In the first part of this series on my switch to all things Windows, I talked about the specification of the HP Z840 machine that will be the hub of my recording system and how some small tweaks to the standard machine spec will help make my adjustment to the Windows environment as smooth as possible
The Day Of The Build
OK, so the term build could be a little strong. Rich from WorkStation Pros had already built the machine before he arrived with it on a nice sunny Thursday morning. He had installed the two 6 core processors, RAM, Flash Storage for the Windows OS and graphics card (GPU), all we had to do was install the audio stuff and transplant the drives from my Mac Pro to the new caddies and into the Z840 drive slots.
Once we removed the outer case side we are presented by the fan covers that both protect the inner workings of the machine and also efficiently channel air from the 10 built-in fans. This section of the case, I'm told, was designed by BMW using their wind tunnel. Once removed, we have access to the PCIe slots to add my UAD-2 cards and Pro Tools HDX card.
The next section of the case to be pulled away is the upper fan housing. This protects and cools the processors. Rich and I decided on 2 x 6 Core E5 V3 2.4Ghz Xeon processors with 24 logical cores. The machine can handle up to 44 physical cores, so there are plenty of upgrade possibilities moving forward. Also hidden under this unit are the RAM slots. I am starting out with 64GB of RAM, which should keep me going, but it's always nice to know I can currently take the Z840 all the way to 2TB (16x 128GB) of 2666MHz DDR4 RAM.
One of the most important features of the Z840 that appealed to me is the four internal 3.5" drive bays. My old Mac Pro also has four 3.5" bays and the plan was to simply remove the Apple drive slides, install the drives into the HP caddies and slide them in.
To get around the differences between Mac and PC drive formatting Rich had pre-installed a copy of MacDrive software which is designed to translate between the two formats. In practice, MacDrive worked very well for transferring small amounts of data, but when it came to moving sample libraries and other massive quantities of data up in the terabytes it was not so impressive. Let me elaborate on this. I have been using Western Digital Caviar Black 3.5 inch drives for my Audio, Video and Samples drives in the Mac Pro. My initial intention was to simply pull these from the Mac Pro and slot them into the Z840. This did not go so well. Once again I think it might have been an issue with me going at it like a bull in a china shop rather than an issue with the machine, but swapping all the drives in one hit might not have been the best idea. On PC (as I'm sure many of you know) drives are assigned a drive letter (C: is normally assigned to the operating system) and I think the drive lettering system within Windows 10 might have had a bit of a moment as some of the drives did not initially show up on the machine and when they did they were not assigned a drive letter, very strange indeed.
Through a lengthy process of elimination and a great many restarts of both the old Mac Pro and the new Z840, Rich and I decided that a couple of new drives might be a good idea as we could copy the Audio, Video and Samples data onto the new drives then format the old ones to PC format and keep everything simple with no need for software to change drive formats.
I ended up buying two new 6TB Seagate Iron Wolf Pro drives, slotted these into 2 of the bays in the Z840, formatted them in HFS+ PC format and slowly copied the data over using portable drives. To say this was a slow process could be the understatement of the year. A 3TB drive full of tiny audio samples does not copy quickly.
Pain Points Of The Installation
Thus far data migration has been the biggest pain point of the installation. The hardware works perfectly but transferring massive amounts of data between the Mac formatted drives and the new PC formatting is a pain in the @&$£! PC software applications like MacDrive are supposed to make this process simple but so far this has not been the most reliable application I have ever used. Sometimes it starts up with the start Windows and sometimes it will not run at all.
I'm 3 weeks in I have still not finished the data migration to the new machine. It's slow and dull and takes forever and the more data I accumulate the more time it will take for back-up.
Plenty Of Time To Restructure
This has been a great opportunity for me to really concentrate on what I need from my media computer. I have only installed the applications which I know I will need. The download and installation of Pro Tools and the audio plug-ins to go with was very straightforward. The most difficult bit has been going through my iLoks and making sure everything I have licenses for is installed.
No Final Cut Pro X For Windows
As I'm sure you all know Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) is a Mac OS only media application so if I am going to swap over to PC for all my multi-media work I am going to have to find a new video editing application. The obvious choice is Adobe Premiere Pro which I have downloaded already on a 7-day free trial. To be totally honest, although some of the finer points are quite different and much like many of the audio DAWs, FCPX and Premiere Pro work in very similar ways. Have any of you noticed the difference in my videos on Pro Tools Expert? In fact, when starting Premier Pro for the first time I could tell it to assign the shortcuts from FCPX. I have not opted for this as I don't want to get stuck in a shortcut corner later on in my more advanced use of Premiere Pro. That said, reading about Resolve14 With Fairlight Audio will warrant a close look to see if that is a better solution for me.
In the next instalment of "The Switch" I will talk about all the external stuff like monitors, interfaces, and backup solutions.