New: Updated for Lightroom 3

Some regular maintenance and a little TLC from you will go a long way toward improving your Lightroom experience and boosting its performance. Here are five things to get you moving faster right now.

1. Free up space on your startup drive. You want to keep at least 15-20% (or more) of your startup drive free and clear of data at all times. Your operating system and some applications need the elbowroom to operate. Running out of space can seriously impact performance. Simple things like emptying your recycle bin/trash, moving data to another internal or external drive or uninstalling unused applications can recover an amazing amount of disk space. Keep in mind that if you are going to move photos to another drive that you should do it from inside of Lightroom.

2. Run your system’s disk maintenance functions. Windows has two utilities that can help you keep your system running in optimal condition—Error-checking and Defragmentation. Double-click My Computer and then right-click the C drive and choose Properties. Go to the Tools tab to launch these utilities. Run the Error-checking first, reboot and then come back and defrag. These can take some time to complete, so you might consider running them overnight.

On a Mac you have the Disk Utility. Open Finder and go to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility, select your disk and click the First Aid tab. Click the Repair Disk Permissions button. This is good to do before and after you install any application as a regular part of your workflow.

3. Relaunch and optimize your Lightroom catalog. Lightroom has a built-in catalog maintenance function that you can run any time you feel performance is getting sluggish. You probably won’t notice a significant difference on a small catalog, but there is no harm in running this operation. This just performs some basic housekeeping on your catalog and can result in both a smaller catalog file size and a performance boost.

In Lightroom 2, go to Edit > Catalog Settings (On Mac, go to Lightroom > Catalog Settings) and click the General tab. Click the Relaunch and Optimize button. Lightroom will close and relaunch. During startup you will see the Optimizing Catalog progress window, which lets you know it is working. Click the OK button when the operation is complete and Lightroom will open.


In Lightroom 3 this process works a little differently. The big change in Lightroom 3 is that there is no relaunch and optimize button on the Catalog Settings dialog. Instead, just go to the File menu and choose Optimize Catalog. Click the Optimize button when prompted to complete the process.

4. Increase the size of your Camera Raw Cache. The purpose of this cache is to store recently rendered versions of photos you’ve brought into the Develop module to prevent Lightroom from having to re-render them each time, which can greatly boost performance. Go to Edit > Preferences (On Mac, go to Lightroom > Preferences) and click the File Handling tab. Increase the size of the Camera Raw Cache to 20-40 GB based on the amount of free space you have (see Step 1). If you have another internal drive with more free space you can click the Choose button and relocate it to that disk. Click OK to put the settings into effect.


5. Render 1:1 previews after import. This is one of those times where you can pay up front and enjoy faster performance down the road, meaning you will notice a slight performance drag right after the import is complete, but once all the 1:1 previews are rendered you will enjoy a performance boost while you are working later. On the Import dialog there is a setting at the bottom for Initial Previews. This allows you to tell Lightroom what to do about rendering previews immediately after the import process is finished. If you click the drop-down menu and choose 1:1, you can have Lightroom jump right into the process of rendering 1:1 previews right after the import is finished. You will see the progress meter above the Identity Plate increment as it works. You may notice a bit of sluggishness while that is happening, but once it is complete it should be much smoother sailing from there.

Location of Initial Previews setting in Lightroom 2:


Location of Initial Previews setting in Lightroom 3 (top right corner of expanded Import dialog):


The one downside to this is that 1:1 previews are stored in the preview cache (alongside the catalog file) and can take up a fair bit of space over time. To keep from undoing the work you did in Step 1 you can configure Lightroom to discard those large 1:1 previews after a certain period of time. Go to Edit > Catalog Settings (On Mac, Lightroom > Catalog Settings) and click the File Handling tab and choose the interval that makes sense for your needs. There isn’t any reason to set it to Never as Lightroom will always re-render the 1:1 previews if needed at a later date.