“Upgrading” a Hard Drive

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Today’s Question: I recently purchased an external 5 TB hard drive to be used strictly for the photos in my Lightroom catalog. My question is two-fold: Would it be best to move all of my photos to this new hard drive, or just start using it for the new photos? If it is best to move all the photo the files to the new drive, what is the best way to do it?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My preference is to keep all photos in a single storage location, in large part so that my entire folder listing for photos appears in one section on the left panel in Lightroom’s Develop module. Therefore, I recommend copying all photos to the new hard drive outside the context of Lightroom, then updating the new hard drive so it represents the same path as the old hard drive (with the old hard drive disconnected, of course).

More Detail: You can read more details about my recommended workflow in the article “Step by Step: Storage Upgrade” in the August 2014 issue of Pixology magazine (http://pixologymag.com). In concept the process is very simple. All you need to do is copy the photos from the “old” drive to the “new” drive, disconnect the old drive, and then make the new drive appear with the same path so Lightroom will find photos where they are expected.

This is a rare situation where I perform image-management work outside of the context of Lightroom, in large part because Lightroom doesn’t make it easy to copy photos (rather than move photos) from one location to another without creating potential confusion.

So, I would first make sure I had a full backup of the old storage location, just to be on the safe side. Then quit Lightroom and copy the entire contents of the old photos drive to the new photos drive. Once that process is complete, the folder structure on the new hard drive will match the folder structure on the old drive. At this point you just need to make sure the hard drive represents the same path as the old drive did.

On the Macintosh platform you can simply change the volume label for the new drive to match that of the old drive. This is a simple matter of renaming the drive itself through the operating system. You can, for example, select the hard drive where it appears on the desktop. Then click on the name of the drive to enable renaming, and type the exact same name that had been used by the old photos drive.

On the Windows platform you need to change the drive letter for the new drive to match the drive letter that had been in use for the old drive. This can be accomplished using the Disk Management controls of the Computer Management application under the Control Panel. You can find this option by going to the Control Panel, going to the System and Security section, choosing Administrative Tools, and then launching Computer Management. You can then choose Disk Management from the left pane. Right click on the new hard drive, and choose Change Drive Letter and Paths. Then click Change, set the desired drive letter, and click OK.

In either case, the result is that to Lightroom the new drive looks exactly like the old drive in terms of the path and folder structure. At this point you can therefore launch Lightroom again, and all of the photos will be right where Lightroom is expecting them.