Today’s Question: When I started in Lightroom a few years ago, I put my photos on an external (4TB) hard drive. That is where my catalogue resides as well. The drive is close to full, so I need to switch to a fresh external drive. What do I do about the catalogue? If I copy it to the new drive and work from it, when I plug it into Lightroom most of the photos won’t be available if I don’t have the first drive hooked up. Is there a real downside to starting a new catalogue on the new drive, for the new photos going forward? Then I would only need that external drive attached. If I want to work on the other photos, I can hook up the other drive. Am I missing something key?
Tim’s Quick Answer: I would actually recommend putting the Lightroom catalog onto the internal hard drive of your computer, both for improved performance and the ability to access your catalog regardless of whether the drives with your photos are connected. If possible I also recommend using a single hard drive for storing all of your photos.
More Detail: My preference is to use a single Lightroom catalog to manage all of my photos. With this approach, you don’t have to think about which catalog you need to open in Lightroom in order to locate a particular image. Instead you simply open your only Lightroom catalog, knowing that all of your photos are being managed by that catalog.
Whenever possible, I also prefer to have the Lightroom catalog stored on the internal hard drive of your computer. This enables you to open your catalog and even apply updates to the metadata of your photos, for example, without needing to connect the external hard drive that contains your photos. This approach will also generally provide improved performance in Lightroom, since an internal hard drive will generally be faster than an external hard drive (though not always, of course).
If at all possible, I also prefer to have all photos stored on a single external hard drive, simply to streamline the overall folder structure to reside on a single drive. In the context of Lightroom this approach also makes it a little easier to find a particular folder, since you’ll only have one list of folders in the Folders section on the left panel in the Library module.