Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Computers for Digital Photography, Digital Image Storage

Migrating Photo Library to Larger Drives

A couple of days ago, I moved all my photos and Lightroom catalog to new hard drives. It was easier than I had anticipated; let me tell you how it all went.

First, some history. As outlined in my Lightroom book, I work from one main drive that contains all my image files as well as the master Lightroom catalog. This master drive is frequently synchronized with two identical drives; one which remains on my desktop and one that is stored securely in a fireproof box. (I am considering renting a safe deposit box for this, instead.)

Up to this point, I had been working with 500 GB drives. And I was running out of room; down to about 16 GB free space.

I bought three new 1 TB drives (LaCie external USB enclosures with Hitachi drives) for about $110 each.

Prior to the migration, I cleaned up my Lightroom catalog, getting rid of temporary working items, and optimized and backed up the catalog in several places.

When the new drives arrived, I hooked up the first drive, desinted to become the “master” working drive and used ChronoSync to mirror all the data from the old 500 GB drive onto the new one.

This process took almost exactly 24 hours, I figure mainly due to file fragmentation on the source drive. But when it completed — with no errors — I had a new working copy of all my files on a drive with twice the original capacity.

I then attached the other drives and again used ChronoSync to mirror the master data onto them. These copies each took 20 hours… still quite a while, but less time due to the lack of fragmentation on the newly-copied master.

When all was said and done, I opened the Lightroom catalog from the new master drive, and everything remained intact. No missing files, no errors whatsoever. This was due to the fact that I named the new drive volume identically to the original one (simply “Photo Library”).

Note that I am using Mac OS X on my desktop workstation in my studio; I honestly can’t say if this would work as seamlessly on Windows, due to “drive letter” assignments. But I think that if you carefully make sure that everything remains the same in the new setup as it was on the previous one, that Lightroom will continue working with the catalog without a hitch.

Going forward, I plan to use this same strategy for future storage upgrades. Move everything onto a single volume (these “volumes’ could well be RAID or other kinds of multi-disk arrays), then mirror that volume several times, and continue working as before, but with much more free space on the drives.

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