Home / Articles / Adobe Photoshop / What’s it Going to Take to Run Photoshop CS4? A Real World Guide to the Hardware You’ll Need

What’s it Going to Take to Run Photoshop CS4? A Real World Guide to the Hardware You’ll Need


  1. Choosing a Platform
  2. Processors and Cores
  3. RAM
  4. Monitors and Video Cards

Article Description

Adobe Photoshop is about as rich a program as you'll ever encounter. But no quantity of tips, tricks, and workarounds can compensate for hardware that's inadequate for the task, or a poorly configured system. Conrad Chavez and David Blatner look at building an environment in which Photoshop CS4—and you —can excel.

Like this article? We recommend

Real World Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers

Real World Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers


Processors and Cores

Photoshop loves a speedy central processing unit (CPU), particularly as you pile on the megapixels, layers, and Smart Objects. CPU makers used to boost performance by increasing the CPU speed in gigahertz (GHz), but started hitting a wall in terms of heat and power consumption. In recent years, CPU design has shifted from speeding up one processor core to including multiple processor cores in a single CPU. Now it's easier to find a computer with two 2 GHz cores than with one 4 GHz core.

Photoshop has recognized multiple processors for several versions now. However, it's important to understand that two 2 GHz cores are not exactly as fast as one 4 GHz core. Overhead is involved in splitting the workload across the cores, and moving data between the cores takes time. Some operations aren't even practical to split across cores. In some cases, today's four-core and eight-core computers can process data faster than the memory bus can deliver more pixels to be processed, resulting in cores that wait for things to do. Multiple cores are beneficial when you have multiple applications that each require high CPU usage, or multiple processes that don't depend on each other, such as rendering video frames.

Multiple cores are most effective when doing a lot of processing on a relatively small data set. However, editing a Photoshop document usually involves moving high volumes of image data between the CPU, RAM, and disks, so the transfer speed between those components is a common bottleneck. To make the most of a multiple-core computer with Photoshop, you need enough RAM to minimize disk access. When disk access is inevitably required, you want disks that are fast enough to minimize delays in getting data to the RAM and CPU. If you're talking only about Photoshop, the speed gain of an eight-core computer versus a four-core computer isn't necessarily proportional to the price difference between them. This situation could change quickly as motherboard designs and operating systems are updated, though. If you're trying to make a purchase decision, be suspicious of specs that quote CPU speed improvements alone, without accounting for the other components. We advise you to research Photoshop-specific performance benchmarks for any computer you're thinking about buying.

64-Bit Processing

Many people anticipate huge performance gains from the newer CPUs that can process 64 bits of data at a time, compared to the 32-bit CPUs that have been in use for years. Sounds twice as fast, right? Well, not automatically. To get the most out of a 64-bit CPU, you also need the following:

  • A 64-bit operating system. For example, it isn't enough to have Windows Vista; you need the 64-bit version of Windows Vista. (Photoshop CS4 doesn't officially support 64-bit Windows XP.) On the Mac, it's a little more complicated. Mac OS X 10.5 is the first Mac operating system to have 64-bit support throughout the system, and Adobe had originally planned to make the Mac version of Photoshop CS4 support 64-bit operation. However, because Apple unexpectedly removed 64-bit support for legacy (Carbon) applications, Adobe won't be able to provide a 64-bit Mac version of Photoshop until after CS4.

    If you have a Mac with a 64-bit processor and have a legitimate need to run 64-bit Photoshop CS4 now, you could try running the Windows version of Photoshop CS4 in 64-bit Windows Vista under Boot Camp. Yes, we realize that this isn't an ideal 64-bit solution for Mac users (like us).

  • Well over 4GB of RAM. One of the biggest benefits of 64-bit computing is that Photoshop can directly use more than the roughly 3GB of RAM that it can use under 32-bit computing. If this improvement appeals to you, don't upgrade to just 4GB, or you won't see much difference. Aim for 8GB to start, and go higher if your files are big enough to need it.

    In 64-bit Windows Vista, the edition you use determines the maximum amount of RAM the system recognizes, ranging from the 8GB supported by the Home Basic edition to the 128GB limit of the Ultimate edition.

  • Really big files. The ability of a 64-bit processor to address much more RAM directly speeds up the processing of very large files. If you work with Photoshop files that are over 1GB in size, you should see major performance gains from 64-bit Photoshop. But if you mainly make simple edits to five-megapixel JPEG camera files without using many layers, masks, or Smart Objects, 64-bit Photoshop probably won't feel much faster.

Choosing 64-bit over 32-bit computing is like driving a 64-passenger bus instead of a 32-passenger bus. The 64-passenger bus can potentially move twice as many people in a single trip. But if you rarely carry that many people, the 64-passenger bus is no faster than the 32-passenger bus, and because it's bigger, it may actually cost you a bit more in overhead when it isn't being used to capacity. A 64-bit system can actually be slower than 32-bit when editing small files or when not much RAM is installed.

Adobe Press Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Adobe Press and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Adobe Press products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email ask@peachpit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.adobepress.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020