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My Hard Drive is Full!…. What Now?

September 2, 2010

I just had an interesting experience dealing with one of the inevitable hassles of digital storage. My external hard drive (750gig) which holds all my photography was filling up! So off I went to a local computer store (Canada Computers on College Street) and bought a big spacious 2 TB drive (For a mere $109). I bought just the bare drive, as I was planning on putting it in the enclosure which houses my current drive.

So now my question was how to get all the photos and some various other stuff I stored on the drive onto my new drive. No big deal, except that I didn’t want to break all my connections in Lightroom and have to go through the process of getting Lightroom to find all my photos again. Since I have a few different catalogs (mostly for teaching purposes) on this one drive it would be a pain to have to reconnect all the Lightroom catalogs.

I thought about migrating all the photographs through the Lightroom interface, but this would involve doing each catalog separately and then copying over the remaining bits and pieces of data that I have on the drive. I didn’t like that idea!

So I decided to try a different approach. I placed the new drive in an enclosure that I happened to have lying around (this is where one of those drive docks would come in handy!). When I mounted and formatted the new drive I was careful to name it exactly the same name as my existing photo drive. To my surprise, both drives showed up on my desktop even though they both have the same name!

I then used a really handy little free program from Lacie (SilverKeeper) to create an exact copy of my very full hard drive on the new drive. The advantage of using a program like SilverKeeper to do this exercise is that it makes an exact copy of your drive, including any invisible files and directory information. The copying process took a while, so I ran it over night while I was sleeping.

In the morning I came down and unplugged both drives. Then I switched the new drive into the old enclosure. (This isn’t really totally necessary step, as I could have left it in the enclosure it was in. However I wanted to use the FireWire 800 enclosure that I had been using, since it provides faster read times than USB) after the switch I plugged in the new drive and launched Lightroom, with my fingers crossed. To my delight, Lightroom found its catalog and all the photos, no problem!

I was very pleased to save myself the hassle of having to relocate all those photos in all my different catalogs. I guess the secret to the trick is to have the new drive named exactly the same name as the old drive so that Lightroom gets tricked into believing that the location hasn’t really changed.

By the way, the ultimate solution to this issue is to purchase a Drobo. These are multi-bay hard drive enclosures that hold four, five, or eight drives. The cool thing about the Drobo is that it combines all the drives into one volume, and it does it in a way that you can actually switch out smaller drives for larger ones without losing any data. It also protects you in case of one drive failing. For those of you who shoot large quantities of photos and or video, the Drobo is a really good idea!

I just thought I’d share this solution with you, since it’s inevitable that one day you’re going to fill up your drive and have to migrate your data, and this method works well with Lightroom.

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