Today’s Question: My Lightroom Catalog and Previews are on my main internal hard drive. I wish to keep them there. Therefore, I only want to move my photo files to a larger external hard drive. Is it correct to assume that I close Lightroom; then after copying all of my photo files to the new external hard drive, I give it exactly the same name as the old external hard drive? Having done that, when I next open Lightroom, will it automatically find my photo files?
Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, it is possible to “upgrade” to a larger hard drive for your photos, while keeping your Lightroom catalog (and therefore previews) on the internal hard drive on your computer. The process you described in today’s question is one way of accomplishing this task.
More Detail: The key to this approach is that Lightroom is looking for your photos based on the path to the photos referenced within the Lightroom catalog. If you “upgrade” to a larger hard drive to store your photos, you can simply make that hard drive appear with the same path as the “old” hard drive, and Lightroom essentially won’t know the difference.
The first step is to copy all of your photos from the existing external hard drive to the new drive. You can quite literally copy all of the contents of one drive to the other, or use synchronization software such as GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) to perform this task.
Once you have copied all of the folders and photos from the “old” drive to the “new” drive, you’ll need to update that drive. First quit Lightroom, and then disconnect the “old” hard drive from the computer. Then update the “new” hard drive so that it matches the path of the old drive.
For Windows users, this means changing the drive letter (which you can do in the Computer Management application) to the same drive letter that had been used for the old hard drive. For Macintosh users you simply need to update the volume label for the new drive to match that of the old drive, which you can accomplish by right-clicking on the new drive and choosing Rename, then applying the same name as the old drive.
At this point the path to all of your folders and photos will appear exactly as those paths had been before the storage upgrade. You can then launch Lightroom and you will find all of your photos available just as if nothing had happened at all. Except now you’ll have more space available on the new larger hard drive.
This process was also outlined in the August 2014 issue of Pixology magazine, in the article “Step by Step: Storage Upgrade”.