Lightroom: How do I optimize Lightroom performance? (System Configuration Recommendations)

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An Adobe article on what constitutes a reasonable system configuration for LR is overdue. Specific brand-component precertification, as done with graphics cards for CAD, may not be necessary, but LR has evolved to where one must seriously consider the hardware platform needed to run it efficiently, and currently the answer isn't obvious.

While some have experienced no critical slowdowns with LR3, many have judged it unusable and reverted to LR2. Even with anti-virus off, it brought my Xeon workstation to a crawl: re-displaying previews already generated took up to 10 seconds, and the sub-1:1 noise reduction begged for turning off. Granted, while this was on a 2004 XP system limited to 3 GB RAM, I was surprised to find users including photo professionals with far superior builds, PC and Mac, feeling similarly limited. The ubiquitous question from Adobe Support and LightroomForum to DPReview, LuminousLandscape, and FredMiranda has become: how does one build a computer for LR, especially without a Mac Pro budget?

Some consensus has emerged. It's not graphics rendering but data read-write speed that's critical (especially write, according to one source). This should be addressed via CPU, RAM, and drive configuration and file allocation, in that order. However, merely choosing the fastest and the mostest of the first two (along with a 64-bit O/S) apparently isn't enough. What number of drives, what RPM and drive cache, whether to use an SSD and/or RAID 0, and where to put the program, catalog, previews, ACR cache, and image files, has become a science for people outside of Adobe and NAPP.

Thankfully, after my nine months of research, an Adobe Certified Expert revealed this drive configuration:

1) 120gb SSD for OS/Apps
2) 120gb SSD for catalog, previews + ACR cache
3 & 4) Two 2TB 10,000 RPM Hard Drives for RAW/JPEG files in RAID 0

God save the Queen - at least it's something "official" to go on. From top-of-the-line Digital Lloyd to Joe-hobbyist, one can find a myriad of variations on this theme, with some even putting the ACR cache on its own HD/SSD and claiming a noticeable improvement, or not. There may be no single right answer. The point is, the current tutorials and articles out there suggesting catalog optimization, pre-rendering of previews, and other measures (most dating back to LR 1 or 2) clearly need updating. LR users really should not expect reasonable performance with everything on one spin-drive any more than an engineer running SolidWorks on a $50 graphics card, but the average user has been left to figure this out on their own. Otherwise, one wouldn't be reading the likes of this from a like-minded enthusiast (from photography-on-the.net):

"Which brings me back to my question about expectations for Lightroom. I haven't ever heard of an application requiring four disks to solve performance issues. Hasn't Adobe ever heard of RAM? I can still run a wide range of applications on my current PC. Now I'm spec'ing a top of the line PC, and I need to consider four disk drives, for one application? What can I expect with one drive, like every other modern application that's been written since 1989? Not to mention what else I'm bringing to the table, a terabyte 6Gps drive, 6GB memory and four CPUs that we once would have called super computers? Rhetorically, and comically, what else does Adobe think I need for their one application?"

While technology advances and, hopefully, code efficiency improves, I strongly feel Adobe should officially address this issue, somewhere, with drive and file configuration recommendations in addition to minimum CPU, RAM, and O/S requirements.

Chris Niestepski
Newport News, VA
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Chris Niestepski

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  • shopping for a car dent remover.

Posted 9 years ago

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Rob Cole

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I'm all for elaborating system "requirements" (maybe "dependencies" would be a better term), e.g. instead of just

"Minimum requirements to run"

Maybe 3 tiers:

- Minimum
- Medium
- Super-station.

With some typical benchmarks, so you can tell if your system is operating normally or abnormally.

On the other hand, this:

"Even with anti-virus off, it brought my Xeon workstation to a crawl: re-displaying previews already generated took up to 10 seconds..."

indicates a bug, not a lack of hardware oomph.

I think if everything is working bug-free, so to speak, the performance criteria are like for any other app: faster cpu for the cpu intensive ops, faster disks for the disk constrained ops, and separate disks for the disk files accessed simultaneously...

Summary:
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The more info about this stuff the better, but all the info in the world wouldn't have changed the performance problem you were having with the preview display. Even a 2GB dual core at 1.5 GHz can get a fully rendered preview up on the display in under a second when things are working correctly.
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Joergen Geerds

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I am not sure if your question could ever be answered, there are simply too many components to it, and in a case like yours, it seemed that simply throwing enough money at the problem solved it... plus, a couple of variables are under nobodies control: i.e. sata raid0 performance (aka hitting the 600MB/s brickwall), RAM, OS, SSD developments (which are getting better every 6 months)... I found it relatively easy to look at digilloyds reviews (and barefeats.com), and derive a solution that is economical for my budget and workflow.
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Jeffrey Tranberry, Sr. Product Manager, Digital Imaging

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We're looking at producing such a document. It's very similar to the articles we have out there for Photoshop:

Photoshop: How do I make Photoshop run faster?

This is an old article on Optimizing Lightroom 2:

http://macperformanceguide.com/Optimi...
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PECourtejoie, Champion

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And here is what Ian Lyons, another ACP wrote: http://www.computer-darkroom.com/blog...

In short: CPU bandwidth and RAM for previews, SSD for fast database access (keywords, filters, etc)

One has also to ponder what kind of develop settings the files do have: heavy NR, sharpening, lens correction? With the addition of parametric tools comes the need for more power. The latest systems having more bandwidth and processing power than older ones, even top of the line.
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Rob Cole

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I find the benchmarks especially helpful.

My experience (regarding CPU/RAM/SSDs) closely matched Ian's.

My .02: Once you have *enough* RAM, CPU is next most important overall, unless maybe if you do a whole lot of database intensive stuff over development, in which case disk considerations may weigh more heavily.
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Chris Niestepski

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I'm thankful all of you have replied; I will look at these links also, and am glad Adobe is looking at updating the official help available. I know there's no one-size answer, but it would help many with a limited budget find a decent starting point.

I'm not sure if Rob means a bug in LR, or a virus; I did have Norton remove one last year before trying LR3. Again, I know my system was limited, but I still couldn't see how LR3 was struggling quite that much. Well, I'll have a new system soon, and we've already progressed by a couple of subreleases, so we'll see. Thanks, folks, for your help!
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Rob Cole

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"I'm not sure if Rob means a bug in LR, or a virus..."

There are a variety of strange bugs that can result in very abnormal performance in some cases. Usually not due to a virus, although that's possible too. Mostly the causes are unknown, which is why they still exist.

But, if Lr3 is really slow on a souped up computer, then its usually due to a bug biting down...
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Damon Brodie

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The comment about RAM is very appropriate. Ram is very very cheap vs. the performance boost that it should be able to provide. LR should be better able to make use of this ram by doing more stuff in the background and "guessing" what we're about to do next. Like scroll down in the Grid. Or load the next photo. etc. I've bot 16GB of ram - I'd like LR to use it.

In the meantime, I'm blowing cash at multiple SSD's and faster processors to make LR less lethargic.
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PECourtejoie, Champion

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Damon, what part of Lightroom are you trying to speed up? The link I posted highlights the fact that a fast processor and lots of fast ram are the main factor for the speed of ingestion/display of photos. SSDs mostly help the database part: i.e. keywordings, etc.
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Rob Cole

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Its worth remembering the two aspects of performance:

1. When things are operating normal.
2. When Lr performance is crippled due to bug(s).

Its pointless to try and optimize performance until the bug issues are resolved, although changing your configuration may resolve them.

If its taking 10 seconds to display a preview, the bottleneck is a bug.

Definitions:
- Bug: I don't like to point fingers. I mean the bugs may be operating system bugs or driver bugs or Lightroom bugs... But, one of the things every software manufacturer must do is put in code to work-around other software's bugs - its just how things are...

Any system config recommendations you'll find are assuming things are operating normally, and hence may not apply in your case.
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Anita Dennis

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Sorry to come to the party late, but Martin Evening has an excellent article that's right on point, The ideal computer setup for Lightroom. It's an excerpt from his book, "The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book."
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Rob Cole

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Article had nothing too revolutionary in it that I could see, i.e. faster cpu, more ram, & faster disk access, makes for faster Lightroom (graphics card not critical). I would like to offer some more specific suggestions for a config/performance doc:

Make a list of reference activities in Lightroom (i.e. a list of all the things that consume time), for example:
1. Time to compute filters for photos in library mode.
2. Time to render photos for lib & develop modes.
3. Develop tool responsiveness.

Provide benchmarks for all reference activities.

And provide specific recommendations for which activities are affected most by cpu, vs. ram, vs. disk.

Also, some Adobe confessions would help:
1. Known bugs and limitations affecting performance.
2. Design considerations affecting performance (e.g. previews & cache).
3. Usage considerations affecting performance (e.g. number of locals applied).
3. Memory Leaks...

I mean, my experience was that 4GB was better than 2GB ram, period. but 8GB ram was only better than 4GB ram if other ram-hungry programs were being run simultaneously, OR Lightroom was leaking ram, which unfortunately is an all-too-frequent occurrence. I doubt 16GB ram is better than 8GB unless more of the same is true (more ram-hungry OR ram-leaking programs running, and/or Lightroom leaking ram) - which it may very well be. My point is that people are trying to figure out hardware *tradeoffs*, and at what point are returns diminishing, and how to judge what performance to expect.

Also, how to tell if you are ram constrained, and what to do when ram is leaking (e.g. restart program(s) or OS).

Summary:
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- Benchmarks would be extremely helpful, as well as which things are most affected by which hardware, and how much is enough... that together with knowing the performance affecting problems Lightroom may encounter would also be helpful.

PS - All of this information is already available, but its scattered about and mixed with mis-information...

Bottom-line: Tables of numbers and specifics are more useful in answering questions like: should I upgrade? which cpu? exactly how much ram? exactly which disks with which interfaces to hold which data?... and perhaps most importantly: am I experiencing the expected performance with my configuration???

Again, for emphasis: "am I experiencing expected performance with my present configuration???" is probably one of the most important questions to be able to answer. - i.e. how long should things take...

Final Thoughts:
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As part of this document, a list of suggested configurations, or cookbook recipes, would be good, so people could simply order a system based on the recommendations, and configure according to the prescribed procedure, then assess whether their new system is operating normally or not.

Of course troubleshooting techniques and resources would be valuable too in case system is *not* operating normally.
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Anita Dennis

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We do document known issues, in the Release notes, but I doubt you'll see us publish benchmarks. Sounds like a how-to-optimize-performance doc would be useful, a la Optimize performance | Photoshop CS4, CS5.
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Rob Cole

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There are way, way, way more known issues than are presented in the release notes.

Too bad about the benchmarks - I really think that's the single most important missing piece: "How long does it take Lightroom to render a raw file, or load/display an existing preview?" I mean, the question of what to buy is relatively simple: 4GB RAM minimum, 8GB preferred, 16GB if you can afford it (and run other ram-hungry apps simultaneously), more than that is a waste (unless you run *other* really RAM-hungry apps). Modern multi-core CPU, 4-core minimum, 6-core better, 8-core if you can afford it, more than 8 and you'll start getting diminishing bang for buck. faster clock-rate: good. Disks... But the question: "Is Lightroom performing optimally on my hardware" is the one people need more help with.

Definitions:
- minimum: meaning - minimum for decent performance, not minimum to run trial.

Most of the answers are already available on the net, just takes some digging...

Yes, the performance doc for Photoshop is pretty good, relative to Lightroom's, although Lightroom's performance factors are also relatively simple compared to Photoshops (hardware/config-wise when things are working normally), still I think you're on to something...
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Anita Dennis

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Official Response
I've created the doc Optimize performance in Lightroom in response to this discussion. I hope it's helpful.
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Photographe

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Anita, Can you add information on how to use multiple hard drives (not RAID) to boost performance? For example, is it ok for Previews, ACR cache and pagefile to be on the same physical drive or does that slow things down? Which files are best placed on an SSD?

Also, how about the new features in LR 4 like video cache. What is a good size for that and where should that be placed?
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Jeffrey Tranberry, Sr. Product Manager, Digital Imaging

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Thanks Anita, This is stellar. Thanks for responding to and implementing this request.
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TK

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Anita, many users will find your document very useful!

You might have also mentioned criteria for choosing a good location and size of the ACR cache. IMHO, many people choose ridiculously high sizes for no good reason and have unrealistic expectations about the gain. It may also be worth pointing out that a location on a (fast) drive other than the catalog drive may slightly improve performance.
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Anita Dennis

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Thanks for the suggestion. TK. I added info on the cache.
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Mark Sirota

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Another suggestion, assuming it's still true -- working with some of the panels closed can improve performance. For example, the histogram and the navigator. Displaying some metadata in grid cells may slow things down too.

All this was true in 1.x, and I remember a discussion about it somewhere... Don't know if things have changed since then. I know that far more things are done in background threads now, so perhaps it's not as big a deal as it used to be.
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Photographe

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Do you have recommendations on number of hard drives, and where to store images/cache/previews? For example, is this a way to optimize performance:

Drive C: Operating sytem, Programs; Lightroom catalogue and Previews.
Drive D: ACR Cache
Drive E: images.

As far as I can tell, the catalogue and the previews have to be in the same drive.
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David Loja

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I need to know what computer components are most heavily used when using a program. For Lightroom it seems especially important. When researching this topic all I can find are others asking the same question with very generic and uninformed responses. Why can't the program, under the help menu, make it a point to inform the consumer not only of the minimum system requirements, but of the main system resources used. Is the program heavy on RAM, CPU, GPU? I have no way of knowing what my weakest link is so I can therefore upgrade my system appropriately and ultimately thoroughly enjoy the use of the product. What DOES Lightroom really need, or rather, what can Lightroom really utilize and take advantage of to speed up production and decrease any possible lag?

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Lightroom - _?_ Component Heavy....
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Link2ThePast

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I do have a z8na with dual E5620, 24g ram. pike 2108 for a 6 disk raid 50 and 2 disk sata3 ssd raid 0. Benchmarks show an outstanding disk perfomance but when I import/export +/- 1000 5dmk2 files Lightroom 3 does not load efficiently the cpu's. For some reason disk performance does not get above 25 mb/s

I have tried different stripe/cluster sizes to optimize, even tried 6 disk raid 0. For some reason Lightroom is not capable to read/write efficiently. Linux/Darktable does do the trick but is not as userfriendly as lightroom ( yet ).
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Carles Carles

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I am student and i work with ligroom, i need to buy a new apple but i don't know what is better :

more processor and lower graphics card
or
lower processor amb more graphics

Can you help me ?

the processor is quadcore i7 at 2.0 ghz with a graphics intel 3000 or a dual core it 2,7 ghz with radeon hd 6630m

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
processor vs graphics card ?.
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AlexanderK

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Hello Adobe team,
I just want to ask about the system requirement recommendations? Don't need the minimum requirements what can be found on the Lr4-page.
Thanks.

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Lr4 System Requirement Recommendations.
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Dale Schafer

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I am building a new PC for PS6 & LR4 and find this still isn't addressed.

More over they give a list of tested graphics cards ranging from a few hundred to over $10K.... yet no benchmarks or comparisons. How are we supposed to know which to buy I certainly can't afford $10k for a graphics card.

When they did the testing didn't they record any data on how they performed??

http://feedback.photoshop.com/photosh...