This article is to help you if you’re thinking about or in the process of switching from Mac to PC. I was a Mac user – this sounds like an Anonymous confession – for six years. Had Apple been making a product which fit my needs, I probably would’ve stayed in the fold. As it turns out, I’ve been using Adobe products since September 2018 and their whole suite, Creative Cloud, is far more suited for Windows-based machines. This machine is tailored for that environment. You can watch my time lapse build video below.
PC Part Picker
If you don’t know, there’s a company called Puget Systems. They specialize in Adobe, 3D, and other kinds of computer workstations. If you search through their site, you can find recommendations on hardware brands and parts they recommend. That’s exactly what I did and, pretty much exactly, I went with what they suggested.
One thing you should keep in mind is that the needs of the various Adobe software products are not identical. While they share similar file structures, take their specific needs into consideration when putting together your computer. I’m more of a generalist so this build reflects that, though my time lapse build doesn’t cover all these details.
A Puget Systems video on drive optimization recommends putting your media files on your fastest drive. In my case, that’s a Samsung 250GB NVMe m.2 drive. However, in their recent World’s Fastest After Effects Computer video collaboration with School of Motion, they say the cache should go there. Regardless, in that first video they say the difference is only about 2-3%. Either way, my build uses no HDD platter drives and I couldn’t be happier with the silence and performance gains.
Making A List
- CPU – Intel 9900k
- MOBO – Gigabyte z390 Aorus Pro
- COOLER – Noctua NH-D15
- RAM – Crucial Ballistix Sport 32GB
- PSU – Seasonic Gold Plus 650w
- CASE – Thermaltake P3
- FIREWIRE – Vantec UGT-FW200
- NVMe – Samsung 970 Evo
- SSD – Samsung 860 Evo
- THUMB DRIVE – Samsung 32GB Bar
Let’s Talk About CPU, Baby
Besides this being an Adobe workstation, it’s my primary computer and I’m also a music producer. While REAPER is my current DAW of choice – lightweight as it is – I was still running into performance caps on my Late 2012 Mac Mini. Let’s talk about other reasons why you, as a content creator, might want to consider these parts.
Adobe is more optimized for Intel than AMD CPUs. I don’t have anything against AMD, besides being somewhat disappointed with their Athlon 64 processor I had back in the early naughts, and would’ve picked them had I a workflow which benefited from more cores than higher clock speed. As far as I know, music production aligns well with Team Blue so that’s what I chose.
Let me also advise you that, besides favoring Intel chips, Adobe programs rely more heavily on CPU power than that from a GPU. Note that I haven’t included any graphics cards in this build. Part of the reason for this is budgetary but the other part is lack of necessity. However, if you’re using an NLE such as DaVinci Resolve, then you had better GPU to the teeth because the roles are reversed over there.
The motherboard in question, the Gigabyte z390 Aorus Pro, is not what I’d call bare bones but it’s not extravagant either. Puget Systems recommends Gigabyte as a very reliable brand and the price of this board is decent. This particular model sports no WiFi but I couldn’t think of a reason to spend the extra money for that functionality.
The Noctua NH-D15 is their flagship CPU cooler. Though it’s very large, its cooling performance is world-class. Rumor has it that the 9900k is a relatively hot chip so I didn’t want to skimp on cooling. Heat is the kryptonite of electronics, after all.
You may or may not need 32GB of RAM. I know that I like to have browser windows open while I’m working, on occasion, but I also want to release and edit 4k video. Though my drives are somewhat speedy, nothing can take the place of plenty of virtual desk space.
Speaking of fast, eschewing platter drives has significantly quieted and sped up this machine when compared to my last one. I always hated the rattling and vibration of my external HDDs. Besides that, loading samples in Kontakt is stupid fast now. Everything is beautifully responsive so I highly encouraging making the leap if you haven’t yet.
I chose this case based on the Gamer’s Nexus Best and Worst PC Cases of 2018 article. Seeing that the Thermaltake P3 was both cool and decently quiet, I gave it a shot. Naturally, being an open design, its silence depends on your internals. Also, if you have pets or eat a lot by your desk then maybe this is one to avoid. Personally, I think it has a unique stature and I really like it.
A power supply is a power supply. Seasonic makes their own as opposed to merely branding them like EVGA. Honestly, I could’ve gone with any brand but I wanted at least a gold-rated one as I was planning to leave this build on 24/7. Who knows, maybe they put better parts in the higher-rated ones as well.
FireWire, My Old Friend
Without getting into my reasons for picking a FireWire interface, we can all agree that this is a protocol on its way toward obsolescence. While this MOTU Ultralite Mk3 is a decent bit of kit, I was secretly hoping to get a Focusrite Clarett. Second best, and far cheaper, was finding a good FireWire expansion card with good Windows 10 compatibility.
And option two it was. The Vantec UGT-FW200 is a three-port FireWire 400 card with a low price. Two of those ports are external and one is internal – though I’m not sure why they’d put one there. Though I was expecting to have trouble with this piece of hardware, it runs completely smoothly and required absolutely no intervention on my part to get going. If you’re looking for a Windows 10-compatible FireWire card to use with your aging gear, you have found it.
Sorry I ruined your upgrade dreams.
Trouble in Software Town
Of course, being Windows, not everything went 100% smoothly. To be fair, the overall experience I’m having has been quite pleasant. Even so, the initial installation caused me at least three headaches.
The first migraine came by way of the bootable media creation process. Now, I don’t know who to blame – Microsoft, Apple, or SanDisk – but I definitely could not create a usable thumb drive with a Cruzer in Boot Camp Assistant. Samsung – and this video (I’m pretty sure) – to the rescue! I knew I spent all that extra money for some reason.
The second obstacle was due to Windows needing some kind of media drivers. While I do briefly mention this in my time lapse build video, this video – option two to be exact – was the one I followed to make everything work. If there’s one sentence you probably need in this whole guide, this is it.
The final issue was relatively small but will certainly not be welcome should you not have a second computer available. That is the fact that Windows needed LAN drivers for my motherboard to access the internet. I got those from the Gigabyte website on the page of my product at the bottom. I’m pretty sure I stuck those on the install boot drive but honestly I forgot how I installed them.
A Small Victory
I’m thrilled to be done with this. What with saving, planning, trying to nab flash sales – only to find out that’s the new regular price (looking at you RAM) – and having boxes of unused potential laying around. Like I mentioned, switching from Mac to PC really ain’t that bad.
In the end, I got a machine that’s tailor-made for my needs at a price that’s realistic for an up-and-coming independent creator. Of course, I don’t hate Apple. Indeed, I plan on giving my old Mac to my girl and even creating an account on it should I need that OS. Still, for my primary mover, I needed something other than what Cupertino currently offers.
I guess you can say I thought different.
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