 3.5 GB of RAM. If you will be using more than
2GB of RAM, make sure that you use a 64-bit operating system such as Mac OS X,
Windows XP 64-bit Edition, or Windows Vista 64-bit Edition. Generally, we
recommend investing in 64-bit hardware and software to adapt to the new
generation of computers.


RAM (Random
Access Memory) is a major factor in determining the speed of Photoshop. For the
current generation of computers, we recommend a minimum of 1 GB of RAM. Keep in
mind that your operating system and other running software will also be using
your RAM.  RAM is relatively cheap and is
generally the best performance gaining hardware for your money.


How much
ram do you really need? This depends on your usage. If you’re working on large
files with many layers, you’ll need to get more RAM. However, if you’re using
Photoshop just for simple task such as resizing photos and correcting color and
you don’t have a lot of programs running in the background, 1 GB of RAM should
be enough. Here’s a method to determine how much RAM is required:

  1. Run Photoshop and open a typical
    file you usually edit. For example, if you edit high resolution digital images
    a lot, open a high resolution photo.
  2. Make sure that your document isn’t
    maximized. You can ensure that it isn’t by choosing Window> Arrange> Cascade.
  3. On the bottom of the window, locate
    the ► arrow.
    Click on the ► arrow and choose Show> Efficiency. The status bar beside the ► button shows
    the efficiency. If your computer has enough resource to display the image, the
    efficiency should be 100%. Anything lower means that more RAM may be


  4. Try opening
    several of your typical Photoshop files. If it stays at 100%, it means that
    your current system has enough RAM. Use this to judge how much RAM you’ll need
    for your next computer. For example, when I ran the test, I opened 7 high
    resolution photos and my efficiency dropped to 72%. Because my current system
    has 1 GB
    of RAM and the efficiency was at around 72%, I can conclude that 2 GB of RAM is
    a safe amount of RAM to get on my next computer.

Note: When
using Photoshop on a 32-bit computer or operating system, Photoshop is only
able to use 2 GB of RAM. Photoshop is able to use around 3.5 GB on a 64-bit
system. Some version of Windows® requires modifying the boot.ini file to allow
Photoshop to use up to 3 GB of RAM. The 3GB switch may not work with all
computers. For more information, search the Microsoft support page for “3gb”.

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