Today’s Question: I have done a complete backup to an external hard drive of my Lightroom catalog including all negative pictures and available previews using the Export as Catalog command. I have then used GoodSync to synchronize my changes to this original backup when adding/working on new pictures in Lightroom. However, if I ever have to use this backup because of a failed hard drive, new computer, etc. I have no idea how to bring all this GoodSync backup data back into Lightroom.
Tim’s Quick Answer: Actually, the beauty of using software such as GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) to backup your photos and other data is that you don’t actually need to go through a recovery process. You can simply connect one of the backup drives in place of a failed original, make sure that the drive letter or volume label are the same as the original, and get to work immediately.
More Detail: In this case there is one additional challenge based on the way you’ve described your workflow. Specifically, it sounds like you have used the “Export as Catalog” command to create a copy of your Lightroom catalog and image files. If this copy is truly only a backup copy, however, your workflow won’t be as streamlined as it could be.
The “Export as Catalog” command is a great way to make a full one-time backup of your catalog and photos. However, it doesn’t provide a good way of incrementally updating your backup. If you used the “Export as Catalog” command to create a new data storage solution, such as transitioning your catalog and photos from an internal hard drive to an external hard drive, that’s perfectly fine. But I wouldn’t employ “Export as Catalog” as an ongoing backup solution.
You could, for example, keep your Lightroom catalog on your internal hard drive, with your photos stored on an external hard drive. You could then employ the Lightroom catalog backup feature to create a backup copy of your catalog on the same external hard drive as your photos. You could then use GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) to backup that photos drive to another external hard drive.
This way, in the event of a serious problem, you’d have everything backed up on both external hard drives. Your recovery process could be as simple as connecting the backup external hard drive and opening the Lightroom catalog from that drive, making sure that the drive has the same drive letter (on Windows) or volume label (on Macintosh) as the original photos drive, so that Lightroom will still be able to find those photos where they are expected. And, of course, you could also move (or copy) that backup catalog to your internal hard drive as part of that recovery process.
The bottom line is that when using a synchronization approach to backing up your photos and other data, the recovery process is a simple matter (for the most part) of using a backup drive in the place of a drive that has failed or experienced other problems. No software “restore” process is required.