Sunday, March 29, 2015

Video Workstation Configuration

My desktop finally died. It didn't owe me anything since I bought it refurbished five years ago for $900. When the fan on the video card quit working two years ago, the desktop would crash after a few minutes as the video GPU reached about 120 degrees C. This was an odd sized fan and I could not find a replacement to fit, so to keep the PC running I removed the side panel and GPU cover and put a small USB powered fan to blow air over the cooling fins on the graphic card. This worked for a couple of years, but other things also began to fail: the front USB connections, card readers, and finally the PC would not stay on for more than 10 or 20 minutes. Rather than buy a new desktop I decided to run entirely off my laptop, which is a bit under-powered for video editing, but I'll see if it works.

Four-monitor laptop workstation 

USB powered fan cooling the desktop GPU

First I needed a lot more connections. I bought this Xcellon docking station ($100) and an additional USB 3 expansion dock from B&H. The dock provides dual monitor support, so I attached the two monitors from my desktop, but why stop there? I had another old Dell LCD in the basement so I put it above the laptop screen and connected it to the built-in video output.


I then took the hard drives out of the dead desktop and installed them in two external USB3 hard drive docks. The StartTech dock also functions as a standalone hard drive duplicator - bonus! So now I have about 16 TB of data on tap simultaneously, when I include the three portable USB drives, as well as a speaker connection, external webcam, and audio headphones.

USB 3 hard drive docks
USB 3 expansion slots

I added an additional 6 USB 3 ports to the existing 6 ports on the Xcellon USB dock, which is more than it was designed to take, so I don't use the docks built-in network connector since it would add more load to the USB path. Instead, I connect the network cable directly to the laptop. One advantage of this setup is that it would be simple to switch out the laptop for another one. Almost all the drives and peripherals are connected to the dock.

To my surprise this is all running. No crashes, only minor hiccups. Fingers crossed.