One or two SSDs for Lightroom laptop

Started Apr 17, 2013 | Discussions thread
VirtualMirage
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Re: One or two SSDs for Lightroom laptop
In reply to stevenmh, Apr 22, 2013

Here is my suggestion based on my experience.  If you can afford it and you are working with a lot of photos, invest in the second SSD.

I am currently working with 1 SSD that holds my OS, Lightroom, catalog/preview files, and a 20-25GB scratch disk.  My photos reside on a 2TB Western Digital Caviar Black.  I have around 55,000-65,000+ photos in my catalog.

Initially, I had the catalog/preview files on the same drive as my photos.  With a small catalog of just a few photos (few as in a few thousand) it was fine.  But as my catalog grew and the 1:1 previews grew (I have no expiration date on my previews since I go through a lot of my library frequently), it became slower and slower as I am trying to scroll through my library (even when I am filtered down to folders of just a few hundred pictures).  Looking at my catalog, it was only a few GB in size.  But my previews folder (which has to be on the same drive as the catalog) was 50+GB in size.  Flushing out the previews and optimizing the catalog didn't help too much, and in fact will make it slower at first when going back to review your photos as it is trying to generate previews and thumbnails for each picture again.

I then, as a test, decided to move my catalog/previews to the SSD.  There was a noticeable difference in response time and reviewing of photos in the library, almost instantaneous for the pictures that already had previews.  There is still some slowness as it creates 1:1 previews and thumbnails for photos that don't have one yet, but once they are created I can go through my library very fast without out running into blank placeholders for photos.  Generating previews is also faster, amongst other improvements in editing.  So if you are in Lightroom a lot and keep a large catalog of photos that you frequently go through, those few extra seconds here and there add up and the SSD really helps.

But you might be wondering if you can still get away with just one SSD, and here is the problem I am running into.  My previews folder has grown immensely.  At the moment, I probably have a little over half of my catalog where previews have been generated.  I could set an expiration date on my previews to help keep it in check, but since I go through a lot of my photos frequently and I scroll through my library, much of these previews will not expire.  Between those and my catalog, I am eating into around 100GB of my 256GB SSD (mostly due to preview files).  I now have around 70GB left of my SSD and it is shrinking every time I import more photos.  Because of this, I am looking at getting a second SSD to move my entire catalog/preview files too.  Since I am already at the 100GB mark, I will probably look at the 180-256GB SSDs to add to my desktop.  That should give me some room to grow while freeing up space on my OS SSD.

My photos, meanwhile, will still stay on the regular hard drive.  For one, I have way too many to realistically fit on a SSD. Secondly, I tried it with a smaller set of photos and didn't notice as much improvement keeping them on an SSD as I did moving the catalog and previews to the SSD.  SSDs will need to get cheaper and grow larger in size before I would even consider that.  Just keep the photos on a decently fast spindle drive or in a RAID setup and you should be happy with that.

To recap:  If you don't mind waiting a little bit here and there or don't work with a ton of photos, then getting a second SSD may not be cost efficient.  But if you are in my situation, it might be worth the extra investment and will be a more noticeable improvement over keeping in on a spindle drive.

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Paul

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