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Catalog on External HD?

Explorer ,
May 23, 2020

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The desktop I'm currently on is starting to show its age.  So, I'm thinking about getting a laptop.  Right now, a big chunk of the desktop's HD is all of my 1000s of pictures I've taken over the years.  Currently I have 99%+ of my pictures backed up on an external HD.  My question is; after getting a new laptop, would it be possible for me to leave all of my pictures on the external HD, and set them catalog to view them from there?  My hope is to save a ton of room on the laptops internal HD, and just import images to the laptop when I need them for a project or something.

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Catalog on External HD?

Explorer ,
May 23, 2020

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The desktop I'm currently on is starting to show its age.  So, I'm thinking about getting a laptop.  Right now, a big chunk of the desktop's HD is all of my 1000s of pictures I've taken over the years.  Currently I have 99%+ of my pictures backed up on an external HD.  My question is; after getting a new laptop, would it be possible for me to leave all of my pictures on the external HD, and set them catalog to view them from there?  My hope is to save a ton of room on the laptops internal HD, and just import images to the laptop when I need them for a project or something.

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Import and export

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Adobe Community Professional ,
May 23, 2020

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The thing to do, in my opinion, would be to move all your images in the same file organization that they are in now to the external hard drive. However, I would leave the catalog and all your Lightroom operating files on the main hard drive the laptop. All that would be necessary would be to update the folder location to show Lightroom where the images are now located. It wouldn't be necessary to put images on the laptop hard drive, you could just continue editing as you normally would. You wouldn't experience any performance hit at all.

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Explorer ,
May 23, 2020

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Thank you very much for the advice.  That is what I was wanting to do, but I wasn't sure that it would be possible. 🙂

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Adobe Community Professional ,
May 23, 2020

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It's entirely possible. I have Lightroom and my catalog installed on a SSD (my main hard drive). My images are scattered across two other internal hard drives as well as an external hard drive. Lightroom doesn't care where the images are stored. It rarely has to access the images. All activity is done in the catalog. All Lightroom needs to know is where the images are located, and to have access to them. It works flawlessly for me day after day.

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Explorer ,
May 23, 2020

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The laptop I'm looking at has a 500GB SSD, but my external HD has something like 6TB, or something like that.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
May 23, 2020

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It will work because Lightroom Classic works fine with images stored on external storage. You could add photos to be cataloged from their locations on internal storage, an external hard drive or SSD, a USB stick, etc. Lightroom Classic will simply list each volume at the top level of the Folders panel and their images in their folders under that.

 

Several years ago I made the same switch you did, started using my then-new laptop as my main Lightroom computer instead of my aging desktop. Now I keep the catalog on the laptop’s limited internal storage, and keep the original images on a large external hard drive. Of course it all works fine when the external is connected. If you need to work on the images when the external hard drive is not connected, there are two ways to do that without having to copy images back and forth:

  • Lightroom Classic will still let you use some features that don’t involve the Develop module, like adding keywords and captions. But if a Lightroom preview doesn’t currently exist for an image, it will be blank.
  • To see what you’re working on and be able to use the Develop module with the external storage is disconnected, you can select the images you want to work on and have Lightroom Classic generate Smart Previews for them. Any edits applied to those will apply to their originals when you connect the external storage again. And if the Smart Previews start to take up too much space on the laptop, you can always easily purge any Smart Previews for images you no longer need to work with.

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Explorer ,
May 23, 2020

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Thank you so much for the info.

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