Lightroom: SSD v Hard Drives

category: Lightroom • 2 min read

Some people are buying SSD, Solid State Drives, to speed up their Lightroom and their various disk operations.

SSD started in 1978 at Texas Instrument with the first SSD drive: 16kb. Yes, 16 kilobytes and that’s when the hard drives’ size were 1Mb and 5Mb. The single largest user for SSD is the military for their laptops. SSD is more shock resistant, but more importantly, with the push of a 3 finger combination the laptop can be erased instantly to prevent the “enemy” from getting the data. You can’t do that with a hard drive.

So back to the speed. Some people claim that their SSD drive are so much faster…. They can boot from an SSD in half of the time of a regular hard drive, so it must be lot faster than a hard drive, and that’s when we start to get into problems.

  1. There are single-level cell SSDs and multi-level cell storage SSDs. Usually the single-level cell SSD is faster than the multi-level cell.
  2. Performance of flash SSDs is difficult to benchmark. How to test it? Size of the files, size of the memory blocks, temperatures, fragmentation…

Here are some the general findings:

  • SSDs are usually slower for larger size blocks when reading
  • Files that are 128Kb in size run 10% slower on an SSD than a typical 1 Tb hard drive.
  • Files that are 256Kb in size run 25% slower on an SSD than a typical 1 Tb hard drive.

So why is it so much faster when the computer boot? In various tests, they have found:

  1. 0 = boot to 8 minutes: 10,000 I/O per second1
  2. 8 minutes to 42 minutes: 4,000 I/O per second
  3. 42 minutes to 8 hours: 3,000 I/O per second

The main advantage of the SSD is the instantaneous seek of 0.1 millisecond vs 3 to 5 millisecond for the hard drives. The main disadvantage of the SSD technology is the sensitivity to heat. This means that the SSD will perform worth on laptops than on desktops.

  • Will Lightroom run faster with an SSD?

    1. If the catalog and the 1:1 previews are on the SSD, there will be some speed improvements.
    2. If the previews stored on the SSD are not 1:1 previews, then there will be no speed improvement. Most of the time is spent generating the previews.
  • The problem is that the hard drive technology is so wide spread and optimized to the yin-yang that it will take a while for the SSD technology to improve on the hard drives.

  • Me, at this time, I’m not bothering with SSD yet, it’s too expensive and not enough bang for the buck.

  1. IOPS = Input/Output operations per second, almost the equivalent of read/write operations