My desktop computer is a Mac Mini, a machine that is slow by nature. To make matters worse, mine is the first generation of the Intel version, and the cheapest variety. With RAM limited to 2GB and a HDD of 60GB (of which around 7GB is available after all software have taken their share), running Photoshop, Bridge, InDesign, Entourage, Firefox and Toast at the same time, sometimes made it possible to go out find a wife, marry her, raise children, divorce and get back into my condo while waiting for the computer to convert an image from RGB to CMYK. Or something like that.
So I looked into different options:
- Buy a new, better and faster computer. Tempting, but I could buy a lens or even two for those monies. Rejected
- Upgrade the Mini. Sorry, but 2GB RAM is the absolute maximum, and the limit for HDD is 120GB. That wouldn't really cut it either.
- Other solutions. Sounds tempting. I like "other solutions", particularly those I haven't tried before
So, I searched the web for "other solutions", and this is what I came up with:
Probox 4-Bay Enclosure, the non-raid version. Somewhat less than $100, complete with a cooling fan (important, since two of my single enclosure external disks have had electronic failures, probably due to over-heating), automatic power down and simple disk installation (no tools needed other than the screwdriver that comes with the box). USB and e-SATA (e-SATA doesn't work on the Mac )
1TB Western Digital HDD (or any other large HDD, but 1TB is nice) at less than $100 too.
Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC), free shareware, but the guy who made it will get my contribution. Absolutely great software.
After installing and connecting the HDD, I made two partitions, one 300GB for system and application software, and the rest for "work in progress". Then, CCC copied the entire HDD of my Mac to the 300GB partition, making it bootable.
Next step was "System Preferences", where the new disk automatically is detected as an alternative booting device, and click on it. Restart computer, and I'm up and going. After the restart, the "Dock" automatically refers to the new disk, so application software is started from there and not from the internal HDD, which was my main purpose.
Did it help? Answer: Yes
Did it help a lot? Answer: Yes
I'm not into shooting brick walls, and I don't own a stopwatch, but that really not needed here. It's not like my computer is twice as fast. When running RAM-intensive applications like Photoshop, Bridge and Illustrator, my computer is many times as fast. It's a completely new world
If anybody wonder why this is happening, here's the explanation:
Hardly any computers have enough RAM to run at their maximum, and even those that have, very often cannot utilise the RAM as good as one would wish, due to technical restraints in software as well as hardware.
So, computers use parts of the HDD as scratch disk, paging, swapping and whatever else the operation is called: to store data that overflows from the RAM. There are many factors that slows this process down, but for my own computer, I have solved two of the most important ones: physical space and fragmentation. Physical space is the easy part, but if a HDD is shared between many different tasks, it will change all the time, and data is fragmented, making it slower. This is the reason why I defined one separate partition for system and applications and one for data, giving system data an uninterupted area where it can be written and read with as little fragmentation as possible, and within a smallest possible physical area of the HDD, making physical access time shorter.
Before I started this process and read a bit of information on the internet, I was afraid that the USB connection would be too slow and slow the process down, but compared to the problem of having too little HDD space, this is insignificant. FireWire or e-SATA would of course have been even faster, but I wasn't patient enough to find a FW HDD-enclosure, and again, e-SATA doesn't work on a Mac.
I am btw. very impressed with how fast and easy this process was on the Mac. Even my mother could have managed
Since the 4-bay enclosure solution works so well, I also plan to re-organise my external HDD units in the following way:
Enclosure 1 will contain 1 x 1TB for system and "Work in Progress", as well as 3 x 1TB backup of Enclosure 2. Enclosure 2 will contain 1 x 1TB backup for system and WiP and 3 x 1TB with data, mostly photos. I will organise it this way to avoid system slowdowns when dealing with large amount of photo data, like batch processing of RAW files etc. Still, I will have two complete and identical units. I will use CCC for backup. My single unit enclosures will be used for off-location backups.
That was a brief description of what I have been doing this morning, and believe me: it took longer time writing this than it took implementing the new procedure
S5 with 85mm f/1.8 @ f/2.8