Lightroom photo storage: internal vs. external

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by mzd, Jun 15, 2016.

  1. mzd macrumors 6502a

    Jul 25, 2005
    In the past I have stored my Lightroom photos on an external FW800 drive. This was necessary due to limited internal drive space on my older iMac. Well, that iMac died and I got a new one with a 2TB Fusion drive (split into 2 1TB partitions). So I now have the space on my internal drive. My Lightroom library and preview files are on the Fusion drive, but my photos are still on the FW800 drive, now connected with a Thunderbolt adapter.
    I did a little testing, with a small Library on the 1TB internal partition (library file, previews, and RAW files) and did not see any difference in performance between that library and my main library that is pulling the RAW files off the external. This was a quick test and I was mainly just watching how long it took to switch to the Develop module and cycle through images with various amounts of edits applied. It would basically take anywhere between 1/4 and 3/4 spin on the spinning progress icon regardless of which Library I used.
    So, my anecdotal evidence is that there is no real advantage to storing the RAW photos on the internal drive. Is this consistent with other users experiences?
    I prefer to keep the files on the external because they really are the most important files on my computer and, after suffering from a recent hdd crash on the old iMac, I like just being able to plug the drive back in and not have to worry about a TM restore. Of course, there is nothing to say that my external hdd couldn't crash, but it gets a lot less use than the internal since it doesn't also host the OS and all my other files, so I feel the odds are better. Either way, I do have the TM backup in case.
  2. Dubadai macrumors regular


    Jun 16, 2015
    Stockholm, Sweden.
    If I understand you correctly, you wonder if its worth it having it internally vs. having all RAW on an external drive?

    I have about 30,000 RAW files which I have taken the past 2 years. All are stored on a RAID1 12TB (6TB with RAID1) external solution. I have the catalogs from Lightroom there as well. The only thing that is stored locally are all the programs. The rest are external.

    I have Carbon Copy Cloner doing a backup to two USB drives (offline when not backing up) every two weeks from the RAID enclosure.

    I have a separate 1TB drive for Time Machine that is always plugged in. So in total I have two enclosures plugged in at all times. My photo storage and media drive (the RAID enclosure), and dedicated Time Machine drive.

    I have not felt any need to keep the files local on the computer. USB3 with fast drives is enough for photography. Movie editing usually calls for fast SSD drives. I get 165MB/s read and write (average) to my external WD enclosure.
  3. bent christian Suspended

    bent christian

    Nov 5, 2015
    The Fusion drive is probably storing all your photo images on the slower spinning drive, so no speed advantage in using the internal if this is the case.

    I boot externally and use a 1TB internal Fusion as a fast extra drive to hold photos, video footage, and documents. Using iostat -w1 in Terminal, I can see files I copy to the Fusion drive being off-loaded to the spinning drive fairly quickly. I have no documentation to prove this, but my own experience leads me to believe that the Fusion software gives certain file type blocks priority (like sys files), and others (photos, videos, etc.) it passes off to the HDD.
  4. Ray2 macrumors 6502a

    Jul 8, 2014
    You'll see a speed difference when using ssd's either internal or Thunderbolt external. My current and important images reside on my internal ssd. The rest on an external ssd in a Thunderbolt I enclosure. There's definitely a speed difference versus my old internal and external spinners. The reason I chose to avoid Fusion.
  5. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    Just an experienced opinion - the other folks tend to agree that you might be better served with an external drive and I believe they are giving you good advice.

    What you need perhaps are three things - fast access and usability (work on files), safe storage and perhaps a backup. IF these are the things you desire, then it makes sense to go the external drive route whether it is just for your files or for your entire system.

    A tidbit for you - if you have USB3 and Thunderbolt, a single external SSD gains no benefit in speed from Thunderbolt over USB3. It is only when you go to RAID 0 or 5 etc. where Thunderbolt has the advantage. Leaving RAID out of the equation allows your to use both if you desire or just USB3 (which is obviously cheaper). Just make sure you have the better USB3 enclosures that offer the full potential of the external SSD drive.
  6. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    It sorta depends. I use externals as you do, and it doesn't slow me down much. But that's because i make previews at 1:1 to use. Lr works by using such previews, and they are perhaps more important in speeding things up than the time it takes to write say metadata changes to the original back on the old spinner. The latest Lr CC also has a feature where it caches some of the previews for faster movement between images in Develop.

    OTOH if you are copying a ginormous folder of images from hither to thither, yeah, the external will be slower. So coffee break. But a workflow paying attention to those previews (and even smart previews for offline images) can help a lot.
  7. mzd thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 25, 2005
    Thanks very much for all the responses! Looks like I should be fine storing the photos on the external.
  8. DiRoSVK macrumors newbie

    Jun 21, 2016
  9. Ray2 macrumors 6502a

    Jul 8, 2014
    An obsolete or expensive approach for the intended application. SSD's are quicker and more reliable than spinners or RAID cards. So, for speed/reliability it's an SSD. From a cost pov, its one ssd. In a commercial environment where getting back up quickly is paramount, RAID has its place. But a home solution, no.

    Too many home users are still singing the RAID tune. In 5 years it will be relegated to history. They will have to look elsewhere for their geek status.
  10. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

    Mar 25, 2009
    Folding space
    I don't quite understand this. RAID is a set of data copying strategies that is independent of the type of disk used. It doesn't matter if either SSD or HDD drives are used. You seem to imply that one SSD is better than a set of HDD drives in RAID. Other than speed of access, how is one SSD better than two or more HDD drives in a RAID structure? RAID is a backup meant to protect against data loss by copying onto multiple disks in a single operation.

    And in what way is protecting data "geek status"?

  11. geoffpalmeruk macrumors regular


    Nov 8, 2013
    Exeter, Devon
    Haters gonna hate.... I use raid and SSDs, can i claim geek status!? lol
    No i use raid for redundancy and also employ a stringant backup on my tower.
  12. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    RAID is NOT a backup.

    It certainly has it's place, but I agree it is used in lots of home situations where the user THINKS s/he is doing a backup but isn't, or where the user thinks they're getting big speed advantage, but aren't. It certainly has it's uses, at home and at work, but like any tech it can be misused.

    As geoffpalmeruck noted, it can be used for redundancy (say a disk fails but he needs to keep his home server up and running) ALONG WITH a backup in case a file goes poof.

    But it comes with complication, expense and now even needs non-Apple tools if you wanna run a GUI application to create and manage the RAID. I don't see where most people need redundant disk protection at home, and/or need the speed benefit unless they're doing heavy video editing or something. Just getting RAID cuz it's RAID without a specific use case that makes it necessary seems rather like overkill. And only necessary if you've run out of lenses to buy :)
  13. Enrico macrumors 6502


    Feb 6, 2007
    Milano / Roma
    Would a 7200 rpm drive make a difference, vs a 5400 one?
    Only to store 24mp RAW originals, since catalog-previews-cache are being stored on a fast SSD.
  14. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    In speed? not much. And a bit more power used in the 7200, and maybe a bit noisier. Certainly not compared to the SSD vs HDD difference.
  15. Ray2 macrumors 6502a

    Jul 8, 2014
    Been traveling. The OP specifically mentioned "performance" was the criteria he was looking at. So yes, as you implied, ssd has higher speed of access. At no point was redundancy discussed.

    Others have responded to your post. I'll go a bit further, very few homes need or should have RAID. Unless one is running a business out of their home where up time is absolutely essential, it's unnecessary complexity, and typically dependent on specific hardware. If you need fast turnaround from a failure, get some extra power supplies. They are by far and away the weakest link in the chain. And tell me how your RAID fares when a power supply goes down?

    I have 4 RAID multibay enclosures in my home. All of them run JBOD. And I have spare power supplies for all of them. Backup? TimeMachine works fine.
  16. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    Since you now have a computer with the luxury of plenty of storage space, my suggestion:

    - Move the library to one of the internal partitions.

    - Keep the old firewire drive as your backup for the (now moved) library.

    - And probably at least one more backup, as well!

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