How To Move Your Lightroom Photos To Another Hard Drive

On this video, photographer Terry White demonstrates two methods for moving your photos to another hard drive/NAS using Adobe Lightroom 5.

The first method (White think of it as less than ideal) is moving the images outside Lightroom (using your computer’s OS) and then get back into Lightroom and reconnect the images to their new location. While you can do this – it might take more time and require extra steps. The much simpler way of doing this will be to let Lightroom itself move the files and White demonstrates how you can do this using a new drive which Lightroom did not know by creating a new folder there and dragging and dropping the relevant image folder into this drive. No need to re-connect anything.

White also recommends that whenever you are working with laptops and/or external hard drives consider doing smart previews to your images so that you can continue your work even when the original images are not available to you at any given time.

White already touched on this topic briefly on a previous video along with a few other useful tips for working with Lightroom catalogs on his video “5 Things You Need To Know about Lightroom 5 Catalogs”.

You can check out more useful Lightroom guides and tips on our LensVid Lightroom section.


  1. Hi, I just got this video sent to me in a reply to my comment on the adobe page on how to transfer raw files as well as my actual photos to another hard drive.
    I have watched the video and what I can gather, correct me if Im wrong but what I think you are doing is moving the photos using your OS (in my case it would be windows 7) and then opening up Lightroom but now the photos appear as missing, so what you do is click on the exclamation mark at the top of the photo, click on locate and navigate to the new destination of the photo i.e. an external hard drive and then open up the photo and now Lightroom is reading the photo from a different source.
    Is that right, I’m not sure if I have got it right or not, if you someone let me know that would be great.
    Thank you,
    John Gallagher

  2. That’s great, if you’re moving a really small number of photos, but there’s a much, much faster and better way to do it if you’re looking at more than a few hundred shots. I just moved around 100K mostly raw images to a NAS because I was running out of space on my 1TB local drive and 2TB external drives. Doing that in lightroom would have been impossible. It doesn’t handle any network hiccups well, and it’s ridiculously slow as a file transfer device.

    Instead, on a mac (windows would be the same technique but a different command line tool, like RoboCopy instead of rsync), run this from Terminal (updated with the correct paths for your storage locations, of course):
    sudo rsync -aE –progress /Volumes/SourceDrive/PhotosParentFolder/ /Volumes/DestinationDrive/PhotosParentFolder/

    That’s going to mirror the contents of SourceDrive onto DestinationDrive, and if anything happens and it stops running, you can start it again, and it will pick up where you left off. Depending on how many files, how large they are, how fast your network and your drives are, that can take a while. Copying a terabyte isn’t fast, even over a gigabit network, but with this, you can restart it later and the only time you lose is the time it spends compiling a list of the files involved & checking if they’ve already been copied.

    Once it finishes running, it will give a report noting any files it couldn’t copy for any reason, you can run it again or copy them by hand if necessary).

    Next, just open up lightroom, go into the Folders menu, right click on the original folder, and choose “Update Folder Location”. If you’ve already wiped the photos off of your SourceDrive, you can still do this, but instead of “update folder location” it’ll say “find missing folder”.

    This, by the way, is far superior to doing it on an individual photo and then telling it to find nearby missing photos as the video displays – updating individual missing photos can take many hours, even if you kept them all in a single folder, and it will only work within the folder the image is in, which in many people’s cases will be a single day’s shots.

    Doing it with the “find missing folder” tool, they all get updated at once, and if you do it from a parent folder (example: My setup is like “Photos/2016/2016-10-12/filename.dng”), it will cover any subfolders, as well, if they were also moved. In my case, moving photos going back to 2007 took 1 right click and “update folder location” or “find missing folder” for each year folder. And it handles merging nicely, too – I had January through September of 2015 on the external drive and October-December of 2015 on my local drive, for example, and when I did the second 2015 “Update folder location” it mentioned that there was already a folder by that name in my destination, and asked if I wanted to merge them. I said yes, and it did so without complaint.

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