How to speed up Adobe software by cleaning file system using alternate scratch disks.

May 7, 2015
Reaction score
I recently completed 4 years of being in the photo school at LSU. *pats self on back*

Through my time there I used Adobe products, mainly Photoshop CS5.1, Lightroom, and Illustrator CS5.1. Flustered by the spinning loading icon, endless lag, and long wait times (dealing with mostly gigantic camera .RAW files), I decided to dive into my system and try to make some improvements.

Here's an overview of what I did to help my computer in 2 parts:

Part 1 - Free up some space.

  • Open the  Apple menu / About This Mac / Storage. Take note of built in HD and available space.
- In my situation, the "other" category max'd out the availability, but I didn't know what this was.

  • Download and run the trusted and recommended freeware, Disk Inventory X (DiX), available at The application runs via disk image, so don't bother installing to /Applications.
  • Once open, select your Mac's HD and dbl click or highlight it and select Open Volume. You can scan individual Folders, but a full scan, followed by searching for specific folders, renders that option pretty useless IMO. DiX will take a few moments to load your folder contents.
  • Once fully loaded, DiX presents all of your file systems content neatly arranged into colorful blocks, organized by file size. You can click on each block to learn about size and location, or search for a specific folder here.
- I found out that my email (5 different accounts; thousands of useless messages) was being saved to my HD over a period of about 3 years, into a file buried deep in my Library Folder, and this was the reason for my lost space (some odd 30 or 40 gigs). I fixed this in the Mail preferences, and deleted the old mail.

  • Mail Preferences / Accounts / Advanced / uncheck the box "Automatically download all Attatchments" bytes-of-space/

  • Use DiX to get rid of any unnecessary baggage.
+ It's a good idea to restart your comp often, especially after making substantial changes.

Part 2 - (Adobe specific)

When your Adobe software such as Photoshop or Illustrator completes a function, it creates a temporary file that deletes itself once complete. The place that your Mac allows this to happen is referred to as the scratch disk. By default, your built in HD is your scratch disk. In many cases, the HD is already more than 50% full, which is why it takes the program so long when you simply try to drag a single object or select a layer or something simple. Re-routing your scratch disk and assigning it to perform on an external HD will ease the burden on your built in HD and greatly improve your performance speeds.

I bought a terabyte HD (My Passport *Ultra) for about $100 and it does the trick. The more empty available space you keep on this HD, the better for this purpose.

Follow these steps:

  • (Photoshop) Preferences / Performance / Scratch Disks / uncheck "_ur_built-in_HD" and check the external drive
  • (Illustrator) Preferences / Performance / Plug-ins & Scratch Disks / adjust your primary to the external and secondary to the built in.

Hopefully this tip can help your software as it did mine, reply with any tips, corrections, or questions.

-kjon signing out.

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments. After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.

Ask a Question