Today’s Question: I maintain my catalog and photograph files on an external hard disk to enable me to edit on my laptop and desktop. I am outgrowing my external disk and want to move the catalog and photographs to a new larger external disk. How can I do this so that it will be seamless when using Lightroom (i.e. so that the software knows where to find the catalog and files)?
Tim’s Quick Answer: The task here is actually reasonably straightforward. Put simply, there are two steps involved. First, of course, you’ll want to copy all of the files from the “old” drive to the “new” drive. Then disconnect the “old” drive and assign the same drive letter (on Windows) or volume label (on Macintosh) to the new drive as had been assigned to the old drive. Then when you launch Lightroom again, your catalog and photos will appear right where you left them.
More Detail: In concept there are four things you need to do here. Those are to (1) move the Lightroom catalog to the new drive, (2) move the photos to the new drive, (3) open the catalog in Lightroom from the new drive, and (4) reconnect the photos so Lightroom knows to look for them on the new drive.
As noted above, however, all of these tasks can be streamlined by simply making it look to Lightroom like nothing has changed.
The first step is relatively straightforward, but it can also be a bit time-consuming. That is to copy the catalog and photos to the new hard drive. Be sure to quit Lightroom before you start this process, to ensure that the catalog file is closed before you copy it. You could manually copy all of the contents from the “old” drive to the “new” drive, but you could also use synchronization software (such as the GoodSync software I have recommended before, available at http://timgrey.me/greybackup).
With the Lightroom catalog and photos copied to the new hard drive, you can disconnect the old hard drive and set it aside as a backup. In theory at this point you could simply open the Lightroom catalog that is on your new drive, and then reconnect the photos that will at this point appear to be missing. However, you can streamline this process by making the new hard drive appear to Lightroom as the same as the old hard drive.
For Macintosh users, all you need to do is change the volume label of the new hard drive to match the label for the old drive. This is essentially the “name” of the drive, and you can change that name by simply right-clicking on the drive within the operating system and choosing the Rename option, then typing a new name and pressing Enter/Return on the keyboard. Windows users can find instructions for changing the drive letter for a drive on this page:
At this point you simply need to open the new catalog in Lightroom, and you’ll be able to pick up where you left off. For simplicity (and to make sure you’re opening the correct catalog), I recommend going to your new hard drive within the operating system, and navigating to the folder where your catalog is stored. Locate the “lrcat” file that is your actual Lightroom catalog, and double-click that file. That will cause Lightroom to open the catalog, and at this point things should appear exactly as they did before in terms of your catalog and photos, with the difference being that more free space will be available on your new hard drive.