[SOLVED] PC Upgrade for Photographer

ajcke

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May 16, 2015
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I'm looking for upgrade path recommendations. This forum is a great resource! I built a PC for my wife in 2015. She has either outgrown it or it's starting to show its age. She runs Lightroom and Photoshop several hours a day. She has been wasting a lot of time waiting on the machine to process images. Memory is running at around 95% and CPU at 75%. Images are processed on the SSD and then moved to the HDD. Storage is also showing its age by taking a while ("working on it") displaying files when opening file explorer. I suppose memory could also be causing this or it's time for the OS to be reinstalled.

Here's the parts list: https://pcpartpicker.com/list/WDm6Vn

  • Is keeping the board and upgrading CPU and memory an option? If so what memory and CPU models are recommended? I looked around about a year ago and it didn't seem like I'd get much more improvement in CPU power for the dollars invested if I were to upgrade at that time.
  • Would upgrading the OS drive from a SATA SSD to a PCIe SSD be a recommended option? Would the board support it and would it increase speed?
  • User files are stored on a HDD so we plan to move over to an SSD for user storage.
  • Is upgrading the GPU necessary at this time? How can I figure this out? If so what would be the next graphics processor to move too?
 
PCIe (NVMe) SSDs are much faster at sequential speeds than SATA SSDs, but pretty much the same speed at small and medium files. So they're definitely preferred for video editing. But for photo editing, I don't think you'll see much benefit in Lightroom since RAW files tend to be around 10-15 MB. You might see some benefit in Photoshop if she's editing extremely large TIF or PSD files (like several hundred MB. But it'll mostly be limited to load and save times.

Unless you're doing video editing, ignore the sequential speed benchmarks. Concentrate on the 4k speeds (queue depth or QD 1 will be the extreme case of a single file. The QD32 benchmarks are rather unrealistic unless you're doing virus scans or compressing a folder). They're the slowest, so are what bottleneck the SSD.

4k QD1 speeds are pretty much the same for PCIe and SATA SSDs. The better SSDs will have 4k QD1 read speeds around 40+ MB/s, 4k QD1 write speeds approaching or exceeding 100 MB/s. As long as you get a SSD which hits those thresholds, you'll be good to go whether the SSD is SATA or PCIe.

Note that Photoshop uses its own virtual memory manager (they call it a scratch disk), not Windows' pagefile. You can tweak these settings (and others) to better match your hardware and workflow.

https://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/kb/optimize-photoshop-cc-performance.html

The Microsoft camera codec pack is unnecessary in Windows 10. It already includes the codecs.
 
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That's a fairly hefty system for just Lightroom and Photoshop. It beats out the system I was using until last November, and I never had the problems you're describing. I only had to wait for final batch processing of a day's shoot in Lightroom to convert the RAW files to JPEG.

Storage is also showing its age by taking a while ("working on it") displaying files when opening file explorer.
That suggests there's something else going on. How many files are in these folders? You should only have that type of delay in file explorer if you've got hundreds if not thousands of files in a folder.

If the files are RAW files and this is Windows 7 or 8, make sure you install Microsoft's camera codec pack. That'll let file explorer in those two OSes decode RAW files, allowing file explorer to generate and cache previews of all those RAW files. It'll be slow the first time you open a folder (e.g. new pictures from a shoot). But after that it should open almostimmediately.

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=26829

How full is the SSD? SSDs become slower if you do not keep a certain amount of space free. For a 500 GB SSD, I'd say about 10%-15%. More if you're rapidly copying tens or hundreds of GB of files to and off the SSD. If this is the cause of the problems, your solution may be as simple as getting a new SSD (1TB or 2TB).

Is your 95% memory use with only Lightroom or Photoshop running? How many RAM is in use after a reboot?

As suggested above, if the problem isn't a full SSD, then reinstalling Windows may be simpler than trying to diagnose exactly what the problem is.
 
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conticreative

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I second the clean install before spending money on new hardware.
Sometimes, just creating a new user may improve things enough, maybe not as much as a clean install but I often find my system zippier when I switch to my alternate profile.

Most definitely, look at the ssd. Recently I discovered my SSD was showing red, I tried cleaning it, in a semi-panic because I was on a deadline, so I uninstalled a bunch of secondary programs for little gain (I run non-mission critical programs from my D drive) and at the end of the day I took a better look.
I discovered a single file in the system that was 140GB. I researched it and turned out to be some kind of cache/DB for the search feature in Win Explorer. I deleted it and now I am doing a lot better.

Another option you may want to look into is buying another SSD to use for processing your files. If you end up upgrading your system, you will still find it useful, and it may buy you some time.
 

ajcke

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May 16, 2015
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I reformatted the OS drive and reinstalled the OS last night. She has worked on it since and so far the machine is running much better. If file explorer starts to lag again I'll try Microsoft's camera codec pack. Her main storage directory does have thousands of raw files. The real test will be this week as she pushes it a lot harder. We'll see.

I've read that PCIe SSDs are recommended for production work like this. What are your experiences with them? The specs look much faster, what's the reality? I have never used one.

The OS is Windows 10
Memory is now running at 60% with only Lightroom. If Photoshop is also running memory goes up to 70%.
CPU is anywhere from 7% to 80%
GPU 6%
Disk under 6%
 
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PCIe (NVMe) SSDs are much faster at sequential speeds than SATA SSDs, but pretty much the same speed at small and medium files. So they're definitely preferred for video editing. But for photo editing, I don't think you'll see much benefit in Lightroom since RAW files tend to be around 10-15 MB. You might see some benefit in Photoshop if she's editing extremely large TIF or PSD files (like several hundred MB. But it'll mostly be limited to load and save times.

Unless you're doing video editing, ignore the sequential speed benchmarks. Concentrate on the 4k speeds (queue depth or QD 1 will be the extreme case of a single file. The QD32 benchmarks are rather unrealistic unless you're doing virus scans or compressing a folder). They're the slowest, so are what bottleneck the SSD.

4k QD1 speeds are pretty much the same for PCIe and SATA SSDs. The better SSDs will have 4k QD1 read speeds around 40+ MB/s, 4k QD1 write speeds approaching or exceeding 100 MB/s. As long as you get a SSD which hits those thresholds, you'll be good to go whether the SSD is SATA or PCIe.

Note that Photoshop uses its own virtual memory manager (they call it a scratch disk), not Windows' pagefile. You can tweak these settings (and others) to better match your hardware and workflow.

https://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/kb/optimize-photoshop-cc-performance.html

The Microsoft camera codec pack is unnecessary in Windows 10. It already includes the codecs.
 
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