If you need to move photos to another hard drive, perhaps because you’ve outgrown your existing hard drive, there are two main options. As a rule of thumb, you can use option two for moving a few photos/folders, but option one is safer when moving larger numbers of photos.
Option One—move in Explorer/Finder and update Lightroom’s links
- First follow these instructions to show the folder hierarchy. This makes it easy to relink the folders/ files that are marked as missing in the process.
- Close Lightroom and use Explorer (Windows) / Finder (Mac) or file synchronization software to copy the folders/files to the new drive.
- When the copy completes, rename the original folder (the one on the old hard drive) using Explorer (Windows) / Finder (Mac), or disconnect the old hard drive. This allows you to check everything is working correctly before deleting the files from the original location.
- Open Lightroom and right-click on the parent folder. Select Find Missing Folder or Update Folder Location from the list, depending on which option is available. Navigate to the new location and press Select Folder (Windows) / Choose (Mac). The folder disappears from the old volume (drive) in the Folders panel and reappears under the new volume bar.
- If you have more than one parent folder, repeat the process for any other parent folders until the question marks have disappeared from all the folders.
- Once you’ve confirmed that all the photos are available for editing within Lightroom, you can safely detach the old hard drive or delete the files from their original location using Explorer (Windows) / Finder (Mac).
Option Two—move the photos using Lightroom’s Folders panel
- If you can’t see the new folder in the Folders panel, go to Library menu > New Folder. Navigate to the new location and create a new folder, or select an existing folder where you plan to place the photos. (Existing folders can only be selected if they’re empty, or by importing one of the photos in that folder.)
- Within the Folders panel, drag the folders to their new location. One warning—don’t press the X in the Activity Center to cancel this move. There have been (rare!) reports of problems caused by canceling the transfer, so it’s best to let it complete uninterrupted.
- Check that the entire folder contents have copied correctly before deleting the originals. If you drag individual photos to the new location, rather than whole folders, remember that files that aren’t currently in the catalog (e.g. text files) won’t be copied as Lightroom doesn’t know that they exist.
If you’re moving a large number of files, I’d recommend using the first option, as it tends to more reliable.
Using these instructions to update the location in the catalog is essential. Don’t import the photos at the new location, or use Synchronize Folder to update the folder references, as you’ll lose all of the work you’ve done on them in Lightroom.
If you’re moving your photos as part of moving to a new computer, be sure to download the FREE eBook Moving Lightroom to a New Computer. This step-by-step guide takes you through not just moving your catalog and photos but all the preparation work, pitfalls to avoid, and any clean-up needed afterwards.
For more questions on Lightroom Classic, see my book Adobe Lightroom Classic – The Missing FAQ.
Originally posted 13 December 2014, updated for Lightroom Classic and earlier versions in 2019.