Established 1988

Category: Storage

Give your computer a performance boost

Give your computer a performance boost_DSC6835-2

Let us imagine that it has been a year or two since you brought home that new shiny computer; too early to consider a replacement, but a good time to consider a mid-cycle refresh – to improve performance and take you through the next couple of years.

Below are a few ideas.

Operating System/Software

Before you start spending your money on hardware, there are some software things you can look at:
• Disable or remove unwanted startup programs
• Remove abandoned software/Clean up unnecessary system files
• Keep your system free of viruses and malware
• Upgrade to a newer operating system
• Check for newer device drivers

Please be careful, make sure you have a proper backup before starting, and if you are unsure as to what you are doing, get knowledgeable assistance.


As you probably know, there are many sub-systems that make up a computer. Some of them are limited by the manufacturer=s system design, but others can be easily enhanced without considerable expense. There are three subsystems that can be upgraded to substantially improve a machines performance – memory (RAM), storage and video.

Please note that there are design limitations and not all computers can be upgraded. Notebooks are generally more difficult to upgrade than desktop/tower machines. This article is intended to be of general information and not necessarily applicable to every configuration. Also note, that right or wrong, the author has a Windows perspective on the world, but much of this will apply to a Macintosh environment.


More is better. Up to a point. If you have 4GB of RAM, upgrading to more will help. Eight is better than four, and sixteen is better than eight. After that there is the law of diminishing returns, although for power users even more may be beneficial. If you are a power user, you already know this stuff. (Note: You need to be running a 64-bit operating system to take advantage of more than 4GB of RAM.)

You may find that your computer is limited as to how many memory slots are available and the maximum amount it will recognize. Check your manufacturers website or try as a good third party source for both information and memory. Choosing the right memory can be a bit of a minefield, so you may want to engage professional assistance.


For the past thirty years we have relied primarily on spinning-media hard drives. The industry is changing. Spinning drives still give you the most storage for the least cost, but Solid State Drives (SSDs) are making significant advances in performance and lowering the cost/GB.

If you have a spinning hard drive, there is a good chance that you can replace it with an SSD. You will be amazed at how much faster everything happens on your computer. Startup times are typically reduced from many minutes to generally under a minute. Upgrading to an SSD gives you the best Abang for the buck@.

The majority of SSDs are available in 2.5″ form factors and have SATA interfaces, which is the usual interface for most notebook and desktop type computers. For the most part, you can unplug the old drive and plug in the new SSD in its place. Be sure you have all the right cables, both data and power. If your old drive is a 3.5” device, you may need a new way to secure it in your computer.
Just like spinning drives, not all solid state drives are the same. A good guide line would be to pay attention to the length of the warranty, and buy a brand name with which you are familiar.

Be aware that a newer solid state storage interface standard exists, it is called NVM Express for PCIe. Higher end notebooks are starting to take advantage of this improved performance, and if you are upgrading a desktop/tower machine, this may be an option for you as well. (

What is behind this newer standard? Having a SATA interface means you can plug an SSD in where you once had a spinning hard drive, which is very convenient. However, the speed that data moves through the non-volatile memory (NVM) used in SSDs is so much faster than it can move through a spinning hard drive. This results in a bottleneck at the SATA interface, as it was designed for the slower requirements of spinning drives. NVM Express PCIe removes this bottleneck, but as you might have guessed, at a higher price. These drives look less like the old hard drives and more like memory modules or PCIe plug in cards. Major players are Samsung and Intel.

An NVMe drive is the ultimate storage upgrade, but pricey. It might be something to consider for the next computer.


In April of this year, with the release of Lightroom 6, Adobe made a number of improvements. One of them was to recognize and incorporate GPU acceleration for faster video performance. Okay, before I lose you, GPU stands for Graphics Processor Unit, or in other words what we old-timers used to call a video card.

If you already have a good graphics subsystem, Lightroom may have already recognized it and taken advantage of it. There are methods to check this within Lightroom and your favourite search engine will direct you to them. A good place to start is at:

Will a better GPU improve your performance? In doing my research I came across this thread from an Adobe engineer. It seems the answer is maybe; it depends on your circumstances. See more here:

For Photoshop, Adobe says the minimum amount of graphics processor VRAM supported is 512 MB (1 GB or greater of VRAM is recommended).

I found some helpful information at:
Be careful as you cannot buy just any card and plug it in, you need to know, or get someone to help you determine, what sort of expansion slots your computer has available, and select the appropriate display adapter. Your computer manufacturer may have some suggestions

I hope and trust this will make your computer and your photo processing experience more enjoyable.

John Allman
President, Toronto Digital Photography Club


My thanks to Danny Andonoff of Plexxus Technologies Inc. and Roger Correia of the Toronto Digital Photography Club for proof reading this article and for their comments and suggestions.

Backup Images while Travelling

Bob Fowler from the Richmond Hills Camera Club

Bob Fowler
Richmond Hill Camera Club

I recently did some travelling in the U.S. with the intent of taking lots of images with my digital camera. I also wanted to back up those images as I traveled to ensure that nothing was lost during the trip due to card memory failure, theft, etc.

One solution to backing up which many photographers use is to bring along a laptop/ultrabook computer and periodically backup the memory cards to that device. I used a similar method that is much cheaper, requires less luggage space, and is only marginally less convenient. I brought along a portable, slim, external hard drive; usb cable (the one used for your printer); usb hub; and tiny sd card reader. Together they take a mere few inches of room and a matter of ounces of weight in a carry-on bag. Depending on the choices of brand, hd size, etc. the items can be bought for about $100. In fact you probably have most of these items already. In my case it was more like $130 worth of gear since I had a 2 Terrabyte portable hard drive, plus the other items.

The inconvenience involved in this scheme is that one must have access to a computer with usb ports in order to use the gear. Luckily every hotel/motel we encountered had an easily accessed desktop computer in their lobby open to free use by any guest.   Pretty much every desktop computer today has usb ports both back and front. With the hub I had, I only needed one free usb port – never a problem. The hub provided 4 free ports. I needed 2.

That minor inconvenience factor itself will soon be eliminated by new gear. The Western Digital “My Passport Wireless” has just become available in Canada. It has an SD slot in the side for direct access by your camera’s memory card. Furthermore it establishes its own wireless network, so that your mobile devices can use/control its content directly. Each evening you could upload your card’s images and view them immediately on your mobile device (IOS, Android phone or tablet – up to 8 devices simultaneously). This is a more expensive (about an extra $100) option than the one I used on this recent trip, but that extra degree of control may well be worth it. If your only need for your laptop while travelling is for image backup, you can now skip that device and have equal or better backup storage options.

Here is info re. the new WD Passport Wireless:


‘Live’ Image Access from Storage to your PDA Device


Bob Fowler

Richmond Hill Camera Club

Most of us remember media from the past that was used to store our digital data: cassette data tape, floppy disks, syquest drives, early hard drives gigantic in size. Later came cds, dvds, more compact external hard disks, usb ‘flash’ drives, and various memory cards. Except for temporary storage, the modern, compact, hard disk has proven the most efficient, fastest, and cheapest means of storing large amounts of data. It will also provide a straightforward means of transferring data to any new media (artificial DNA?) that may come along, thus future-proofing our storage efforts as well.

Until relatively recently the external hard drive has had only a limited function for data with respect to portable devices. With the assistance of a desktop or laptop computer it archived the data, and data could be retrieved from it when required. Recently that role has been widely expanded. Now a cpu (brain) has been added to the external drive in order to let it communicate directly on a continuous basis with wifi or internet connected digital devices. Your smartphone or tablet (or laptop) can now use the high-capacity hard drive space as if it were part of its own hardware. Instead of 8 or 16 gigabytes of storage available on your phone or tablet, now you can have terabytes of directly accessible memory when it comes to viewing images, or videos or listening to audio.

The chief players at the moment in providing this kind of storage are Seagate (“Go Flex Satellite”, LaCie (“Cloudbox”), and Western Digital (“My Book Live”). The reviews I’ve read tend to favour the Western Digital device, and my own experience with it has been very good.

I highly recommend exploring these drives if you have a portable device you use for viewing your images or videos. It addresses one of the most outstanding weaknesses of such devices as they are at present: they have too little memory for storing images and video files.