Today’s Question: You have previously addressed how to move photos from an internal hard drive to an external hard drive with Lightroom Classic. I have the opposite issue. How can I copy my photos from an external drive to my internal hard drive when I can’t change the name of the internal drive to match the external drive?
Tim’s Quick Answer: In this case I recommend making sure that the photos on the external hard drive are all within a single parent folder. I would then copy that folder to the internal hard drive and reconnect Lightroom Classic to that folder in the new location.
More Detail: When you want to move photos from one storage location to another, you can most certainly move photos within Lightroom Classic. This provides an approach that ensures that photos and folders won’t go missing within your catalog, but it also means you will be moving photos rather than copying them. You may prefer to copy the photos rather than move them, so that you’re reducing the risk of something going wrong along the way. If so, you’ll need to copy the photos outside of Lightroom Classic.
If you’re able to make the new destination appear as an exact match of the previous location, this overall process is relatively straightforward. For example, you could copy photos from an existing external hard drive to a larger external hard drive, and then just make sure that the new drive has the same drive letter (Windows) or volume label (Macintosh) as the old drive.
If you want to move photos from an external hard drive to an internal hard drive, this can be a little more complicated, since you generally would not want to change the drive letter or volume label for the internal drive.
If the photos on the external hard drive do not already have a single parent folder on the external hard drive, I would start by creating this folder, as doing so will streamline the process of reconnecting the photos in Lightroom Classic later. Within Lightroom Classic you can click the plus symbol (+) to the right of the Folders heading on the left panel in the Library module, and choose “Ad Folder” from the popup menu. Navigate to the external hard drive, click the button to create a new folder, and give that folder a meaningful name such as “My Photos”.
Next, within Lightroom Classic, drag-and-drop all the folders that contain photo into the new folder you created. You can then go out of Lightroom Classic and copy the “My Photos” folder to the desired location on the internal hard drive. When that process is complete, disconnect the external hard drive.
At this point all the folders and photos will appear as missing in Lightroom Classic. Right-click on the “My Photos” parent folder and choose “Find Missing Folder” from the popup menu. Navigate to the folder location on the internal hard drive and select the “My Photos” folder there. This will reconnect the folder structure that had been on the external hard drive with the same folders that are not on the internal hard drive.
You can then rename the “My Photos” folder on the external hard drive to something like “Backup of My Photos” so you’ll know that this is now a backup copy of the photos, with the originals on the internal hard drive.