Lightroom: How do I transfer my catalog and photos to external hard drive w/o losing ratings or develop settings for individual photos?

  • 1
  • Problem
  • Updated 2 years ago
  • (Edited)
I need to transfer a Lightroom catalog and associated photos off my computer and onto an external hard drive without losing the ratings or develop settings for individual photos. How do I do this?
Photo of Bart Johnson

Bart Johnson

  • 2 Posts
  • 0 Reply Likes

Posted 2 years ago

  • 1
Photo of Carlos Cardona

Carlos Cardona

  • 326 Posts
  • 66 Reply Likes
First answer this question: Mac or PC? If PC, ask a PC guy, these are Mac instructions (though the concept may be the same).

One way is to keep the path the same name. So, look to where your photo originals are now. What's the full pathname? (You can click the folder name with Command key down to see it). Something like: Macintosh HD/Users/MyHome/Pictures/Lightroom/something? You want to reproduce that exact path on an external drive! Call your drive Macintosh HD (you can have 2), then create folders inside to recreate that path. Copy the photos to your newly created path on your hard drive, and finally, go back to Lightroom, Right-click on EACH FOLDER you have, and select "Update folder location". Navigate to your new folder location and say OK (or whatever it says).

Please note that I haven't done this, (so buyer beware) I started with my all my shots on an external RAID, and there may be an easier solution. Ask The Lightroom Queen, Victoria Bampton, ( she often replies here and knows way more than me! Her e-books on her site are also a great resource!
Photo of Bart Johnson

Bart Johnson

  • 2 Posts
  • 0 Reply Likes
Mac.  Appreciate the ideas.  Lightroom Queen has a potentially more straightforward solution. Whatever I do I want to make sure it works without having to delete the photos from my computer first. Lightroom should make this EASY to do. The programming to allow a user to redirect a metadata file toward a folder with pictures in it is not difficult!  thanks, bj
Photo of Rikk Flohr

Rikk Flohr, Official Rep

  • 4482 Posts
  • 890 Reply Likes
1. Go to All Photographs (or what ever subset you are working on)
2. In Grid Mode Select All [Cmd/Ctrl]+[A]. Right click on any photo and select Stacking>Expand All Stacks. 
3. Select All a second time. 
4. File>Export as Catalog...
5. Set your External Drive as the destination and check the box to include the negatives. (You can include previews if you like.

That's it.  (Step 2 is only if you use stacking and have collapsed stacks...) 

When you are done the catalog and the associated photos will be in both places. 
Photo of David Fabian

David Fabian

  • 78 Posts
  • 18 Reply Likes
You need to know where your Catalog is.and where your images reside on your computer.
In the Library Module Left Pane, FOLDERS.
Drag and drop the folders to consolidate them to the fewest root folders possible,
if you prefer not to do that, write down the path to each folder that appears. Yes, it's that simple.
If you have your images scattered in folders that you know contain other files (like excel or Word documents), Hiut the "+" and create a new folder and dump it all into that one.. The point is you just want to consolidate the images into a KNOWN location.

This may take a while to complete, so be patient.

In LR (Edit | Catalog Settings | General | Show
This will start an external process of Windows Explorer or a Finder window.

Now what ever platform you are on, Open a new instance of the Windows Explorer or Finder
Now Copy & Paste this folder to your external drive. Your Catalog is copied over.

Now do the same thing dray the KNOWN LOCATION of your images to the External drive.
When it completes, your images will be copied over.

This is a copy of the data, and you have the originals still on your computer in case something screwed up.
There are more steps because the catalog still has the settings of your images recorded as on your local PC/
So if you are transferring them all to your new PC, then recreate the base folder structure and copy all the files from your external back to your new PC. If you did it right, the catalog wont know that it even moved.

If you are planning to run it all from an external drive from now on,
Rename the base folder location of the images on your PC to something different.
Navigate to the External drive and where your catalog is stored and look for the LRCAT file, and double click on that. LR will launch.
Once it finishes complaining that it can't find the images, go through the process to "Find All Missing Photos" and tell it to look at the external drive. You can find many tutorials on how this works.

Just understand what backups are for and when you make a move like this to always prepare for it to fail and how are you going to recover. Make sure that you have a way back to normal. Don't delete until you are absolutely certain that it is functioning how you are accustomed to. The renaming a folder feature is a huge help in this.