There are few things more frustrating than a slow and unresponsive computer program – except maybe when it goes unresponsive while you’re racing to meet an upcoming deadline!
While you can’t simply swear at it to make it run faster (trust me, I’ve tried), there are a few more practical things you can do to speed up Photoshop.
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Time to Upgrade Your Hardware
Photoshop is constantly doing tons of calculations to achieve its impressive image edits, which means that the speed of your computer hardware can have a huge impact on how fast Photoshop runs.
There are three key pieces of hardware that you can upgrade to make Photoshop run faster: your computer’s RAM, its storage drive, and its CPU.
Before we go any further, it’s important to point out that some of these upgrades are very technical and should only be attempted by advanced users who are confident in their own ability to safely upgrade their hardware. We can’t be responsible for any injury or damage that occurs!
1. Upgrading Your RAM
This is probably the easiest hardware upgrade you can perform (depending on what kind of computer you’re using). That being said, you’ll also need to know some technical details that are too complex to explain in this article, but a qualified tech support person (or your teenager, possibly) should be able to help you.
Increasing the RAM available to your system will have lots of benefits, but the biggest one is that it will reduce Photoshop’s reliance on the scratch disk. Because RAM is faster than a scratch disk, you’ll get better performance, but having a fast storage drive for use as a scratch disk is still vital (more on that in the next section).
Note: Some PC laptops and many Macs use RAM that is directly soldered to the motherboard and cannot be removed or upgraded, so be sure to check that your computer has upgradable RAM before purchasing more!
2. Upgrading Your Storage Drive
If your computer uses an old-style mechanical hard disk drive, upgrading that drive to a fast solid-state drive (SSD) will make Photoshop run much faster – and it will also make just about everything that happens on your computer faster!
You might not expect that your computer’s storage drive would have such an impact on how fast Photoshop runs, but Photoshop uses a method called a “scratch disk” to store temporary data about your open files such as history states when it runs out of RAM.
The scratch disk is typically placed on your computer’s main storage drive, but you can also set Photoshop to use a different drive (or combination of drives). Setting Photoshop to use a fast SSD as its Scratch Disk will make Photoshop run much faster.
To adjust your scratch disk settings, open the Preferences window and select the Scratch Disks section. Photoshop will list all available drives that can be used as scratch disks, as well as their available space.
Select a fast drive with plenty of free space to make Photoshop run faster. Avoid using external drives and slow mechanical platter drives for scratch disks.
3. Upgrading Your CPU
Many image editors are also hardware enthusiasts who are very aware of the performance impact that your CPU can have, which makes it all the more surprising to learn that the CPU is often the least effective hardware upgrade for Photoshop.
I don’t mean to say that upgrading your CPU is a waste of time, but your available RAM and the speed of the drive used as your scratch disk usually do a lot more to make Photoshop run faster.
Upgrading your CPU will be most noticeable if you do a lot of multi-tasking in your workflow, running multiple professional programs at the same time.
This lets you leave Photoshop chugging away in the background, applying your latest edits, while you switch programs and continue work on something else.
Hardware isn’t the only thing that is responsible for how fast Photoshop runs; your software environment can make a huge difference as well, especially if you do a lot of multitasking. Here are a few software tweaks.
4. Close Other Programs
If you want to minimize scratch disk usage and rely on your much faster RAM, one of the simplest things you can do is check to see if any of your other running programs are taking up too much RAM.
If you’re using Windows, you can right-click on the Start button and choose Task Manager from the popup menu.
If you’re using a Mac, open the Launchpad and select Activity Monitor.
Check to see if there are any programs that are using large amounts of RAM. Surprisingly, web browsers are often huge memory hogs, especially when you open 30+ tabs the way I tend to. Closing these programs can help increase the amount of RAM available to Photoshop, and make it run faster.
5. Adjust Photoshop’s RAM Usage
If your system is well-equipped with plenty of RAM, you might need to adjust the amount that is available to Photoshop. Typically, this setting is managed automatically and efficiently by Photoshop, but there are times when you want to allocate as much RAM as possible to Photoshop.
Open the Preferences window from the application menu on macOS or using the Edit menu on Windows, and locate the section labeled Performance.
Next, locate the section labeled Memory Usage. Photoshop will list your available RAM, as well as the ideal allocation range and the current range.
You can adjust the amount of RAM that Photoshop will use using the buttons and slider below or directly enter the amount you want to use.
I wouldn’t recommend raising the allocation amount above the upper limit of the Ideal Range setting, since you might experience issues with other aspects of your operating system, but sometimes the pre-configured amount is a bit low – especially on systems with 32 or 64GB of RAM.
6. Make Sure GPU Acceleration Is Enabled
This option is typically enabled by default, but it’s always worth a check, especially if you’ve recently upgraded your graphics card.
Open the Preferences window and select the Performance section. Next to Memory Usage, you’ll find a section labeled Graphics Processor Settings.
Make sure Photoshop is detecting the correct graphics card, and make sure that the Use Graphics Processor box is checked.
7. Make Photoshop Load Faster
If you’re finding yourself spending a long time staring at Photoshop’s splash screen as it loads, you might need to reduce the number of active fonts, brushes, and presets that you’re using.
Many popular brush presets feature large, high-resolution images, and loading 200 of them every time you open Photoshop is excessive unless you’re going to be using them all.
Try to restrict your active fonts, brushes, and presets to elements that you’re going to use on your current project, and load them as needed.
If you’re not sure where to start, Adobe has a great guide on how to use the Presets manager.
A Final Word
There are a lot of sites that promise to give you tips about how to make Photoshop run faster, but the uncomfortable truth is that a lot of the time, it costs money to accomplish any significant improvements. Whether it’s more RAM or adding a fast SSD for a scratch disk, the best way to make Photoshop run faster is to upgrade your hardware.
So if you’re really serious about making Photoshop run faster, you might have to dig into your wallet – but it’s worth it.
Enjoy your faster editing!About Thomas Boldt