Mac Pro: Why four hard drive bays are great for Photoshop

Apple announced the new Mac Pro tower this week. For a Photoshop user, the Mac Pro’s quad SATA hard drive bays are just as useful as the quad cores of the two Xeon CPUs.

Why would a Mac Photoshop user need to use up four drive bays? Actually, it isn’t that hard. First, we know drive number 1 is the system drive that also contains all user folders and their documents. But I like to keep my photo archive on a drive other than the system drive, partly because it’s huge, but also so that if crazy things start happening to the system drive, my photo archive is less likely to be affected. This also simplifies backing up the entire archive to one of my external archive mirror drives. Right now my photo archive is on an external drive, but if I buy a Mac Pro then the photo archive can go to internal drive number 2 and get some clutter off the desk.

I would use drive number 3 as a Photoshop scratch disk. Photoshop has its own virtual memory that’s independent of the virtual memory that OS X and Windows use, and it’s optimized for how Photoshop must deal with image data. If you want the best Photoshop performance, in addition to having tons of RAM you should also have a separate, fast hard disk that’s assigned as a dedicated Photoshop scratch disk (set this up in Preferences > Plug-Ins and Scratch Disks). Again, another disk inside the machine instead of on the desk.

What about the fourth drive bay? At the moment, I could leave it empty. But when Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) comes along sometime in the spring of 2007, it will include the Time Machine continuous backup feature, which requires a dedicated volume. Why not stick a drive in bay 4 and make it the Time Machine backup drive? That would be perfect.

Those aren’t even all of the possibilities. Some might take two or more of the bays and make a faster or safer RAID out of them, using Disk Utility or a RAID card.

And that’s it…all four internal bays of a Mac Pro quickly used up to help optimize Photoshop and also OS X 10.5 when it gets here. With all the drives that won’t have to sit in external cases on my desk, I might be able to get rid of a whole power strip.

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