I run Lightroom on my laptop and since I started shooting RAW with my Samsung GX-10 the hard drive is filling up pretty quickly. I didn’t want the hassle of fitting a bigger internal drive so I thought I would see if I could get Lightroom to work with an external USB hard drive. This post explains what I did and how I now work with new drive.
I convert my camera DNG files to compressed DNG on import to Lightroom and these are stored in DVD sized directories. As each DVD directory fills up I just create another and continue. Once one of these directories is complete I never create any more new files in it. If I need to edit in an external program I save the derivative file in a separate directory tree – these are also DVD sized for backup. In this way I’m only ever changing the latest RAW and DERIVED directories.
So my directory structure was as follows (this is just an example, there are many more directories than this). A series of DVD sized ‘buckets’ with dated sub-directories for individual shoots.
P:\Photographs – |———– DRV_0001
|———–RAW_0001—-|——— 2007-06-18 Beach
| |——– 2007-06-20 London
So the plan is as follows.
- Move the oldest non-changing directories to the external drive.
- Leave the Lightroom catalogue on the internal laptop drive.
- Render previews of the images moved to the external drive so that I can view them in the Lightroom Library module without the external drive attached.
- Only the most recent images that I’m still working on in Develop will be on the internal drive.
And here’s how I did it.
- First thing to do is get the external drive configured so that when you plug it in it always maps to the same Windows drive letter. I changed mine to always map as drive Z: so that it does not clash when I plug in other devices.
- On this Z: drive I created a new directory call “Archive” which will be the equivalent of the top-level “Photographs” directory on my internal drive.
- Start Lightroom.
- In the Library view select the ‘+’ next to “Folder” and add the new “Z:\Archive” directory from the external drive.
- Now do the following for each Lightroom folder you want to move to the external drive.
- Save the metadata to all the files in the folder.
- Render standard size previews for all the files in folder so you can browse the pictures in the Library module when the external drive is not connected.
- In the Lightroom Library module select the folder name and drag it to the Archive folder. You’ll see a dialog for confirmation that you want to move all the files (including the sub-directories) and then all the files are moved.
So now I have 2 top-level folders in Lightroom; “Photographs” expands to show all the photos on my laptop and “Archive” expands to show all the photos on my laptop.
If I use Lightroom without the external drive connected the “Archive” folder and it’s sub-folders are shown in red to indicate that the image files are missing I can still view them in the Library because of the standard previews in the catalogue.
The only thing I found is that when I moved the folders Lightroom reported a few missing files when I knew they were still there. This appears to be temporary as it corrected itself when I restarted Lightroom. Later I found a note in the Help file that says this can happen. Of course when you browse the Library without the external drive attached it will report missing files but that is to be expected. When you restart Lightroom with the drive attached everything works again as normal.
And that is all there is to it!