Taking Care of my Pictures

My iMac Desktop is only about 3 years old but is showing signs of stress.  It has become very slow, and semi-unstable at times.  It has a 1TB internal drive which is 80% full, mostly with my 30k images.  I recently installed 32GB of ram memory, hoping that would help.  It did slightly, but I still get a lot of the “spinning beachball of death”, and frequent non-responsive software.  Running the Apple disk utility shows no issues with the internal hard drive.  I spent hours cleaning our garbage from the hard drive (cache, old files, etc), but the problem persists, so I concluded that it may be a bad disk, or more likely an overcrowded disk.  since the disk is over 50% full, recent software updates (OS and Photoshop/Lightroom) have probably been written on the slowest part of the disk, and/or, there is not enough scratch space for Photoshop and Lightroom to work with the large image files.  So my plan, before bailing out and taking the machine into Apple’s computer configtechnicians is to reconfigure how I handle my pictures, and in the process, how I manage the backups.

Here’s my plan.  I wrote it out to test my thinking.  A lot of it has to do with how Lightroom’s catalog works.

First step is to move all my images off my internal hard drive and create an external Pictures workdisk. The move will initially be done using “Export as Catalog” in Lightroom.  This is so LR creates a completely new catalog pointing at the folders and files on the new external drive.  The software and operating system will be the only thing remaining on the internal drive giving PS and LR all the scratch disk they could possibly want. The LR catalog file will go with the images to the external hard drive.

Note, I thought about keeping my current year images on the internal drive, but decided against splitting my images for the time being, because I like to go back frequently and use old images in composites.

Step Two is to ensure that my Time Machine backup includes the external work disk drive. I believe it will automatically.

Step Three, once I’m sure my new work disk and the Time Machine are working properly, I’ll delete all my images on the internal drive.

Step Four, Set up my Dropsync to backup my work disk to a portable external disk, that I can move off site.  I may use two portable drives so I can rotate them offsite.  I already use Dropsync  with my external portable drive, so this isn’t a new process.

Step Five, Before my trips I will run the “Export as Catalog” process from the work disk to create a travel version of my pictures that I can access on the travel laptop (Macbook Air).  When I download new images from my camera when I travel, they will be on the travel drive (as well as the SD cards, so they are  backed up),  When I return home I can do another “export as catalog” back the other direction to the work drive.  The reason I would use this process instead of just copying the new images up to the work drive, is that I frequently edit images on the trip, before I return.

The best part of this plan is that I don’t have to buy a bunch of equipment.  I can do this with only one additional external hard drive (a 4TB WD hard drive).  I have and use the other equipment, but have never really thought through my configuration, so I don’t use it consistently.

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Addendum: as of Monday the 27th, I’ve started step one with a 5Tb WD My Book drive, which I reformatted to work on the iMac.

Almost all done.  iMac now only has software on its hard drive.  All documents and photos are on the external 5tb drive, and being backed up right now by Time Machine.  Final step will be to hook Dropsync back into the process to produce copies on the portable drives, and then just let the process roll.  The computer is back to running almost like it was new!  It worked.