Today’s Question: My hard drive with all my photos died. The catalog was not affected. I can see the previews in the Library module. I have backup photos and would like to load the backups into the same folder that they were in before. The question is how to synch the catalog with the backup photos?
Tim’s Quick Answer: All you need to do in this case is restore the backup copy of your photos so those backup copies appear in the same “path” as the originals. Once you’ve accomplished this, Lightroom will recognize those photos as appearing exactly where they are expected.
More Detail: If the backup copies of your photos represent an exact duplicate of your original photos, this process is actually very straightforward. This is the primary reason I advocate for a synchronization approach to backup, as outlined in an article that appeared in the September 2014 issue of my Pixology magazine (http://www.pixologymag.com).
When you have a backup that is synchronized with the master copies of your photos, the only step you need to perform to use the backup copy as the new master copy is to have the hard drive on which that backup appears match the path of the original hard drive that failed. In other words, for Macintosh users you can simply change the volume label (the name) of the drive to match the original hard drive. For Windows users, you simply need to assign the same drive letter to the backup as had been used for the master copy of your photos.
If you have used an approach to baking up your photos that does not provide an exact copy of the master storage location, your task may be a little more complicated. But ultimately you simply need to make sure that the path to the hard drive, the folder structure, and the photos within that folder structure all match the original master hard drive. As long as you recover your backup photos so they appear in the same location from Lightroom’s perspective, you can simply open your existing catalog and all of your photos will be available.
Of course, it is also worth noting that once you’ve restored your photos from a backup, you want to be sure to create an additional backup of your photos as quickly as possible!