What makes Lightroom slow?
The truth of the matter is Lightroom should be a lot faster than it is, in fact, I’m pretty sure Apple and Adobe are in cahoots in making Lightroom run slow so that you’ll run out and buy Mac Pro which for most people would be massive overkill. The fact is, if you want Lightroom to run well and you don’t have the money for a Mac Pro you’ll have to do the next best thing, make your computer as much like a Mac Pro as possible.
Basically, Lightroom is pretending you need a lot of powerful CPU cores, a lot of memory, and a high end GPU in order to run fast. The Mac Pro comes with all these things but the truth is they’re mostly irrelevant to the performance of Lightroom. It’s just that Lightroom needs to *think* you’re running some kind of high end system, so you have to give it what it wants.
When you open Lightroom and start editing a photo, that image is stored in memory so that future operations can be performed faster (in theory). In order to do that it has to render a preview of the image. If you click on an image and have to wait for it to “load” into the viewport it’s because Lightroom is very slowly building the preview for the image. Unfortunately that process is much, much slower than it should be. The company line is that it’s VERY PROCESSOR INTENSIVE rendering those giant RAW files. Oh my! What mysterious forces are required to render RAW files??? (The mysterious force is ass loads of money in case you were wondering.) Wow, ok, so a brand new 16 core computer is getting slammed just rendering previews of a RAW file?? Someone please tell me how my Canon camera with a much smaller and slower CPU can render, process, and save 20 RAW files per second??
So what is the first thing we have to give Lightroom to make it think it’s on a high end system… the answer is memory, and lots of it. Think 128GB or more. That means you need 4 32GB memory sticks, which isn’t as expensive as you might think if you opt for lower speed memory.
You’re probably thinking 128GB is insane, well, even as I sit here with just my web browser, Photoshop, and Lightroom open my computer is showing that 74% of memory is being used of 64GB. The computer adapts to the amount of memory installed and uses it to make sure things run faster. This can be deceptive because the OS adapts to low memory so it looks like your computer is doing fine with 16GB of memory but the truth is the apps (like Lightroom) are working hard to keep from crashing and burning with such a low amount of memory. If you can, go even higher as there’s no limit to how much memory Lightroom will eat up.
While more memory is a huge factor most motherboards only have 4 memory slots. This obviously limits the absolute maximum you can install in your computer. With that in mind, another major upgrade is buying a dedicated NVMe M.2 SSD for your cache drive. I recommend at least 1TB if not more if your caching drive is the same as your system drive. I personally have a 2TB NVMe SSD for my system drive on which Lightroom has automatically placed its Camera Raw Cache.
If you are not sure what the Camera Raw Cache is, open up Lightroom, click on Edit>Preferences>Performance and then look for the section called “Camera Raw Cache Settings”. Go ahead and set this to the maximum of 200GB if you have the room on your SSD.
You may be thinking 200GB is a lot of cache, well, it really is not. In fact, I am somewhat disappointed that Lightroom only supports up to 200GB. This is yet another clue that Adobe is screwing us… why not give us the ability to use an entire 1TB drive for the cache?? Why?? Isn’t it obvious? That would make it possible to build a fast computer for a lot less money than the Adobe/Apple scammers want you to spend. BTW, the reason I suggest 1TB is that Lightroom will eventually crash and fail to clean up the cache, leaving gigantic files strewn all over it which need to be manually removed when they finally fill up your entire drive. Having 1TB simply extends the time between having to manually remove all the junk Lightroom is leaving on your SSD. And who knows, maybe the idiot in charge of Lightroom now will have a blood vessel burst in his brain tomorrow and the new person they put in charge will finally increase the amount of cache Lightroom can use… Hey, shit happens! I mean, Lightroom happened after all!
Upgrading the CPU is an important thing to do as well. However, I would do it after upgrading the memory and cache drives. The reason upgrading the CPU is last is because the CPU needs to be fed data quickly for its power to be realized. Keeping the CPU fed with data means having lots of RAM and a huge fast cache drive. In fact, the faster your CPU is the more RAM you need to keep it fed. Unless you already have a ton of RAM be sure to add RAM to your computer when you upgrade your CPU or you may not see the full effect of all that added horsepower.
Turbo boost your cache drive.
Another option to boost speeds is to use a RAID 0 setup for your cache drive. You will need a special PCIe card to do this like the HighPoint SSD7101A-1 M.2 NVMe RAID Controller. HighPoint’s Cross-Sync technology allows you to configure two SSD7101A-1 NVMe RAID controllers to function as a single array, delivering up to 28 GB/s for demanding tasks such as 8K video editing. Why does it have such speed? It has to do with how RAID 0 works. With RAID 0 data is “striped” across multiple drives, and when that data is accessed it is read off all the drives in the RAID 0 array simultaneously, essentially multiplying the speed of the drives by the number of drives in the array. This has the effect of improving the IOPS of the SSD as well. One benefit of RAID 0 is that you do not lose disk space like you do with other types of RAID arrays so you could easily buy 4 – 1TB drives for a hundred dollars each and have an extremely fast 4 TB RAID 0 array. This is a cheap way to get bigger SSD storage volume with insane speed that a single drive will never reach.
Cache your HDD or SSD with extra system memory.
Ok, so you are running a computer with a lot of memory, 256GB, or even more, and you want to improve your SSD cache performance even further… Enter Romex PrimoCache. With Romex PrimoCache your extra system memory can be used as a cache for your SSD or HDD. You can even use it in front of your SSD RAID 0 array and you will see yet another speed boost. PrimoCache will automatically choose what to cache and you can set how much system memory you want it to use. It is an easy way to turbo boost your system if you have extra memory that is going unused.
One problem with PrimoCache is that the cache will be lost when you reboot your system since it is stored in system memory. This is why I still recommend using NVMe drives in a RAID 0 setup in addition to PrimoCache. Then as you work with your files PrimoCache will make everything run even faster.
Add a high end video card
Another dumb thing about Lightroom is that on top of it all they want you to buy a high end video card to enable “GPU acceleration” because they couldn’t be bothered with writing efficient software they just dump their jank on the GPU and hope that solves their performance issues… (what geniuses!) So you’ll have to pony up and buy that too. Something like an old NVIDIA 1080ti should work unless Adobe adds in new code that makes the computer run slow with an older or non professional GPU. Is that paranoid? I say no, it’s not, there’s no telling how many different ways these companies are trying to f*** us over, anything and everything is on the table and frankly isn’t it obvious by now that they’re all in cahoots?
What about video editing?
Guess what video editors, you are in luck! All these options listed above are also excellent ways to increase the speed that your editing program can cue up your video files. With PrimoCache and a couple SSD’s in a RAID 0 array you can say goodbye to using tiny proxy files and hello to 8k RAW directly on your timeline (yes you are spoiled now). It will not directly affect how long it takes to render your movie, but it will make editing so much sweeter.
What else is there?
If you really want to give the Adobe/Apple scammers the finger, buy a dual CPU mother board, fill all 8 memory slots with 512GB of memory, run DUAL 16 core CPU’s (from Intel or AMD), and don’t forget the RAID 0 card with multiple SSD’s for your caching drive… If Lightroom is still slow after that, just give up and use Capture One because it means Adobe has officially shit the bed.
Good luck with your system and thanks for reading!