Today’s Question: How does one work directly from within Lightroom Classic to accomplish cloning from old external drive to a new one?
Tim’s Quick Answer: From within Lightroom Classic the only real option for cloning an external hard drive would be to use the “Export as Catalog” command to copy the catalog and photos to an external hard drive. Otherwise you would need to use third-party software to clone your hard drive to a new one.
More Detail: When you upgrade to a new (and presumably larger) external hard drive, there are several approaches you could take to transition to that new drive.
Within Lightroom Classic, as outlined in some recent answers in the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, you could move folders and the contents of those folders to the new hard drive. This, however, would involve moving rather than copying the photos.
If you wanted to copy the photos to the new hard drive rather than move them, you would need to take a different approach. For example, I use GoodSync software (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) to backup my external hard drives, including the drives that contain my photos. You could use this or similar software to create a copy of the photos from your old drive to the new drive. You would then need to make sure that the new drive had the same drive letter (Windows) or volume label (Macintosh) as the original drive, so that Lightroom would know where to find the photos.
You could also use the Export as Catalog command to make a copy of the catalog and all photos on the new drive. To get started you would want to select the All Photographs collection from the Catalog section on the left panel in the Library module. Then choose Edit > Select All to select all photos. Choose File > Export as Catalog from the menu, and in the dialog that appears navigate to the new external hard drive. Make sure that the “Export negative files” checkbox is turned on, and click the Export Catalog button.
This process will take some time depending on how many photos you have in your catalog. But when the process is complete you would have a new copy of your catalog and all of your photos on the new external hard drive. You could then open the Lightroom catalog directly from the new external hard drive to continue working from that drive moving forward. Just be sure from that point forward that you don’t use the “old” drive other than keeping it as a backup.