Like most software developers, Adobe maintains a list of system requirements for Lightroom that can be used to help ensure the hardware in your system will work with Lightroom. However, most "system requirements" lists tend to cover the required hardware, not what pc hardware would actually give the best performance. In addition, some lists can be outdated, list old hardware revisions, or simply outright list sub-optimal hardware.
Because of how inconsistent those lists can be, we've taken the time to perform testing to determine what hardware runs Lightroom the best. Based on this testing, we have come up with our own list of recommended hardware for Lightroom.
When comparing two CPUs that use a similar architecture, there are two main specifications that define the capability of the CPUs:
- The frequency is how many operations a single CPU core can complete in a second (how fast it is).
- The number of cores is how many physical cores there are within a CPU (how many operations it can run simultaneously).
Whether a high frequency or high core count CPU is better depends on how well a program is designed to take advantage of multiple CPU cores (often referred to as multi-threading). In the case of Lightroom, the only action we have tested that benefits greatly from having a high core count CPU is exporting photos. Everything else (including importing photos and generating previews) performs much better with a quad core CPU running at a higher frequency.
Video Card (GPU)
In Lightroom CC 2015 and Lightroom 6, the software is able to utilize the power of your GPU to improve performance when editing images in the Develop module. At the moment, the performance gains are fairly modest, although Adobe has been investing heavily in GPU acceleration. While a high-end GPU is not required to get the benefits of GPU acceleration in Lightroom, it may be a good idea to get a slightly faster GPU than you think you need to help future proof your system.
Lightroom is also very light on VRAM requirements, so even a card with just 2GB of VRAM should be more than enough. However, if you work with large images in Photoshop or use a 4K monitor it is a good idea to use a card that has at least 4GB of VRAM if possible. Workstation video cards are not required for Lightroom, although if you will be using a 30-bit monitor you will need a NVIDIA Quadro video card as GeForce cards currently do not support 30-bit display output.
Although it is likely that Adobe will increase GPU acceleration support in Lightroom in the future, the current demand on the video card is actually relatively light. We recommend either a GeForce GTX 1060 GeForce GTX 1070.
While the exact amount of RAM you need is going to depend on the size and number of images you will be working with, we generally recommend a minimum of 16GB for all our systems. In our experience Lightroom rarely, if ever, will need more than 16GB although if you use the machine for other things like editing large images (750MB+) in Photoshop you may need 32GB or more of system RAM.
For Lightroom, ECC memory (which can automatically detect and fix minor memory errors) is not required. ECC is almost never a bad idea but ECC memory has a small amount of overhead that makes it very slightly slower than standard RAM and also requires an Intel Xeon processor.
Storage (Hard Drives)
With the falling costs associated with SSDs, we almost always recommend using an SSD for the primary drive that will host your OS and Lightroom itself. The high speed of SSDs allows your system to boot and launch applications many times faster than any traditional hard drive. If possible, locating your catalog and preview files on an SSD can slightly increase performance (around 2-8%) for a few tasks - most notably converting to DNG and exporting images. You can either purchase a second dedicated SSD for this or simply keep these files on your primary SSD.
SSDs are still more expensive than traditional drives per GB, however, so for image and long term storage we recommend having a traditional hard drive to store your source images. Keeping your images on a traditional hard drive does not greatly impact performance for any Lightroom task we have tested, although if you want to be able to transfer and move around your images more quickly you may consider using an SSD for this as well.
While most of Lightroom's default settings are just fine for the majority of users, we recommend increasing the size of your camera RAW cache from the 1GB default. This can be done in Edit -> Preferences -> Performance and can make a big difference if you work with a large number of RAW images. The exact size you want will depend on the number of images you work with, but 20GB tends to be the most common recommendation.
Recommended Systems for Lightroom
High-powered, quiet system
Based on the Puget Systems Serentiy, this quiet system has the fastest CPU available for the majority of Lightroom tasks and supports up to 64GB of RAM.