Cristian Doru Barin

What type of computer do you need to get the most out of Adobe Photoshop? In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Photoshop system requirements.

Photoshop System Requirements At a Glance

We’ll start with an overview of the minimum requirements that your computer system needs to run Adobe Photoshop. Here is a breakdown for both Windows and macOS computers.

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Minimum Photoshop System Requirements on Windows

Minimum Photoshop System Requirements on MacOS

Photoshop System Requirements By Component

Now, let’s dive a little deeper into the specific components of your computer system and how important each one is to running Adobe Photoshop smoothly.

Operating system

Your computer’s operating system (OS) isn’t a significant factor as far as Photoshop’s performance is concerned. No matter if you’re running Windows or macOS, as long as it’s a fairly recent version, you’ll be able to run Photoshop just fine. 

On a Windows computer, you’ll need Windows 10 to be able to install the latest edition of Photoshop – CC 2021. Windows 7 is no longer supported. On a Mac, you can run Photoshop with macOS Mojave, though the latest version Big Sur is recommended.

Processor (CPU)

Your processor (CPU) is one of the biggest system components that impact Photoshop’s performance, but the choice of CPU is also a subject that divides Photoshop’s massive fanbase. The facts are as follows: in the past, Intel CPUs were by far the best choice, but in 2021, the differences between AMD and Intel processors for Adobe Photoshop use have become unnoticeable. Nowadays, you can go with your favorite brand and see extremely similar performance levels.

As of this writing, the best CPU choice in terms of price versus performance is AMD’s 5600X. The second-best choice is Intel’s 10900K.

Keep in mind that Photoshop can’t use multiple cores, so choosing a higher-end CPU won’t give you any noticeable boost in terms of performance. You don’t need to aim for a Threadripper or a Xeon CPU, for instance, as these won’t offer any additional improvement when running Adobe Photoshop.

Memory (RAM)

In terms of memory storage (RAM components), always prioritize quantity over quality because that’s the most important part when using Adobe Photoshop — or any other creative program, for that matter. Don’t get distracted by higher frequencies, latency, RGB, or any other special features. Aim for 8 gigabytes (GB) as the bare minimum quantity for your RAM storage, but if your budget allows it, go up to 16 GB, as that will give you a significant boost. 

No matter your choice, keep in mind that your motherboard likely has only four memory slots. Therefore it’s essential you plan ahead for RAM system requirements.

Say you’re looking for 16 GB of RAM currently, but you might want to upgrade to 32 GB in the future. In this case, it’s best to go with two sticks of memory of 8 GB (16 in total). This is considered a more flexible choice versus having four sticks of 4 GB each. While the total is still the same (16 GB), splitting it across only two sticks of RAM leaves two slots open in your motherboard, giving you room to upgrade.

Keep in mind that if your computer doesn’t have enough RAM, Photoshop will start taking up disk space in order to continue running. This will cause a substantial drop in performance, so it’s best you stock up on RAM as soon as your budget allows in order to get the best results with Adobe Photoshop.

Also note that working with large photo sizes will require more RAM. If you want to learn about resizing photos, please check out this tutorial.

Graphics card (GPU)

Adobe Photoshop doesn’t rely on your graphics card too much. It’s wise to put more of your budget toward a good CPU and enough memory (RAM) and go with a sufficient graphics card option. 

If you’re on a tight budget, you may want to consider a CPU with an integrated graphics card. While this isn’t ideal, it’s the best choice for people who are willing to upgrade in the future. This is especially true since graphics card (GPU) prices have skyrocketed and inventory is low.

Rather than buying a marked-up graphics card, focus on getting the best possible CPU. It’s the most important component as far as Adobe Photoshop is concerned. When your budget allows it, you can buy a best-selling graphics card.

For Adobe Photoshop performance, there is virtually no difference between a high-end graphics card and a mediocre one. Any GPU with at least 2 GB will work well on a 1080p display.

To learn more about customizing your Photoshop interface on any display, please see this article.

Storage (SSD or HDD)

Photoshop’s performance can be increased dramatically if you swap out your hard drive (HDD) with a solid-state drive (SSD). SSDs are more expensive, but the difference in speed is substantial, so the upgrade is well worth the price. 

Most users know SSDs are considerably faster than regular hard disk drives, but here’s the catch: if you want Photoshop to truly benefit from your lightning-fast SSD, you have to use it as a scratch disk.

This option is available immediately underneath “Performance” in your Preferences. Scratch disks are used by Photoshop when you run out of RAM. The ideal situation is that you have ample free space on your SSD, which can become a bit difficult to achieve considering their lofty price per GB. That means you’re better off installing Photoshop, and other programs, on your hard drive, thereby keeping your SSD fairly empty to use as a scratch disk.

It may sound counterintuitive, but installing Photoshop on your SSD won’t make a noticeable difference in performance. In general, leaving Photoshop aside, most SSDs actually perform worse as you fill them up. Some argue that by having an SSD over 50 percent full, you’re slowing it down considerably. Of course, this varies from brand to brand and model to model.

As long as you have at least 20 GB of free space on your SSD, it should be fine.

Laptop or desktop?

When you’re checking system requirements for Adobe Photoshop, it might tempt you to go mobile. How does Adobe Photoshop compare on a laptop computer versus a desktop?

Based on experience, I suggest staying away from running Photoshop on a laptop unless you really need one. Laptops tend to become a money pit and an awfully bad choice in terms of value. In short, you give up a lot of performance for the sake of mobility. If that’s a trade you’re willing to make, there’s only one laptop that makes sense – the new Apple MacBooks based on the M1 chip.

Why aren’t laptops a great choice? Consider the CPU: in a laptop/ultrabook, the processor is vastly underpowered versus a desktop model, and its design is quite different. So while it may say i7 on the box, it’s a completely different CPU than what you get in a desktop computer. The difference in performance is like night and day.

The same applies to graphic cards. The reasoning is simple — the cooling isn’t as good. There are other downsides, but let me say this: a US$2000 laptop is miles behind a US$2000 desktop in terms of performance. But, again, if you really need one for Photoshop, my suggestion is to look for the new M1 chip from Apple.

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