I've got a 27" 2.8 i7 iMac. I recently moved from iPhoto to Aperture for managing my photos, and am not all that happy with the performance.

With a bit of diagnosis, I've seen that 4GB RAM doesn't really seem to be enough - I'm getting lot of virtual memory page outs. I'm going to go ahead and upgrade to 8GB.

Would moving my Aperture library onto an external firewire hard disk improve performance? It seems like FW800 is fast enough to cope with modern hard drives.

http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=firewire+800 http://www.storagereview.com/php/benchmark/bench_sort.php

I'd love to hear experiences from anyone who has tried this, and anyone else who has some good advice for improving Aperture performance in general.

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    Is 8GB the maximum for that particular model? More RAM always helps. – Please Read My Profile Mar 2 '11 at 15:01
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    16GB is I think – cam8001 Mar 2 '11 at 16:06
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    In that case, go for it. The increased RAM will both benefit active usage and provide more caching for disk. – Please Read My Profile Mar 2 '11 at 19:31
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    This seems like it might get better answers on superuser. – Evan Krall Mar 3 '11 at 3:57
  • Just a random thought: Aperture is a pro level app and will be much more feature-packed and powerful. So don't expect it to be as fast as your iPhoto. – jon2512chua Mar 3 '11 at 4:49

I have tried Aperture on the same (low-end) machine with both 2GB of RAM and 8GB of RAM. The difference is huge; with 2GB it is unusable, with 8GB it is OK.

So I would suggest that you first go through the memory upgrade and after that see if you still need more power.

Edit: This is an old question, and hardware has advanced a lot in the recent years. Others have already suggested that using an SSD could help a lot. Based on my recent experience, this is indeed the case. Moreover, SSD is already so cheap that you can often afford to put your entire Aperture library (with masters) on an SSD drive.

I just wanted to add that you do not need buy expensive Thunderbolt SSD drives; there is a much cheaper option: USB 3. You can simply buy an inexpensive SSD drive and a good USB 3 enclosure (e.g., this one). If you have a modern Mac with a USB 3 connectors, this combination should give you a very good performance in comparison with old-fashioned hard disk drives.

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    8gb has made a big difference, I've been enjoying Aperture a lot more since upgrading. – cam8001 Mar 9 '11 at 14:43

FireWire 800 is clearly slower than SATA. While, in practice, it should not slow you down too much, it certainly won't give you a performance boost.

However, what should help a lot is installing an SSD in your Mac. It's not exactly cheap, though... Might be something to consider in future when the prices fall.

  • Be aware that with current technology, a cheap SSD may in fact make things worse. Especially as it ages. – Please Read My Profile Mar 2 '11 at 14:58
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    Also, I'm on an iMac so it's just not economic to install an SSD. I'm very aware of the hard drive being the bottleneck on modern PCs. – cam8001 Mar 2 '11 at 16:05
  • @cam8001 Why is it not economic on an iMac? In case you're referring to TRIM: It's coming with Lion. – eWolf Mar 3 '11 at 12:31
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    Because to install it you need to completely dissassemble your mac. I just had a look at OWC's site, and it appears to be a lot cheaper to have this done than it used to be: eshop.macsales.com/shop/turnkey/iMac_2010_27/SSD , but I live in the UK so I'm not sure its an option for me. – cam8001 Mar 3 '11 at 12:34
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    Instead of disassembling the iMac to install a SSD, you could also use an external Thunderbolt SSD drive to store the Aperture library. The bandwidth is much greater than firewire. It is a bit more expensive however. Separating the drive running the OS and software from where the Aperture library resides will help with performance. – ckoerner Oct 18 '12 at 15:27

A great tip for speeding up performance in Aperture 3 is to turn of the Faces feature. I found this to be a substantial speed increase on a MBP i5 2.4GHz with 4GB RAM.

From the Aperture > Preferences (Cmd+,) menu, click the General tab, turn off Enable Faces.


For your thumbnails/previews, an SSD is going to help a lot, so if you can install an SSD that will speed up the browsing/management side of things (though I'd max out your RAM first).

If you can't afford an SSD of sufficient size, then you won't lose too much performance by having the Masters on an external Firewire/eSATA drive (in fact this may be faster as you'll be spreading the disk-access load over two drives).

NAS/network shares are also OK for masters (on par with USB), but don't use this for vaults or the library (even the ~1ms latency kills performance).

In general keeping your events/library small will be better for performance, so it might be good to split off your projects into a whole new library at various points (e.g. per year, per client, per event-type, whatever). Deleting the photos you are sure you'll never need again as well (if you don't already do this in your workflow).

Closing other apps while using Aperture will help too; especially browsers (they're all memory hogs these days). Sure they'll get swapped out as Aperture expands to fill your RAM, but its quicker if they don't need to be.


The best way from my experience is to upgrade your memory. My iMac has almost the exact configuration as yours, except that I recently upgraded from 8GB to 32GB. The result is much more impressive than I could have imagined - navigating in Aperture is now instant. It seems as if the entire database is cached.

I have also tested Aperture on an SSD-based Mac, but to my surprise I found that adding more memory seems to make an even greater impact (and is more cost effective as well).

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    After using Lightroom for a while, I think it is worth mentioning that adding more memory seems to have next to no effect on its performance, whereas using an SSD makes a big difference. I much prefer the aggressive caching of Aperture to the disk-trashing of Lightroom. – Henrik Dec 29 '12 at 10:58

A fragmented library can kill Aperture's performance, so try defragging. A program like iDefrag can defrag individual files.

You can also do little tweaks like turning off Faces and Places.

Putting the library on a separate drive will obviously free up space, but any performance improvement you notice might well be down to the fact that it will defrag the library as you copy it.

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    The poster doesn't say if they're using a solid state drive (SSD), but I should point out that defragging an SSD is not only pointless, but will put needless wear on the driving, causing it to slow down over time. – Hank Apr 27 '11 at 20:12

I'm also using Aperture on a 27" 2.8 i7, but with 8GB of RAM, and I have experienced no performance issues, although that's no guarantee that you won't.

Particularly with large RAW files, more memory really makes a difference.

  • This doesn't read as an answer on how to improve performance of aperture; you might want to consider rewording this to focus on how your setup is different, and how that might improve performance for the original poster... – Rowland Shaw Apr 27 '11 at 18:04

I've got the 2.8 i7 with 8GB of RAM. Thinking about upgrading to 16GB as I just saw it on Newegg for $179.

I haven't tried running Aperture 3 alone on this machine, but while rendering in After Effects Aperture was SLOW...

I wish I had the Mid-2010 model so I could install an SSD internally, but just ordered an 8TB RAID system instead so will see how I can use that to speed things up.

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    Hi Blake, and welcome to the site. What you've posted here as an answer, doesn't read like an answer -- this is a question and answer site, not a general forum (feel free to take a look at the FAQ); you might want to consider rewording this to explain how the original poster can improve the performance of their system. – Rowland Shaw Apr 27 '11 at 18:08

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