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How To Set Up Studio M1 Max for Maximum Speed Using Photoshop

Participant ,
Apr 19, 2024 Apr 19, 2024

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I have been my head against that proverbial wall and my biggest problem has been figuring out how to word my question, I think I have it thanks to samlarson!

 

I have a Mac Studio M1 Max 64 GB,  10 core CPU, 24 core GPU, 16 Neural Engine, 1 TB Memory and the Studio Display. I got it in late 2022 and have been very disappointed in my inability to figure out how to make it work to its potential. THat sentence sounds like a junior high school teacher, doesn't it? 

 

I'm a small business owner and enjpy doing all the images, graphics, etc. for web, product packaging, labels, social etc. I deal with a LOT of images of all sizes since it is print and web. I know I should have sucked it up and gotten more TB, BUT I didn't. 

 

Here is my current workflow - I keep virtually nothing on my actual hard drive and have all images aka Photoshop and INDesign files stored on external hard drives that I mount as needed. I may work off one 10-15 TB hard drive a few months until it is full and then I get another one. I have not utilized Bridge or Lightroom (decision paralysis) and I tried a few Library systems that did not work.

 

On an average workday I work in Photoshop from images on the hard drives. I leave them plufgged in all of the time. One problem that has gotten worse the last year has been if I'm looking for an image I open the folder it would be in and the thumbnails either load so painfully slow or not at all. I've walked away for an hour and came back to no thumbnails loaded. My work flow has been to eyeball them and snag what I need. Yes, I could have done a better job of naming the files over the years. I also could have not eaten that delicious cake for lunch yesterday. Sigh.

 

To help it make sense, my business is skin care/grooming+ products for dogs, cats and horses. In the dog products we offer a several products (Nose Butter, Relax Aromatherapy+) with the customer's choice of dog breed label. We have 130+ breeds on the list. I also update them every year or so and each product has support images; application, just for fun, tips and faqs+. You can see how it leads to have tens of thousands images. I am very legal and only use customer-supplied or purchased images. Just in case you wondered why on earth I would need that many images. Luckily, we don't offer as many options in the Cat and Horse lines. But, I get to search for and work with pictures of mostly happy dogs, cats amd horses, so there! Below is an idea of one product.

 

I spend 3-1/2 hours (again) with an incredibly patient Apple Support person yesterday. He was baffled.  We eventually blew everything off the Studio and ran into town to a Certified Mac Technician. They said there was an issue with downloading the replacement OS, but it was clean and otherwise passed all check.

 

So, I am starting from scratch reloading all my programs, pretty much just Adobe stuff and a couple of random small programs. But, I am back where I started.

 

How to store/slash/organize at least 30 TB of images and INDesign files? Currently, I have two 15 tb hard drives and a 12 tb, plus a stack of 5tb ones. If this is more than the scope of the forum here, I will take recommendations on hiring someone to help me sort this out. 

 

We are in far northern MN and the closest Apple store is Winnipeg or St. Paull and 6 or so hour drive. 

 

Any ideas or hare-brained schemes are welcomed! I thank y'all in advance for any kernals of wisdom or ideas!  Pardon if I missed a typo, spell check is woefully needed here. I realize how much I rely on it!

 

Kathy

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LEGEND ,
Apr 19, 2024 Apr 19, 2024

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Thunderbolt 4 enclosures and NVMe drives, probably in a RAID. This kind of setup is $$$$$$$ but can handle way more than you are asking it to. An enterprise DAM like Cumulus is nice but you can probably get away with Lightroom, Bridge, or maybe even Photo Mechanic. Have scratch disk and your Lightroom Classic catalog on a fast SSD, the internal drive for primary scratch.

For example: https://www.owc.com/solutions/thunderblade

Just call OWC and have your credit card ready 🙂

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Participant ,
May 06, 2024 May 06, 2024

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THANK YOU! I am working on implementing what you recommended. I know there is a difference between being frugal and cheap. When I veer toward cheap, I always regret it! So, NVMe it is and am calling OWC.

Thanks again, your time, expertise and generosity are so appreciated!

 

Kathy

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Community Expert ,
May 06, 2024 May 06, 2024

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It might not be necessary to go full Thunderbolt 4 NVMe RAID. That’s actually a rather extreme solution, especially for Photoshop, and it’s extremely expensive for the number of terabytes you maintain.

 

I “only” have an M1 Pro, so the CPU, GPU and amount of memory in your M1 Max system seems luxurious to me, but I get decent performance. So, just to get it out of the way, there is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing a M1 Max Mac Studio configured as yours is. If your hard drives are literally spinning hard drives, then you will see some improvement just moving to SSDs. But there is a point of diminishing returns there, especially with the way Photoshop works. And there are some things to check, because slow thumbnails should not be happening.

 

The best “bang for the buck” at this time are NVMe SSDs connected using USB 3 enclosures and cables (certified for 10 gigabits per second or more, use nothing slower). I mostly use these now. They should be fast enough for all but the most demanding image editing and video editing. Avoid SATA SSDs, which are older and slower.

 

For the large amount of data you maintain, it may not be affordable to store everything on NVMe SSDs, especially because you also have to buy enough storage to back up that entire amount. The very affordable SSDs are the 1 to 4TB models such as the Crucial X and Samsung T series of external SSDs; those are very popular with photographers and professional video editors. However, any single SSD over 4TB is currently extremely expensive per gigabyte, especially compared to hard drives. If you are currently storing over 15TB and you call OWC, I would expect them to steer you toward something like the OWC Express 4M2. This has four slots for NVMe SSDs, so for example you could buy it empty, then buy four 4TB NVMe SSDs anywhere, and stick them in the four slots. It can optionally be configured as a RAID, but NVMe is fast enough as it is so I would just use them as normal volumes.

 

Now, that example would only get you to 16TB and you said you have a lot more storage than that, so then it gets more challenging. I guess you could buy more enclosures or bigger ones. Higher capacity enclosures are kind of rare for NVMe, but you could buy something like an OWC ThunderBlade configured for 32GB (by ganging up eight 4TB SSDs) if you can fit that in your budget, it alone costs more than a Mac Studio. Or, you could decide to leave older or less frequently used assets on hard drives to save money.

 

Another thing: For various reasons (mostly involving overhead), you may not see full Thunderbolt 4 speed anyway during normal work, especially with Photoshop which has its own internal limits on save speed that are nowhere near close to Thunderbolt 4. It can get you somewhat faster speeds than with 10Gbps USB 3, but again you will pay a lot more to get that. So when you look at options above 10Gbps USB 3, you start to spend a lot more money but don’t see much more speed increase over hard drives.

 

Regarding the slow thumbnails: Even though hard drives are slow compared to the very fast storage inside a Mac Studio, a hard drive should still be fast enough that it shouldn’t take more than a minute or two to show even a large number of thumbnails. So that part is weird. If they are slow loading no matter how you view them (Bridge, the Mac Finder…), then you’ll want to open Activity Monitor (it comes with every Mac) and look for clues like unusually low or high CPU usage or disk transfer speeds, to try and find out if something is causing a bottleneck.

 

Another possibility: Recently I had speed problems even with an SSD. I ran the First Aid feature in Apple Disk Utility on that SSD (good thing to do every once in a while), and found out it had some problems. After resolving those, it no longer lagged.

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