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Archive 2012 · running LR catalog off external hard drive
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · running LR catalog off external hard drive

maybe someone could help me with this:

my internal drive on my iMac is filling up, and I think it's starting to turn Lightroom into a dog. namely, it takes time when I move a slider to see the changes on the screen. the computer is only a year old, so I'm guessing this is the issue. the Hd is about 85% full. if this doesnt sound like the problem I'm all ears. I've followed all the Lightroom optimization procedures I can find on the adobe site.

so on to my original topic... is there a good way to store my entire catalog on an external drive and have lightroom work off that drive? or will my results be even slower because of a USB/FireWire connection? or is the best solution here to move old files to an external and just shrink my internal catalog to 1/3 the size or something? I'm not sure if it's a good idea to break up my catalog though.

anyways I'm not really sure where to start with this whole thing, so any advice is much appreciated.

Apr 18, 2012 at 01:24 AM
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · running LR catalog off external hard drive

Large image files will slow Lr down but I doubt that filling a drive will until it is absolutely full. The problem might be that the files you are working on have not been cached or have been expelled from the ACR cache due to size restrictions on that cache. Every time you open the file in the develop module the file is read from the drive but if you are lucky then some of the raw conversion work is held in the ACR cache from a previous edit. If not then it will slow. This, however, should not affect slider operation which is more likely due to a shortage of RAM. Have you got 8GB or more ? How much of it ios free ? Having Ps open in the background will chew up most of your RAM and leave little for Lr. Are you using a D800 or something with untold megapixels ? That will slow things down too.

Working off an external firewire drive will slow things down almost as much as working off a USB 2 drive, which is all ahead dead slow. Don't do it if you can possibly avoid it. You still get all the limitations of the drive in terms of access times, etc., plus you are limited by the maximum transfer speed of the data interface. It will seem very slow.

If you cannot clear other stuff from your internal drive then try this approach: From within Lr (that bit is very important) transfer the least used photos folder-at-a-time to a suitable parent images folder on an external drive. This way they can remain in the same catalog and the catalog remains on the internal drive for maximum performance. By doing the transfer from within Lr the catalog will know where the files have gone and will not lose any data associated with those files. If you move them outside Lr you'll have a lot of work relocating them within Lr or else you'll lose associated Lr data.

Do not split your catalog because (1) you'll get little or no speed benefit and (2) switching between catalogs in Lr is a pain - more than it's worth. You'd have to close the one you're working in before you can open the other - every time you switch - and you'd never be able to search across multiple catalogs.

Any single catalog can cover multiple folders, multiple volumes, and multiple drives.

When choosing which files to transfer I suggest that you pick on the combination of photos that are least likely to be looked at and least likely to be edited. Your workflow should allow all new images to go onto the internal drive at least until you have finished working with them in terms of basic tweaks, ratings, selections, etc. Then you can transfer the low grade images to the external drive if required.

How many of your image files are huge psd or tif files ? Are those just temporary files or do you need them ? You certainly won't want to put huge files onto a slow external drive and still try to use them but if for example you have some experimental panoramas that are over a GB each then why not delete them if they can be easily recreated from within Lr/Ps ?

How big is your HDD ? Can you upgrade it ? A bigger drive, even with the same content and even with the same size volume, will be significantly faster than a nearly full drive. The inner tracks of the HDD are smaller and slower to use than the outer tracks by a factor of 40% or more. The old drive can be kept as a bootable spare (albeit a slow one) if you put it into a drive case or a Voyager Q cradle.

Get hold of a program called GrandPerspective to see where your drive space is being used. It can be quite an eye opener to find that just a few files are taking up a disproportionately large amount of drive space, and even more so when you find multiple backups that are doing the same. This is especially true if you use programs such as vmWare Fusion or Parallels to run Windows on your Mac. Just be aware than when GP starts it seems to do nothing - you have to go to the menu bar at the top of the screen and click on File + Scan Folder to make it do something useful. Then all is revealed: the really big boxes are your problems.

Also be aware that if you move files around then Time Machine backups will grow. TM is generally if not always that files have simply been moved and so it copies them again to the TM database and gobbles up GB. This copying will take forever if your data is now on a slow external USB drive.

- Alan

Apr 18, 2012 at 03:14 AM
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · running LR catalog off external hard drive

wow, thanks for the detailed reply

I'm shooting with a 7d and 5d, and processing is kind of sluggish all around... not just on the 5d. I increased my cache to something like 80gb a while back, and I render 1:1 previews on import, a change which helped a bit for sure. I've got 12 gigs of ram and the sluggishness happens even if the only program open is Lightroom.

I have a 1tb drive. not sure if I can upgrade it.... it's an iMac, I don't know if they weld them shut or what I can only imagine what it'll cost.

what really kills me is that working with these same raw files on my crappy work PC which cost half as much shows instant results with absolutely zero lag, while running a bunch of other programs. makes me want to just sell the Mac and go back to PC

but I don't want to do anything rash until I've exhausted my options. it's terribly annoying to work on though

Apr 18, 2012 at 04:08 AM
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · running LR catalog off external hard drive

well you can move the image files to an external drive. the LR cat file needs to remain on the internal drive. if your current drive is 85% full now your going to have to do something in the near future anyway.
If the external drive slows you down then why not just have the files your going to work on the internal drive and your others on the external. and of course you should have a 2nd external drive to back up the images on the first one

Apr 18, 2012 at 09:50 AM
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · running LR catalog off external hard drive

... and a third one to back up the second one You don't want your only backup and the main drive dying in the same incident.

goosmang, if you do get a new internal drive installed then make it the biggest one that is available. You can always under-utilize it at first. I think they only hold one drive.

It just might be that your cache needs to be refreshed. e.g. purge the ACR cache (the 80GB one) and the Lr preview cache, and let it start again with the files you are most likely to work on. It'll be slow at first because nothing is cached but afterwards it might improve. 80GB is a big ACR cache but you have little control over which images are cached.

Chances are that the 1:1 previews are being trashed after a while unless you switched that feature off. After that you only have the standard previews remaining. You might want to opt for a bigger standard preview too.

If you really need to go through your images at 1:1 then it may well be better to do so in the Develop module and forget the 1:1 previews for the Library module. If a 1:1 preview has to be built on the fly then I always find the images open significantly faster in the Develop module than in the Library module. I'm not sure how that works but it does.

Something else that may help is to cancel automatic creation and updating of the .xmp sidecar files - let the Lr catalog database store that info but make frequent backups to a different drive, e.g. every time you quit Lr. Lots of changes to lots of piddly little .xmp files will cause some HDD head thrashing and surely slow things down on a nearly full HDD and even more so on a slow one. I'm not certain how often the .xmp files are updated (e.g. with every edit command or just when you move on to the next image after making a bunch of changes). The Lr on the work PC may be set up differently from yours.

- Alan

Apr 19, 2012 at 08:29 PM

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