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

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  • Updated 8 years ago
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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

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