My external hard drive is full and need to set up LR on a new drive

Hello, Forest! I have a question. My external hard drive is full and I need to set up a new one. I did this once before, but I do not think I did it right because it transferred all the images from the old main external hard drive to the new one. Which takes up space. I need to set up a new main hard drive but I am unsure if I should do it this way or if there is another way to set up a new external hard drive? And keep all my presets I have created etc? It’s been too long since I learned this and I definitely need a refresher!

Like most IT questions, the answer is “It depends.” :slightly_smiling_face:

You can go the route of buying a bigger hard drive and transferring all your existing data over to it. That keeps everything in one place and working as before, but you’re starting with a partially filled hard drive again, like you said. Eventually, your library size may exceed the maximum hard drive size you can buy in a portable drive.

The second option is to start fresh with a new catalog and new image folder on a new hard drive. If you need old photos, you plug in the old drive and open the old catalog. For adding new photos, you use the new catalog on the new drive. The advantage is you can repeat this forever as you fill drives and you can buy smaller drives each time. The disadvantage is you can no longer search all your photos at once because you have multiple catalogs and you have to manage and backup many more hard drives.

A third option is a bit of a hybrid approach. You move your catalog to internal laptop drive while keeping the photos on multiple external drives. You still have to manage multiple drives and plug in the correct one that has the full-size images you need, but you can search all your photos at once because the one catalog knows about all the photos. You just have to make sure you’re properly backing up your internal laptop drive as well as your photo drives. The disadvantage of this is you’re tied to a single machine. If you bounce between a desktop and laptop for editing, you probably won’t like this setup. Also, you may fill your internal drive from the generated image previews. Internal drives are usually smaller in size, especially when you move to solid-state drives for speed.

The best option really depends on your workflow and how often you need to access old photos.

As for presets, again, it depends. There is a setting in LR that determines whether the presets are stored in your user folder on your laptop/desktop or with the catalog. If it’s the former, your presets will remain accessible regardless of what hard drive or catalog you open, but you’ll won’t have them if you move to another machine. If it’s the latter, then they are stored in presets sub-folder inside the same folder as your catalog on your external drive. You’ll only have access to them when you open that particular catalog. To make them available to other catalogs, you’d have to manually copy the presets between catalog folders on each drive. Initially, and each time you add/update one. In either case, there is a button in the LR preferences that will open the folder where your presets are currently stored. You can use that to find the correct location for copy/pasting to a new location. Which option is best for you, depends on your workflow.