How do you upgrade a basic older PC so you can edit and burn HD videos? Our Helproom Expert explains.

QUESTION What upgrades should I make to my Dell Inspiron 530 PC so I can edit and burn HD videos captured on a Panasonic HDC-HD90 camcorder? My PC runs Vista and has a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 CPU, 4GB of DDR2 RAM, an nVidia GeForce 8600 GT graphics card with 256MB of video RAM, and twin 320GB hard drives. I also have separate DVD/RW and DVD-ROM drives and a 19in Dell monitor. Barry Adams

HELPROOM ANSWER Perhaps more than any other type of consumer PC application, HD video editing places huge demands on your hardware, often resulting in very long rendering times.

You don't say which editing software you will be using. Below are the minimum system requirements for the most popular suites.

Pinnacle Studio: 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad or Core i7 processor.
Adobe Premiere Elements 10.0: 2GHz or faster dual-core CPU with SSE2 support.
AVS4YOU: 3GHz single-core/1.8GHz dual-core processor.
CyberLink PowerDirector 10.0: AVCHD and Blu-ray burning profiles require a Pentium Core 2 Duo E6400 or AMD Phenom II X2 processor; full-HD H.264 and Mpeg2 profiles require an Intel Core i5/7 or AMD Phenom II X4 processor.

Your choice of editing software can have a measurable impact on performance, and your PC's current specification is at the low end of what is practical for the task.

Hard-drive capacity is likely to be an issue, but external storage is relatively inexpensive and simple to use. A Blu-ray burner would be useful if you intend to archive a lot of HD footage.

Your Dell monitor has a native display resolution of 1440x900 pixels, and won't be able to display full-HD video without scaling. We recommend upgrading to a 1920x1080-pixel display (see page 145).

The latest video editors use the power of your graphics card to significantly boost rendering performance. Upgrading your graphics card may be helpful here.

You don't say whether you've already attempted to edit HD video on your PC. Give it a try before you get out your wallet; if it struggles, then you can start to consider upgrades. And if this is the case, you may be better off buying a new PC with a faster processor, which your current motherboard doesn't support. Look for a PC running a second-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 chip for the best performance; their multiple cores are well-suited to HD video editing.

And if you haven't yet chosen your video editor, install free trials to see which works best with your current setup.

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