Today’s Question: I want to utilize an unused 4TB external drive to give some relief to my main 6TB drive. How exactly can this be accomplished, within Lightroom Classic, without creating any problems? I want to maintain the same folder structure for the photos that will reside on the new external drive. How best to distinguish between the old and the new drive? How best to avoid the “dreaded” question marks?
Tim’s Quick Answer: You can transfer photo and folders to a new external hard drive quite easily by first creating a new folder on the new hard drive and then dragging and dropping to that drive. The key being to make sure all this work is done within Lightroom Classic.
More Detail: One of the reasons that I find photographers get confused about moving photos from an existing hard drive to a new hard drive is that Lightroom Classic doesn’t show the new hard drive in the Folders section of the left panel in the Library module. That’s because Lightroom Classic only displays hard drives that actually contain photos being managed within the catalog.
When you want to make a new hard drive available within Lightroom Classic so you can move existing photos to that new drive, you first need to create a new folder on the drive. To do so, click on the plus (+) icon to the right of the Folders heading on the left panel in the Library module and choose “Add Folder” (not “Add Subfolder”) from the popup menu.
In the dialog that appears, navigate to the new hard drive you want to make available within Lightroom Classic. Then click the “New Folder” button at the bottom of the dialog and enter a name for the new folder. Since this will be a top-level folder in the context of your photos in Lightroom Classic, I suggest using a somewhat generic name such as “Photos”. If you want to designate that this storage location is something of an archive for overflow photos you could call the folder “Photo Archive”, for example. Click the Choose button to close the dialog after creating your new folder.
At this point the new folder you created will appear on the Folders list on the left panel in Lightroom Classic, under a heading representing the new hard drive. You can then drag-and-drop folders from the existing hard drive to the new folder on the new hard drive. You can also create other new folders on the new hard drive, such as to then move a subset of photos from a folder on the existing drive to a folder with the same (or similar) name on the new drive.
By virtue of doing all this work in Lightroom Classic, none of the photos or folders will go missing in the context of the catalog. And, of course, all of the changes you make in this way within Lightroom Classic will be reflected on the actual hard drive and through your operating system.