I had a major data loss a few days ago. Basically my working drive failed and I'm in the process of figuring out if they are recoverable or not. I have many of the NEF photos as part of a back up but they obviously do not reside on the same drive nor do the have the same folder structure as the lost photos.
I have catalog backs ups.
My question is: If I can't recover (or even if the revcovered data is not organized properly upon return) how do marry the NEFs and the edits back together? I know I shouldn't import them again.
What would be my first steps in this process?
If you can rebuild the folder structure you had previously, putting all the images in the same folders they were in before, and can assign the new drive the same letter or name designation it had previously that's all that would be necessary. I don't know how big your image collection is or how big the task would be to rebuild that folder structure. In reality, it might be easier to just create new catalog and import the images and start over. That is something you will have to determine.
If the old folder tree was created using LR and its date based system, then you could create a temp catalog and import the images from the backup for the sole purpose of recreating the folder tree. Then you could copy the need parts of the tree to where the missing files should be. (Then discard the temp catalog when you are finished grafting in the folder tree.)
Just want to say that you WILL loose all 'copies' of photos made in LRc. They are not real files, but just a part of the LRc catalog only which we also lost from the C: drive where mine was stored in the default location of C:/users/me/pictures/LRCAT. I had the same catastropic C: drive crash. Photos and xmpwere on another drive, so not lost. But a lot (if not all) of the keywords were lost for jpg files from some older cameras.
I think it would be well for you to define "copies". The only way it is possible to create copies of images using Lightroom Classic is to export them, and that creates a new copy on the hard drive. Yes, there are virtual copies, which are metadata only and are only visible within the catalog. But any other "copy" is a physical file that exists on the hard drive. So I'm not really sure what you are referring to when you say that you will lose all copies of photos in LrC.