RAM or SSD upgrade for Photoshop

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by east1999, Mar 22, 2014.

  1. east1999 macrumors member

    Apr 1, 2011

    Lately I've been using Photoshop CS6 with a pen tablet and oftentimes the program will halt, the fan will go all the way up, and I won't be able to anything. I have an early '11 MBP and I've been considering upgrades, so what do you think will benefit Photoshop more? I've been looking at the prices and I really don't think I can do both. So either more RAM (I got 4gb) or an SSD (replacing the original 320gb drive).

    Thank you.
  2. phoenixsan macrumors 65816


    Oct 19, 2012

    it is my understanding that a SSD drive will make the time to open the files go down and the RAM upgrade can help opening big files without using paging VM into the hard drive.

    The SSD also can make Photoshop to charge faster, I think. But both upgrades have system-wide effect, so you have to ponder what is more important to you: fast times opening files and loading the software or the ability to open big files without taxing other computer components.....:confused:

    Maybe another Forum members can chime in.....:D

  3. fictionaldeity macrumors newbie

    Sep 12, 2011
    why don't you check

    if you go into activity monitor, and check your available ram during use, you will see if extra ram is needed,
    e.g. if you're only using 2.5gb/4gb of ram when you're pushing your computer then adding more ram won't really help in this instance
    (unless it's faster ram e.g. 1333MHz vs 1666MHz)
    if you're using close to your max ram during use e.g. 3.8/4gb, then ram will definitely aid.
    e.g. a person with 8gb of ram and 16gb ram, will have no performance difference if both use less than 8gb of ram on a regular basis

    An SSD is a fantastic upgrade in terms of all computer usage, this will speed things up regardless (as the biggest bottleneck is usually from the HDD).

    My recommendation: if your ram is being maxed out, then upgrade ram to stop the "freezing" that comes with too little ram,
    If you want to make most things "snappier" then go for the ssd,
    as they are awesome and can make an old computer fast again
  4. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    My old iMac (2008, 5GB RAM) runs at close to 100% RAM usage at all times. That's where I am right now, with Safari open (two tabs), Mail, and iMessage. On the other hand, my 16GB machine was running near 100% until I closed InDesign, Aperture, and a few smaller apps. Even so, it's running at around 11GB, with a similar load to the old machine. Operating systems are reluctant to flush RAM until something with a higher priority requires it - better to have something hang around in fast memory than to have to fetch it again from slow memory.

    The thing to look for in Activity Monitor is swap used (page-outs). Per Mavericks Activity Monitor Help:

    It's very possible to have a situation on a 4GB machine where RAM is nearly always at 100%, yet there's still relatively little Swap Used. Looking at both numbers tells a more complete tale.
  5. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    I would suggest you go to some Adobe forums and see what is recommended. If I were in your shoes, both your RAM and drive are rather suspect for best performance. How large are the files you are keeping? How much "history" do you allow in CS6 Photoshop? Also what are your setting within Photoshop such as size of the swap/scratch/page file and other items?

    When you run Photoshop on a more minimal set up (like yours) you would be wise to examine the settings and possibly alter them to match your set up.

    Last - just go on the Internet and type in something to the effect of "how to improve speed when using Photoshop" or how to tweak settings in Photoshop etc.
  6. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
    Get a fast scratch disk...

    More RAM is what PS wants, but you didn't list whether or not you're using a scratch disk. On my 2009 iMac with 16GB of RAM, PS always ran smoothly with my G-Tech RAID0 unit attached. On my current rMBP (late 2013 2.6, 16GB, 1TB) I use either the same G-Tech RAID (via USB with an eSATA connector) or my LaCie Rugged 256GB SSD over TB or USB3 - PS screams with the scratch disk attached, and chugs at times without a scratch disk to write to.

    Your Mac is writing to both the file and the page file(s) at the same time. A trick I used to use was to use a RAM disk as a scratch disk, but you don't have enough RAM for that IMO.

    My take, put your money first into getting a fast and small SSD and attach it to the fastest interface you have. I will even keep with me a fast and small (8/16/32/64GB SD card when I'm on the road to set up as a scratch - I use PNY, they've been bulletproof for me, but any good SD manufacturer would work. Get the fastest one you can afford...). Setting up the scratch disk in PS only takes a few seconds.

    Second, third, and fourth - get more RAM. Last, get a 7200 RPM HD or SSD to replace your HD.
  7. east1999 thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 1, 2011
    Thank you for you replies. At the moment, just by running Chrome and iTunes, I have 3.85gb under use. If I go into PS then the swap is used too.

    I am guessing the RAM is what's missing here. I know the disk can be a bottleneck too, but I don't mind slow disk operations (for now - I intend to upgrade at some point).

    Now the question is -- can I buy just 8gb and save some money, or is 16gb the right purchase? Moreover, do you think I can use the leftover RAM in another computer?
  8. Giuly, Mar 25, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2014

    Giuly macrumors 68040


    You could replace one of the 2GB RAM modules with an 8GB one, which gives you a total of 10GB.

    It wouldn't be perfect as your RAM won't run in dual-channel mode anymore, so it would be good to replace the other 2GB module later on, too.

    As for the storage: If you don't need your DVD drive, you could use a smaller SSD, install your old hard drive in the optical bay with a OWC DataDoubler and set it up as a Fusion Drive.
  9. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
    You're guessing incorrectly. I answered your questions and where to put your money. I asked my two production guys over lunch today and they're backing me up. Good luck.
  10. east1999 thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 1, 2011
    re: campyguy - I don't think I can spend money on an external disk with a high-speed connection. That would probably benefit Photoshop, but that's it, plus I can't carry that around.

    Right now I'm thinking whether 8gb RAM is enough.
  11. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    RAM. For each photo you open, Photoshop will want about 7x the size of the photo for RAM. If you do extensive edits it will want more RAM. This is on top of the RAM it wants just for the application. If you want to get a sense of what might happen with more RAM, restart your computer and don't let anything open up automatically, other than the bare OS. No Chrome, no iTunes, etc. Then open up Photoshop and do a couple of photo edits. Should be 'snappier'. But also look at the memory used... Probably not a lot of free RAM showing, eh?

    For the most bang for your buck - bump your RAM to 8GB. If it's an old system I wouldn't add more. You may want to restart your system to clear the RAM before a heavy duty editing session too. While I trust OS X to clear unused RAM as needed, I've never trusted PS to take enough RAM when it opens. But this could be old school thinking.

    A fast scratch disk is 2nd thing I'd look at... but only after I had enough RAM.
  12. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
    My "old" 2012 rMBP has 8GB RAM and a 512GB SSD. Using a cheap scratch - a $39 PNY high speed SSD sped things up more than moving to my new 16GB/1TB SSD rMBP.

    I used a $30 HS SD card in my 2009 iMac as a scratch disk for PS 5.5 and PS 6, which had the 7200 RPM 1TB drive in it - and I could measure the change in processing time in a week by 3 hours over a week's time in production between 3 of us. PS's caching scheme is unlike other applications. On my old iMac, it was like the machine changed into a beast. If you've never used a RAID, you won't get what I'm describing here. I have two setups - one RAID0 and one RAID1. The former gets me 4 times the throughput and never waiting over the latter.

    Hey, it's your money. Head over to Adobe's forums and ask your question. You'll get my answer, but from pros... ;)
  13. treestar macrumors 6502

    Feb 28, 2010
    I don't want to answer the question because it's hard to say, but PS can never get enough RAM in my experience. It does however benefit from setting the RAM usage under 75% and having a fast scratch disk. This prevents lockups best.
  14. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    SSD, period. People always forget that Photoshop writes EVERY action directly to disk for its history. Even with 64GB RAM, it does this. And it gets WORSE with more RAM, as you will open bigger files and the incremental changes become bigger too.
    With SSD and 4GB ram, it is WAY MORE capable than on a 5400rpm HD with 16-32GB.

    Cheapest option: if you are not using UNDO often, put the history to 1!
  15. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
    Jesus, I call *********. http://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/kb/optimize-performance-photoshop-cs4-cs5.html

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