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Photo processing off an external SSD drive?

Community Beginner ,
Aug 24, 2020

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Good Morning,

 

I am totally new to the world of Mac and Lr Classic & I have a new 21.5 inch iMac with a 1TB fusion HDD drive, which I am going to be using for my new photography hobby.

 

Now the OS and processing software (Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop is obviously on the internal HDD drive, but I wondered if I was to use an external usb SSD drive to store the actual photos and process them off the external ssd rather than the internal drive, would this make processing them faster & smoother? I’m not a big fan of filling up the internal drive with storage I like to keep that free for OS & program files..

 

Many Thanks Joe 🙂

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Photo processing off an external SSD drive?

Community Beginner ,
Aug 24, 2020

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Good Morning,

 

I am totally new to the world of Mac and Lr Classic & I have a new 21.5 inch iMac with a 1TB fusion HDD drive, which I am going to be using for my new photography hobby.

 

Now the OS and processing software (Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop is obviously on the internal HDD drive, but I wondered if I was to use an external usb SSD drive to store the actual photos and process them off the external ssd rather than the internal drive, would this make processing them faster & smoother? I’m not a big fan of filling up the internal drive with storage I like to keep that free for OS & program files..

 

Many Thanks Joe 🙂

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Aug 24, 2020 0
Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 24, 2020

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That will work fine. Many of us who work on laptops, including myself, store most of our Lightroom Classic photos on one or more external volumes.

 

A Lightroom Classic catalog can track images in any normal folder in any number of local volumes, internal or external; it will remember their folder paths. Each volume is listed at the top level of the Folders panel. If you want to edit a photo on an external volume that isn’t mounted, Lightroom Classic will let you know the photo is on a missing volume. All you have to do is plug in the volume and Lightroom Classic will reconnect to the photos on it.

 

Using an external volume does not necessarily make processing faster or smoother.

Develop module processing depends on the CPU and graphics hardware.

Preview building speed depends on the CPU, including number of cores.

 

It’s best to store the catalog and its previews cache on a fast hard drive or an SSD, because that’s where the majority of the I/O happens during editing. The speed of the storage containing the original image files is less important because they’re only read in once to edit; after that they’re in RAM or in the previews cache. So there’s usually not much advantage in storing original raw files on an SSD instead of a fast hard drive, as long as the hard drive is connected by USB 3.0 or faster.

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Aug 24, 2020 1
Community Beginner ,
Aug 24, 2020

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Hi Conrad, thank you very much for your reply and advice, very much appreciated 🙂

 

I totally understand what your saying & in that case I may consider saving a bit of money and looking at maybe the fastest standard USB C HDD drive I can get, as this will still be cheaper than an SSD drive and at the end of the day the current set up is still a lot fast than my previous windows laptops aha 🙂

 

Follwing on from this may I ask, do you use another external drive to keep a back up of the images/raw files or do people now use cloud storage?

 

Many thabks 🙂

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Aug 24, 2020 0
LEGEND ,
Aug 24, 2020

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"in that case I may consider saving a bit of money and looking at maybe the fastest standard USB C HDD drive"

 

Drive speed (and the speed of the connection) is most irrelevant to Lightroom speed. No need to obtain a fast HDD.

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Aug 24, 2020 1
Community Beginner ,
Aug 24, 2020

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Ahh brilliant, thank you for the tip 🙂 One the same but slightly different note, would there be any difference between a external desktop drive or standard portable drive?

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 24, 2020

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Years ago an internal drive was always faster than an external drive. With today’s fast USB and Thunderbolt ports, it’s possible for it to be either way.

 

You said your Mac has a Fusion Drive. That means it has a hard drive coupled with a small SSD used for caching recently used data from the hard drive. If that recently used data is data you use frequently, it will be on the SSD for faster access. macOS automatically moves data between the two drives based on which files you seem to be using the most, and there is nothing manual you can do to override it.

 

I’m not sure how a Fusion Drive is connected internally. I will guess standard 6 gigabits/second SATA, the internal connector on most affordable PCs. That used to be fast, but today you can beat that externally with an SSD through USB 3 or Thunderbolt.

 

If you buy external USB 3 storage with a hard drive inside, it probably won’t feel faster than the Fusion Drive inside your iMac. Most external hard drives, especially the cheap ones marketed for backup (not daily use), are 5400RPM which would feel even slower.

 

If you buy external USB 3 storage with a 2.5" SSD inside or similar (typically using SATA), it should feel as fast as the Fusion Drive inside your iMac; and it will definitely be faster than your internal Fusion Drive when accessing data that the Fusion Drive would have to get from its slower hard drive portion.

 

If you spent more money, like on an NVMe SSD using a USB 3.1/3.2 Gen 2 enclosure and cable (the newer 10 gigabits/second standard, which your iMac supports), that could be twice as fast as a cheap external SSD and around 5 or 6 times as fast as a good external hard drive. But you probably wouldn’t notice that if you stored original raw files on it since they are accessed so infrequently, so there is no need to spend this much money unless you are making it your iMac’s new boot drive. A number of Fusion Drive iMac owners later choose to boot from a fast external as a speed upgrade.

 

If you spend even more money, an expensive NVMe SSD using a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure and cable (40 gigabits/second) may be 4 or 5 times faster than a cheap SSD, and 10 times faster than the best hard drive. This type of external storage is usually worth it only for high end users. This is the speed of the SSD built into most current Pro level Macs; on the iMac it’s an extra cost option.

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Aug 24, 2020 1
Community Beginner ,
Aug 24, 2020

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Thank you very much for this Conrad, your explanation of each drive is really helpful for me and I fully appreciate it.

 

I think following this I need to have a think about budget and best option for me, but without going over the top for my situation. As I say for me it's just a weekend hobby & the Mac isn't going to be a work horse so to speak & already to me it runs Lr better even with the fusion drive so I think I will stear away from trying to alter the insides or trying too boot of an external drive, but instead look at eather a fast usb c/thunderbolt HDD or possibly and ssd external which I think is suppose to offer better protection then HDD anyways?

 

Again thought thanks for your help, 🙂

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 24, 2020

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I can tell you that I keep my original raw files in an external USB 3 Gen 2 10 Gb/sec enclosure with fast hard drives in it, connected by USB-C, and for me that’s fine in Lightroom Classic. A hard-working high-volume pro with high megapixel cameras might disagree with me, but since you said this was more of a weekend/hobby thing you should not have to spend too much money.

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Aug 24, 2020 1
Community Beginner ,
Aug 24, 2020

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That's sound like a plan, may I ask which enclosure & hard drive your currently using?

Do you find benefit with this compared to a ready made one so to speak?

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Aug 24, 2020

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I use this OWC 4-bay enclosure, because it was relatively affordable, fast enough for SSDs, and has 4 drive bays that I can upgrade at any time with common hard drives and SSDs of whatever capacity I need. I have hard drives in there containing all my photos, videos/music, document archives, etc; the photo/video hard drive is 7200RPM (the Seagate Barracuda/WD Black type of performance hard drive). It also contains one older SSD I use as a fast scratch/cache drive for Photoshop and video editing. It connects to my Mac with a 10 Gb/sec USB-C cable. It sometimes goes on sale for under $200.

 

It is not an NAS (Network Attached Storage) because I did not need network access to it.

It is not set up as a RAID, because I don’t need that, but it can be set up as one.

Of course I have another set of drives that backs up all the data in there.

 

If all I did was high resolution video editing, I would have gotten a Thunderbolt version. But that expense is not necessary for photography and simple video editing.

 

I used to use ready-made external drives, but when I wanted to upgrade, I had pay for a whole new drive and dispose of the entire old one. Now, even for a single drive, I strongly prefer buying an empty enclosure with a fast interface, where I can put in any drive that meets my needs. When it’s time to upgrade, I only need to buy a new internal drive and put it in, not pay for an entire drive and enclosure.

 

You also asked about cloud storage. That can be a great secondary solution, but my Internet upload speed is not fast enough to make it practical. For some who have both download and upload speeds that are very high, cloud storage can be a somewhat practical storage solution.

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Aug 24, 2020 1
JoeB94 LATEST
Community Beginner ,
Aug 24, 2020

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Thank you so much for this info, very much appreciated again& this actually does sound like a good idea! I will definitely take a proper look into this.

 

As for the online side of thing, cheers for that too. It does make sense that online should be a last resort thing because your right it is down to speed at the end of the day.

 

Thanks Conrad, you have been very helpful for me today 🙂

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