Organizing Across Multiple Drives


Today’s Question: I keep all my photos on a portable external hard drive, but I have outgrown the capacity of the drive. In one of your webinars, you mentioned that this happened to you, but you did not explain how you worked this out with splitting your photos onto two external hard drives. How did you approach that? What happens when I do a search and only one portable hard drive is connected to the computer?

Tim’s Quick Answer: When I got to the point that I was running out of storage space on the hard drive I use for storing my photos (, I moved what I considered my “lower priority” images to the secondary hard drive, keeping my “higher priority” photos on the primary drive.

More Detail: When your photo storage starts to reach the capacity limit of the hard drive, you’re using to store your photos, there are three possible solutions. You can get a hard drive with a higher capacity, you can delete outtake photos to reduce your storage needs, or you can divide your photos across more than one hard drive, hopefully with some organizational structure that will prevent confusion about which photos are on which drive.

I felt that the process of reviewing my large library of photos and deleting outtakes would involve a significant time investment. Eventually I will undertake that project, but I needed a faster solution in the short term.

I would have been happy to buy a hard drive with a higher capacity, but there isn’t a good solution here for my needs. I store my photos on LaCie Rugged portable hard drives ( because I typically travel somewhat extensively and want to have my photos available during my travels. The model that I use has a maximum capacity of five terabytes. There is a model with an eight-terabyte capacity (, but the form factor makes this drive less convenient in my view.

So, for me, at least for now, the solution was to divide my photos across two hard drives. That meant I had to decide how to choose which photos would remain on the primary hard drive, and which would be moved to a secondary hard drive. For me the easiest approach was to move folders containing photos that I was less likely to use to the secondary hard drive, keeping the photos I was most likely to use on the primary hard drive.

What that amounted to for me was moving folders representing trips where I didn’t feel I had captured my best photos to the secondary hard drive. That would include trips that weren’t completely focused on photography, trips to locations that I didn’t find especially photogenic, or trips where the weather didn’t cooperate. You could also obviously divide photos based on age, with the older photos going to the secondary hard drive and the newer photos remaining on the primary hard drive.

The folders containing photos from my favorite trips remained on the primary hard drive, and I made a point of leaving plenty of free space on this hard drive so I wouldn’t need to move additional photos to the secondary drive for a while.

Hopefully a new portable hard drive with much higher capacity will be available soon. If not, I’ll need to make a point of undertaking a project soon to delete outtake photos in order to reduce the amount of storage capacity required for my photos.