Hardware optimization is largely about setting up your computer correctly in the first place. To use this section, you need to understand at least the basics of the components that lie beneath your computer's (quite possibly beige-colored) case. If you don't have this knowledge and you also have a deep-rooted fear of all things electrical, you should skip this section and head to "Getting Further Help."
For those of you still reading, here is a breakdown of how your computer should be set up.
Hard drive configuration
If you're using IDE drives (as opposed to SATA) you should have a minimum of two separate hard drives in your system. Note that this means two separate drives, not a single drive with two partitions.
A drive with two partitions is still only one drive. It still only has one set of drive heads to read data with and is unlikely to cope with the high data streams that are transferred during a normal editing session.
You should connect these two drives on the primary channel of the motherboard. If you have a separate RAID IDE port, then by all means, use that, but don't, under any circumstances, have either your system drive or your capture drive on the same cable as your CD player or DVD/CD burner. If you do, you slow down the data rate of the hard drive and impair its performancethis is sometimes called negotiating down.
Memory is the central transfer hub for everything. Without good, reliable, fast RAM, the PC suffers problems.
First, you need to make sure you're using the correct slots. Again, your computer system's handbook tells you which slots you should populate first and which amounts you can use. Always consult the handbook before buying more RAM because you want to make sure there is no upper limit to the amount of RAM your system can use. Second, you should buy the fastest RAM your system supports and no faster.
The power supply is the much-ignored component of your PC, and ironically, one of the most important. Certain processors, particularly AMD, require very specific voltage across specific pins. They are tolerant of minor variations, but a cheap unbranded power supply often fails to deliver (on a constant basis) the correct amps the processor needs when working flat out. As most NLE tasks ask the processor to work flat out, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out what happens when the power supply is erratic.
If you're running large hard drives, a DVD burner, and a fast CPU, you probably want a power supply that delivers in excess of 450 watts. But check to make sure it can deliver the required voltage to the required pins. If in doubt, check the AMD and Intel Web sites, which carry a list of recommended Power Supply Units (PSUs).
When you go to buy a power supply, you might want to give some thought as to how loud it will be. A giant turbine in your computer may become a point of fractious discussion with other members of your household.