Migrating Photos to a Larger Hard Drive


Today’s Question: All my photos are on a 3TB external hard drive, which is becoming full. I want to move all those to a new, larger 5TB external hard drive. What are my options?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My recommendation is to copy the photos exactly as they are to the new hard drive, and then use that new drive in place of the original. You can use software such as GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) to streamline this process.

More Detail: If you’re not using software such as Lightroom Classic, which uses a catalog to manage the information about your photos, you can copy your photos from the smaller drive to the larger drive in any way you find convenient. For example, if you’re using Adobe Bridge to manage your photos it isn’t important that the photos are copied with the same folder structure to the new hard drive, because there’s no catalog that would get out of sync from such an action.

If you’re using Lightroom Classic to manage your photos, it is very important that you use an appropriate approach to migrating to a new hard drive. There are two basic options available in this case.

The first option is to move the photos from the smaller drive to the larger drive from within Lightroom Classic. In order to be able to see the new drive within Lightroom Classic you’ll need to add a folder to that drive. To do so, click the plus (+) button 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. Navigate to the new hard drive and click the “New Folder” button. Give the folder a meaningful name such as “My Photos” and click the Choose button.

Once you’ve created a new folder on the new hard drive, that folder will appear under a heading for the hard drive in the Folders list. You can then select folders from the old drive and drag-and-drop them to the new drive. I recommend working in small batches rather than moving all folders at once, to make it easier to deal with any issues that arise during the process.

The second option is to copy the photos to the new drive outside of Lightroom Classic, making sure that the new drive will be an exact match to the existing drive. You can copy the entire contents from the smaller drive to the larger drive through the operating system, but I prefer to use synchronization software such as GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) to streamline the process and ensure an exact match between the two drives.

Once you’ve duplicated the folder structure precisely between the old and new drive, make sure that the new drive has the same drive letter (Windows) or volume label (Macintosh). Disconnect the old drive, and then use the Disk Management feature to change the drive letter on Windows, or simply rename the new drive to have the same name as the old drive on Macintosh.

After making sure the new drive is an exact match to the old drive, you can launch Lightroom Classic and continue working as usual because even though the photos are on a new hard drive, the storage structure will still be exactly what Lightroom Classic is expecting.