Elements: Is there a way to move my catalog and photos to an external network drive?

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I am trying to move my catalog and photos to an external network drive so that I can access my photos from my desktop or laptop computer. I tried backing up my catalog to an external drive and then restoring it to another external network drive, which worked fine. I can see the photos now from either computer, although I do need to "open" the network drive to see my folder (I don't see it when I just open explorer).
However, when I open PSE 9 in folder view, I can't see the drive at all. I've even mapped the share on the network drive to my C: drive, but I can't see that either. I would appreciate any help with this issue.
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Holly Featherston

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Posted 6 years ago

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Charles White

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My understanding is that this is a "feature" of Photoshop Elements. The designed method for syncing multiple computers is to rent file space on Photoshop.com and to sync both computers with that. The full version of Photoshop has/had something called "Bridge" that would do what you want. When I went through these questions about a year ago, I was using some other Photoshop Elements community type site, or I'd reference the conversation.

Somebody else may have a work around for you. I'm actually doing something a bit more complicated than what you propose. My wife and I have simultaneous edit access to a shared database of photos that we keep on photoshop.com.
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Holly Featherston

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Thanks for the reply. What I am really trying to accomplish is to be able to access, tag and edit my photos from multiple machines and locations. So I want to be able to access the same catalog and photos (shared database). Is using photoshop.com the only (or best) way to accomplish that? Can I also have a backup of my photos and catalog locally (just in case)?

Also, I have 2 PCs and a Mac. Can they share the same database?

Thanks for your help.
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Charles White

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1. Network Access: External storage, instead of a network drive, may work for you. Both of my machines are iMacs and I'm not going to play "Who's got the external drive" with my wife. Photoshop Elements 9 Release Notes explicitly say "Network catalogs: If you use the Organizer on a Mac machine, you can't use a catalog that is stored in a network location. Catalogs need to be on a local drive or an external hard disk or USB drive."

2. Photoshop.com is agnostic with regard to client machine operating system. So far, every problem I've had with Photoshop.com has been solved by logging out of Photoshop.com in Organizer and then logging back in.

3. There are Adobe specific tools for copying your pictures and databases but you don't need them. My experience with trying to use them makes me want to go "semi-ballistic." My backups are in Time Machine and BackBlaze.com. You're unlikely to get automatic backups from a moving external drive, so put yourself on a schedule to make backups.
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Holly Featherston

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OK, I'm still struggling! I've given up on the networked drive idea and am now just trying to get an external hard drive to work. Again, all I want to be able to do is work on my photos in the same catalog on either my desktop or laptop.

What is the corrrect procedure to get my catalog and photos on an external hard drive (that maintains all of the tagging and stacking that I have already done) so that everything points to the right place. In my efforts to date, everything still points to the C: drive, or doesn't keep the tag information.

I'm really going crazy and would appreciate any help!
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Charles White

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1. Test First. The external drive thing works between Macs but, now that you remind me of the file locations in the catalog, I'm not sure how well it will work in a mixed Mac/Windows environment. Before you invest any more time into the external drive, you may want to create a small test catalog on an external drive and see how well it is read on all the machines you want to use. Elements Organizer allows you to have multiple catalogs.

2. Moving Can Be Done. Several times, I have moved Elements Organizer's catalog. It can be done without losing any existing tags. However, it is tedious and time consuming. The more directories you use to save your pictures, the more time consuming it gets. I use a lot of directories.

3. My Technique for Moving. You have to move both your catalog and your pictures.

a. Pictures. I copy my pictures archive directory (with well over a hundred subdirectories) to the location where I want them using the Mac Finder (Windows File Manager equivalent).

b. Catalog. All of your tags are in the catalog. For this, I "move" the catalog using Elements Organizer's Catalog Manager. This DOES NOT change the picture file locations in the catalog you move.



c. Reconnecting Pictures to Tags. After deleting or moving your existing pictures directory, Elements Organizer will either ask you to reconnect your pictures or you can use the menu system for that purpose. Elements Organizer will try to reconnect the files without your assistance but it will probably get lost. You do have the option of telling the reconnection process to check specific subdirectories. Again, the more subdirectories you have, the more subdirectories you end up specifying when trying to reconnect the pictures to their tags.

4. Photoshop.com option. If you coordinate through Photoshop.com then you upload from your current directory structure and let your next computer download into whatever directory structure it deems appropriate. This is not nirvana. For 14k pictures and a high speed connection, it takes a day for me to move all of my pictures in one direction.

I hope this helps. I've been traveling or I would have got back to you sooner.
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Charles White

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I just started to upgrade to Elements 11 and found that syncing with Photoshop.com is no longer an option. PE 11 syncs with Revel instead but Revel doesn't appear to keep anywhere near the amount of metadata kept by PE 11 Organizer.
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Holly Featherston

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I'm so glad you're back. Thanks for the help.

I'm still having issues. I have a desktop (with the complete and accurate photos and catalog) and a laptop with which I would like to share the catalog and photos (on a portable external hard drive - I travel a lot). I've given up on the network drive (too slow) and on trying to incorporate my Mac (at least for now). I just want to be able to work on tagging and editing my photos at home, on my desktop, or on the road, on my laptop, using the same photos and catalog.

I tried copying the photos and catalog from my desktop to the ehd and then from there to my laptop, in the same directories. But all the photos were disconnected. So I tried to reconnect them, telling them where to find the photos. They said they were reconnecting, but they started moving to random folders (in folder view). The properties showed them as being where I intended to move them, so they couldn't be moved or reconnected again. It's a mess and the second time this happened.

So I went to plan B. Since the desktop was correct and untouched, I backed up the desktop to the ehd (after deleting all the other stuff on the ehd) and then restored the backup to the same ehd. I redirected the desktop catalog to now point to the ehd, but in folder view all of the photos are still showing up in the same spot they were before (C:/username/pictures) and the properties show them as still pointing to the C: drive. I'm afraid to try and move or reconnect them for fear that my one correct catalog will be ruined. Have I missed a step somewhere? Am I doing something wrong? The pointers have not moved. Please help!

My ultimate plan was to then take the ehd and be able to connect it to my laptop, point to that catalog and be able to work either on my laptop or desktop, whichever had the ehd. If this is not possible, please tell me and I'll give up. Thanks again. (Also, I don't think the Photoshop.com is an alternative since it seems to be unsupported in Elements 11 - and as you said it sounds slow)
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Charles White

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I'll make a few random comments and hope that some of it helps you.

1. I notice that I started into this without mentioning backups. For near instantaneous local backups, I run Time Machine on both of my iMacs. For offsite backup, I use Blaze. I live on the East Coast and Blaze is located on the West Coast. I did that on purpose.

2. Reconnecting pictures to the catalog is a whole lot easier than I thought it was. After you move your pictures, click on File > Get Pictures and Videos > From Files and Folders... and pull in all of your photos from the top level of the new location for your photo directories. Import any tags identified when you "Get" the photos. PE knows they're the same pictures you already had and makes all of the connections for you.

3. Because I'm switching both computers AND users (my wife and I), I'm not going to try the external hard drive for myself.

4. I think you can keep a synced catalog by locating your catalog on your portable external drive. You MAY even be able to read and write the catalog with your Mac. Did I mention that it's a good idea to keep backups?

Good Luck!
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Holly Featherston

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A few random replies, as I'm still stuck.

1. Yes, I have been backing up! Only to my external drives, but at least I do have several backups.

2. Everything is working except the pointers have not changed to the external hard drive after I restored my catalog there. I was told that a backup/restore would fix the pointer issue. So I guess it really isn't working at all. The catalog is exactly the same as if it were residing on the C: drive (which is where I started - no change at all) even though I have changed the catalog location to the Custom Location on my external hard drive (ehd).
The restore created Q:/Users/Holly /Pictures/then the individual picture folders (where Q: is the letter assigned to my ehd and Holly is my username).
I'm afraid to try to manually reconnect my photos from C: to Q: since last time I tried that they seemed to show up in random individual picture folders in folder view, even though the properties showed them residing exactly where I directed the pictures to reconnect.
I do see the Q: file structure (Q:/Users/Holly/Pictures/individual picture folders) in folder view of Organizer, but there are no pictures showing in the folders (even though the pictures are there in Windows Explorer on Q: - and C:).
So, are you suggesting that I select Q:/Users/Holly/Pictures in Organizer Folder view and then go to File > Get Pictures and Videos > From Files and Folders and pull in the photos from Q:/Users/Holly/Pictures (at that level??) and they will all reconnect appropriately (with tags and stacks and back into the proper subfolders)??

3. It seems like this whole idea of using an external drive should work. PSE shouldn't care where the catalog and folders reside. Can't figure out why I'm having so much trouble! At this point if I could get just the Desktop and Laptop working on the ehd I'd be thrilled and worry about the Mac later.

Thanks again for your help. (eagerly awaiting your reply)
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Charles White

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Question: So, are you suggesting that I ... go to File > Get Pictures and Videos > From Files and Folders and pull in the photos from Q:/Users/Holly/Pictures (at that level??) and they will all reconnect appropriately (with tags and stacks and back into the proper subfolders)?? [Note that I deleted part of your text.]

Response: Yep.

Note 2: After you connect all of your files to the database in the new location, searching for "All Missing Files" will probably show you a whole bunch (~500 in my case) thumbnail pictures that are not connected. If you get the associated name of the picture off of the thumbnail and search all of Photoshop Elements for that name, I expect you to find both a connected and a disconnected thumbnail.

Good Luck!
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Holly Featherston

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Quick question - if that procedure reconnects the photos appropriately, why will I have a whole bunch of disconnected files and what do you do with a connected and disconnected thumbnail? Delete the disconnected one from the catalog?? And are the photos really going to go to the proper folders?

As you can tell, I'm a little nervous to try this...
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Charles White

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1. Did I mention that backups are good things?

2. Before you try what I've suggested, show all of your media in PE and look at the number of items count in the lower left hand corner of the window. Write that number down. After you connect your files to the database the way I described earlier, I expect that the your total number of media items (thumbnails) will be higher. I further expect that it will be higher by the same number of thumbnails you find when you search for "All Missing Files." If I'm wrong, please tell me and I'll hop in my "Time Machine."

3. Thumbnails are not your picture files. they're something created by PE. If I've got a thumbnail connected to my picture file and another thumbnail that wants to connect to that same picture file, I'll delete the wannabe.

4. I'm disappointed that Adobe doesn't have an emoticon for berserker. Wait..., maybe they do!
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Holly Featherston

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1. Backups are wonderful - need to figure out how to backup my Q: drive!

2. Got up all my courage and tried it on one folder that had over 3000 photos in it. And yes, I wrote down the number so I could make sure I got them all. I was about 700 photos short, possibly because all my stacks were gone, but then again so were the photos (and I had expanded all stacks before starting). I have found that the "undo" button ranks right up there with backups.

3. However, I am claiming success!! I tried using the PSE move catalog command and moved the catalog from my desktop to my Q: drive. (wait - didn't you suggest this a few lifetimes ago??) I finally paid attention. And no, it didn't move my photos, so I set up a Q:\Users\Holly\Pictures structure and painstakingly moved all my pictures, folder by folder, inch by inch, using the PSE File>Move command. It took me two days. I'm exhausted, but it worked. Nothing moved to random folders and all of my tags and stacks are there. Even better, when I plug my Q: drive into my laptop, it works there too! Of course I have no catalog on my desktop anymore, but I guess if I'm going to commit to using an ehd then I should just leave it that way! But again, now need to try and backup the Q: drive.

4. So, any clue if I can preserve all of this work when I upgrade to Elements 11? If it undoes my efforts I will really go berserk!! Do I dare try to attach Q: to my Mac??

Thank you, thank you for not abandoning me!!
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Charles White

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1. Yikes! To the best of my current knowledge, PSE catalog backups are essential. If I clear my full PSE catalog by creating an empty catalog, none of the catalogs I created by restoring from Time Machine are recognized.

2. I never created a PSE 10 catalog backup because I couldn't get it to work on my Macs. Fortunately, I created a PSE 11 catalog backup before I blew away my functioning catalog in order to revert my catalog to what it was before I moved it. I'm seven photo edits short of what I was before this brilliant maneuver but the education was worth it. My library is in excess of 12k base pictures, or 15k total pictures.

3. You can restore a PSE backup to any location you like. If you don't put the directories back into their original locations, the PSE restore does not nest directories more than one level. So, c:\archive\2011\party becomes d:\archive\party.

4. If you open a catalog with a new name, or clear your main current catalog by creating an empty catalog, loading a restored catalog will cause PSE to create a whole new set of thumbnail images. After you've restored to a new location and read the catalog with a name different than what you already have in PSE memory, that's it. Your pictures are in a new location and the catalog is linked to the new location.

5. I recommend forcing a new catalog opening every time you move your ehd to a different machine. Otherwise, you may not be updating the catalog on the ehd.

6. As long as you have a recent PSE catalog backup, go ahead and try the Mac. All you've got to lose is time. One way or the other, you will learn something that you want to know.
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Charles White

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PS, if you haven't noticed, you're helping me to work though some of my issues with PSE. Thanks for the motivation!
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Holly Featherston

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Yikes?? What do you mean yikes? I thought moving the catalog was the appropriate thing to do? I have a backup of it. Are you saying if I restore it, it won't work? I was thinking of restoring one of the backups and having a catalog on my C: drive and a different one on my Q: drive, but I'm sensing there may be an issue with that. I also moved copies of my photos back to my C: drive - I just felt uncomfortable with them not being there (at least my normal backup routine will back them up). Will that screw up a restore?

I have to admit I'm not totally following items 2-5. Can you rephrase?