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Storage for Lightroom Classic

Explorer ,
Oct 18, 2023 Oct 18, 2023

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I have a late 2014 27" iMac with a 3TB fusion drive, of which I am using just under 1TB for all my programs/apps.

I currently have about 50,000 photos stored on an external SSD.

I am interested in replacing my old machine with an M2 Macbook Pro, and adding disk space to a new Mac is very expensive and cannot be upgraded.

As my budget is limited, I am wondering if I buy a base M2 Macbook Pro with 16 GB of memory and upgrade to a 1TB SSD if I can run Lightroom Classic off of an external SSD and not worry about running out of space.

I don't do any heavy processing, as I am only an amateur photographer.

Thanks for any help!

 

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LEGEND ,
Oct 18, 2023 Oct 18, 2023

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Yes, you can put photos and catalog on an external drive. I believe the software itself has to be installed on the internal drive (but perhaps someone with more MAC knowledge can confirm)

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Community Expert ,
Oct 18, 2023 Oct 18, 2023

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The software itself will be installed on the internal drive.

 

-- Johan W. Elzenga

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Explorer ,
Oct 18, 2023 Oct 18, 2023

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Thanks for the reply.

I think you're right. I know the space needed for running LR is fairly small, but I want to make sure that 1TB is enough to run everything else plus those files without filling up. 

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LEGEND ,
Oct 18, 2023 Oct 18, 2023

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With catalog and photos on the external drive, there should not be space issues on the internal drive. If your external drive is 1 TB, that may be fine for now, but you either need to include space for growth of the number of photos you have; or plan in your budget to buy a larger external drive at some point in the future. Only you can judge this; you can see how much space photos, previews and catalog takes up now. No one here knows what is on your computer or how much space it takes, and no one here can judge at what rate the number of your photos will grow.

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Explorer ,
Oct 18, 2023 Oct 18, 2023

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Thank you! I plan on buying a 4TB external drive which would last me a long time before needing upgrade. It is much less expensive than buying more space from Apple. I was more concerned with having enough overall space on the Macbook to keep from running out since it cannot be upgraded.  Your answer seems to verify that 1TB on board will be enough.

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LEGEND ,
Oct 18, 2023 Oct 18, 2023

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quote

 Your answer seems to verify that 1TB on board will be enough.


By @PoppyFromNC

 

But really, that is for you to confirm, rather than having some guy on the internet say so. You confirm that by looking at how much space the programs and operating system on your computer take up. Really, take the time and make sure, don't just take my word for it.

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Community Expert ,
Oct 18, 2023 Oct 18, 2023

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Thank you! I plan on buying a 4TB external drive which would last me a long time before needing upgrade. It is much less expensive than buying more space from Apple. I was more concerned with having enough overall space on the Macbook to keep from running out since it cannot be upgraded.  Your answer seems to verify that 1TB on board will be enough.


By @PoppyFromNC


Yes, 1TB on board is plenty. The MacBooks have very fast ports and you can buy very fast external SSD drives these days, so the difference between using the internal drive and an external drive is not so big that it justifies breaking the bank for a bigger internal drive.

 

-- Johan W. Elzenga

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Explorer ,
Oct 18, 2023 Oct 18, 2023

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My thoughts as well. I am not too concerned about transfer speed, as I am in no way a professional photographer. Actually, the improvement from a 2014 iMac to an M2 Macbook Pro will be amazing I'm sure!

 

Thanks!

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Community Expert ,
Oct 18, 2023 Oct 18, 2023

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I plan on buying a 4TB external drive which would last me a long time before needing upgrade. It is much less expensive than buying more space from Apple. I was more concerned with having enough overall space on the Macbook to keep from running out since it cannot be upgraded.


By @PoppyFromNC

 

I’ve been doing something similar for years. I have a Mac with 1TB internal storage where my Lightroom Classic catalog folder is stored, and a 4TB external volume where all of the original photos and videos are stored. Lightroom Classic has no problem tracking photos on any number of external volumes; each of them is listed at the top level of the Folders panel.

 

I try to keep 100–200GB free, but I do run low on internal storage from time to time. For me, it’s usually because of the client projects that I keep on the laptop while working on them. They grow as I build and render more project files, and when a project is finished, I archive it off to an external volume and get back that internal space.

 

The other reasons I run low on space are some you might want to keep in mind.

 

I said that I store the Lightroom Classic catalog on my internal storage. The catalog is a few GB in size, but grows slowly. The previews associated with the catalog can grow quickly, and can reach 30GB or more. Fortunately, previews are automatically regenerated so sometimes I throw out the …Previews.lrdata file to get that space back, knowing the previews file will grow again. If your external volume has several hundred GB of free space, it might be better to store the catalog there and not worry about the size of the previews file.

 

Large amounts of free space can also disappear for the following reasons, see if any of them apply to you and would affect how much free space you need:

  • Photoshop scratch files. If the Photoshop scratch disk is set to the internal volume, large Photoshop files can create large temporary scratch files, possibly a few hundred MB depending. 
  • Time Machine local snapshots. If you use Time Machine, and the backup volume is not connected, Time Machine can accumulate local backup snapshots. After the backup volume is connected and the next backup happens, those local snapshots get offloaded to the external backup, and the space frees up. (In a pinch, you can view and delete each volume’s local snapshots in Apple Disk Utility.)
  • iOS device backups. If you have an iPhone or iPad, and you back it up on your Mac, those device backups can take up a lot of space. 
  • Other cache files. If you use applications such as Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects or other intensive media editors, they may want to create large local caches to enhance performance, up to several hundred GB depending on the projects. Similar to Photoshop, I have to assign those Media Cache Files to an external because they will take up too much space on internal storage. 
  • Virtual memory swap. If an app happens to need so much memory that the request can’t be handled by real memory or memory compression, macOS will start to use storage space for temporary swap files. You can watch this in Activity Monitor, Memory tab.

 

Depending on what I’m doing, in one typical day free space can go down and then back up by many GB, depending on which apps are allocating or releasing large temporary files at that time.

 

My last two Macs have been OK with 1TB of internal storage, but next time I might let myself spend more for 2TB. If you do not do a lot of intensive work on the laptop other than amateur photography, maybe 1TB is just fine.

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Explorer ,
Oct 18, 2023 Oct 18, 2023

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Good info! Thank you. 

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Community Expert ,
Oct 18, 2023 Oct 18, 2023

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Just as a rule of thumb, a fairly standard configuration of operating system and applications, including a range of Adobe applications, should not take up much more space than 100-120 GB.

 

In addition, most apps' preview caches are located in your user account by default (but can be moved). This can amount to perhaps 20 - 40 GB depending.

 

All your applications tend to dump stuff in the user account, and much of it is never removed again even if you have no more use for it. As a result, free space on the system drive tends to shrink over time, unless you actively clean up. Very little of what's in the user acount is system critical, in contrast to program installation files, which are stored in a different directory. Most of it is of the type that gets rebuilt if needed.

 

As for external drives, be careful! Loose and worn cables and connectors are always a risk. File corruption can easily happen. A good practical rule is to never move the drive while data transfer is going on. Never save directly to an external drive - save on local internal drive, then copy over. These are just basic precautions - things may work fine for a long time without problems, until the day they don't.

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Explorer ,
Oct 18, 2023 Oct 18, 2023

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Great information. Thank you! I'll check my user account and see if there is anything I can remove. When at home, I leave my current external ssd alone. I do travel with it, but never move it during data transfer. 

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