Many new computers are coming with blazing fast solid state drive (SSD) that are great for speed and durability. Their smaller size compared to traditional hard drives make your laptop lighter and less of a battery drain, but they are also more expensive, particularly at the larger sizes. An SSD in a laptop is often not upgradeable, which means unless you want to fork over the dough for a new laptop, you’re stuck with the space that you have. Bulky applications and huge catalogs of images can quickly eat away at the precious space on a hard drive, which is why one of the most common questions that I am asked about Lightroom is how to reduce the size of the Lightroom footprint.
Here are 5 tips for reclaiming space on your hard drive from Lightroom. Enjoy!
#1 – Archive Final Projects
The most straight forward way to free up space from your hard drive is to archive images that you no longer need regular access to off to an external or network attached drive. Before you start removing images, though, make sure you have a solid, redundant backup solution. Once I have completed a project, I copy it to my external hard drive. My external hard drive is included in my Backblaze backup since it’s physically attached to my main computer. An automated task also keeps my external hard drive synchronized with a network attached drive inside my home. That keeps my images in multiple locations inside my home and one offsite location, so I feel confident deleting the images from my computer.
My solution allows me to edit images right on my external hard drive in the event that I need to do a quick edit on an archived project, or easily copy a project back over to my computer for local access. Newer technologies like Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 provide adequate speed to work with decent sized catalogs on external media, so if you are looking for an external hard drive, be sure to pick one with one of those technologies. Western Digital provides a few inexpensive options. For an attached drive, I’ve been using the WD My Book 4 TB USB 3.0 Hard Drive. For my network attached drive, I’m using the WD My Cloud Mirror 8TB 2-bay Personal Cloud Storage.
#2 – Delete Rejected Or Unusable Images
Lightroom makes it easy to import your images from your camera. Sometimes, too easy. Often, I find that I’ll import everything from my memory card, especially for larger projects. That means that, in addition to my keepers, I’m import a lot of garbage. Not me, of course, but I have a friend that sometimes imports images taken with the lens cap on, or accidental misfires of a camera bag or a blurry ground. Ideally, my friend should have not imported these images from their camera card, but now he has large, raw, unusable images taking up space on his hard drive.
Fortunately for my friend, his selection process flags those images as “rejects”, so it’s easy for him to go to his library, find all the rejected photos, and delete them from both the catalog and the hard drive from within Lightroom. By maintaining good workflow practices, you can delete those images from your catalog that have no potential use or value, just like my friend does.
(Ok, it was me.)
#3 – Delete Unneeded Smart Previews
Check the size of your Smart Previews file. Lightroom has a nasty habit of remembering whether or not you used smart previews during your last import. This can lead to the inadvertent creation of smart previews during your next import. Similar to tip #5 above, you can also select folders and images and navigate to Library > Previews > Discard Smart Previews to remove any smart previews that are lurking beneath the surface.
#4 – Clear Your Cache
Lightroom uses cache to make things faster. But sometimes, it holds on to its cache a little too long and retains cache for things you may no longer need. Clearing your cache can free up extra space, so check out this post on When And How To Clear Your Lightroom Cache.
#5 – Delete Your 1:1 Previews
Lightroom generates 1:1 (full-sized) previews for images that is uses in the develop module and for zooming in on an image. For speeding up your workflow, it is often recommended to keep the 1:1 previews for as long as possible so that Lightroom doesn’t need to generate one when you start to edit an image. The drawback is that you’re using up a lot of space to keep these previews even for images that you may not intend to work on again. If you need to free up space, you can change the length of time that Lightroom keeps previews for images in your preferences. You can also delete the full-sized previews by selecting folders or images and navigating to Library > Previews > Discard 1:1 Previews. Or you can nuke your Previews file. Lightroom will regenerate the file and any previews that it needs along the way, though that will slow down your workflow a bit, so use with caution! Also, be sure to read this post about Why Discarding 1:1 Previews Doesn’t Reduce The Preview File Size.
But wait! There’s more!
Bonus Tip #1 – Remove Duplicates
Duplicates are another artifact that can take up space on your hard drive. Whether it’s because of a reused memory card with an unchecked Do Not Import Suspected Duplicates option, or an inadvertent import to a different directory, I’ve previously posted tutorials on how to find and remove duplicate images from your catalog and computer.
Bonus Tip #2 – Clear Your Lightroom History
As I mentioned in a previous post, in certain situations you may not need to retain your develop history for all of your images. Maintaining all that data can bloat the size of your catalog. Read more about it and How To Clear Your Lightroom Develop History.