Duplicate Storage with One Catalog

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Today’s Question: I used to have two identical hard drives with all my photos and the catalog on each one, using GoodSync to synchronize them. This way I was able to run Lightroom Classic CC from either hard drive. Now I moved the catalog away from the hard drive to my laptop computer. I want to work with one hard drive in my office and the other hard drive at home, synchronizing them regularly. I will move the computer between locations, using a different hard drive at each location. The problem is that the catalog does not find the photos after I have worked with the other drive. Is there a solution to work with one central catalog in the computer and either of the two identical drives with my photos?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This is a challenging scenario, in that it involves using one catalog on one computer, but wanting to use a different hard drive with that computer at two different locations. Provided you keep the drives properly synchronized with each other (with a two-way synchronization), the key is to make sure the hard drive has the same drive letter (Windows) or volume label (Macintosh) when you are actually using those drives with Lightroom.

More Detail: Lightroom Classic CC makes use of a catalog to manage the information about your photos. When using one catalog, of course there is no confusion about where your metadata is, since all updates will be stored within the catalog.

However, in the scenario outlined in today’s question, the aim is to use two different drives at two different locations. The unique twist here is the desire to store all of the photos on two different hard drives, with one drive stored at each location.

The first step here is to make sure both hard drives remain synchronized with each other. This requires a two-way synchronization, so that changes on either drive will be reflected on the other drive. This is an option you can employ with GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup), for example.

In order to connect two hard drives to the same computer to perform a synchronization, the two drives must have a different drive letter (Windows) or volume label (Macintosh). In other words, it must be clear to the computer that the drives are two different drives.

Once the drives are synchronized, however, having a different drive letter or name for both drives means Lightroom will be confused. For example, let’s assume the drives are called “Home” and “Office”, and that Lightroom expects to find the photos on the “Office” drive. When you go home and launch Lightroom with the “Home” drive connected, all photos will appear to be missing.

To correct for this confusion, you could rename the “Home” drive to “Office”, even though it isn’t really your office drive. Then, when you want to synchronize again, you would need to change the name of the home drive back to “Home”.

As you can probably appreciate, this process can be a little cumbersome and potentially confusing. For this reason, you might find it simpler to move a hard drive from one location to another, rather than going through this synchronization process. Of course, with a rather large hard drive, this can be more cumbersome than a synchronization workflow.

Another option would be to consider Lightroom CC rather than Lightroom Classic CC. With Lightroom CC your photos and updates can be synchronized across multiple computers and devices. There are some drawbacks in terms of the overall features available in Lightroom CC and the lack of control over the specific folder structure used to store your photos.