So I guess this is my debut question. I sure hope someone has had a similar experience.

I've been editing photos with LR 2.7 on 2 drives (a local MacBook Pro drive and an external Seagate formatted as NTFS). You might be wondering, "Hrm, why is this guy using an NTFS drive on his MacBook if all he can do is read it." Well, that's the problem, I was using the external drive on another desktop for a while and then moved to using LR on my Mac without realizing that I was working with a read-only volume until just recently (the catalogs are being stored on the local drive). Ugh!

So here's the plan, and this is where I'd love some advice:

  1. Copy all photos off of the external drive and onto another.
  2. Reformat the external drive as FAT32.
  3. Move all the previously copied photos back over to the reformatted drive.
  4. Open Lightroom, navigate to the drive, and PRAY TO ALMIGHTY GOD that it is able to match all the catalog data with the photos on the drive.

Any thoughts on the last step? I'd love to hear from someone who has migrated their photos before. I'd love even more if someone could tell me exactly how the catalog matches the LR data (stored in XML file(s) right) to the filesystem.

Also, I'm a software engineer, so technical details are welcome :)

Thanks so much, Adam

4 Answers 4


As long as you keep the folder structure the same, it shouldn't really matter. If the folders come up missing, you can always point LR to the correct spot. You could also use Lightroom to move the folders originally, then use it again to move it to the new drive (thus eliminating any possible issue at all).

  • Thanks especially for the tip on using LR to move the folders. I have no idea why I didn't think of this myself, but it'll definitely give me peace of mind. Jan 20, 2011 at 21:02

If you lose the location of an image or folder, Lightroom will ask you to locate it and then will start finding the other ones from there. I have done this task moving from an 80GB to 500GB drive and it worked no problem. The key is to just keep the relative locations accurate - or at least for me.


I have migrated my photos to a new install of lightroom a couple of times. In my experience lightroom intuitively figures out where the photos in its database are located. Keep your folder structure the same, and it will be able to locate the files and update its database.

  1. Make a backup of your catalog.
  2. If the pictures won't appear on lightroom after reformatting you can rightclick on the folder in library and relocate the folder.

You can also use lightroom to copy all the files to the new hard drive. Make a folder in the new HD with a picture in it, import it into lightroom, now just drag & drop the folder from the NTFS HDD to the new folder.

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