External Drive for Lightroom


Today’s Question: In an “Ask Tim Grey” in November you discussed the subject of moving your Lightroom Classic catalog to an external drive. I will soon be ordering a new fast external SSD drive so I’m confident I will not have any speed issues. What I was wondering is, other than moving the catalog and my photos, are there any other files that need to reside on the external storage device, like presets or third-party plugins? Also, what is the best way to go about moving those files or folders?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can move the Lightroom Classic catalog files without needing to move anything else, as long as you move the entire folder that contains the catalog. If you also want to move photos, you should do that within Lightroom.

More Detail: The Lightroom Classic catalog can be stored on an external hard drive, as long as that drive has excellent performance. If the external hard drive isn’t fast, overall performance within Lightroom can suffer significantly when the catalog is on an external drive.

To move the catalog to another location, you actually just want to move the folder that contains your catalog. That will ensure all of the support files will be included in the same location. If you have turned on the option in Preferences to store presets with the catalog, those will be included in the same folder.

Before you move the folder containing your catalog, be sure to quit Lightroom. Then move the entire folder containing the catalog to the desired location. After moving the folder, double-click the catalog file (it has a filename extension of “lrcat”) to launch Lightroom with your catalog in the new location.

If you also want to move photos to a different hard drive, that should be done within Lightroom. With a new external hard drive you would first need to create an empty folder on the drive, so that that folder (and therefore the hard drive itself) will be visible within Lightroom.

To create a new folder, click the plus (+) button to the right of the Folders heading on the left panel in the Library module and choose “Add Folder” from the popup that appears. In the dialog, navigate to the new hard drive, and click the New Folder button at the bottom-left of the dialog. Type a name for the folder, such as “Photos”, and click the Create button. Then click the Choose button to close the dialog.

With the new folder created, you can then drag-and-drop the folders containing your photos to that new folder. You can move multiple top-level folders (and their contents) at once by clicking on one of the folders on the list and then holding the Shift key while clicking on the last folder in a series. You can then drag-and-drop the one of the selected folders to the folder you created on the new hard drive to move all of the selected folders at once.