Some tips and stories

Before I get to my tip story, here is another story: in the three+ years I have been on the Photoshop team, I seem to have been absent whenever someone showed up to take a team picture. 2 weeks ago (I was on vacation last week) Photoshop TV was here to visit while I was actually here! So, I am in episode 32, which is very exciting for me. Though at the time, I didn’t know who was filming and why, so I was more nervous than my usual funny.

My tip story: I was at a local computer store with some friends as they were buying USB memory cards that were deeply discounted. A friendly woman was helping out my friends, since she found the good cards with a great discount. She said that she was buying them for her work on some project involving Photoshop. My friends told her that I worked on Photoshop, which was my first time that I ever really told anyone in public (I’ve been trying to keep it under wraps until recently). So this was my first positive experience with a real customer! Most people when they hear I work on performance want to tell me where their pain points are with Photoshop, no one is ever happy with how fast something runs, including me.

She said that she recent bought a new machine and the salesperson from this other store told her to buy things that would make Photoshop run faster, which would have been nice if the advice was accurate. I gave her some pointers, but realized that this blog is probably a good place to do some of that as well.

The tips:

1) If you only have one hard drive and work with large files, consider getting at least a second hard drive and set that to be your scratch drive. If you can pack three drives into your machine, I would recommend one with your system and Photoshop folders and the other two drive RAIDed together and make that your scratch disk. RAIDing the two drives lets the OS treat them as one large drive but with almost half the access time (double the speed). Very nice.

2) Multicore or mutliprocessor machines. When Photoshop is working with images that are in memory, it will divide up the tasks across as many processors as you have. There is a curve associated with the number of processors and the speed up that you see, because past a certain point, overhead of communication takes more and more of your speed. So, with each processor you add, it will be faster, it is just a matter of how much faster per processor. Two processors is a nice area to be in, four if you can afford it. Around eight or more, I do not have enough experience with that configuration to comment.

3) Get the fastest memory and memory bandwidth motherboard that you can. Many of the Photoshop operations are memory bandwidth bound. This is very true with multiple processors, since each processor needs a certain amount of memory bandwidth to move image data around for processing. Also the more memory you get, the better. Photoshop will use up to 2 Gig of memory (or 3 Gig depending on the OS and machine), but anything beyond that amount, the OS uses for either other applications or caching. So, if you are switching applications a lot or working with a lot of image data, there is a big win for more memory.

4) GPU. For now, this doesn’t matter that much. A recent video card is good, GPU doesn’t really matter. True, GPUs matter more and more, and many applications use GPUs, so having one might help you in the future or it might not, but it really will not do you any good right now. I’d say wait until you know you need one, because by then, the performance per price will be much better. Until then, a video card with fast 2-d will be the biggest win in this area.

We try to make Photoshop do the most the hardware that you have. So, the better the hardware, the better the performance, with the exception of GPU.


5 Responses to Some tips and stories

  1. John Davies says:

    I’m confused. If you have Photoshop, why do you have to be present on the day the team photo is taken?

  2. itsho says:

    you haven’t said anything new. Adobe always recommnded lot of memory, lot of MHZ cpu, lot of Space in HD (raided one), and as much as you can add.the name of your article is Some tips and stories, and there is no tips for someone who already bought the computer and installed photoshop. so maybe you shold name your article “Photoshop minimum requirements

  3. Edward says:

    It is true that I have no tips to offer users who have certain hardware already – there are plenty of people who have these kinds of tips for Photoshop users. I was writing about my experience and thought I would talk about how to optimize the dollars one might spend if one was planning on buying hardware. So, if someone was about to spend money to get the most out of Photoshop, what should that person do? I was recommending against the fast GPU that the salesperson had recommended – a fast GPU isn’t the best place to spend money if one is seeking most bang per buck with CS2. CPU vs HD vs RAM each will benefit certain users more than others, so I hoped to offer some small advice to make the decision easier of which to possibly buy.

  4. Vincent says:

    I was actually just now working on a big poster size file in photoshop and were thinking “gheez this is taking forever!” and always thought only RAM would make any real diffrence. It was helpful to read your tips, thanks! I guess i’ll ask my boss to get some more RAM and another hard disk… Adding another processor might cost a bit too much though (i would have to change the motherboard too in this case so…)Thanks for the pointers!

  5. Robert Swift says:

    Hello Edward,I used to do performance analysis on Unix machines and 10base2 TCP/IP networks many years ago so I have a real envy of your role working with Photoshop in this way.I recently posted in the Adobe User to User forums about what other people used for their own build PC platforms to run Photoshop and the other apps in the CS2 suite, your comments here resonate with what others who replied said.However, I’m surprised that Adobe haven’t exploited the plugin architecture of many of the products (Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign specifically) to take advantage of more powerful hardware such as high end GPUs. Are there any plans for something like this?Finally, is there any benefit in having (say) 512Mb of RAM on a GPU vs. 128Mb? Does Photoshop use this memory in any way.Oh, one more finally. What would be your Windows based PC configuration? Intel or AMD, nVidia or ATI and which card?Many thanks – Robert.