How full is your system drive? And how full are your external drives?
Your RAM may be a problem - if possible upgrade to 8 GB RAM, but I have used Aperture on an iMac with 4 GB RAM for several years without a problem.
I'd start the trouble shooting with repairing permissions and repairing the library with the Aperture Library First Aid Tools- constantly crashing may have corrupted your Aperture Library. Launch Aperture with the options- and command-key combination ⌥⌘ hold down and select "Repair Permissions" from the First Aid panel, then "Repair Database". If necessary, also "Rebuild Library", but make sure your backup is current, before you do that.
Sorry, but IMO you should consider upgrading your hardware. You are running a heavy pro images workflow on 5-year-old consumer-grade hardware, so less than pro-level performance is not unexpected.
On your existing box:
Drives slow as they fill, so make sure the internal (Library) drive stays less than ~70% full.
New OS and app versions tend to better use more RAM.
You can evaluate whether or not you have adequate RAM by looking at the Page Outs number under System Memory on the Activity Monitor app before starting a typical work session; recheck after working and if the page outs change (manual calculation of ending page outs number minus starting page outs number) is not zero your workflow is RAM-starved. Ignore page ins, the pie charts and other info in Activity Monitor.
If your manually calculated test shows that page outs increase at all during operation it is affecting performance. You can
• add RAM as feasible (personlly I would instead use that money toward a new Thunderbolt Mac)
• restart with some frequency if you suspect memory leaks (common especially with less-than-top-quality applications)
• and/or simply try to run only one app at a time, for sure diligently closing unneeded apps like browsers
• and/or switch 64-bit operation to 32-bit operation (which will make some additional RAM space available). Note that your Mac may already default to 32-bit. See Switching Kernels:
Note that RAM is cheap and heavy apps' usage of more RAM is a good thing. Photoshop for instance has been able to under OS X take advantage of up to at least 32 GB RAM for years.
will a new macbook handle my needs or should I shop for a new desktop machine
Only you know your needs!
I need to be mobile with my mac and take it on the road; so I went for the MacBook Pro with the largest screen. But if you are happy to work at a desk, a Desktop machine may be better for you. YOu will be able to put in more internal disk space and it will have a larger display. With my MacBook Pro I had to sacrifice the space reserved for an optical drive for a second internal disk; so I can no longer burn DVDs with my new MBP, unless I connect an external burner.
leonieDF, I was actually wondering about processing power in the laptop rather that my needs. I do occasionally have a need for mobile uploads, so the laptop would solve with that problem. I don't use much of my imac's internal disc space as everything is stored on external drives, so the size of the memory in the laptop is of little concern to me.
I hope Allen will answer that part - he knows most about the processing power.
But one thing I'd like to mention: With Aperture the speed of disks and the amount of your RAM are as essential as the speed of the CPU and your Graphics card. It helps a lot to have the Aperture Library on the fastest drive you have - mine is on the internal SSD drive and the referenced masters are on the second internal drive. If you want to use external drives, connect them to your fastest ports.
...will a new macbook handle my needs or should I shop for a new desktop machine?
Like Léonie said, individual needs are a huge gray area each of us must personally define.
Properly set up and with SSD (Solid State Drive), the top 2011/2012 MBPs make excellent desktop replacement (DTR) boxes that will almost assuredly handle your needs (today). Needs and expectations grow with time, however, and OS/app demands also increase over time. So a new puchase is really about anticipating a variable life cycle.
Within the next week or so we will almost assuredly see multiple new Mac upgrades, including a new Mac Pro far more powerful than anything we have seen before. We should revisit this topic in 2 weeks.
Primate Labs has an excellent visual reference of the CPU performance of every past and present Mac model:
Note how much stronger Mac Pros are than the best MBPs and iMacs, even though the MPs have not had a serious upgrade in 2 years.
With the caveat that new boxes are imminent I will opine some hardware generalities regarding Aperture:
• The use of a HDD (Hard Disk Drive) for boot is a defunct concept. Everyone buying a new box should include SSD (Solid State Drive) for boot as part of the plan.
• "Desktop" does not necessarily make for a stronger setup than "laptop." Note on the benchmarks linked above that the top 2011+ MBPs are comparable to the top 2011+ iMacs. iMacs and MBPs should really be perceived as similar in power, but Mac Pros are much stronger.
• Mac Pro "towers" do make for a stronger setup than MBPs/iMacs, by a huge margin. All that beef matters:
- Power supply
- Quiet heat removal
- Upradable graphics (huge, huge issue regarding life cycle performance of a pro graphics app)
- RAM slots (cheap RAM means apps/OS designed to take advantage of much more RAM)
- Wide range of available displays; no fixed, non-upgradable, glossy display attached
- Easy drive replacements
• Graphics support has always been important to Aperture; e.g. the very strongest G5 tower would not run Aperture until the stock GPU was upgraded. Stronger (and multiple) GPUs are constantly becoming available to Mac Pros on an ongoig basis but iMacs and MBP GPUs are not upgradable, which is a significant detriment to the life cycle performance of iMacs and MBPs.
• Top iMac graphics are about 2x top MBP graphics, so top iMacs will outperform top MBPs. MP graphics are 5x the best iMac graphics, and over time the relevant graphics difference between MBP/iMac will fade but the MP relevant graphics difference can increase by upgrading.
• CPU and i/o strengths of MBP/iMac are similar. The benefits of top iMac vs. top MBP are a) extra RAM slots and b) stronger but still not upgradable GPU. The iMac detriments are a) not mobile, b) glossy display. Price is not as big a difference as one might think once SSD is included in the cost analysis.
All that said, I use a top 2011 SSD MBP and find that it drives Aperture very well. However if I did not need mobility (or if Aperture built in MBP-to-MP Library synch to the app) I would also buy a Mac Pro.
With Aperture the speed of disks and the amount of your RAM are as essential as the speed of the CPU and your Graphics card. It helps a lot to have the Aperture Library on the fastest drive you have - mine is on the internal SSD drive and the referenced masters are on the second internal drive. If you want to use external drives, connect them to your fastest ports.
I fully agree.
Normally 8 GB RAM is fine for Aperture, but combined Aperture/Photoshop/NX2 workflows will do best with at least 16 GB RAM, and that is today. In the future I expect RAM demands to increase. Already an Aperture/Photoshop workflow on my 2011 MBP can easily drive 8 GB of RAM to paging out.
Note that Thunderbolt makes the top 2011/2012 MBPs effective DTR choices because now input/output (i/o) need no longer be the major bottleneck it was on laptops in the past.