Get fast computers for your developers

I've just been through an office move at a client site and packing it up got me thinking about the choices that companies make for their staff when it comes to computer hardware. Most users can benefit in some way from having faster computers, with bigger screens, and better input pe­riph­er­als. Cor­po­ra­tions have a tendency to make con­ser­v­a­tive choices and to pay above the market price for standard hardware. Whilst frus­trat­ing for normal users, this is an absolute per­for­mance killer for developers like me.

Compare the spec­i­fi­ca­tions of my home machine to my work computer:

Home Work
2.4 GHZ Quad Core CPU (Intel Q6600) 2.0 GHZ Core Duo CPU
150 GB 10,000 RPM boot drive and several 1 TB 7,200 storage drives 160 GB 5,400 RPM boot drive
NVidia DirectX 10 graphics card Intel discrete graphic card
Dual 24 inch TFT monitors 17 inch monitor
Windows Vista without Antivirus Windows 2000 with Antivirus and other security tools.

My home con­fig­u­ra­tion can be purchased for around $1200 today, and is many times more powerful than the work con­fig­u­ra­tion. The ability to run multiple virtual machines as if they are real desktops gives a fantastic boost to my developer pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. The screen real estate is beneficial for rapidly updating web pages, and the fast hard drives ensures that Windows keeps up with what I'm doing.

Since I don't run Antivirus at home I run as a user without ad­min­is­tra­tive rights. If I need to test out new pieces of software from the Internet I use a Windows XP Virtual Machine running Windows OneCare Antivirus. Removing the per­for­mance overhead of antivirus means that I get the most per­for­mance out of my hardware whilst still staying safe. Did you know that simply running Windows with a standard user account can eliminate the threat of most Windows malware?

My advice to anyone buying hardware for de­vel­op­ment use is to buy the best performing hardware you can afford. Don't focus on any single component as skipping a dual screen con­fig­u­ra­tion is not worth the price of a faster processor.

Tagged with antivirus, computer, directx, intel, nvidia and vista.

Computer running slow after installing Antivirus software?

Almost everyone I know complains about the per­for­mance of their computer when an anti-virus (A/V) product has installed, and thinks they need more memory or a faster processor. Wrong! You need to get a faster hard disk, or disable scanning of certain files.

You'll see from Task Manager that memory and other resources are plentiful on a modern computer, but page faults and other disk I/O (hidden by default) are occurring at very high levels. Disk I/O is still slow on modern computers and you'll get better per­for­mance gains from improving this aspect.

Most A/V software has settings that let you control:

  • Scanning inside archives like .zip files. Only files downloaded from the Internet or via other media are major threats. Consider tweaking these settings to avoid scanning too deeply into archives, or only scan in risky locations (external drives or downloads folder).
  • Di­rec­to­ries that excluded from automatic scanning. Real-time protection is valuable for certain users, but there may be files that a user must access very frequently. These include databases or virtual machines. Consider disabling real-time scanning of these files/folders.
Making changes to these settings will benefit per­for­mance, and security can still be maintained to a very high level. You are running Windows under a normal user account, aren't you?

Tagged with antivirus, performance and windows.