Author’s Note: You will find a more recent, and more detailed, version of this article within our extended Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Catalog Creation and Image Storage Fundamentals tutorial. I strongly suggest that you follow the link and read the new and improved post instead!
Both your digital images and your Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Catalog files can be moved from one drive to another drive. Think of these files as if they were separate “puzzle pieces” that you can store almost anywhere.* Moving your photos, or your Photoshop Lightroom Catalog, from one disk to another is not a hard process. The big question though is what arrangement of these puzzle pieces best suits your needs?
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom users should ask themselves “where should I store my images” and “where should I store my Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Catalog” because data storage is not a “one-size fits all” problem. There is no universal solution. Every professional photographer has different needs and different equipment. I get so many questions on where to store the Lightroom Catalog and where to store my images that I have made three video tutorials: each video explains the strengths and weaknesses of each arrangement.
Option 1: Internal Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Catalog Storage + Internal Image Storage
Option 2: Internal Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Catalog Storage + External Image Storage
Option 3: External Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Catalog Storage + External Image Storage
I have chosen Option 3: External Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Catalog Storage and External Image Storage With my current needs and hardware, it makes sense to store my Photoshop Lightroom Catalog, and all of my digital images, on an external hard drive. Keeping all of my photographic files, and my Lightroom index, on an external disk is the best use of my current hardware and the most appropriate match for my current needs. Keeping everything on the right external disk is the best choice for me right now but thanks to Adobe’s wonderful engineers I am not stuck with this decision for life.
These puzzle pieces–meaning your Lightroom Catalog and your digital image files–remain malleable. Your data storage decisions are never set in stone because Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is a professional-grade workflow tool. The Adobe engineers deserve a lot of credit for keeping your file storage options open. Thus, you can move these pieces from disk to disk an unlimited number of times and you can reconfigure your storage system again and again as your needs change. The only rule is to back everything up before you go messing around!
Keeping my Photoshop Lightroom Catalog, and all of my images, on an external disk makes maintaining my large image library easier. I need to emphasize again that external storage may not be the best solution for you right now. This is a question that you need to ponder and again your decisions are not set in stone. If you decide that external storage suits your needs right now then these tutorials will help. Please, please remember though to back everything up before you undertake any part of this process.
To move your Lightroom Catalog, or your images, from one drive to another see:
- Getting Started: Where Should I Store My Images?
- How to Move Your Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Catalog to an External Hard Drive
- How to Move Folders from Drive to Drive Without Upsetting Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
- Getting Started Right: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Catalog Creation
- Reader Question: How to Move Lightroom from One Computer to Another
Two more suggestion: I recommend renaming your Photoshop Lightroom Catalog files before you move them around. I find that renaming my Photoshop Lightroom Catalog files makes it much easier for me to understand what I am doing before I move things around my computer. I also suggest creating an alias that leads directly to your Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Catalog if you decide to move these files over to an external disk Thanks to the direct alias trick, I can instantly tell when I have forgotten to plug in my RAID 0 storage drive.
Read our article on “Getting Started: What Does ‘Import’ Mean in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom?” once you are have decided where to store your images and your Photoshop Lightroom Catalog.
*Your Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Catalog files cannot be stored on a network device or a network attached drive. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is not a network ready application. This limitation was intentionally designed into the software to protect your Photoshop Lightroom Catalog files from simultaneous input request. There are awkward ways to work around this limitation though using server synchronization software like Dropbox to maintain up-to-date local copies on non-network drives.