Getting a Gaming PC for Lightroom

Photo by Tomasz Bazylinski on StockSnap

As is probably evident from this blog, I’m a Linux guy. I’m not fond of Apple, and prefer not to use proprietary software. But I’m also a photographer, who likes to use Adobe Lightroom to develop the images I take. I tried Darktable and Rawtherapee, but keep coming back to Lightroom.

For the last couple of years, this has been my setup:

  • On my Ubuntu laptop, I’d use Rapid Photo Downloader to import the photos from the SD card into my preferred folder structure.
  • A simple command line rsync script would duplicate that folder to my NAS.
  • I’d then fire up a Windows 10 Virtual Machine on my laptop to run Lightroom.

This setup had a couple of issues:

  • I appears to be currently impossible to upgrade Virtualbox VM’s to Windows 11.
  • Adobe’s software seems to be getting increasingly reliant on GPU accelleration, which is unavailable inside the VM.
  • It was truly, horribly slow.

Time to upgrade

So, I decided I wanted something to run Lightroom without virtualization. I looked into refurbished workstation machines (Lenovo Thinkstation, HP Z-series, etc). There are plenty for sale, but I found that the cheaper ones came with older Intel Xeon’s that would not support Windows 11. Newer ones that did would be quite expensive.

For some reason, new PC’s with a discrete graphics card are hard to find… unless you get a “gaming” system. So now I have a Lightroom “workstation” with a glass side panel and LED lights inside. Luckily, the light color is fixed (blue), but if you buy something similar, you may end up with all sorts of RGB nonsense. Still, considering what I paid, it’s excellent value for money. It has a fast CPU and a mid-range video card that works well with Adobe software.

My new workflow

  • I’m still using Rapid Photo Downloader, because I love that program.
  • Rsync is still the best, most reliable, way to copy files across a network (Linux laptop to NAS).
  • Once they’re there, I fire up my “gaming rig”, and connect to the image file folder on my NAS.

I do not import the images to the PC’s SSD, but edit them “in place”. This used to be very slow for me in the past, but using 2.5 gigabit networking and a newer version of the Samba protocol fixed that.

With this new setup, Lightroom literally runs at least ten times faster than in my old workflow. Even with the files being accessed over the network.

Roy Tanck
I'm a freelance WordPress developer, designer, consultant, meetup organizer and speaker. In my spare time I love to go out and take pictures of things.