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.
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.