Lightroom Classic 9.x: Slow browsing in collections & folders

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  • Updated 1 week ago
  • (Edited)
I'm having a problem with LR Classic v9.x being very slow when browsing/switching between folders and collections. I thought it had to do with my old computer, but the problem "nicely" migrated - not just from old to new, but across platforms! Namely, from my old Windows computer to a new Apple i9 iMac.

It is hard for me to pinpoint when and how exactly this happens - sometimes it's right after starting LR and just selecting a collection, sometimes it happens after using the program for a while and switching from a collection to a normal folder.

When the problem occurs, Lightroom takes an EXTREME amount of time to show the contents of a folder in the Library module's grid view. Even when there's just ONE single photo in a collection, it takes something between 30-60 seconds before the grid shows that photo.

The text "Loading..." is visible, but judging from what I see in Task Manager (Windows) or Activity Monitor (Mac), Lightroom is neither causing much CPU load, nor is there a lot of disk activity.

My catalog contains ~40000 files, previously was on an HDD, now is on a SSD.

Any help in trying to nail down what's causing this and how to fix it would be greatly appreciated because it's increasingly becoming a nuisance when navigating folders and collections. Thanks.
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Alexander S. Kunz

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Posted 2 months ago

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Carlos Cardona

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It's not easy to say what the issue is, without being onsite. Tip: get a Mac IT guy! But before that you could...

Give your new Mac the "once over" to make sure there are no damaged caches or application states, (with Onyx).

Download the free Onyx (https://www.titanium-software.fr/en/onyx.html), select the Onyx version for your OS, download, run it, reboot.

In Onyx run almost everything in the Maintenance tab, deselecting things you may not want deleted, like Launch Services . Hit the "Options" button across from Internet and deselect more stuff like Cookies & Other Site Data, Browser History, Form Values, etc. (most of these are OFF by default). If you don’t know what something is, google it, or don’t run it, or ask me), then hit Run Tasks. After it's done it will ask for a reboot.

If that doesn't fix it, try to fix any directory damage by running Disk First Aid from Disk Utility: boot into Recovery Mode, (hold down Command-R when booting). When you're in Recovery Mode go to the Utilities menu and launch Disk Utility, say Repair Disk. When done go to Apple Menu for Startup disk and restart normally.

Also just doing a "Safe Boot" can clear out caches (restart, hold down shift until you see "Safe Boot" on the screen, let it fully boot, then reboot normally.

If that doesn’t work try launching Lightroom from your other (admin or test) account, with a new catalog, as a test. Does it run OK? If it does it may be a corrupted preference in your Username/Library folder. To reset your LR preferences: 

1. Close Lightroom. 

2. Hold down [Alt/Opt]+[Shift] while restarting Lightroom. 

3. Overwrite the Preferences when prompted by the dialog. 

4. Close Lightroom. 

5. Restart Lightroom.

Takes 5 minutes to reset whatever preferences you had set, no biggie!


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Alexander S. Kunz

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Thank you Carlos. Allow me to repeat: this can't be a computer issue. The problem moved from my old computer to the new one, and across platforms. It's not a LR preferences issue either, because I started with a fresh install on the iMac.
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Carlos Cardona

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OK, but it can't hurt!
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Roelof Moorlag

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I don't know whats going on but here is a nice resource, maybe there is something that can help: https://www.lightroomqueen.com/lightroom/performance/
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Alexander S. Kunz

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Thank you, Roelof. If would seem to me that Lightroom must have some sort of cache for the folder list & collection list, but it seems to be out of the user's control. I guess I should count the total number of collections that I have in Lightroom, and see if I'm running against an internal limit, or something.
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Roelof Moorlag

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Lightroom does have limits in showing long lists of keywords and collections, thats why it is best to nest them in masterkeywords and collectionsets. However, i did not ever heard about impact on performance.
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Victoria Bampton - Lightroom Queen, Champion

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A long shot, but try quitting LR, renaming the Helper.lrdata file next to the catalog and then reopening LR. Leave it a while and then restart and see if it helps.
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Alexander S. Kunz

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Thank you, Victoria. I will try that and report back!
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Alexander S. Kunz

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Hello Victoria - it SEEMED like a fix. Initially, browsing the entire list of directories and collections alike was MUCH improved, speed-wise (some of the nested ones were a bit slow to populate, which was expected and not a problem).

Today unfortunately, I ran into the same issue again. After working in LR for a couple of hours, switching from a directory to a collection caused the same long delay again.

By now I also know from a friend that I'm not the only one with this problem. I wonder what else I could do to find out what is causing this.
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Victoria Bampton - Lightroom Queen, Champion

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Oh, one more thing. Where are the photos (originals) stored?
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Alexander S. Kunz

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In the past (Windows), photos & catalog were on the same HDD, now (Mac) the catalog lives on the internal SSD, the photos on an external HDD.
(Edited)
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Carlos Cardona

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Which Mac OS are you on? Do you hear (or see) a lot of activity on that external drive, even when you're not editing a photo? If you go to Activity Monitor (in Utilities), and sort by "% CPU", so that the Process Name taking up the most CPU is at the top, what do you see?

I KNOW you said it wasn't a computer issue, but sometimes it's not just ONE THING slowing things down.
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Alexander S. Kunz

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This is SO bad in Lightroom 9.3 that navigating folders and collections is next to impossible. Sometimes, LR doesn't even show a "Loading" text in the thumbnail view - it's just blank! Other times, "Loading" remains there long enough that I could get coffee, but I can't possibly drink that much coffee. Absolutely unusable.
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Rikk Flohr, Official Rep

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"Thank you Carlos. Allow me to repeat: this can't be a computer issue. The problem moved from my old computer to the new one, and across platforms. It's not a LR preferences issue either, because I started with a fresh install on the iMac."

It could be an issue with the catalog itself if you see the same thing with the same catalog on two separate machines.  Is this the case?  If so, if you create a new test catalog and import some images does it behave better or the same?

It could still very well be a preferences issue. If you haven't reset the preferences on both machines you should do so. 

There is always the possibility that it is related to a common software on both machines. 
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Alexander S. Kunz

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Hello Rick.

For what it's worth, here's an insight into a bit of my workflow:
  • I make many plant photos
  • Each species has a keyword (nested like "plants > flowers & herbs > Salvia apiana", for example).
  • When I work on a "plant portrait" for my website, I create a Smart collection that looks for that keyword ("Salvia apiana").
  • In this smart collection, I work on the photographs, rate and label them.
  • Based on the rating, I manually add them to a Publish collection.
While working, I switch between the Publish collection and the Smart collection. Sometimes, switching is instantly. Other times, switching takes up to one minute ("Loading..." appears in the thumbnail grid). This is for one and the same set of a smart collection/publish collection pair! This makes me wonder how it could be a catalog issue.

And in Lightroom 9.3 this is WORSE. Not even "Loading..." appears anymore, and the delays are far more frequent than in earlier versions. I am currently back to Lightroom 9.1 where things seem to be more tolerable to at least get something done.

I am quite certain that, if I start with a catalog that would only have a small subset of my photos (~40k total), keywords and (smart) collections, Lightroom wouldn't have a problem, but I'm going to try that, perhaps over the weekend.

In the meantime, I have actually removed the com.adobe.lightroom... preferences file (or rather, renamed it) and that didn't make a difference. (well, it did deactivate a number of paid-for plugins that I'm using, so that was a bit of a bummer.)

What "common software" would affect Lightroom's performance on both Windows and Mac in this manner? I can't think of anything.

Thank you
Alexander.