Your PC is underpowered but


Your PC is underpowered but try this:  Your machine is severely limited speed-wise so it might be in need a "tune up" of sorts so here's a bunch of suggestions: Depending on your motherboard make/model, and also how comfortable you are with doing PC work, you could, as one commentor suggested, add additional memory. However, while adding memory helps oveall, it's not a guarantee fix for your dropped frames.  Usually, it's a combination of critcal sections of a computer that need to be up to snuff to prevent dropping of frames because somewhere along the chain of events the hardware can't keep up.  Memory, even "slow" memory is magnitudes faster than even fast hardware so it's not likely to be the single issue.  You asked if an external USB would help. It may or it may not and if you do use an external drive there is a setting in Studio you should change which I mention later.   During video capture your computer will utilize its internal hard disk – the main hard disk – to act as a temporary buffer to store the video coming in from the camera before it goes through a conversion process and is finally stored on the hard disk in the form of the final video file.  Your hard disk may have little capacity left, it may be slow, it may be fragmented, and many of these conditions may be present simultaneously so it's not easy to pin it on one particular factor.  If you plan to stay with SD (and your current machine), before you decide to purchase a new machine altogether, try the following to maximize performance:  


1) when using Vegas Studio, be sure no other background programs are running – any programs at all – becuase they consume memory, which you have little of, and processor cycles which are even more critical to have on a slow machine.  


2) Defragment your hard drive: Windows XP has a built in defragger.  


3) Under System Properties, check the size of your Pagefile: (on Windows XP it's referred to as Virtual Memory) and make sure it's not set to its minimum (usually the case).  Increase it if necessary.  The Pagefile is a "virtual memory" area where the machine buffers input from various sources before it gets saved.  Usually a large Pagefile results in faster performance.  If your main drive is so filled up that you cannot increase the Pagefile you'll need to clean out files that you no longer use or need so that there's more free space on the drive.  


4) Also under System Properties on the Advaced tab, check Performance by clicking Settings, and change the option from "Let Windows choose what's best for my computer", to "Adjust for best performance".  After making these changes reboot your PC and try capturing again.  


These changes may or may not help with the dropping of frames, but they will definitely speed up your PC in general and you can always change them back later if you want later, though I would not.  If you want to go further you can look into Task Manager and see what "services" are starting up or running that can sap memory and CPU power that you may be able to modify but does take time and patience and can be worth it.  The latter were "tune-ups" for general performance. In the case of the IEEE port there may be specific issues:  Your IEEE port may be sharing an IRQ (Interrupt) with another card on your machine such as a sound card or some other device.  It should not.  If you know how to change the IRQ try that so the FIrewire card has a dedicated IRQ that's not shared.  Be sure DMA (Direct Memory Access) is enabled on your machine, it will improve performance dramatically; check the Windows XP help on DMA for details as it's too involved to include here.  IMPORTANT WITH USING AN EXTERNAL DRIVE:  If you do purchase an external drive, you can redirect Vegas Studio to pre-render to the new external drive via the path setting within Studio and this may solve your problem entirely or it may not but it will definitely speed up Studio.  


Another option, if you can't afford to purchase a completely new PC is to purchase a new motherboard with processor and RAM that fits your current case being certain the motherboard has a !EEE Firewire port (othewise you'll need to get a Firewire card).  Replacing a motherboard is not that hard if you're careful, but it takes some work and familiarity and the biggest issue is retrofitting its connectors to the case you currently have and ensuring all indicators are correctly wired, etc – that's the biggest headache with installing a new MB..  Replacing a motherboard / processor / RAMt can save you considerable money over a completely new system, but it takes real patience and you need to be prepared for issues that would not arise if you purchased a new working PC.  Either way, with a totally new PC, or a motherboard/processor/RAM replacement (and in your case a new and larger internal hard drive) would eliminate your hardware issues and also position you for HD if you intend to get into that.  Plus, a new PC solves the XP end-of-life issue as well.  But, before you spend any real money try the tune-up suggestions first, then consider an external hard drive (which you can also use on a new PC if you decide to purchase one),  then decide whether it's worth spending any money on upgrading parts of your current system such as memory, processor – and the time – as opposed to a new PC althogether.  


LAST AND MOST IMPORTANTLY: you said you have Windows XP.  In case you're unaware, Windows XP's life-cycle, or more specifically, Microsoft's support for XP will cease April 8 2014.  That means that patches for XP will not be made after that date as part of the usual Windows Update and limited security updates will eventually ceases as well.  If your XP machine is connected to the Internet it will stil function but it will be at a higher security risk after April 2014.  So, in view of the XP end of support issue, and in view of the issues you are currently having with SD video capture, you  might seriously reconsider spending any sizeable money on your current machine and instead  consider upgrading to Windows 7 Pro (if you can find it) or Windows 8.1 (if you can live with it).  And if you decide to replace your motherboard and reinstall XP (which you can) you will still have the end-0f-life issue to face, so if you go the motherboard rout you'll also need to upgrade the OS to Windows 7 Pro or Windows 8.1.  


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