Changing Storage Location


Today’s Question: I want to move the Lightroom catalog to the internal SSD and store the active photos folder on the second internal hard drive. I can move the catalog to the SSD drive but I’m uncomfortable moving folders within Lightroom. From within Lightroom one can move folders but you cannot copy. Is there a way to copy the photos from the backup to the internal drive outside Lightroom and then reconnect the catalog with the copy that I make on the internal drive without losing Collections and other Lightroom specific settings?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can copy your photos outside of Lightroom and then reconnect the new copy within Lightroom, and none of the data within your Lightroom catalog will be lost in the process. This is a reasonable alternative to moving the photos within Lightroom.

More Detail: The first part of this process (moving the catalog) is very simple. You’ll want to make sure Lightroom isn’t running, and then copy the entire folder containing your Lightroom catalog (along with the previews file and possibly some other files) to the new location.

When the folder is finished copying, you can rename the original folder to reflect the fact that it is now simply a backup copy of the catalog, such as by adding the word “BACKUP” to the beginning of the folder name. Once the catalog is moved you can continue using Lightroom normally, since that catalog will still reference the photos based on where they are actually stored. Then you can set about the task of moving your photos.

In general I prefer to move photos within Lightroom rather than going through the slightly more complicated process of copying and reconnecting, so I’ll cover that process first. In this case you would want to make sure that you have a complete backup copy of your photos before you move the master copy of your photos.

Once you have a backup copy (or two!) of your photos, you can move the master photos within Lightroom. If the destination hard drive does not contain any photos that are being managed within Lightroom, that drive won’t appear in Lightroom. To make that drive visible, you’ll need to create a folder on that drive within Lightroom. To do so, click the “plus” icon (+) to the right of the Folders header and choose the “Add Folder” option. Navigate to the hard drive you want to move photos to, and create a new parent folder in that location with a name such as “PHOTOS”.

Once you’ve created this folder, it will appear on the applicable hard drive in the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module. You can then move all folders from your existing drive to this new location. Simply click on the first folder on the list, then hold the Shift key on the keyboard while clicking on the last folder on the list. You can then drag-and-drop the full range of selected photos to the new folder you created, clicking the “Move” button in the confirmation dialog to confirm you do indeed want to move your photos to the new location.

If you prefer to copy your photos rather than move them, that is an option as well. Start by quitting Lightroom. You can then use your operating system to copy all of the photos from the existing storage location to the desired new storage location. Once that option is completed, be sure to make sure Lightroom can’t see the original storage location. If that location is an external hard drive, you can simply disconnect the drive. If it is on an internal drive, you can rename the parent folder to “BACKUP”, or otherwise make sure that Lightroom won’t find those original copies of your photos where they are expected.

At this point you can launch Lightroom again. All of the folders and photos will show as being missing, because they are not in the location Lightroom is expecting them. You can then right-click on a top-level folder on the Folders list, and choose the “Find Missing Folder” option. Select the exact same folder in the new storage location and click the Choose button.

In most cases, Lightroom will do a good job of recursively reconnecting all other related folders once you have reconnected one of the folders. I’ve had mixed results with this, however, so in some cases you might need to use this “reconnect” option for multiple folders in order to get everything back in order.

With either approach, as long as you are using the same catalog and ensuring that all of the photos and folders are reconnected in terms of Lightroom being able to find them all, you won’t lose any of the information about your photos that is contained within the Lightroom catalog.