I'm currently running a 2008 unibody 15" MacBook Pro 2.53 with 320GB 5400 RPM hard drive and 4GB of system memory. I've upgraded to Snow Leopard and I'm running Lightroom 3 (64-bit).

I have two problems with my setup currently and I'm seeking recommendations on improving the situation:

  • memory usage during processing exceeds 1.5GB
  • time to move between images in Develop module is painfully slow

I've noticed that system memory usage typically goes up drastically during export to JPEG. Is this normal and how much memory is normal? It seems the larger the set of photos being exported, the greater the amount of memory is needed. I often find myself staring at Activity Monitor and shutting down all other applications to free up as much RAM as possible.

Then switching photos in the Develop module takes ages for me. I think this is a disk related issue so I'm thinking new larger 7200 RPM hard drive should sort that out. The current hard drive is a Hitachi 320GB 5400 RPM drive and it often seems to be the bottleneck when installing applications and writing data.

Any recommendations?


yes, that memory usage is normal converting to jpeg.

I"m finding 4Gig works fine. A few suggestions.

upgrade your drive to a 7200 drive. you're probably seeing I/O delays and a faster drive will help.

preferences->file handling, set the cache to a larger value. I use 25 gig.

optimize your catalog (under the file menu) every so often.

system performance will lag as your memory set grows. You can check /var/vm (using terminal):

[chuq-laptop:~] chuqui% cd /var/vm [chuq-laptop:/var/vm] chuqui% ls -l total 8912896 -rw------T 1 root wheel 4294967296 Aug 6 12:14 sleepimage -rw------- 1 root wheel 67108864 Aug 4 21:57 swapfile0 -rw------- 1 root wheel 67108864 Aug 7 16:57 swapfile1 -rw------- 1 root wheel 134217728 Aug 8 13:53 swapfile2 [chuq-laptop:/var/vm] chuqui%

if you see more than 3-4 swapfiles, you'll speed things up by rebooting and re-initalizing VM. If you haven't rebooted for a while, you may see 6-7 files especially if oyu've done a lot of image work, and that slows down the paging system (again, a 7200 RPM drive as your boot drive helps this as well...)

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  • as an addendum to this -- there seems to be a bug in lightroom 3 for the Mac where for some reason it decides it really needs about 6 gigs of virtual memory. on a 4 gig machine, this can really sludge it out. I've talked to a number of other lightroom users who see this occasionally; when that hapens, LR can get really slow. quitting lightroom and rebooting will bring speed back up to normal. all indications are this is a flaw in lightroom of some sort, but not one you'll notice with 8 gigs of ram, but will at times with 4. – chuqui Jun 6 '11 at 3:29
  • When I upgraded to Lion, I found Lightroom no longer worked well enough for me in 4 gig, so I upgraded to 8 gig. Now that I'm running mountain lion, it seems to be a bit laggy at times (2010 Macbook Pro 2.4GHz), enough to annoy me at times. the primary slowdown seems to be convrting to and using DNG, so I've switched conversion to the end of my workflow and it's sped things up a lot. It doesn't seem to be memory, but CPU saturation. – chuqui Sep 28 '12 at 5:12

Memory usage is fine, as long as you have enough system memory to cover it. Once you start running out of memory, then you'll notice performance problems.

Switching between images in LR3 is a bit slow; I think there are enough users who report this issue that an update to lightroom will address it.

You've probably nailed it, the 5400 RPM hdd is your biggest bottleneck. That said, you should forego the 7200 RPM and go for an SSD. I replaced my 7200 RPM drive in my MBP with an SSD, and the MBP performance screams.

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  • How much memory is enough? What are you running? I don't know if I can justify the expense of an SSD right now. – Craig Nicholson Jul 23 '10 at 15:41
  • On my MBP, 4GB is the limit. I can push it to 6GB, but I dont think it's worth it. By enough memory, I mean, since you have 4GB of RAM, as long as your computer is using less than 4GB, then you won't have memory issue. – Alan Jul 23 '10 at 15:52
  • Alan is right, as long as you are not maxing out your RAM, you are fine in that department. SSD swap for your 5400 rpm HD will make the MBP screams, not only during LR3, but overall. Another possible factor is your graphic card. I am not sure what kind of graphic card you have, but if it's maxed out it will then starts to use CPU power (which then slows the MBP down). – Johannes Setiabudi Jul 23 '10 at 17:27

Regarding your second point, try increasing the 'Camera RAW cache settings' in the Preferences ('File editing' tab). This defaults to 1Gb and will determine if LR will need to generate the rendered preview from scratch or use a cached copy. In the Luminious Landscape tutorials, they have this set to 50Gb.

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Using a combination of high performance hardware, including a quad core CPU (Intel i7), an SSD (for very, very fast loading times) and at least 4GB ram will make Lightroom faster.

The main ticker is your CPU as this is responsible for processing the RAW files. I'd place getting a fast hard drive or SSD (very highly recommended) around the same as more RAM.

I have an iMac 27" with an SSD and Lightroom 3.6 takes around 3-4 seconds to open, and this is primarily because of the SSD. Loading 18mp raw files takes only a few seconds due to the CPU.

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