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pierces

My PC is turning 80...in computer years!

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Almost four years ago I shared in excruciating detail as I researched and collected the components to assemble a robust PC for storing and editing digital images. Computer years are worse than dog years and while I built some future-proofing into the machine, the future keeps finding ways to force obsolescence on even the best hardware.

 

Original thread here: https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2128430-building-for-photoshop/

 

Over the next few months, I'll be choosing and collecting components for the Next Big Thing and will post the progress here just in case anybody has an urge to build their own PC or is just curious about the current state of computer technology. I'll try to insert descriptions and explanations with a minimum of technobabble for anyone who is only familiar with the shiny outside of PCs and may have a vague curiosity about computers' dark, dusty innards and dirty little secrets.

 

Since the original build, I had to replace the original 256GB boot drive (System, or C drive) when  it exceeded it's maximum recommended volume of data written (TBW or TeraBytes Written). When buying an SSD (Solid State Drive), note the projected volume written. SSDs don't have moving parts like traditional hard drives but are made up of memory cells much like a camera's memory card, Those cells can only be written to a certain number of times before they break down and will no longer reliably store data. It's pretty hard to estimate how much you may write to the drive over time. Under normal use, a good SSD will last several years but checking the total written volume with a utility like CrystalDiskMark is a good practice.  A high quality SSD will usually have a larger TBW number than an off-brand and a larger drive of any brand will have a larger TBW rating than a smaller drive of the same brand. (More cells = spread the work of storing data.) Bottom line: a higher number is better, whether it be from more reliable memory or total drive volume. Also note that the drive won't simply die as the TBW maximum is reached but that is the point where the manufacturer has determined that capacity and performance may start to deteriorate and bad cells are isolated to preserve data integrity. SSDs generally have a little more actual space than they are rated for. The extra space is used as "spares" for cells that fail and are marked as "do not use" by the drive's controller but eventually the drive will lose too many cells and start corrupting data.  

 

The other reason I replaced the drive was capacity. It actually only reached about 85% - 90% full but SSDs start slowing down significantly when they approach maximum capacity. Because of the way they write data, when the total number of free cells gets too low, the have to perform some housekeeping on the fly rather than dropping the data into an empty space and cleaning up remnants of deleted files later in the background. I chose a 512GB drive as a replacement even though I didn't expect my program data to increase very much. The larger size would keep efficiency high and the much larger TBW value would give me a couple extra years of usable life.

 

FYI, I only have Windows and the various program files on the boot drive. All of my documents, photos and other files are on a separate drive. This tends to make the system a little faster since the system doesn't need to split drive reading time between the program files and data files. Each drive has a controller that handles data requests from the system, so splitting data that may be read or written simultaneously is like having two loading docks instead of one where each truck has to wait it's turn to be loaded or unloaded. 

 

I'm happy to say that no component actually failed. Not even the cooling fans, which are notorious for burning out bearings and making your PC sound like an old electric pencil sharpener grinding away at an infinite pencil. But failure isn't the only reason to replace a computer. The TBW data limit for SSDs and the MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures) for a drive with more traditional spinning platters is probably the most limiting factor in a computer's life but eventually some component on the motherboard or the power supply will succumb to heat and corrosion and you are left looking at a dark monitor connected to a big paperweight. For this reason, companies usually replace units every three to five years to keep ahead of the Grim Reaper of Computers. This practice also ensures that users don't fall too far behind the curve  in current technology. Obviously budget is a consideration, but this is a good rule of thumb for home users too. Biting the bullet and plunking down the $$$s for a new PC every three to five years ensures a warm, safe home for your priceless photos and documents. 

 

So. Four years is coming up and technology has progressed enough to make an upgrade worthwhile. Replacing components every time a new piece of tech shows up keeps you on the bleeding edge but you end up doing all that bleeding for relatively small increases in performance. After three or four years the performance gap gets pretty wide and goes a long ways towards justifying the expense. Toss in age-related reliability concerns and it starts seeming like a reasonable appliance replacement rather then splurging on a new toy. Which it is. An appliance. Mostly.

 

I ordered the new case yesterday. It's a different type than I've used before and it makes sense for where my computer is positioned. And it's sort of pretty. Appliance pretty, not new toy pretty. 😉

 

To be continued...

 

Dave

Edited by pierces

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2 hours ago, pierces said:

Almost four years ago I shared in excruciating detail as I researched and collected the components to assemble a robust PC for storing and editing digital images. Computer years are worse than dog years and while I built some future-proofing into the machine, the future keeps finding ways to force obsolescence on even the best hardware.

 

Original thread here: https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2128430-building-for-photoshop/

 

Over the next few months, I'll be choosing and collecting components for the Next Big Thing and will post the progress here just in case anybody has an urge to build their own PC or is just curious about the current state of computer technology. I'll try to insert descriptions and explanations with a minimum of technobabble for anyone who is only familiar with the shiny outside of PCs and may have a vague curiosity about computers' dark, dusty innards and dirty little secrets.

 

Since the original build, I had to replace the original 256GB boot drive (System, or C drive) when  it exceeded it's maximum recommended volume of data written (TBW or TeraBytes Written). When buying an SSD (Solid State Drive), note the projected volume written. SSDs don't have moving parts like traditional hard drives but are made up of memory cells much like a camera's memory card, Those cells can only be written to a certain number of times before they break down and will no longer reliably store data. It's pretty hard to estimate how much you may write to the drive over time. Under normal use, a good SSD will last several years but checking the total written volume with a utility like CrystalDiskMark is a good practice.  A high quality SSD will usually have a larger TBW number than an off-brand and a larger drive of any brand will have a larger TBW rating than a smaller drive of the same brand. (More cells = spread the work of storing data.) Bottom line: a higher number is better, whether it be from more reliable memory or total drive volume. Also note that the drive won't simply die as the TBW maximum is reached but that is the point where the manufacturer has determined that capacity and performance may start to deteriorate and bad cells are isolated to preserve data integrity. SSDs generally have a little more actual space than they are rated for. The extra space is used as "spares" for cells that fail and are marked as "do not use" by the drive's controller but eventually the drive will lose too many cells and start corrupting data.  

 

The other reason I replaced the drive was capacity. It actually only reached about 85% - 90% full but SSDs start slowing down significantly when they approach maximum capacity. Because of the way they write data, when the total number of free cells gets too low, the have to perform some housekeeping on the fly rather than dropping the data into an empty space and cleaning up remnants of deleted files later in the background. I chose a 512GB drive as a replacement even though I didn't expect my program data to increase very much. The larger size would keep efficiency high and the much larger TBW value would give me a couple extra years of usable life.

 

FYI, I only have Windows and the various program files on the boot drive. All of my documents, photos and other files are on a separate drive. This tends to make the system a little faster since the system doesn't need to split drive reading time between the program files and data files. Each drive has a controller that handles data requests from the system, so splitting data that may be read or written simultaneously is like having two loading docks instead of one where each truck has to wait it's turn to be loaded or unloaded. 

 

I'm happy to say that no component actually failed. Not even the cooling fans, which are notorious for burning out bearings and making your PC sound like an old electric pencil sharpener grinding away at an infinite pencil. But failure isn't the only reason to replace a computer. The TBW data limit for SSDs and the MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures) for a drive with more traditional spinning platters is probably the most limiting factor in a computer's life but eventually some component on the motherboard or the power supply will succumb to heat and corrosion and you are left looking at a dark monitor connected to a big paperweight. For this reason, companies usually replace units every three to five years to keep ahead of the Grim Reaper of Computers. This practice also ensures that users don't fall too far behind the curve  in current technology. Obviously budget is a consideration, but this is a good rule of thumb for home users too. Biting the bullet and plunking down the $$$s for a new PC every three to five years ensures a warm, safe home for your priceless photos and documents. 

 

So. Four years is coming up and technology has progressed enough to make an upgrade worthwhile. Replacing components every time a new piece of tech shows up keeps you on the bleeding edge but you end up doing all that bleeding for relatively small increases in performance. After three or four years the performance gap gets pretty wide and goes a long ways towards justifying the expense. Toss in age-related reliability concerns and it starts seeming like a reasonable appliance replacement rather then splurging on a new toy. Which it is. An appliance. Mostly.

 

I ordered the new case yesterday. It's a different type than I've used before and it makes sense for where my computer is positioned. And it's sort of pretty. Appliance pretty, not new toy pretty. 😉

 

To be continued...

 

Dave

I remember when you were building it - time flies!

I forgot when I got my Mac!

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I too remember that thread; I must be getting old(er) as it seems like just last year.

 

I'll be following along, not because I plan on building my own, but I'm sure I'll pick up some important facts along the way that can be used when purchasing my next PC.

 

Ken

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I was shocked when I saw it was 2015! I use the PC every day since I telecommute and it has just been starting and working. Probably why I never noticed the time span.

 

The replacement plan is driven by the timed refresh mentioned above but there are a couple of other factors involver. First is that I use the current 27" QHD (2560x1440) monitor with the Xbox 1x and I plan on upgrading to a larger 4k monitor to replace it and the 24" HD monitor mounted in portrait mode next to it. My current graphics card is right at the bottom of "good enough" to drive a 3840x2160 display. The other is that my daughter's family need a PC and this is a good way to get them a decent PC that will be more than sufficient for their needs.

 

A twofer!

 

Anyway, the case came yesterday and is pretty cool. My plan is to revamp the storage area on the other side of the wall where my desk is (my current tower resides there now) and tame the wire knot that has grown there. I plan on mounting the new box on the wall, so I picked a design that offers that as an option. I chose an open design since noise and dust aren't really a consideration in the closed space, but heat can be.

 

Thermaltake Core P3

IMG_20190222_061121.thumb.jpg.cc032d5ecfb5b789892de74059f2e5cc.jpg

 

Good wire management and supports up to a 360mm liquid cooling radiator. It has VESA mounting holes on the back panel that I intend to use with an articulating wall mount for ease of access after it's mounted. 

 

Check off one component.

 

Dave

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34 minutes ago, kenevenpar said:

 

That is going to be difficult to get through TSA checkpoints :classic_ohmy:

Not if I mount on a Lark mobility scooter!

 

Dave

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Posted (edited)

What has changed in four years?

 

I have more photos...but I expected that. All my cameras are still 24MP so the rate of increased storage hasn't suddenly skyrocketed.

 

Processors have gotten faster. No surprise. How much faster? It's hard to find testing continuity crossing 4 years when test methods change to reflect changes in all components. This test was on a spinning hard drive, that one was on a SSD. This motherboard vs. that one. Nearest I can tell, My targeted CPU, the i7-9700KF, appears to be approximately 70% faster than my current i7-5820K. They have also gotten more efficient with the new unit rated at 95W which is significantly less then the 140W of the current one. Intel has abandoned hyperthreading  (running two instruction threads per core) on many of it's new CPUs. The i7-9700 has two more cores for a total of eight but only supports 8 threads to the older unit's six cores/twelve threads. This sounds like a downgrade but really isn't. Since hyperthreading doesn't actually double the instruction bandwidth but alternates thread instructions through the core (like two alternating metered lanes on a freeway onramp), the extra two cores pretty much make up the difference. Add to that the maximum clock speed of the newer chip is 4.7Ghz, up from 3.6Ghz and you get a significant boost in performance. Not all programs support the use of hyperthreading and from my research, it looks like Photoshop works a bit better with single thread cores.  Based on that, I decided to forego the pricier i9-9900KF with hyperthreading added to its eight cores. The decision to go with the i7 over the i9 was also driven by my (personal) performance weighting rule where a 4% increase in benchmarked performance did not justify a 20% premium in price.

 

Hard drives haven't gotten too much faster but fast has gotten cheaper due to availability and competition. There are a lot more SSD models available and even the blazing fast PCI-E m.2 drives are far more common. Unless something changes drastically, I plan on four drives with a fast 500GB m.2 SSD boot/program data drive, a not-quite-as-fast 500GB M.2  temp drive for Lightroom catalog and general temp duties, a 1TB traditional hard drive for documents and general storage and a 4tb traditional drive for image storage only. Regular backups to external drives are part of my process now and that won't change. I skipped the newer and slightly faster Intel Optane drives for the same reason as before. Price difference was greater than benefit. I will likely use Samsung M.2 SSDs and Western Digital Black 7200rpm hard drives.

 

Cooling is much the same and I will again be using s liquid cooling system. The case I chose will support a larger radiator so I will take advantage of it. Brand is undecided as yet but Corsair and Thermaltake are in the running.

 

Power has gotten more efficient and almost all high-efficiency PSUs (Power Supply Unit) have modular cabling now. This allows you to leave off connections you don't need to reduce case clutter and airflow blockage. PSU efficiency indicates how well the unit converts the power input to power output. A 50% efficient PSU supplying 250w to the computer would draw 500W from the wall. An 80 Plus Platinum rated one works at 90%+ and would only draw about 275W from the wall. Power savings over the year also relate to how often the computer is on and the amount of load it is under but even though your mileage may vary, savings are savings. High-efficiency units are a little cheaper than before, again due to competition.

 

Graphics have gone through two generations and are currently at least twice as fast per dollar as they were 4 years ago. In addition to huge advances in speed and bandwidth, Nvidia just added hardware-based ray tracing to their top-end cards. This speeds up rendering of lighting for 3D obhects and allows for extremely complicated and realistic graphics. Read as "game-friendly" For Photoshop, I really don't do 3D rendering and it's anyone's guess when Adobe will release an upgrade that makes use of the new hardware. That makes a card with the new technology sort of optional. Except it really isn't. The new ray-trace enabled cards are also blazingly faster at the sort of processing Photoshop does use and come with a minimum of 8GB of RAM which is four times as much as my current card has. (I have also been known to indulge in a bit of PC gaming.) I have settled on an Nvidia RTX 2070 powered card of some sort. Probably an Asus model since I have had good luck with the current GTX 960 card.

 

Motherboards have gotten new chips loaded with new features and research and CPU choice has led me to something with the Z390 chipset. USB 3.1 is native and most Z390 boards now support two M.2 drive slots, avoiding the need for a riser card and more case clutter. The chipset also supports USB 3.1 and high speed wireless networking. I may switch to wireless since the new protocols may actually support higher speeds than the ageing CAT5 wiring in the walls. Current favorite with all the requested bells and whistles is the ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) Z390 board. Again, not the top of the top but it is well into the level where premium components are used and has all the stuff I want at many dollars less than to top of the top.

 

The last major component is Memory. I'm having trouble deciding, mostly due to conflicting recommendations. I currently have 32GB of RAM and can only remember two times I ran out of available memory while editing multiple images. Some say 64GB would run better, but a nearly equal "some" say 32GB is good enough. Prices are dropping right now since the memory shortage of the last couple of years is over, so I'll make the choice later. As to speed, the i7-9700 supports DDR4-2666 memory (2666 mhz) at base speeds. DDR4 is available with clock speeds over 4000 MHz but unless you plan on overclocking (setting the system speeds and timing above factory specs), the sometimes large premium in price is wasted. As a rule, I buy memory with a clock speed about 20% - 25% higher than needed. This is because memory that is made to be driven at higher speeds is made, tested and inspected to a higher tolerance and when run at normal speeds, failure is less likely. Brand is up in the air but I will look at DDR4-3000 or DDR4-3200 units since I don't plan on overclocking and the price premium over the 2666 MHz units is not too painful.

 

Well, there's the roadmap. It probably won't change too much between now and final assemble unless there's some earthshaking bump in technology. 

 

Any questions or suggestions regarding my choices are welcome.

 

Dave

Edited by pierces

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If you only got four years out of it you did not buy quality components. I get longer than that out of an off the shelf laptop with more than enough power to do any picture editing you can  imagine.

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Just now, zqvol said:

If you only got four years out of it you did not buy quality components. I get longer than that out of an off the shelf laptop with more than enough power to do any picture editing you can  imagine.

 

Thanks for your input.

 

If you read the original thread, you'd see that I researched the componentry extensively and put together a machine that should easily last for several more years in its next life as my granddaughters' home PC (they need one and cannot afford it). Though it will process anything I am likely to throw at it in the foreseeable future, I have been doing this long enough to know that replacing a computer when it suddenly dies is just bad practice. Preventive replacement is a widely practiced corporate standard which is why Mean Time Between Failures statistics are kept. Add to that the grandkids' aforementioned need for a PC and an upcoming switch to a larger 4K monitor and I felt it was time to spec out another multi-purpose home machine with some of the new tech that has come along. One that will handle the next few generations of Adobe updates, some fairly massive databases for work, and of course, run the upcoming Borderlands 3 at 4K on the highest detail settings (for the kids, of course 😉 ).

 

Besides, building your own PC is fun. Off-the-shelf for me is like buying an EOS Rebel with a kit lens and the made in China "extra value" accessory bundle. Adequate just isn't very fun.

 

Dave

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Posted (edited)

Thanks Dave for this thread. I just felt the "need" to upgrade my 3+ yo desktop (Dell T-1700 8gig i5-4590 3.3 GHz NVIDIA Quadro K620 W7Pro64). My need was forced by wanting to edit HVEC H-265 video. I toyed with adding memory, upgrade to W10 (it has matured), then realized to get the most from the memory, would need to change processor. My son tried to get me to build a new desktop. Why? This one is working great and runs 4K well on the 27" LG 4K monitor. Just cannot get the most from the HVEC vids (conversion from the H-265 to H-264 takes 30 minutes to do 4 30 seconds clips!! After looking at build component prices, I got antsy. I finally decided on something portable. Ended up finding a Dell XPS 15 9570 (i7-8750H 32gig Nvidia GTX 1050Ti 4gig GDDR5 4K Touch screen 1 TB SSD W10 Home 64). Including tax and one of those new cute fold flat mouse set me back $2k. I then spent a bit of coin on the latest version of Adobe Premiere and Photoshop since I was using PS6 and free vid editing software on the desktop. This laptop will mostly only be used for GoPro movie editing. The desktop is still working well, Thank goodness.

 

One question. Would it not be better to have the OS and some of the more written to software on a spinning high quality drive rather than an SSD?

Edited by masterdrago

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9 hours ago, masterdrago said:

One question. Would it not be better to have the OS and some of the more written to software on a spinning high quality drive rather than an SSD?

 

If you are concerned about TBW limits on the boot/program files drive's lifespan, probably not. Keep in mind that the applications and OS operate mostly in memory once read from the drive and loaded. The concern would be for the drive where all the encoding would happen for your videos. Your computer probably supports USB 3 or Thunderbolt and encoding files on a fast 7200 rpm external drive would make a lot of sense since the write time is less important than the actual processing of the encoding which is processed by the CPU and GPU in the system and video ram.

 

PCIe boot drives hosting the programs are one of the best performance boosts you can add. If you went with the 1TB m.2 PCIe SSD in the laptop, you did a good thing.

 

Dave

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Thanks Dave. That's the one I have. I also, less than a month back, got a 2TB WD external USB 3.0 drive that I'll use with it and also to backup the camera memory cards from the Nikon and GoPro shoots. I have no idea what RPM it is. Has a 6,400mAh and 802.11ac WiFi.

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Posted (edited)
17 hours ago, masterdrago said:

Thanks Dave. That's the one I have. I also, less than a month back, got a 2TB WD external USB 3.0 drive that I'll use with it and also to backup the camera memory cards from the Nikon and GoPro shoots. I have no idea what RPM it is. Has a 6,400mAh and 802.11ac WiFi.

 

RPM is Revolutions Per Minute. It refers to the speed at which the discs of the drive rotate. I don't know for sure which model of WD drive you are using but based on your description it is a WD 2TB My Passport Wireless Pro Portable External Hard Drive. It has a 5400 RPM drive. The faster drive rotation can accelerate transfer speeds but the drive you have will work just fine. Like I said before, all the exciting parts of encoding happen in memory and the drive just records output. If the computer runs out of memory while encoding, it will swap out data to the main disk and the one you have is about as fast and you can get. You should be fine.

 

Dave

Edited by pierces

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Thanks. You are correct - My Passport Wireless. I knew what RPM meant but I could not find on the drive nor at the Western Digital web pages the RPM of that drive. I got it primarily to back up memory cards when in Alaska for our first land tour/cruise. It seemed a logical step due to its small physical size and ability to charge other devices, back up stuff and to use as an external drive when at home.

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17 hours ago, masterdrago said:

Thanks. You are correct - My Passport Wireless. I knew what RPM meant but I could not find on the drive nor at the Western Digital web pages the RPM of that drive. I got it primarily to back up memory cards when in Alaska for our first land tour/cruise. It seemed a logical step due to its small physical size and ability to charge other devices, back up stuff and to use as an external drive when at home.

 

Sorry, I took your sentence literally. :classic_blush: I managed a help desk years ago and you wouldn't believe some of the questions.

 

I used to travel with a laptop, then it was a netbook, now I just back up to a large micro-SD card mounted in a Kindle Fire. At first I used a laptop to store and review images from the day to find out if I got good shots or not, but soon realized that since I was traveling on a cruise ship and unlikely to be able to go back and get another shot, it didn't really matter. That's when my choice of working travel storage started declining to just backup storage. Since we all travel with tablets nowadays, having my backup integrated into it is a space saving bonus.

 

My choice of a workstation over a powerful laptop was driven by the fact that I telecommute, so a desktop computer with a large monitor makes more sense as a primary home computer. Work issues me a laptop but I simply dock in a cabinet it and link to it using Remote Desktop.

 

I hope I'm not boring everybody with this thread. My intention is to help people be aware of what's currently available for post-processing today's ever-growing collection of images with a few sidebars on equipment for travel.

 

Dave

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42 minutes ago, pierces said:

 

Sorry, I took your sentence literally. :classic_blush: I managed a help desk years ago and you wouldn't believe some of the questions.

 

I used to travel with a laptop, then it was a netbook, now I just back up to a large micro-SD card mounted in a Kindle Fire. At first I used a laptop to store and review images from the day to find out if I got good shots or not, but soon realized that since I was traveling on a cruise ship and unlikely to be able to go back and get another shot, it didn't really matter. That's when my choice of working travel storage started declining to just backup storage. Since we all travel with tablets nowadays, having my backup integrated into it is a space saving bonus.

 

My choice of a workstation over a powerful laptop was driven by the fact that I telecommute, so a desktop computer with a large monitor makes more sense as a primary home computer. Work issues me a laptop but I simply dock in a cabinet it and link to it using Remote Desktop.

 

I hope I'm not boring everybody with this thread. My intention is to help people be aware of what's currently available for post-processing today's ever-growing collection of images with a few sidebars on equipment for travel.

 

Dave

No problem. I'm going to closely follow your thread on the new build. Almost 4 year, I know can be a dino in computer years but I really like my desktop the way it sits now (will run in VM XP mode to open old 8 bit software like MoonCalc6). I was very happy to find a portable solution to the movie editing chore. I'm super green at that. The small My Passport will work perfectly for backing up all my SD & Micro SD cards on the trip. I feel sure that my son will eventually talk me into building a new desktop so learning from you is a bonus.

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3 hours ago, pierces said:

now I just back up to a large micro-SD card mounted in a Kindle Fire.

 

Dave

 

Too lazy to look it up, but how do you mount the micro-SD card to the Kindle?

Thanks Dave!

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18 hours ago, tommui987 said:

 

Too lazy to look it up, but how do you mount the micro-SD card to the Kindle?

Thanks Dave!

 

There's a little pop out cover on the side just below the power button. It's a push to lock/push to unlock slot just like a regular SD card. Once mounted you can tell the Kindle to store your movies and other high-volume apps' data on the card.

 

Dave

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