Using Lightroom Via External Drive

New Here ,
Jun 16, 2014 Jun 16, 2014

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My computer's hard-drive is small and would soon get overwhelmed if I stored my master-images there. My plan is to store my master-images on an external drive.

Here is my planned set-up/workflow: I work with previews in Lightroom, back up my LR catalogue regularly as I exit, and only access my master-images when I wish to export/print/copy an image.

Along with this I would keep a regular back-up of those master-images on another drive.

Will this work? Is there anything I've missed here? I'd appreciate some comment keeping in mind the aim is saving hard-drive space on my computer along with ease and convenience of work-flow. If there is a better way of doing it, let me know.

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correct answers 1 Correct answer

LEGEND , Jun 17, 2014 Jun 17, 2014

Yes that would work. Many users keep their masters on an external hard drive with a backup of the catalog and the masters on a second external hard drive.


It’s best to copy the photos first using your computer OS and after successfully updating the database (catlog) links you can then safely delete all the photos from your internal hard drive. This avoids the possibility of failure when using drag & drop from the LR Library as LR then has to copy and delete in the same operation. If possible copy

...

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LEGEND ,
Jun 17, 2014 Jun 17, 2014

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Yes that would work. Many users keep their masters on an external hard drive with a backup of the catalog and the masters on a second external hard drive.


It’s best to copy the photos first using your computer OS and after successfully updating the database (catlog) links you can then safely delete all the photos from your internal hard drive. This avoids the possibility of failure when using drag & drop from the LR Library as LR then has to copy and delete in the same operation. If possible copy the root folder and all sub-folders e.g. Pictures or My Pictures to maintain the same structure.


Then connect the external hard drive.

Launch LR

Right-Click on the existing folder in the LR Library (e.g. your original hard drive root folder)

Choose to update the folder location and navigate to and choose the new root folder on your external hard drive.


LR will update the database links (catalog) and the original folders will disappear from the original location in the Library to the new location.


Delete the original folder of images from your internal hard drive using your computer OS.

See this link for further information – tip 4 below figure 7.

http://www.computer-darkroom.com/lr2_find_folder/find-folder.htm

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Explorer ,
Jun 22, 2014 Jun 22, 2014

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99jon,

I asked a similar question in another thread and I think you have provided the solution I am looking for. I had backed up all my LR photo files in an external Seagate Backup drive. Now, if i delete the contents of all "My Lightroom Photos" folder in my Mac (these have been backed up in the external hard drive) thus rendering them blank how do I work on future post processing with LR5? Can I export directly to the external hard drive? If not, and if i continue to export them to my Mac's hard drive when this is backed up does it back up the newly created photo files while still retaining those in the Backup Drive?

I am down to 1% hard drive capacity and am afraid to continue post processing until I can free up space in the Mac hard drive.

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LEGEND ,
Jun 23, 2014 Jun 23, 2014

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I had backed up all my LR photo files in an external Seagate Backup drive. Now, if i delete the contents of all "My Lightroom Photos" folder in my Mac (these have been backed up in the external hard drive) thus rendering them blank how do I work on future post processing with LR5?

You can connect to the photos on the external HD via Adobe Lightroom - Find moved or missing files and folders

Can I export directly to the external hard drive?

Sure, you can set the export dialog box to export to any disk you want

If not, and if i continue to export them to my Mac's hard drive when this is backed up does it back up the newly created photo files while still retaining those in the Backup Drive?

Lightroom does not make backups of your photos, and exported photos are never in any way backups of your originals

Technical detail: these files you have moved to the external hard drive are not "backups" ,... do not think that you have created backups of your photos, which I consider mandatory ... these are not backups because you say you are going to delete the originals ... you need to have at least two copies of your photos (one copy on one disk and another copy on a different physical disk) to have backups, making real backups of all of your photos and catalog file is extremely important and in my opinion mandatory

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Explorer ,
Jun 23, 2014 Jun 23, 2014

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Thanks for your info. That helps. Now I can free up space in my computer for future LR processing.

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Explorer ,
Jun 24, 2014 Jun 24, 2014

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How do you export to an external hard drive?

Here is a screen capture showing a photo in the export window and the hard drive option is, I'm guessing, the Mackintosh hard drive, not the external hard drive. Do I have to do something before going to this "Export" mode? If I right click the Mackintosh Folder (in the black screen of Lightroom) I don't see any option for a external hard drive. Would selecting Finder take me to that?

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Explorer ,
Jun 24, 2014 Jun 24, 2014

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How do I export to the external hard drive? The box "Export to " shows a Hard Drive which i presume is the Mac's hard drive, not the external hard drive. Do I work from the LR Folders section on the left of the (Black) LR screen, right click that and go to Finder?

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Engaged ,
Jun 23, 2014 Jun 23, 2014

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I have a second HDD in my Mac Pro that contains my Loghtroom catalog as

well as my imported images. I back this up to an external drive using

Chronosync which will create a duplicate of my folder structure and

content. If I lose my primary folders, I can point Lightroom to the backup

copy and continue using that version as my primary while I deal with the

problems with the drive in my Mac Pro. What will happen when I bring up

Lightroom is that first I will have to point to the backup catalog. I have

set up my preferences to alway ask me which catalog to use. The backup

catalog however is a copy of my original so Lightroom still thinks the

images are stored on the internal drive which is no longer correct since I

am now using the external drive. To get by this, you will need to tell

Lightroom where the images really are. All of the folders on the left side

of the screen will be dimmed so point to a high level directory and right

click. Select the find photo option to redirect Lightroom. It will take

some time but your photos will all get linked up again as Lightroom runs

the tree. You may have to rebuild some 1:1 previews but that is a small

price to pay.

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Explorer ,
Jun 24, 2014 Jun 24, 2014

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Thanks for the tip. By the way, my wife's maiden surname is "Barth" but she does not seem to have any relatives on the Barth side as both her parents came from Germany in the 30s.

Dennis

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Engaged ,
Jun 26, 2014 Jun 26, 2014

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That is interesting. My grandfather also came to the US in the 1930's from Germany and settled in New York. My father did have family out there but I come from a long line of 'black sheep' types so there was never a lot of contact between the CA and NY sides of the family.

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Explorer ,
Jun 24, 2014 Jun 24, 2014

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How do I export to the external Seagate hard drive? Here is a screen shot: in the Export to box the only options are HD and CD/DVD, and I believe the HD is that of the Mac. Do I need to go to LR and on the left of the black screen right click on Folder and somehow go to Finder?

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New Here ,
Jun 25, 2014 Jun 25, 2014

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Try Export to Hard Drive > Export to Specific Folder > Choose (The 'Choose' button will give you access to the Finder and your external Hard Drive.

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Explorer ,
Jun 25, 2014 Jun 25, 2014

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I tried that. In Export mode and under specific folder, i clicked on Choose but did not see Finder. So i clicked on Seagate in the Mac's left hand column and from there went through a series of sub folders in Seagate backup. Still did not find Finder. Clicked on Today (presumably today's backup) and got the error message that it is not writable.

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Explorer ,
Jun 25, 2014 Jun 25, 2014

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Incidentally, in LR5 on the left hand side of screen it shows 9360 pictures. I deleted thousands from my hard drive but still only upped my available free HD space from 5Gb to 23Gb out of a possible max of 500 Gb. Do these 9360 pictures in LR have to be deleted also? Do they reside in the Mac's HD? I deleted almost all from the HD. Perhaps there is a redundancy somewhere?

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Engaged ,
Jun 25, 2014 Jun 25, 2014

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Lightroom will default to installing your catalog and images on your primary HDD in your Pictures folder. Keep in mind that as you delete files on the Mac, they go to your ./trash folder which will also take up spaces on your drive. You can right-click on a folder in that left-hand pane and select the show-in-finder option and then you can see exactly where Lightroom is getting it from.

“Shame fuels the economy”

- Dr. Clayton Forester

Regards,

Thomas Barth

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Explorer ,
Jun 25, 2014 Jun 25, 2014

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Right clicking Mackintosh to Show in Finder shows (1) Mac HD 27.76 Gb free, (2) Network and (3) Seagate Backup. Under Collections in left hand pane, it shows : "Past month 868", and "Without Keywords 8742". Should these be all deleted? I do not think a previous question has been answered and I repeat: Under Catalog in LR I have 9360 photos: should these be deleted?

Also, the Mac's "All My Files" contains 5 sub headings: (1) Photoshop Elements 10, 7238 photos and *.dng files (2) Preview 2245 pictures all JPEG files, (3) Quicktime Player (a bunch of videos I created, (4) Swift Publisher 3 (100 Mb) contains one tiny file in Kb filesize and (5) Adobe Reader, a PDF file consisting of about 200 pages of a Camera Manual.

I am wondering if the RAW conversion to JPEG in LR kicks in PSE 10 because I can't think of more than a dozen files that I further developed in PSE after RAW conversion.

I am totally befuddled as to how, after deleting thousands of pictures from the Pictures of my Mac HD, deleting couple earlier versions of LR3 and LR4 (the latter totaling 1Gb of file space)

leaves me with only 27.76 Gb of free space and 471.49Gb Used. My Application files are few and small, LR and Swift Publisher being the largest. What could i possibly be doing wrong?

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LEGEND ,
Jun 26, 2014 Jun 26, 2014

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Right clicking Mackintosh to Show in Finder shows (1) Mac HD 27.76 Gb free, (2) Network and (3) Seagate Backup. Under Collections in left hand pane, it shows : "Past month 868", and "Without Keywords 8742". Should these be all deleted? I do not think a previous question has been answered and I repeat: Under Catalog in LR I have 9360 photos: should these be deleted?

It would be incredibly difficult for a third party like myself across the internet advise you on whether or not to delete photos or not. We don't know what the photos are, and we don't know what photos you want to keep in Lightroom. That's really something you have to decide. (But deleting photos from Lightroom really has a minimal effect on disk space), you'd also have to delete the photos from your hard disk in order to gain disk space)

I am totally befuddled as to how, after deleting thousands of pictures from the Pictures of my Mac HD, deleting  couple earlier versions of LR3 and LR4 (the latter totaling 1Gb of file space)

leaves me with only 27.76 Gb of free space and 471.49Gb Used. My Application files are few and small, LR and Swift Publisher being the largest. What could i possibly be doing wrong?

Again, across the internet, not knowing what's on your computer ... I cannot say. You really need to start digging around on your Mac, and maybe consult with some Mac experts rather than Lightroom experts.

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Engaged ,
Jun 26, 2014 Jun 26, 2014

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I am going to assume you are working with RAW images and that these originally were stored on your local HDD and that you would prefer to work with these files on an external HDD instead. You have moved the files to the external drive and now you are trying to clean up your local HDD by deleting the old image files after copying them from the local drive to the external drive but you don't seem to be getting back any of the space on your local drive. Is that a decent summation?

Based on that, the post from 99Jon is the correct approach. Copy the local files to an external drive and then tell Lightroom where to find the images by pointing Lightroom to the directory structure on the external drive using the Find Missing Folder option by right-clicking on the top level folder. This will allow Lightroom to rebuild the links between each image in the catalog and the storage location of the image. If a folder in the left hand Folders panel is dimmed however, you still have a disconnect between Lightroom and the physical file.

If the folder is NOT dimmed in the Folders panel that Lightroom does have a link to the physical file and if you tell Lightroom to delete the image, it will be deleted. Kind of. If you select an image and delete it in Lightroom, the default is to delete the image from the catalog only. You have to specifically select the option to remove the image from both the catalog and the HDD. If you go this route, make sure the folder you are referencing is not pointing to your external drive or that is where you will delete the image from. You can check that by first right-clicking on the folder in the Folders panel and selecting Show In Finder.

Lightroom does not like it when you manipulate files using the Finder but sometimes, it is the best way to do what you want to do. Once you have completed the copy from the internal HDD to the external HDD (you can actually do this from within Lightroom), linked the Lightroom catalog to the new folders on the external drive and confirmed you have all your images linked up then the easiest way to remove your images from the internal HDD is to use the Finder to move them to the trash can. You will later have to empty the trash to regain all of the disk space however. This will clean up the space used by your images but there is also the Lightroom catalog and the preview files that will also be taking space.

The catalog does not actually contain any image data. It only contains references to the locations where the original image and the previews are to be found. There two files of interest here. One is the xxx.lrcat file which is your catalog and the other is the xxx.lrdata file. The lrcat file is your actual catalog while the lrdata file contains your previews. If you have generated smart previews, they will be stored in a file named smart previews.lrdata along with the two other files already mentioned. Finally, there is also a folder where Lightroom stores all of your catalog backups called Backups (my backups folder is actually located in a folder called Catalog templates). Every time you close Lightroom, it will create a new copy of your catalog unless you tell it not to. All of these folders are contained in a Lightroom folder in your Pictures directory (again, unless you set things up differently). You can save some space by removing some of the older backups since Lightroom will not clean that up for you. You may also have some old catalogs out there if you have been upgrading from one release to the next. With each new version, Lightroom makes a copy of your current catalog and then updates it for the new version so you may see some from Version-3, Version-4 as well as the Version-5 catalogs. Old catalogs and their associated backups can be deleted.

I have a small working catalog on my Macbook Pro with about 2000 images. My catalog is pretty small (about 20MB) but the previews file is nearly 5GB in size.This is where your 1:1 previews data is stored and Lightroom will manage it for you. You can change your preferences to automatically delete them in a few days, thirty days or never. The default is to delete them after seven days (I think) but, if you open an image for which Lightroom does not have a preview, a new one will be generated using the original image data and then applying all of the changes that have been made to the image which are stored in the catalog. If the original image is offline, a new preview can't be made which can cause a problem if you plan was to be able to update your images offline.

This is where the smart previews come in. This must be generated either during import or by selecting the image/images and then using the Previews/Build Smart Previews menu option. These will be stored in the other lrdata file and are actually smaller size than the 1:1 previews you would normally generate. These need to be maintained always as this is really the only way Lightroom will allow you to make changes in the editor to image files that are offline but, this will require HDD space on your internal drive as will the lrdata file containing the 1:1 previews. The one caution I would offer is not to remove anything from the trash until AFTER you have restarted Lightroom and verified all your images are still intact and none of the folders are dimmed in the Folders panel. Only then will emptying the trash by safe to do.

Not knowing how big your image files are, I can't advise how much space you can get back. My RAW images average about 30MB each. If I shoot using JPEGS, the file sizes are closer to about 9GB each. While I convert my images to DNG files which can save some space over the RAW sizes, I also save my original RAW image in the DNG so I end up with images files that are often 55MB each in size. If I delete ten images I clear more than 0.5GB of space. so it really depends how big the files that you delete are. Also, the savings does not show up until I remove the deleted images from the trash can.

I know this a whole lot of stuff to wade through but there were a lot of questions being asked so I hope this all helps...

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Explorer ,
Jun 26, 2014 Jun 26, 2014

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For a 76 year old guy this is still somewhat hard to follow but I appreciate your help. I would like to suggest another approach and see if you agree it is feasible.

In my Mac, under "All My Files" there are 5 sub headings: (1) PSE 10 (contains 7238 *.dng photo files), (2) Preview (contains 2245 *.jpg photo files), (3) Quicktime Player (contains about 12 MVI files of a few seconds duration each), (4) Swift Publisher 3 (contains one small text file of two pages) and (5) Adobe Reader (contains 120 pages of a Camera User printout)

So here's the question: can I delete all the files in (1) and (2) as they are already backed up in the Seagate external hard drive?

Can I also delete, from the Collection in the left panel of LR all 9622 photos (they have been backed up in the External drive. Will this save me some HD space?

Thanks in advance.

Dennis

.

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LEGEND ,
Jun 27, 2014 Jun 27, 2014

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If you delete the photos from your internal drive, then you no longer really have backups. A backup means you have exact duplicates of your photos and catalog file, on two different physical disks. After you delete the photos from your internal drive, you now have one copy of your photos. If something were to happen to your external drive after you delete these photos, you now have zero copies of your photos, and I'm guessing you wouldn't like that. It is a better idea to move the photos to somewhere else, a different external drive, as explained above.

Deleting photos from Collections saves almost zero space on your hard disk.

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Engaged ,
Jun 27, 2014 Jun 27, 2014

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dj_paige is correct. You really don't want to run anything without a backup. If you are going to run Lightroom with your image files stored on an external disk then you can just attach a second external drive and make a backup copy of your photos to it. This way, you can remove your image files from your internal disk and still have a primary and backup copy on two separate external drives.

Once you have the two copies on external drives, you can delete the contents of (1). You can delete the files in (2) as well but, being the previews that Lightroom generates, this will be only temporary. Each time you open an image in Lightroom, an attempt will be made to open the preview. If Lightroom can't find one, a new one will be created. Over time, you will be back to where you are now. Make sure you have your preferences set up to allow Lightroom to delete any preview that has not been referenced after thirty days (or even after seven) and this will help the previews.lrdata file smaller. Just make sure it is not set to never delete them. If you right-click on a folder in the Finder and select Get Info, you can see how much space the folder is taking up on the drive. You can also do this for a collection of files. Select the files you are deleting and then right-click on the selection.

You can also copy your Lightroom catalog to an external disk as well. This will cause the previews to also be stored externally. There is a drawback to this however. External drives are always going to be slower than an internal drive but, more than that, you can only work with your library when the external drive is connected to your Mac. If you are really desperate for HDD space on your internal drive, this may help but is not something I would do unless my situation were dire. Either way, if you want to store your image files on an external drive, you need to create a second copy of them or you risk losing them all. It is never a question of IF your drive will fail. It is just a question of WHEN it will fail. I keep three copies; my primary, my backup copy and an offsite copy and I update them regularly.

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Explorer ,
Jun 27, 2014 Jun 27, 2014

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Thanks. So to confirm the advice in your second paragraph, I can delete the files from PSE 10 and also those in Preview (both from the left pane of Lightroom?

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Engaged ,
Jun 28, 2014 Jun 28, 2014

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As long as you have verified that PSE-10 can 'see' the files on the external drive and you have a solid backup to a second internal drive then yes, you can remove them from your internal drive.

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New Here ,
May 11, 2015 May 11, 2015

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Hi Thomas.

Your explanation was wonderful.

I guess if I need both previews AND Smart Previews.

My plan was to keep my catalog inside Dropbox, so I could use it in my MacBook Pro and my MacBook Air.

But the two lrcat got bigger than I tought.

Question 1: Can I use Smart Previews and Generate just MInimals Previews ?

Question 2: Can I let the catalog file inside DropBox and the two lrcat files just inside my HDD (not inside a DropBox folder)

Question 3: If I can, how I do it in a order LR can find the files ?

Thanks for your help and sorry for the poor English....

Fabio Leite

SP - Brazil

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LEGEND ,
Jun 17, 2014 Jun 17, 2014

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Here is my planned set-up/workflow: I work with previews in Lightroom, back up my LR catalogue regularly as I exit, and only access my master-images when I wish to export/print/copy an image.

Does "previews" mean smart previews, with your master images stored on an un-plugged external drive? Or something else? (everyone works with previews in the Library module, there is no other way to use the Library module)

Why are you so strict as to state that you "only access my master-images when I wish to export/print/copy an image". It sounds like you plan to keep your master images offline or on a disconnected external hard drive and only plug the drive in to export/print/copy (even though there is no "copy" in Lightroom). While this will work, this seems unnecessary, if I am understanding your words properly. This seems like a lot of extra work, unplugging the drive and then plugging it in when needed, especially since you desire "ease and convenience of work-flow". You could just leave the external drive plugged in, which is much less work. (Yes, if you are using the external to be portable and move from computer to computer, you would indeed have to unplug and re-plug as needed, but none of your description indicates that this is the reason...)

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