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I have several USB drives containing folders of photos. I am using Lightroom 5 on Windows 7. Two things have happened that are the rationale for what I am hoping is a solution to these issues. First, for some reason Windows once updated itself and deleted my Windows user profile. On that day I lost all my export presets (and, I think, my edited images). As I understand it that was due to my presets being stored in my Windows user profile. To resolve this I thought that at the time I created a new folder on my C: drive (outside my user profile) for my Lightroom preferences. However today, after switching between a couple hard drives, I have found myself a bit lost. I had intended for each hard drive to have its own catalogue file but one of these drives seems to have half its folders imported into the catalogue on the drive and the other half into the C: drive. Further, when I switch drives, my preset watermarks and export settings vary depending on which catalogue and/or hard drive I use.

Given the above, what I actually want is this: to be able to connect whichever hard drive I like, and begin working on my images, having exactly the same export and watermark presets available to me regardless of which hard drive I use, without storing presets in the Windows user profile.

As I understand it, the catalogue file stores my edits. I am happy for the catalogue file to be on the USB drive - that, to me, is the simplest solution for knowing I am loading the right catalogue file for the USB drive I have connected. However I want my export and watermark settings to persist between drives and not be stored in my Windows user profile. When I go to Preferences > Presets, I see an option to "Store presets with catalog". If I uncheck this, there is no option for me to specify a location for the presets. (Is my only option really to copy a set of presets between hard drives and/or back up the presets from the Windows user profile in case Windows deletes it again?)

And when I go to File > Open Recent, it shows me my four most recently opened catalogues. I was a bit surprised that only 1 was on an external drive. The others are all on my local drive, viz:

  • C:\Users\Chris\Pictures\Lightroom
  • C:\Lightroom\catalog
  • C:\Users\TEMP\Pictures\Lightroom

I'm wondering how the heck I've got a catalogue in a temp folder, but whatever. Somehow I need to standardise my work across USB drives and set up a backup schedule, but I suspect the backup portion will be a different question.

And a final side question is: where does Lightroom store the preview images, including each version for each step in my development process?

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Lightroom has two options for storing your presets in LR5, and you discovered both of them. You can store them (1) with the catalog, or (2) in your Windows user profile at /Users/[user name]/Pictures/Lightroom/Lightroom 5 Catalog.lrcat.

Your post raises the issue of using multiple catalogs rather than one, and I suggest you can solve your problem by using a single catalog, changing its location to get it out of your Windows user profile folder, and then setting your preferences to store your presets with the catalog.

To move a catalog, open Edit/Catalog Settings and look on the "General" tab to find the current location. Select the "Show" button to open the folder in Windows Explorer. Copy the folder to a new location--such as "C:\Lightroom\". Then double-click on the new catalog to open it in LR.

Adobe recommends against using multiple catalogs, generally. You don't tell us the size of your image collection, but if your images are saved on flash drives, I assume it is of a small-to-medium size. One LR catalog handles tens of thousands of images comfortably. And then you always have all of your presets available, no matter which set of images you are working with.

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