Most computers out of the box today are fully capable of editing video. However, once they're out of the box, they can start to develop a myriad of maladies which will cause them to never be as fast or as smooth as that first day. Here are some things to look out for.
Remove Spyware / Viruses
Spyware is a class of software that is typically installed onto a user's computer without their knowledge or consent. (Sometimes the installer will trick the user with a message such as "your clock is wrong, click here to reset it to the proper time," with the "click here" actually being the command to install the software.) Typically, spyware pulls down advertisements to a computer (over the Internet) in the form of pop-up or banner ads, though many spyware applications actually redirect Web searches to pages owned by clients of the spyware vendor. Many spyware apps simply sit quietly in memory, keeping track of what you're doing and report back to some guy behind a curtain somewhere in a bunker under a mountain. It's nefarious. It's evil. And since it's not necessarily well written, spyware can slowly kill its host by slowing down your computer to a crawl and making it useless, or by causing frequent crashes. Sadly, there's no panacea for spyware removal. I use three different programs diligently: Ad-Aware, Spybot and Security Task Manager. Several spyware programs will not let you download anti-spyware tools. The only way around this is to download your anti-spyware tools onto a clean computer and move them over on a CD-ROM.
Limit or Eliminate Internet Usage
There are plenty of wonderful things on the Internet, but unfortunately there are plenty of bad things, too–viruses, spyware, etc., all on the outside, clamoring to get in. While it may be impractical to completely disconnect your editing machine from the Internet, do what you can to limit your Internet usage on the computer you use for editing. Specifically, try not to read mail or use a Web browser any more than necessary on your video editing computer as these applications are the most often carriers of spyware and viruses. Keep your computer updated with all the new security patches by going to START and selecting "windows update".
Shut Off Messenger Services
AOL Instant Messenger? Yahoo!? MSN Messenger? Turn 'em off. That doesn't mean just closing the window; you need to right-click on the icon in the bottom right tray and turn them off. You don't need a chat request from mom popping up on your screen while you're capturing video.
Defragment Your Disk
As files are written to and deleted from your hard drive, the system that the drive uses for indexing the stuff that's on it becomes complicated and disorganized. Files become "fragmented" with parts of them scattered around the disk. As files are loaded, the drive's read/write head (like the arm on a phonograph) has to physically lift up and move to find the next section. The less the read/write head has to move, the quicker your data will load and save. The disk defragmenter is found under start/run/accessories/system tools on windows XP. While you're at it, do a disk cleanup and make sure you have as much free disk space as you can. Windows will grind to a halt when disk space gets too low on your system drive.
Don't Capture Video onto Your System Drive
Capturing and playing back video uses a lot of your computer's attention. So does the business of actually running your computer. For this reason, it's best to do your video work on one drive and your computer work on another. Of course, this only works if you have two physically different disks – one drive partitioned into two doesn't count.
Kyle Cassidy is a network engineer and co-author of Enterprise Internetworking and Security