Sunday, December 29, 2013

Moving Files in Lightroom? Don't Fall Into This Trap!

One of My "Lost" Files
Well, I decided to use the holidays to migrate my photos from two nearly-full drives to a new 4Tb external beast. Having had issues in the past, I am careful to keep backups, but that doesn't make every recovery simple, as you'll soon see.
So, when you use Adobe Lightroom for photo editing and indexing, one great attribute is that edits don't actually change the source files. That will end up helping me a lot in the end. But, it means that when you move files, you also have to keep them associated correctly within the Lightroom catalog. If you mess this up, you'll lose everything attached to that file - edits of any type, keywords, etc.
There are basically two ways to move files in an attempt to maintain the associations - literally moving them (not copying them) from within Lightroom, or copying and moving them outside of Lightroom (for example in Windows Explorer). Here are the pluses and minuses:
  • Moving within Lightroom ensures that the associations are all preserved (plus). However, since it's a move and not a copy, there is increased risk of losing files (minus).
  • Moving outside Lightroom means that you'll have to help Lightroom once again find the source files and associate them (minus). Outside Lightroom, you can copy the files, preserving an additional copy, in the original directory structure (big plus).
Well, I chose to go from within Lightroom. I figured, hey, I've got a backup on a separate disk, and I don't want to spend a bunch of time reassociating files.
Here's what happened. I set up the transfer, 160,000 files, and it ran for about 20 hours. When I got up this morning to check on it, the computer had an error message. The process had been interrupted. Now, I have 38,000 files missing (not present on either disk)! I figured that there was probably a way to recover those files from my backup. Unfortunately, the missing files seem to be randomly distributed, from essentially any and all directories! And, to top it off, my backup has a slightly different organization than my source disk. And I do mean slightly. You see, my backup routine adds a single extra layer of folder to the directory, with the date of transfer in the name. This means that if I do decide to recover from the backup, I'll have to go into each and every directory and tell the system where the files are! And, I'm not 100% sure that I can get the associations right.
So, for now, my plan is to take my original source disk (the one that's now empty, since Lightroom moves the files off to the new disk) and see if I can recover the original files. If so, I'll simply start over, and move the files outside of Lightroom in smaller time chunks to make sure I don't lose so many files at once.
BOTTOM LINE: I'll never trust the Lightroom MOVE function again! Don't do it! Also, make sure your back-up system copies your file structure exactly!
In any case, I'm in for a lot more work than I had planned, and the Christmas holiday time is drawing to a close.
Bah, humbug!