To make editing and developing your photos a smooth process, you’ll want to set up your computer for Lightroom with forethought.
If you’re underpowered, you might be miserable with Lightroom being slow (and it might be slow sometimes even with a lot of power). And so, it’s not unusual for me to set up a client’s computer and hard drive as part of my job, either updating an existing computer or spec’ing out a new one. Maximizing computer RAM (for speed) and setting up a large external hard drive (for organization) for the Lightroom Library and at least one back up strategy, preferably two (for safety and security) is essential.
Getting a new computer is great, however, the relative speed of a computer is in direct proportion to the perception of the owner. You get used to the speed of your computer over time. Don’t worry, it’s just you, but don’t let that stop you from updating your current computer or buying a new one.
I always suggest purchasing the fastest computer you can afford with the most RAM the machine will take and, since the prices have been dropping, a Solid State Drive (SSD) can help speed things up, too. Here are my reasons for RAM, SSD and backing up:
Get as much RAM as possible. I rarely ever see anyone who just uses Lightroom alone with no other programs open. Usually I see a browser, sometimes two browsers (browsers can be real memory hogs), along with mail, iTunes, Calendar, Photoshop, Spotify, a Twitter app and frequently a dozen other apps. RAM gets allocated to all these open programs and the computer slows down considerably as it starts to use the hard drive to do calculations. That is, unless you have a Solid State Drive (see SSD – next). So, get as much RAM as you can. This is especially true if you’ve purchased the Creative Cloud Photography Plan of Lightroom and Photoshop (which, BTW, costs exactly the same as only purchasing Lightroom alone), which I highly recommend, even if you don’t plan to use Photoshop (why would you turn down a “free” copy of Photoshop?)
If you’re not buying a new computer, see if you can add more RAM to your computer and update your hard drive to an SSD. I’ve done this and for a few hundred dollars I was able to breathe new life into an aging Mac Pro Tower. I call this life support!
Splurge for the SSD. Solid State Drives operate considerably faster than traditional hard drives that spin at 5400 or 7200 RPM and that means faster calculations when the RAM is being used to capacity and faster duplication of files when you choose to edit in Photoshop from Lightroom. Just in general, an SSD means your computer will run faster overall.
BACK UP! If you’re not backing up, your photos (and everything else on your computer) is at risk. Period. Back up! Two backups! Hard drive and the Cloud. A Belt and Suspenders. Time Machine, Carbon Copy Cloner (Mac – I use CCC) or Super Duper (Mac) and Genie Backup Manager Pro (PC) for hard drive backup and Google Drive or CrashPlan (Mac + PC) for Cloud backups. There are only two kinds of computer users: those who have lost data and those who will.
Earlier this month, Jeffrey Freidl, who has worked with Adobe and the Lightroom team, wrote a very useful and informative blog post, Lightroom Resource Utilization: On Setting Up a Machine for Lightroom Usage. The blog post covers the finer points of Lightroom’s requirements and attributes.
No matter whether you’re using a laptop or a desktop computer, these additions and suggestions will give you a computer that plays well with Lightroom (and Photoshop).