A friend of my wife recently reached out to her asking how much I would charge for a computer that would “run Adobe Photoshop”. I talked to her friend to get an idea of a budget range, and the answer was basically “as low as possible”. That is perfectly understandable, so I decided to rummage through my stock of old components to see what I could build from what I had available. This turned into an interesting exercise updating an old PC.
Updating an Old PC
I have quite a stockpile of old parts down in my basement, including enough components to build multiple, complete systems. Over the years, I have sold or donated many systems to friends and family. Despite this, I still have far too many parts in the basement…
What Did I Find?
In this case, I found a 2013-vintage Intel Core i5-4670K processor in a Gigabyte GA-Z87-D3HP motherboard to use as the basis for the system. This is a quad-core, 22nm Haswell CPU with no hyper-threading that actually had quite good single-threaded performance. It is about 70-75% as fast as the fastest current desktop CPUs. Having only four physical cores is a weakness compared to modern desktop CPUs, but overall, this CPU has aged pretty well. I added a Thermaltake UX100 CPU cooler to improve on the terrible Intel stock CPU cooler.
The Gigabyte Z87 motherboard supports 32GB of DDR3-1600 RAM, so I was able to max that out with four sticks of Corsair RAM. It also has six SATA3 ports (no M.2 PCIe NVMe back then), so I loaded it up with two OCZ 256GB SATA SSDs and a 1TB Seagate Barracuda SATA HDD.
The Core i5-4670K has integrated Intel HD Graphics 4600 that support Quick Sync video, but this CPU is too old to be enabled by Adobe for GPU accelerated encoding/decoding for Premier Pro. The best discrete GPU I had available was a ASUS GeForce GT 1030 video card. Upgrading to a higher-end video card would be one thing to consider in the future.
I also happened to have a brand new, but open-box Corsair 275R Airflow case that I could use to house the system. New cases are so much better than older cases when it comes to build quality, cable management, and thermal performance (most of the time). This case made it very easy to have a tidy looking build.
I modified the case with three Arctic P14 and P12 PWM case fans that replaced the stock, three-pin Corsair fans. The Arctic fans move more air and they are quieter than the stock fans. Having this case and those fans gives us a great foundation for a future motherboard/CPU upgrade.
This is what the back side of the system looks like. The power supply “basement” and the cable tie down points make cable management much easier. The Corsair CX430M power supply has a single eight-pin PCIe power connector that is tucked away, so a GPU upgrade to something like an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Super would be possible.
Here are the parts that I used to build this system.
- Gigabyte GA-Z87-D3HP motherboard
- Intel Core i5-4670K processor
- 32GB of Corsair DDR3-1600 RAM
- ASUS GeForce GT 1030 video card
- (2) OCZ 256GB SATA3 SSDs
- (1) 1TB Seagate Barracuda SATA HDD
- Corsair 275R Airflow case
- Corsair CX430M power supply
- Thermaltake UX100 ARGB CPU cooler
- (2) Arctic P14 PWM 140mm case fans
- (1) Arctic P12 PWM 120mm case fan
Personally, I would not spend much time or money trying to upgrade anything older than an Intel Sandy Bridge, which is from early 2011. One exception is RAM and storage. If you have a friend or relative that is struggling with some ancient system with 2, 4 or 8GB of RAM, then increasing the RAM (if possible) would be very helpful.
Cloning an old HDD to a SATA SSD would have even more of an impact. Many of us in the technology industry have old components available that could be a valuable upgrade to someone else.
Adobe has a fairly extensive document on how to optimize Photoshop performance that is a great reference. This system meets most of the recommended Adobe hardware requirements, with a relatively fast processor, 32GB of RAM, and two relatively fast SSDs. One of those SSDs could be used as a scratch disk for Photoshop.
This system should easily serve our friend’s needs as is, for several years. If our friend outgrows this system, here is what I would upgrade in the future, in this order.
- Upgrade to a faster GPU such as a GTX 1650 Super or GTX 1660 Super
- Upgrade to a bigger, faster SATA3 SSD to replace one of the existing SSDs or the HDD
- Swap out the motherboard, CPU and RAM to a more modern platform
- Upgrade to an M.2 PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD
- Upgrade to a higher capacity power supply if necessary
With a higher budget, I would have wanted to build a less expensive version of my $900 AMD Gaming PC Build Guide machine. But to be honest, this machine is going to be good enough for now.
If you have any questions about this post, please ask me here in the comments or on Twitter. I am pretty active on Twitter as GlennAlanBerry. Thanks for reading!