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| 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.