I've recently bought a HP xw8600 workstation (2x Xeon E5430, 8GB DDR, Quadro FX 4600, 2x146 SAS HDD in RAID), thinking that this would be a perfect workstation for Photoshop.
I've made a RAID from the two 146GB SAS Hard Drives, and split the memory in 3:
- 87 GB for Windows
- 97 GB for scratch disk
- 71 GB other programs and stuff
All in all the work flow is fluid and you can see the power of this little monster but in Photoshop I was really disappointed! Editing a large file (200cm by 80cm) made PS really laggy which was a surprise since I have 8 Cores to take care of the processing. Taking a closer look at Task Manager, I could clearly see the problem: only one Core was doing the processing and was loading at max every time for example I was quickly zooming in and out or when moving a layer with a bunch of layer style applied. Looking for solutions I've found the so called Core Parking fix which didn't do anything. Going one step forward, I've spent a whole day installing Mac OSX 10.7.4 Lion to see how Photoshop was behaving there. To my surprise in OSX PS used all the cores when working the same large file. So it seems that either Windows 7 limits Photoshop's ability to use all the cores of the CPUs or maybe Photoshop for Windows it self has this limitation.
Later on I've heard a guy saying that he came across some special setting in Windows that would unlock all the Cores in Photoshop and other applications and that he would sell me the solution for 250 Euros. It's hard to believe that he knows something I couldn't find across the whole internet.
So what do you think about all this? Is there a way to make Photoshop CS6 use all the 8 Cores efficiently?
Well, the simple answer is, that your system is misconfigured and PS probably doesn't properly take advantage of hardware acceleration. Could be anything from graphics driver to a specific system libray/ motherboard driver not being there. Impossible to know, but definitely check your device manager and update all drivers where appropriate.
Thanks for your reply but I don't think so.
All the drivers are up to date. Device Manager is ok and Premiere fully loads all the 8 cores. I know Photoshop has a limited support for multicore but damn... this is really limited!
Hardware wise the system is a Workstation and a damn solid one... you can's missconfigure this and still have a working system.
So either Photoshop has a limited support for this kind of CPUs (dual Xeon 5430) or I must tweak some hidden Windows registry settings or something... dunno... I'm open for suggestions here!
Anyone trying to sell you an "unlock cores" solution is scamming. There is no such thing.
Perhaps you could be more specific about the operation you're trying that causes slow performance. Others could test exactly the same thing.
Keep in mind that painting with very large brushes can be slow on any system. But my money's on nVidia's display driver not being able to accelerate Photoshop properly. Just because you have an expensive workstation card doesn't mean it's got great drivers; nVidia actually seems to do a better job on its gamer card drivers to be honest.
>> quickly zooming in and out or when moving a layer with a bunch of layer style applied.
That's just redrawing the screen. That's dependent on your GPU and driver, and has little opportunity to use multiple cores. Blending the layers will use multiple cores, but then the result will be cached quickly and reused after. Some GPU drivers may use multiple cores for some operations (but usually only when the GPU itself can't handle the work).
Yes, "unlocking cores" is certainly a scam.
Hey Chris... you might be right... but checking out the video card using GPUz, I can see that during these tests, GPU load gets only at about 10-11%.
Seems that my Quadro FX 4600 (768 MB) is pretty much useless! From what I understand, Mercury need at least 1GB of video memory to work, or is that only Mercury for video playback?
Buying a regular gaming video card would improve anything? Maybe a GeForce GTX 550 Ti 1536MB DDR5? But would this run on a workstation? The compatibility list of this workstation is pretty narrow, but I see no reason why the GeForce GTX 550 wouldn't work.
So it seems in the end I have that all this CPU power and Photoshop can't use it... I bought it for nothing... I think I would've been better with an Intel i5 CPU and regular desktop system. But I got this workstation pretty cheap (for about $560, with 8GB RAM, dual Xeon, the quadro fx 4600). At this price there's no way I could've got a better current generation desktop system.
Photoshop can use the extra cores for things that can make use of the extra cores (blending, painting, computationally expensive filters, etc.).
But simple image display won't show much benefit from extra cores. (again, all the work happens early in the process, and gets cached - after that you're just copying data)
And there are many tasks in Photoshop that cannot benefit from too many cores (they saturate the bus with just a few, or have serialized algorithms that can't use extra cores (and are faster than algorithms that use more cores)).
Yeah, that does sound like a good price for that system.
Dpcdpc11, you seem to be confusing "not everything in Photoshop can saturate 8 cores" with it being visibly slow.
Perhaps you could describe, in more specific terms, what being "visibly slow" really means. As in, step 1, I click this, step 2, I click that, step 3 it takes x.y seconds.
The Xeon E5430 isn't anything to write home about by today's standards, though it's not a bad processor. You do tend to get what you pay for with workstations.
I like to consult this chart to see where particular CPU architectures fall relative to one another in terms of performance: http://www.cpubenchmark.net/multi_cpu.html
You haven't gained anything by partitioning your drive array, by the way. In fact, you've likely hurt performance - it would work better if you just left it all as one big C: volume.
@Chris... finally someone who knows what he's talking about! Your explanation is similar to a friend of mine's (who's a programer btw). This really makes sense. And I can conclude that Photoshop for Mac is in some way more optimized for multicore/multicpu since most of their Mac Pro line has 2 Xeons. And like you said, some algorithms don't need to use all the cores. I bet the next version of PS will be even more optimized to take more advantage of the processing power, both CPU and GPU. Thanks for the info!
@Noel I've never said something about being slow... please check out my other posts. My only regret was that I'm not getting what I've paid for this workstation, Photoshop wise, cause I have 8 cores and only one is being used by Photoshop (and now I understand why... thanks to Chris... I wish I've known this before I bought the damn system).
Regarding the partiton if the RAID... here's my logic behind the partitioning:
- using a different partition for the OS -> isolation from the rest of the information in case of OS failure.
- using a different partition for the scratch disk -> avoiding fragmentation
- using a 3rd partition to store my portable apps (which are alot)
- using another 500 GB hard drive for my projects and resources (fonts, icons, psd files etc.)
So I don't think I'm hurting any performance since when working with Photoshop, information travels around the 500 GB HDD, the scratch partition on the RAID and the RAMs.
Of course I might be wrong here... then my solution for the scratch disk would be either a fast 15k SAS Hard Drive (74GB... no need for a larger one), which I can get for about $30 (second hand), or a brand new SSD (a 60 GB would be enough... for about $100).
What do you think? How can I best take advantage of my two SAS 15k, 146GB HDDs (which are currently in RAID), a 500 HDD (this is for storage), and let's say I get another HDD (either the SSD or another SAS)?
Thanks for all the info so far!
My only regret was that I'm not getting what I've paid for this workstation, Photoshop wise, cause I have 8 cores and only one is being used by Photoshop (and now I understand why... thanks to Chris... I wish I've known this before I bought the damn system).
You mentioned it seeming fluid to use... That's a characteristic of a multi-core machine. Are you saying you're just feeling down because you're not seeing Photoshop just max out your cores all to the top whenever it does anything?
No application in general, save for very specialized cases, always uses all the cores on a multi-core system. That's just the way it is. Photoshop does a very good job of leveraging the power of a multi-core system. I think you're trying to oversimplify what you're seeing.
That said, there are things you have set up that could negatively affect processor utilization - for example you might have storage bottlenecks or RAM configuration shortcomings. One thing is certain, you could use more RAM. Depending on your system hardware and what RAM you have now, it's possible it may be able to support faster RAM access with a matched set (my Dell Precision, for example, steps up to quad channel access when 8 matched DIMMs are used).
It's not bad to use a RAID array, but partitioning it helps nothing, as I mentioned before. With spinning drives, unless you have 4 or more drives in your array, it's probably better to have a physically separate scratch drive. But if you create a huge, fast RAID array for your system drive it can actually yield better performance (and a number of other advantages) to just have everything pointed at C:. That's how I run my system, and it's highly responsive. I hardly notice when Photoshop goes to its swap file.
It sounds as though you don't want to spend a lot of money to improve performance, but I would advise against getting a tiny SSD. Either get a big one (or several big ones) so there's plenty of free space for the foreseeable lifetime of the machine, or don't go the SSD route.
Honestly, I'd suggest, before doing ANYTHING else, putting at least 16 GB if not 32 GB of RAM in that system. Photoshop will love you for it. I suggest ECC RAM if it will take it.
The Photoshop optimizations are the same for both platforms. Some drivers may do different things between the platforms, and sometimes the OS won't let us use additional cores as effectively (MacOS kernel bug) -- but by and large it's the same.
And we're constantly adding optimization and revisiting/improving old optimizations.
One more question here... should I drop the Quadro FX 4600, 768 DDR video card for a regular and newer generation GeForce GTX 550 Ti 1536MB DDR3?
What do you think? Checking out the GPU load, it seems that the video card is hardly used in Photoshop... I've read that in order for Mercury to perform well it needs a video card with at least 1GB of RAM. Btw I'm not doing any 3D work, not in Photoshop, nor in other 3D programs. So I think the Quadro FX 4600 is pretty useless... am I right?
I think that's a good idea.
It seems prudent to have a video card that benchmarks at least 1000 on this chart for best Photoshop performance:
Personally I'd advise dumping nVidia altogether and get something like a VisionTek ATI Radeon HD 7850, which is some 6 times faster than the card you now have and sports 2 GB of DDR5. Though both nVidia and ATI release botched up driver versions from time to time, I find the ATI drivers more stable overall.
Make sure your power supply can handle it (probably not a problem, considering the card you're replacing).
Yes, the HD 7850 is a really good card but damn... that's expensive! It's about $300 here... I've bought the whole workstation for $500. I can't afford that!
The thing is that I don't need such a beast... specially for doing Photoshop stuff.
My budget is somewhere around $150... for this I could get a nice Sapphire Radeon HD 6770 1024MB DDR5 Flex or maybe a Asus Geforce GTX 550 Ti 1024MB DDR5 or something similar. Even at this range I think a new video card would be better than my current quadro fx 4600.
What do you think?
Remember... we're talking about prices in my country!
And yes... the PSU is a Delta at 800W... trust me... it can hendle a new video card!
I see the benchmarking list above, that the GeForce 550 Ti, gets a higher score that both ATI 7750 and 6770. Shouldn't I go for the GeForce?
The 7750 is a PCI3.0 video card and my motherboard is a 2.0... so much for compatibility here!
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