New Mac: SSD/external drive

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I’ve got to replace my 2011 27in iMac a.s.a.p. (and in the process reluctantly leave LR6 behind and start paying rent to Adobe). I’m struggling to get my head around the fact that storage space has shrunk drastically. My old Mac has a 2TB hard drive, which holds 1.5TB data. Looks like a replacement is likely to have just 512 GB on an SSD. I gather I’ll need to store my photos on an external drive instead. But should I be aiming to store my LR folder (catalog & previews) on the SSD? And should I also be trying to keep any photos I’m working on on the SSD? Which would involve a lot of shifting to and fro.

Also a bit boggled by how I’m going to run back-ups for the photos if they’re on an external drive.

I will want to buy a new LR Queen book on whatever they call the version of LR now that’s the equivalent of LR6, and means I’m not dependent on paying yet more money to store images in the cloud. Perhaps this covers my questions, and I should buy it now?
 
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The equivalent of Lr6 is Lightroom Classic. AFAIK iMac's can be had with different disk sizes, so you can buy a replacement with more than just 512 GB SSD.

Lightroom Classic can store the catalog on an external disk as well, as long as it's a local disk, not a network disk. Ideally you want the catalog to be on the fastest disk (which would be an internal SSD), but with Thunderbolt 3 or 4 the speed difference won't be that much if the external disk is SSD too.

Backing up an external disk is not more difficult than backing up an internal disk. You can use Apple Time Machine, or a third party backup utility.
 

LRList001

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At the moment (May 2021), in the UK, an ultra-fast M.2 2TB SSD runs around £400 (inc VAT) as a bare device.
 

mcasan

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For my previous iMacs and and now on my M1 mini, I never had enough storage for storing data files (documents, photos, videos, music...etc.). Apple charged way too much for internal storage. My mini has 1TB of internal storage because 512 was borderline too little. So the internal SSD has MacOS, apps, caches, the main Library and my user Library. I have TB3 cable from the Mini to my 32" monitor which is running 4k solution. A second TB3 cable goes from the monitor to a Netstor box that has two 1TB SSDs running as a 2TB RAID 0 set. All my data folders and files are on that RAID 0 set. A third TB# cable goes from the Netstor box to my Gdrive enclosure that contains an 8TB HDD. The Gdrive and its internal 8TB HDD are dedicated to Time Machine. The very fast TB3 connectionss virtually eliminate any delay with USB2.

My point is that you do not need to have any large internal drives inside a Mac. You can connect all the storage you need via TB3 or USB3 for much less cost that the same storage being inside a newer Mac.
 
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For my previous iMacs and and now on my M1 mini, I never had enough storage for storing data files (documents, photos, videos, music...etc.). Apple charged way too much internal storage. My mini has 1TB of internal storage because 512 was borderline too little. So the internal SSD has MacOS, apps, caches, the main Library and my user Library. I have TB3 cable from the Mini to my 32" monitor which is running 4k solution. A second TB3 cable goes from the monitor to a Netstor box that has two 1TB SSDs running as a 2TB RAID 0 set. All my data folders and files are on that RAID 0 set. A third TB# cable goes from the Netstor box to my Gdrive enclosure that contains an 8TB HDD. The Gdrive and its internal 8TB HDD are dedicated to Time Machine. The very fast TB3 connectionss virtually eliminate any delay like you could see if USB connections.

My point is that you do not need to any large internal drives inside a Mac. You can connect all the storage you need via TB3 or USB3 for much less cost that the same storage being inside a newer Mac.
Oh, thank you. I’ll look into that option. I used to have everything separate, but the iMac has spoiled me, I think.
 
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I work similarly to the others. Almost all of the photos in my Lightroom Classic catalog are on a large external USB 3 hard drive outside my MacBook Pro. It’s worked fine for years, because Lightroom Classic can catalog photos across any number of external drives.

The way I handle backup is that if I need a bigger external drive for important storage, I don’t budget for one, I budget for three. One for daily use connected to the Mac, and two more as identical backups. One backup is kept on site, the other off site, rotated regularly with the other one. I do use Time Machine for my macOS system, but for the external drive storing my photos, I use other backup software that automatically keeps each backup identical to the working photos drive.

Although Thunderbolt will provide the best performance, the drives and cables are expensive, and you see the speed benefits only with the fastest SSDs. If your budget is more modest and/or you use hard drives, USB 3 is good enough, and that's what I use.
 
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I work similarly to the others. Almost all of the photos in my Lightroom Classic catalog are on a large external USB 3 hard drive outside my MacBook Pro. It’s worked fine for years, because Lightroom Classic can catalog photos across any number of external drives.

The way I handle backup is that if I need a bigger external drive for important storage, I don’t budget for one, I budget for three. One for daily use connected to the Mac, and two more as identical backups. One backup is kept on site, the other off site, rotated regularly with the other one. I do use Time Machine for my macOS system, but for the external drive storing my photos, I use other backup software that automatically keeps each backup identical to the working photos drive.

Although Thunderbolt will provide the best performance, the drives and cables are expensive, and you see the speed benefits only with the fastest SSDs. If your budget is more modest and/or you use hard drives, USB 3 is good enough, and that's what I use.
Thank you! (I thought Thunderbolt was the same as USB3; obviously need to do more study!)
 
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I work similarly to the others. Almost all of the photos in my Lightroom Classic catalog are on a large external USB 3 hard drive outside my MacBook Pro. It’s worked fine for years, because Lightroom Classic can catalog photos across any number of external drives.

The way I handle backup is that if I need a bigger external drive for important storage, I don’t budget for one, I budget for three. One for daily use connected to the Mac, and two more as identical backups. One backup is kept on site, the other off site, rotated regularly with the other one. I do use Time Machine for my macOS system, but for the external drive storing my photos, I use other backup software that automatically keeps each backup identical to the working photos drive.

Although Thunderbolt will provide the best performance, the drives and cables are expensive, and you see the speed benefits only with the fastest SSDs. If your budget is more modest and/or you use hard drives, USB 3 is good enough, and that's what I use.
By the way, what’s the program you use to back up your photo storage HD? Sounds useful.
 
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I will want to buy a new LR Queen book on whatever they call the version of LR now that’s the equivalent of LR6, and means I’m not dependent on paying yet more money to store images in the cloud. Perhaps this covers my questions, and I should buy it now?
The book you'll want is Lightroom Classic - The Missing FAQ. It specifically covers Classic (the replacement of Lightroom 6) rather than the Cloud version (which is covered in Edit Like a Pro).
 
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By the way, what’s the program you use to back up your photo storage HD? Sounds useful.
I use Chronosync. In addition to keeping any two drives in sync, it can also sync any two folders.

Thank you! (I thought Thunderbolt was the same as USB3; obviously need to do more study!)
It’s actually a little crazy because Thunderbolt 1-3 and USB 1-3 were not the same thing at all, but they have been merging the standards so that USB 4 and Thunderbolt 4 are closer than ever:
What’s the Difference Between Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 4, and USB4
 
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You can purchase the new M1 iMac with 16GB RAM and a 2TB SSD. I would recommend this over external storage TimeMachine is the backup app that comes with your MacOS. I recommend using that to backup to an External HD. For your external HD enclosure I recommend getting a TB3 connection as this is standard on the iMac and is faster that USB3 and as fast as any bus mounted internal disk drive.
 
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