View Full Version : photoshop cs4 slowing down

08-03-2009, 10:13 AM
At first I thought it was just because the files were getting bigger. Now it turns out it's any file no matter what. Over the last 2 or three days, CS4 has been getting slower in response to what i'm doing, with the crunch hitting today - if I am zoomed in to any level more than 50% of the image size, it slows to a freaking crawl. If I try to draw with a brush, for example, i get the initial dot, then it waits for ten seconds, and draws a straight line to wherever I let go of the mouse. If I try to move a layer, same idea. Zooming is bloody slow as well.

As i say, everything was peachy until a few days ago, and the serious slowdown started last night. It's completely unuseable now.

I can swap back to 7, I suppose, I never did uninstall it just in case, but I'm going to lose some major timesaving functions (nested layer folders, ability to select multiple layers at once, etc) that rapidly became second nature.

I've reinstalled the latest drivers (though the version didn't change), played with the cache levels and history, changed around scratch disks, and spent 2 hours searching through google only to find 984578903275 results complaining about how cs4 is slow (half of which get swamped with other comments about how it works fine on THEIR machine) and I tried all the fixes I could find - but none of them seem to be THIS problem - It's always been slow from the start, or never a problem.

The only thing I haven't done is remove completely and then reinstall, which I will do later today.

if anyone has had experience with this sort of issue, please let me know if/how it can be fixed :(

radeon 9250 (128meg, 4xagp)
can't remember the cpu.. um.. P4 3ghz
3 gigs ram
64gb drive, 80gb drive, 1Tb drive

I'm going to see what it does on the laptop in the meantime before I decide what to do with the desktop here. :(

08-03-2009, 10:40 AM
Since the problem has been growing, my first suspect would be hard drive trouble. Have you defragmented lately?

Another possibility is a corrupted preferences file. To recreate the preferences, hold down ctrl-alt-shift while launching Photoshop.

I can't think of anything else that would creep up on you gradually like that, but I do know that the new OpenGL acceleration has been known to cause significant slowdowns. That can be turned off in Edit > Preferences > Performance.

08-03-2009, 10:46 AM
oh yes, I have tried removing the opengl, i probably should have mentioned that already.

Defragmenting should not be an issue (it gets done every few months whether I need to or not, I'll run it through anyhow to see). I will try the preferences rebuild, thanks.

Doesn't seem to be happening on the laptop yet, but that won't help since it doesn't have enough ram to work with the files I'm using for the latest set of maps.

Maybe cs3 will work better.

08-03-2009, 03:38 PM
I still use plain ole CS but I get slow downs from 3 things:
1 lots of patterns, brushes, styles, etc loaded into the presets
2 lots of layers
3 not allowing PS to use enough hard drive space because it is pretty full

Buying a new pc with a larger hard drive fixed number 3 but I still get the problems due to 1 and 2 so I remove presets every few months and flatten things when done with them...although I'm sure you know about these work-arounds as well. BTW, guess I'll wait until CS5 ;)

08-03-2009, 03:45 PM
Go to sys internals and get their process viewer which gives the cpu use and the interrupt use. Theres three numbers to look at. The cpu use on the app. The number of interrupts and DPC's and third the number of page faults.

Also, does the slowdown get better when any network cable is unplugged ?

Id also run memtest86 too.


Oh yeah - ensure your backed up to a different HDD ! It might be imminently going to fail.

Oh yeah part 2. I just remembered, Intel chips slow down drastically when they get too hot. Check that your CPU fan has not stopped turning. Get a CPU temp monitor or just run it up and touch the heatsink. If you get burnt then its too hot >:) Seriously tho, chips run to about 100 deg C and then start slowing down so it would have to be pretty hot.

08-03-2009, 04:01 PM
Did you turn on the advanced options to use open GL? The rotate feature is nice but those advanced options were causing mine to chug. When I get home I can show you the boxes to uncheck that speeds it up.

08-03-2009, 04:25 PM
Ok, nap is done, I'm refreshed and ready to tackle the problems...

presets - yes, this occured to me as I was drifting off, thanks for reminding. I'm also going to get a fons manager program I used to use so I can load them onl as I need them (i don't recall the name right now, but you could preview them in the viewer, load them or remove them dynamically, and see the effects immediately in photoshop - that was useful). I realized i have more custom patterns than I thought, so i'll start savng those and closing them out when i don't need them. Hopefully tht's the primary issue.

OpenGL: as i stated, I've turned off the opengl. i don't need sleek fancy eyecandy effects, I want functional. Non of the openGL "enhancements" seem to fit my bill for "moe functional than not" considering i have no use whatsoever for the 3d stuff, and the rest of the "it does this with opengl enabled" all appears to be stuff I can liv without just fine. I have done everything within my power to ensure that the gpu options are not and continue to not be accessed by photoshop. That was the main reason for slowdown on 95% of the results i found in the google search, and the first thing I tried.

Lots of layers don't seem the be the issue, i've tested in files with as little as 1 background layer. I originally thought that WAS the issue (600+ layers in one file, woot)

Space shouldn' be an issue either, with a terabyte drive for scratch :)

The heat issues, possibly. the fan is working ok, it's a variable speed fan, and it cranks up to levels where I can hear it clearly. I've taken apart the machine recently (about 2 weeks ago) and vacuumed the heck out of it to remove dust, so that shouldn't be the issue. Still I need to monitor the temp and see what it's doing, thanks for the suggestions.

I've checked the memory settings, but not the interrupts, I'll take a peek. And the network cable.. tht one will b a bit of a hassle, the back of the machone is not particularly accessible unless all the cables are unplugged so i can emove it - still, worth a try (d'oh, i can unplug the cable from the router end.. )

And backups, good idea. What's the use of a Tb drive if I don't back up :P

Well, if these don't solve it, I'm downgrading to CS3. My supplier is very understanding and accomodating, so we'll see what happens.

Thanks for th suggestions, I'll let you know how it goes.

08-03-2009, 04:35 PM
apologies for the typos, I'm still waking up, heh

08-03-2009, 07:33 PM
Well, removing the fonts and patterns seems to help, and the images are going fine as long as I'm careful with the layers. This completely cramps my style however, as I tend to be very layer heavy, and don't like losing anything in case I need to go back and edit - for example, changing the font on the map with all 200+ towns and features needing done.

I suppose what I'll have to do is work in 7 like I used to, and then if I need something done that only cs4 can do (warp text paths, etc) I'll switch over with a new document and export it back.

Blah, i thought the whole point was to make things smoother.

08-04-2009, 01:00 AM
I tired CS4 and did not like it one bit... went right back to CS3 and never ever regretted it.

Hope you get this worked out positively.

My prayers to the Silicon Avatar are with you :)

08-04-2009, 01:41 AM
Ok, I've done the swap, have a copy of CS3 ready to go. The heat really did factor into it as I found out. I let the machine sit for an hour or two, then came back to it. The first ten mins of puttering in cs4 wasn't bad but then the fan kicked in and it started to go like molasses again. Which is doubly annoying because ps7 doesn't slow down at all.

08-04-2009, 02:32 AM
Ok, final verdict: CS3=no slowdown. yay!

And it does what I need it to do, so I'll be sticking with this, probably for the next 5 years or so (that's about how long it's been since I first got 7, got my moneys worth out of that copy, let me tell ya) (in fact, i probably would still be using 7 with no complaints if not for the pathing for the text, and that 90% of the brushes I got from the one CD wouldn't work with 7)

So, saga complete. Thanks for the suggestions to all who suggested, it really did help narrow down the issue (and rule out other possibilities I hadn't considered)

08-04-2009, 02:34 AM
Yay! Now back to work ;) I keed, I keed :D

08-04-2009, 03:44 AM
No, that's exactly what it is. Tools that don't work the way they are supposed to can be very demoralizing. now that it's back to being about the work and not the tool, I'm glued to the screen again :)

08-04-2009, 04:31 PM
Hey Coyotemax,

Late to the thread here, but we're running CS4 here at work, and the artists have complained about similiar issues. (I work in the video game industry and my job is tools support for the artists, including writing scripts for Photoshop - so I get to hear all the complaints!).

I'm really interested in anything I can learn to help solve this issue.

Here's my take on things so far.

I think the hardware acceleration introduced in CS4 is largely the source of the problem. From what I've seen, it looks like a lot of CS4's processing power has now been dumped over to the video card, so with that 128MB card you're running, that might be part of it.

And turning the OpenGL option off honestly seems to do almost nothing in terms of performance increase.

We're running 512 MB Quadro FX 1700's (primarily an OpenGL card) and we *still* get slowdowns. We ran CS2 smoothly and then as soon as we upgraded to CS4 we ran into problems.

Of course, we're also still on 32-bit XP machines with 2 GB of RAM.

Which brings me to... what OS are you running? CS4 has a 64-bit version, and running that under a 64-bit OS is obviously going to help. Windows XP 32-bit (I've never run 64-bit XP) - recognizes 2 GB maximum, 3 GB with a little bit of jiggerypoke. Windows Vista 32-bit will recognize about the same, Windows Vista 64-bit will recognize up to 64 or 128 GB or something like that. However, I'm not entirely sure CS4 will even take advantage of all that extra RAM, and I haven't had the opportunity to try that, unfortunately.

If anyone else out there is running CS4 with a blown out PC config, I'd be interested to know how it runs!

I have run into a RAM limitation problem at home on my Mac Pro (I'm running OS X.5.7). In the CS4 preferences, it will only allow you to allocate 3 GB to it, and I have 8 GB in the machine. It doesn't make sense to me why Adobe would put a restriction on that, and then put the heavy lifting on the video card. Apparently, with Snow Leopard's release in September, it will up the amount of RAM you can allocate to CS4. Not sure how that is going to work, but that what's I was reading of late. (If you believe what you read on the internet... :) )

Oh, one last thing which probably know already - make sure that your scratch disk drives are not the same as your OS drive. It helps somewhat if Windows and Photoshop aren't competing for access to the same drive.


08-04-2009, 05:04 PM
Can I clarify a few points. I reckon its extremely unlikely that its OpenGL slowing the system down if you have a decent GL card fitted. It is possible that Adobe borked the coding so that its crap but there ought to be (almost) no reason why any graphics command that could be executed on the card would be slower than the CPU. Also, and I think here's the killer, if you go to the desktop visual settings and go to the graphics adapter / advanced / troubleshoot and yank the slider for hardware acceleration down to none and restart app and it still goes slow, then its definitely not a graphics acceleration issue.

A PC running Win2K, XP (not 64bit) or Vista (not 64bit) etc has a 4Gb absolute top memory capacity because 2^32 is 4Gb. The kernel takes some of that. The best you can hope to get as a user is about 3 and a bit. If you have XP64, Vista64 then you can indeed get 64Gb. You need a 64 bit capable CPU before you can even run the OS and your apps MUST be compiled for 64 bit in order to use more than 4Gb on that app. Therefore the OSX 5.7 might still be a 32 bit OS. Even if you have 8Gb fitted then its 4Gb wasted. Has to be 64bit OS to go over 4Gb.

So if your photoshop app is 32 bit then you cannot use more than 4Gb for that app. You can have two of them running on a 64bit machine with 8Gb RAM fitted tho but upgrading OS and fitting more RAM is not going to help unless the app is also changed to 64bit type as well. I.e. its not Adobe restricting the RAM is a physical impossibility to go beyond that figure in 32 bit land.

08-04-2009, 06:04 PM
I'm running XP right now. I don't know what it was that was specifically slowing things down, though right now my biggest suspicion is the heat. When I powered up after a lengthy cooldown time, it was running ok for a few mins, and then I could hear the fan (variable speed) ramping up more or less at the speed that CS4 was slowing down. Might have been just me making connections that weren't really there, but it was an observable and repeatable combination.

I made sure the scratch disks were different, that was one of the early attempts at a fix. I've got 2 gigs ram, so the max amount photoshop will let you choose wouldn't be a factor.

There was no difference with the openGL turned on or off, except that 50% of the time when it was on, the program would crash out as soon as a file loaded. and no matter what I tried, i couldn't get the openGL to STAY off. I would disable it, test, then test again, it would crash out and next restart would say that the opengl options were disabled again - as if I had turned them on in the meantime, which i most emphatically did not.

That was the point which tipped the scales for me to swap out to CS3, and it's the best decision I've made all week.

I would try the hardware slider idea to test, but the program's already been uninstalled and the install discs returned.

1 step back to take 2 steps forward :)

08-04-2009, 09:00 PM
Well if your sorted then no need to look any further but its an odd one since it was running ok then started slowing down. I had a PC where one of the struts holding the heat sink broke off and so the heat sink was held by the three remaining and was at a small and barely noticeable angle but there was a small gap between the CPU and sink and it made a huge difference when fixed. The only way you might want to test that is to run up a benchmark app like superpi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_PI) and do that from cold and run it a few times on same set and see if it degrades. You might find that your PC is running at less than max capable for just getting a new fan or dabbing some fresh thermal paste on it.

Personally I would keep all opengl switched on. I write a free opengl test app actually which is designed to test to see what its doing and try to resolve GL issues. You can get it here...


Its done to try to resolve peoples set up for using my GL app. Its not super whizzy and looks terrible but its quite effective. It will tell you whether its too low spec to my app. Your card seems fine but some old would laptops struggle with the graphics. Some people run my demo with a fast card, claim its really slow only to find that they're running at like 1/10th full speed capable due to poor drivers or bad config.

Really does sound like Adobe has something wrong with their newer version tho.

08-04-2009, 09:32 PM
@ Coyotemax:

Sounds like you made the right decision switching to CS3! I wish that was an option right about now.

@ Redrobes:

As it turns out, now that I've done more reading, 10.5.7 is some odd mix (!) of both 32 and 64-bit, the details of which are beyond my ken (I'm half artist, half programmer, instead of all programmer :)). I thought I was running 64-bit CS4 on my Mac Pro but it looks like I'm not, which explains the limitation that I mistakenly thought was Adobe's! Snow Leopard, as it turns out, is apparently all 64-bit, so I should be able to allocate all 8 GB when that rolls out.

I'm going to try turning the hardware acceleration off and doing some CS4 performance tests with that. The reason I didn't really think to try that earlier is that we're running other 3D apps which benefit from the hardware acceleration. In fact, I'm worried it might muck up our other primary app: Maya. Maybe I'll put the slider in the middle and see what happens :)... I'll keep you guys posted.

Thanks for the help!


08-04-2009, 09:46 PM
I'm not a Mac guy but still interested. Most 64bit OS's run 32 apps as well as 64 bit ones. On windows its called WoW64 or windows on windows64. I.e. its emulating 32 bit OS in a 64 bit native environment. Its probable that your OS is 64 bit but your app is 32 bit in emulation mode. If the apps memory pointers are 32 bit then it cant access virtual memory addresses beyond 4Gb even if the OS has more RAM than that. That's why you might find that you can run two instances of it and burn RAM in each before it slows up from paging.

But yeah, keep us posted !

Edit -- oh, putting the slider in the middle usually turns off 3D and keeps enabled the 2D blitter so windows move around fast but no 3D. Going to None turns even that off and you can see the CPU tearing of the window redraw and sluggish performance. If there are options between these three extremes then its likely just cutting down bits of the 3D. In windows and GL in general there's a format index which it might restrict to the simplest ones. Its all a gray area by that point tho. Full or None and your pretty sure tho.

08-05-2009, 12:42 AM
I find that if I re-install Windows every couple of months all my slow-down problems go away. It's a PITA, but that's Windows...

08-05-2009, 10:28 AM
If anyone else out there is running CS4 with a blown out PC config, I'd be interested to know how it runs!

I'm running a core i7 920 2.6 GHz and 12 GB of RAM with the CS4 Master Collection on Vista 64-bit

I just ran a little test of Photoshop. In a 4k x 3k file at 32bits / channel, I created 10 layers, filled each with clouds, changed the blending modes, applied some filters, made a smart object with a smart filter on it, and did some coloring.

My memory allocation for Photoshop wound up around 5.7 GB, and I had no slowdown. I have OpenGL turned off, so there was some tearing as I panned around across the image, but I had no trouble zooming in or out.

Unfortunately, Photoshop remains the only 64-bit app that Adobe has released. I'd love to be able to use the rest of that RAM in After Effects.

08-10-2009, 06:02 PM
Hey guys,

Can't... let... this... thread... die...

Ok, so I said I would keep you posted, so here I am again after a week of messing about (in between doing what I'm supposed to be doing).

I found this link on the Adobe site which seems to acknowledge some of the issues, and address others: http://kb2.adobe.com/cps/404/kb404898.html

If anybody is having CS4 performance issues, it's a good starting point.

Okay, so here's where I'm at.

1) Updating to 11.0.1 apparently addresses a number of issues for XP and Vista, and installing it has actually seemed to help some of the brush performance issues we were having.

2) I can't tell if installing the latest nVidia drivers has helped or not, but there is definitely a problem with the 182.02 drivers, which some people were running. Briefly: "...has an incompatibility which results in the graphics chipset improperly reporting its OpenGL capabilities to the Adobe application". (http://kb2.adobe.com/cps/408/kb408986.html)

3) Turning off hardware acceleration for the video card seems to help, but I can't be entirely sure. I know it's messed up, but the update time between moving the mouse / Wacom pen and what's getting drawn on the screen seems to just be quicker with it completely off. That's about all I can say for sure, even though I have no technological argument to back that up. (Dumb, I know!). I was hoping to find an app that would tell me how much VRAM or what OpenGL calls are being performed by CS4, but to no avail. (RedRobes - you seem to be an OpenGL whiz, so if you know of anything, that'd be great! And! AND! I ran your ViewingDaleTestApp! Cool stuff!).

In any case, that's not really an option for us here, because we need hardware acceleration to be all the way on for using Maya. I've written wrappers that set up our environment / tools for both Photoshop and Maya, and thought maybe I could incorporate something into those to turn hardware acceleration completely on or completely off depending on what app you were running, but that's not going to be feasible since the artists will likely be running both at the same time. (As a quick aside, the reason being that they run both is because I wrote a javascript that calls a C++ app that talks to Maya via a command port to updates the textures in Maya when they re-export their images. Okay, I'll shutup... I'm gloating like a supervillain here...).

4) There are also apparently known issues using dual monitors (which some artists here happen to have), but it doesn't look like Adobe is actually going to tackle those - they just sort of say do your work in your primary monitor and keep your panels in your secondary monitor - or just use a single monitor. Not super helpful, but there you go.

That's about it. Hope this helps... somebody!


P.S. @ Midgardsormr - thanks for the info! And, yeah, here's hoping for a 64-bit version of AE in CS5!

08-10-2009, 07:05 PM
I will admit to being a bit of a whiz at OpenGL - well at least up to V2.0 anyway. I haven't previously said this but I used to write GL drivers for graphics cards for a few companies and on one of them I was part of the team that accelerated Maya with their card. Now before you get too excited, I was doing the low level card side stuff and others did the higher level stuff which is where all the Maya specific juicy knowledge comes in. So I did my bit of faffing in the kernel and then later on there would be the shout that the chameleon would get rendered properly in about 1/10th the time or whatever it was. This was not for nVidia I should add too.

Thats a bit of a digression but I can add some helpful stuff. Firstly much of what is used to accelerate Maya is using the programmable raster language of the cards and at the time there was not a lot of GL V2 shading language about so it used to be done in the nVidia extension language. Now at the time AMD had the competing language - I forget the names, was it that close to the metal and shader language X or something like that as the two sets. It used to be that the architecture of the cards made doing some stuff much easier in one card than another. Again, this was not my specific bit of the work so I forget the details. Its all about whether the card is strong in raster ops or whether is supports a certain vector instruction or not. I believe in the case of Maya tho it was that the shader required to do its job was sufficiently complicated that you either ran out of instructions or some other shader language resource. You can tell I don't do much programmable shader language stuff cant you... Now it ought to be the case that the guys at Maya or nVidia should go back and reengineer the shaders using the newer GL2 type or using Gelato or CUDA or whatever but I expect that this is not the case. Or maybe it is the case and that older cards which dont support the newer languages are still using the old way and its not being maintained.

I noted in those links that a lot of the problems are to do with driver incompatibility. I can see stuff like where it says when you use a brush it leaves garbage behind as you draw until you let go. I know what that's all about but its complicated to go into. Lost weeks of my life to seeing garbage like that. There wont be a lot you can do about that other than either turn off acceleration or change driver. Another thing was the dual screen. That's called single surface dual view or SSDV and its a PITA really. Its burning twice as much VRAM everytime you open a buffer and I can see bugs listed where its saying with that on and opening 30+ windows it crashes. Yeah been there. (Interesting that it also says you cant virtualize the VRAM... wanna bet ????) Anyway, you can drive the card to give two independent monitors or one SSDV screen space. If stability is paramount then its probably better to go with two independent ones.

Anyway, heres a simple programming mantra that you will no doubt be well aware of. The more obscure things you do with something the more chance you will hit a bug with it. I think PS has been using some bizarreo aspects of GL in the naive belief that all cards support all features flawlessly. nVidia have excellent drivers but they are not flawless. What you need to do really is to get a conformant driver which is certified for use with that app and try to find one version which has been thoroughly tested with both Maya and PS. I'm guessing that right now there is no driver which is suitably stable. I am also willing to bet that almost all of the issues are with the PS and not Maya too. Given that you have gone for a pro card you might find that the driver has a drop down list of application specific enhacements. These are made by the driver folk to break the conformance of the driver as a trade off for making some apps work. It might for example not list some acceleration capable thing because if you do the app tries to use it wrongly and stuffs itself. If the PS is on that list I would recommend trying it as the testers of the driver writers do test almost all of the big gun apps. Maya especially naturally but also Max, Duke Nukem clones, Doom etc.

I should also add that in my experience of a few companies the OGL and DX teams are entirely independent ! So expect the bugs to be too. That may not be true of them all tho. I don't wish to say which companies I worked for tho.

If you do want to see the GL calls being made between card and app you can do it. You install a special driver and that driver acts like a proxy. The ole man in the middle attack. I cant remember who does it but there was one which listed everything and decoded it all and listed it to file. Its used to scrape the video images out of games too since they are (well used to be) sent over GL calls in a standard format which is declared beforehand. You used to put the DLL for the GL proxy ICD as the ole OpenGL32.dll and get it to call the card vendor one by proxy.


Oh yeah here it is - or one of them...


I dont know if that would help tho. Its more for debugging GL apps but it might show up what extensions its trying to use.

EDIT -- Oh yeah, on a reread. GL Card VRAM. Actually, I dont know how to get this ! You can get to in DX but because GL is client server then its not something that the client is supposed to care about. Your supposed to make calls asking if you have enough to load a texture or whatever and then do it if you have but I dont know how to get at how much is left on the card available. Apart from loading up the card with oodles of textures until it runs out then count how much you free up as you unpack it. Thats not a very nice way to go about the task if you ask me. Yeah my ViewingDale app has some buttons to click to set the amount of total card ram so it can try to optimize usage. If you find out then let me know ! :)