Photoshop is a software powerhouse. It’s a sophisticated piece of software that can do any imaging task. With that said, it’ll place a major drain on the resources of any computer. So, it is imperative to set it up correctly to maximize performance on your computer. Keep in mind that performance is not the same as speed. Getting the job done is the crucial factor. For example, you may need to work on an image bigger than 150 megabytes. This file will get larger as you work on it. You don’t want Photoshop to stop working or worse, crash your system just by loading the file and executing a couple of commands. So, here are five tips to get the most out of Photoshop.
1. Buy More RAM
The best and easiest performance boost for Photoshop and your computer is to get more RAM. Photoshop is a RAM hog and will use almost as much RAM as your computer’s OS. If both the OS and Photoshop are battling for RAM, the OS will always win, even at the cost of crashing the system to gain that victory. So allow Photoshop and your OS to play nice by putting more RAM in your system. Most contemporary operating systems need a minimum of 2 GB of RAM to work and Photoshop needs 2 GB as well. The math is simple. You need at least 4 GB of RAM just to run Photoshop. So, get at least another 2 GB of RAM for Photoshop and your system to run smoothly. If your system can take more than 4 GB, then get what you can afford. Also keep in mind that it is more economical to buy the largest RAM stick that your computer’s RAM slot can hold. For example if the computer can take a 4 GB RAM sticks don’t buy a 2GB RAM stick. Why? The next time you upgrade RAM, you’ll have to take out that 2GB RAM stick to replace it with the 4GB. What a waste.
2. Lower Your History States
By default, Photoshop “remembers” 20 History states, or Undo states. If you use the History Panel, Photoshop allows you to see the last 20 menu and tool commands. It will also record every mouse click and brush stroke. The History states will use that RAM, even if you don’t use all 20 states. So in the Preferences command (Ctrl-K PC, Cmd-K, Mac), change this number to something lower, like 16 or 10. There are several work-arounds to use this lower number of states effectively. One is to simply save your work frequently. But don’t get paranoid about it. As your skill level increases this becomes a non issue and you’ll get better performance out of Photoshop.
3. Setup your Scratch Disk.
Photoshop’s Scratch Disk (Virtual Memory) allows Photoshop to use your hard drive when it runs out of RAM. The Scratch Disk is slower than RAM because Photoshop needs to hit the computer’s hard drive which is slower data read/write. Keep in mind the OS is probably hitting the hard drive at the same time Photoshop is, so this can cause a bit of a bottleneck. If you have the hard drive space, set it to double the amount of RAM you have. If your hard drive has a partition, place the Scratch Disk on one of the partitioned drives so the OS and Photoshop are not hitting the “same” drive at the same time. Keep in mind that any changes made within the Preferences command will be applied the next time you open Photoshop.
4. Use the Purge Command
This is similar to controlling History States, but you are doing it on the fly. As you work on your image, you’ll start racking up History states, undo data, and clipboard info. Go to Edit>Purge and select which options you want to clear. You can Purge a single item or all of them. Where the Save command will clear some RAM, the Purge command will clear all that information out of RAM.
5. Get a Second Hard Drive
In Tip #4 I spoke about using a partitioned disk if you have one hard drive. Keep in mind that the partition is a separate designated space on the same drive. It’s great for organization but not so much for performance. A physical second drive is a better solution. You can set the second drive or maybe better, a folder on the second drive as the Scratch Disk. That way Photoshop will only use the space in that folder and your scratch drive will offer better performance for both your computer system's OS and Photoshop. Plus, you can setup multiple Scratch Disks if you are working on large file regularly. Most desktop housings have extra bays for additional hard drives. Plus many PC laptop manufacturers now design their machines to make space for a second hard drive.
While these five tips may give you a modest speed boost, they will definitely increase Photoshop’s performance. Implement at least two and you’ll notice the difference. For more information check out this link from Adobe and be sure to view the article's accompanying video.