Lightroom: Speed of Catalog

category: Lightroom • 2 min read

As I said before, I’m not in a rush to convert from Lightroom 2 to Lightroom 3. Right now, on a separate computer, I’m testing Lightroom 3. Actually, it’s not a real computer but a VMware box, which is a virtual computer that runs on the “real” computer. It’s configured as a Core2Duo with 3Gig of RAM and plenty of disk space.

The first step is to convert the existing Lightroom 2 catalog. So:

  1. Copy the existing Lightroom 2 catalog to the new computer
  2. Open the copied catalog in Lightroom 3, which asks if I want to convert it to Lightroom 3. I said yes.
  3. Wait, wait and wait. Almost 2 hours later it’s done.

What almost 2 hours to convert a 143 megabytes catalog with only 11 thousand photos? Could it be because it’s running under VMware? No, because I installed another copy of Lightroom 3 on the Boss’ computer, without my serial number, and it only took 4 minutes less.

The Lightroom 2 catalog was: 143 Meg, the new Lightroom 3 catalog is: 131 Meg. But it’s slow as hell! Terrible. Can’t use it! Bummer! So it’s testing and debugging time.


  1. Start for scratch with a brand new catalog. This means going back to Lightroom 2 and saving all the changes to the photos as XMP sidecars.
    • This will keep the keywords, copyrights and final edits.
    • This will lose all the history, all the virtual copies, and the collections, smart and static.
  2. Try to play around and see what I can do. I deleted:
    • All the previews
    • Purge the cache: Edit > Preferences > File Handling > Purge Cache` in the camera raw section.

Guess what? Deleting the previews and purging the cache fixed it. Now it’s quite fast. My gut feel and I will have to do more testing, is that to get the full speed benefits of Lightroom 3, you should start a brand new catalog.