If Your Lightroom Is Running Slow, It Might Be Because…

…your Lightroom catalog isn’t on your computer — it’s on an external hard drive, and having to write to a slower external drive (one that’s perhaps way slower than your computer’s internal hard drive) can make Lightroom crawl along big time.

I’m bringing this up today because I’m on vacation with a friend (we just left the Faroe Islands and right now we’re just leaving Iceland for our trip back home), and he was showing me how slow his copy of Lightroom Classic was running on his Windows desktop machine (yes, he brought his big rig with him here on the ship). I have to say, I’ve never seen Lightroom run slower than his copy in my entire career. It was a death crawl. Combining a three photo HDR photo preview (just the preview mind you) took about three minutes. It should have been more like 10-seconds. When he saw how fast Lightroom was running on my computer, he was floored.

Tracking down the culprit
There’s a few things that I always ask first when someone tells me Lightroom is running really slow for them, and one of the first things I ask is about the location of their catalog. It ideally would be on your computer; not on an external hard drive — your photos can be on that external no problem — just not your catalog. Also, if your computer (like many today) has an SSD drive internally, definitely put it on that drive (his had an SSD and a regular drive both internally, but the SSD is much faster).

How to make the move
This is actually pretty simple (so don’t try to overcomplicate it). Essentially here’s what your’e going to do:

  1. Drag a copy of your Lightroom catalog from your external drive over to your computer’s internal hard drive (preferably your SSD internal drive if you have one). Make sure you copy the entire Lightroom catalog over there — the one that has your catalog (its name will end with the file extension .lrcat), and your Previews file (the one with .lrdata as it’s file extension) and if you made any Smart Previews, you’ll see that file in the folder too and you need to copy that over as well.
  1. Once you’ve copied those two (or three) files onto your computer’s internal hard drive, Quit Lightroom.
  2. Now go find that newly copied catalog on your internal hard drive and double-click on it so it launches Lightroom and opens the catalog on your computer (not the old one on your external drive.]
  3. Go to the old catalog on your external hard drive and rename that old catalog and rename it with a name so you’ll know it’s the old catalog and that you no longer use that one — from now on you’ll always use the one on your internal drive. You might rename it with the word “OLD” in front of the name, so it’s obvious. Also, rename the Preview file (the one with .lrdata as it’s file extension) with the exact same name (so add “OLD” in front of its name as well). Same if you have a Smart Previews data file. That’s it.

Another thing to try
This is one that has helped a bunch of folks — go to Lightroom’s Preferences; click on the Performance tab, and turn off the checkbox for “Use Graphics Processor’ (yes, turn it off). Now restart Lightroom and see if you see a difference. For some folks, this one thing made all the difference in the world. Give it a try.

Lightroom Classic should be running pretty quickly on your computer if your computer is just a couple of years old. If it’s not; something’s wrong. Something’s configured wrong, or a checkbox is turned on/off that shouldn’t be. Check out this article I wrote called, “If your Lightroom is running slow, it’s probably one of these seven reasons” that might really help get your copy of Lightroom up to speed.

Have a great weekend everybody. I have lots of photos to share from my trip real soon. 🙂


P.S. If you led a Photo Walk last year as part of my Worldwide Photo Walk, make sure you check out my blog post today at scottkelby.com

Author: Scott Kelby

Scott is the President of KelbyOne, an online educational community for photographers, Photoshop and Lightroom users. He's editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine, Editor of "Lightroom magazine"; Conference Technical Chair for the Photoshop World Conference & Expo, and the author of a string of bestselling Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography books. You can learn more about Scott at http://scottkelby.com

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  1. I recently I’ve been struggling with Lightroom its dead slow now importing, the files get transferred to the folder in no time but lightroom just cannot process it. after having a adobe rep remote my PC and take a look they couldn’t find the issue and we narrowed it down to a hardware issue.
    I suspected it to but guess what after building a new pc i5 9600k 6 core at over 4 Ghz 16gb of high speed ram and two 1 TB high speed M.2 read write 300mb’s.
    I’m still having issues what a nightmare, I’m starting to consider alternatives luckily i’m not making money from my photos currently but if i was i would have blown a fuse especially after all the upgrades i still have the issues.

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  2. hello Scott,
    I used a I7 pc under win10, 16GB ram, ssd, nvidia 1050 graphic card, disabled xmp, mobile access to try to make lightroom speed acceptable.
    I noticed my images were on a SATA mechanical disk and this made the huge difference to move them on SSD too because I suppose LR makes access to the image folder too.
    Now I have a Intel NUC, M2MVME, 32GB ram, radeon card and of course everything is faster but LR is still slow, definitely slow.
    For several monthes, more and more messages like “LR not responding” appearing/disappearing after 10-30sec. never happend one year ago. difficult to browse imported images while importing,advised not to jump too fast to develop module while LR has just opened,…
    I am really hesitating to go to bridge+camera raw+photoshop instead of using LR.

    best regards

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  3. Mr. Kelby, Thank you for such a GREAT TIP. I made a HUGE difference moving the catalog from a spinning internal disk to the OS SSD. Thank you , thank you, thank you.

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  4. To my laptop instead lightroom classic cc is triggering DPC WATCHDOG VIILATION BSoD roughly after 1 hour of editing.
    Only Lightroom classic, Photoshop and everything else just fine.

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  5. Lightroom has been slow for years even on super fast computers. Its rubbish. I edit on Capture One Pro now.

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  6. Why are you suggesting copying the catalog files over while Lightroom is running (implicitly, at least, since you say to quit LR once you’ve copied the files)? Lightroom might have the catalog open, and some operations will keep writing to the catalog in the background. You don’t want to be copying open files around.

    Much better to quit Lightroom, optionally doing the backup, and THEN copy the catalog once Lightroom is no longer running.

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  7. Should the author not take into consideration that an external USB3 (or 3.1) SSD can actually be faster than the internal driver, and then the problem with slowness would be somewhere else.

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