To realize the full potential of Photoshop, your entire system must be free of performance bottlenecks. Due to the nature of heavy-duty image processing, Photoshop makes heavy demands on the CPU, RAM, and hard disk in your computer, and Photoshop performance can be held back by any of those three components. Of course, it can cost quite a bit of money to configure a great Photoshop system, so if your current system doesn't quite have the best of all worlds yet, here's how you might approach building a computer for Photoshop:
Start with an expandable system. A desktop computer should have extra empty bays so you can add internal hard disks. A laptop should have FireWire or USB 2.0 ports so you can attach fast external hard disks. Your computer should also have the capacity for at least 2GB of RAM, preferably much more.
Start with a multi-core processor, simply because you'll get twice as much processing power in about the same amount of space.
Start with at least 1GB of RAM. If you'll be processing large numbers of Raw format files from digital cameras or CMYK images for print, start as far above 1GB as you can.
If you must run Photoshop with one hard disk (such as on a laptop), start with a hard disk that has enough free space not only for file storage but also for operating system and Photoshop scratch disks. Although the size of such a disk can vary depending on your typical workload and files, this usually translates into "the biggest hard disk you can afford." On a desktop, try starting at 250GB, and on a laptop, try starting at 100GB. As your budget allows, add more fast hard disks to your desktop computer or replace your laptop hard disk with a bigger and faster one.
As your budget allows, add RAM, then add hard disk space.
As you gain experience and build a better system, start implementing the advanced Photoshop configuration tweaks I covered in this chapter, like the memory settings in the Preferences dialog box.