Moving Photoshop Elements Images and Catalog to an External Drive

The other day I helped a client move all of her pictures, as well as her catalog from her C drive to a new external drive. The number of pictures in her catalog had grown to about 5,000, and she was concerned that she was running out of disk space. There are a number of ways this can be done, but I chose to do a backup/restore. The added advantage for her of doing it this way was it forced her to back up her catalog, which she had not done recently.

She has PSE 5, but these same steps can be used with any version. She bought two USB 2.0 external hard drives, one for her catalog and images and the second one for her backup files. Before starting, we checked to make sure that the new external drives were formatted using NTFS, and not FAT32. Often external drives come formatted as FAT32 drives to increase their compatibility across various platforms. The problem with this is a FAT32 drive cannot store a file greater than 4 Gb. PSE backup files are generally much larger than this. I believe her backup ended up being about 12-13 Gb.

Here are the steps we followed to move her catalog.

  1. Reconnect or delete any missing files. Click on File > Reconnect > All Missing Files. If you delete missing files, delete them from the catalog but not the hard drive.
  2. Click File > Backup. Select Full Backup and click Next.
  3. Select the external drive where you intend to backup up your catalog and images, eg G:. The default name should be the same name as your catalog. For most people, this will be My Catalog.
  4. Click on the Browse button and make a new folder. Here is how I name backup folders:
                FB My Catalog 5-4-08
    This tells me the name of the catalog, the fact that it is a full backup in contrast to an incremental backup, and the date it was created. This new folder should now be in the backup path field.
  5. Click Done to begin the backup.
  6. Once the backup is complete, click on File > Restore (The wording after Restore varies depending PSE version you are using).
  7. In the Restore From section of the dialog box, select the drive containing the backup files (G: in our example), click on the Browse button and then navigate to and select the .tly file in the folder you used for your backup.
  8. In the Restore Files and Catalog to section of the dialog box, select New Location.
  9. Click on the Browse button and navigate to the External drive on which you are going house your catalog and images, eg F:. 
  10. Make sure you select Restore Original Folder Structure. 
  11. Click Restore.

At the completion of the restore process, your images and tags should all be as you left them. You can quickly verify that they are now on the external drive by checking the properties for a selected image. To complete the relocation, you should change the preferences where images uploaded from your camera are stored, where scanned images will be stored, and where files automatically saved by PSE are saved. Do this by clicking on the following and entering the appropriate location:
     Edit > Preferences > Files
     Edit > Preferences > Camera or Card Reader
     Edit > Preferences > Scanner

Remember, from now on, the My Pictures folder on your C drive will not be where PSE is going to be saving images in the future. As you edit your pictures you will also want to navigate to an appropriate folder on your new external hard drive (again F: in our example) when you do your File Save As… command. Other programs that use the My Pictures folder will continue to look and store images there.

As of right now, your pictures are still located wherever they were on your C drive. Later when you are comfortable that everything got transferred correctly, these can be deleted.

The performance of PSE should not go down much or at all with having your images contained on an external drive. But if you are concerned about that, you could move your images and catalog to a second internal hard drive. The steps above would remain the same.

That’s all for now. Please comment if you have any questions, thoughts or experiences to share.

Until next time,


71 thoughts on “Moving Photoshop Elements Images and Catalog to an External Drive

  1. Pingback: Cambiar fotos de disco duro en Photoshop Elements | Desde El Arroyo

    • Don, thanks for the info. I moved my catalog to my ext. hard drive. However, now when I go to add photos to my PS Elements I get a message that says: The catalog named My Catalog.psa could not be found. Please open or create a different catalog.

      What do I do to continue to store photos in my PSE? Thank you.


  2. Hi Don,

    Thanks for the post. It is exactly what I was trying to do, and its amazing how simple it looks when you know how to do it.

    Anyway this is to let you know that I have used it and translated it to Spanish as I couldnt find a similar one in my blog´s language. I have trackbacked you but I am not too sure whether its worked.

    Thanks a lot.

    PD Just noticed this reads as the typical Spam comment. Hope its not filtered out!


  3. Pingback: More on Moving Photoshop Elements Catalogs « Don’s Digital Photo Corner

  4. Hi Don,

    I tried your approach using PE 3.0. Both the catalog and the photo files restored to the external drive (f:). However, the links to the photos were still pointing to my c: drive–when I selected a photo in PE and checked the properties, the path to all of the photos was still to my c: drive (even though the photo files did restore to the f: drive).

    I had to delete all of the photo files from the f: drive (while leaving the folder structure) and then manually use the MOVE command (for each folder) to move the photos from the c: drive to the f: drive. Since I had quite a large number of folders, the moving process took a good bit of time.

    Any suggestions for the next time I restore to a new location?

    Also, what if I connect 2 external hard drives (one hard drive with the PE photos and catalog files and a second hard drive to use for a backup)? What if the backup hard drive is desginated as the “f:” drive and the hard drive with the PE photos and catalog is designated as the “e:” drive (all of the links to the photo files currently point to the f: drive)? Is there a way to dynamically change the drive letter for PE 3.0 to find the catalog and photo files?

    Thank you in advance.


    • I have this exact same problem, and don’t want to manually move my 10,000 photos. Did you get a response to this message? I haven’t found an answer yet. Thank you.


  5. Hi Don,
    When I back up the Elements 6 catalogue, the backup seems to include a lot of large jpg and cr2 files. So does the catalogue only include meta data and thumbnails, or also the actual photos themselves?
    I already back up the originals to an external hd, and really only want to back up the catalogue (meta data – categories, tags, star ratings, etc) too.
    Do you know where Elements 6 actually saves the original catalogue, or if it is stored as many files in many locations?


  6. Andrew,

    When you use the Backup command of PSE, your images and all of the tags etc that you generated using PSE are included in the backup folder.

    All of your images are renumbered sequentially beginning with the letter “B”. There are two additional files in the backup folder, backup.tly and catalog.buc (the large file). These two files are used to put everything back together when you use the Restore command.

    I hope this helps somewhat.



  7. Andrew,

    I forgot to address your second question. The catalog file ends with the extension, .psedb. Its default location is different for Win XP and Vista.

    For example, in Win XP you should find it in C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Adobe\Photoshop Elements\Catalogs, I believe.

    Probably the best way to find your particular Catalog is to search on the extension.

    On Vista it is different.

    I hope this helps somewhat.



  8. Thanks Don, that answers my questions. I guess the best way then for me to backup the meta data then is to copy catalog.psedb and thumb.5.cache, or just the whole catalog directory to my external hd with the backup copies of all my images. If I use PS backup I will end up with 2 copies of the originals, one copy having names starting with “B” and I don’t really need this.


  9. Andrew,

    I guess I wasn’t clear. When you use the PSE Backup command followed by the PSE Restore command (if ever needed), that is all that is needed. You do not need to back up your pictures separately.

    I may not totally understand what you are backing up, but I think there is a good possibility if you tried to restore the pieces you refer to, you could end up with images that are disconnected.

    That is, after you restore everything (depending upon how you did it, and if you backed up everything used by PSE) the thumbnails might be visible in the Organizer, but as soon as you try to edit one, PSE would be unable to find it. Or you may have lost your Creation projects. I think there are other files than those you mentioned that are needed by PSE to properly reconstruct the Catalog.

    Using the Backup/Restore combination ensures that the Catalog will be properly reconstructed. I have had multiple clients have that very thing happen after their computer expert reconstructs the person’s PC disk structure after a crash or upgrade. The pictures are there but the Catalog cannot find them.

    Here is a suggestion. go to the Adobe User Forums and search through the entries regarding backing up the PSE Catalog and images. You will find that many people do not like the Backup/Restore combination as I do. They back up PSE independently like you do. There you can check which files must be backed up and then restored from the very knowledgeable users that frequent the forums there.

    For myself, I prefer the PSE Backup/Restore combination. It has saved me on more than one occasion.


    Don S.


    • I’m trying to move 13 gig worth of 1,200 .jpg and PEF files from my Vista Elements 6.0 laptop to my Vista Elemenets 6.0 desktop computer using 4 DVDs via Backup/Restore.

      When I checked the results on the Desktop after restoring, about one quarter of all the thumnails were broken, i.e. not connected to the main file and not showing any file data.

      What might cause this problem?
      Would a large external portable harddrive be a better method than a series of DVDs for such a large file?

      Is there a way to restore or import these photos to my existing catalog on the Desktop computer instead of creating a separate Catalog?


      • Gerald,

        I assume you used the Backup/Restore command in PSE 6 without any error messages during the process. That being the case, I am puzzled as to why it did not work properly.

        Are you sure the images are disconnected, or is the thumbnail just not generated yet? It may take some time for all of the thumbnails to be generated after the Restore command completes.

        Is your Catagory structure visible in the right pane, and does it match the structure you started with?

        I have never used multiple DVDs to do the backup/restore process. Long befor I got to multiple DVDs, I began using external hard drives. Doing that has always work as it should for me. Right now my Catalog is approaching 28K images and requires about 190 Gb of storage. When I do the backup, it takes about four hours to complete.

        If I were you, I would try again using an external drive as the media.

        You could copy all of your images to your desktop using some other programs. Then you would use the GET command to import them into a new Catalog on your desktop. However, I suspect you would lose some or all of your tagging information, certainly the category, sub-category, and tag structure of your current catalog. But with only 1200 images you could probably re-tag your images without too much work.

        Since you are using PSE 6, it may have a bug that is causing your problem. But again, the process using external drives has worked for me even with earlier versions, like PSE 6.

        To reiterate, I would try the backup/restore with an external drive and see how that works.

        Good luck, and I hope this helps somewhat.



    • Don, after you ‘backup’, but before you restore (step 6), do you need to delete the files from PSE? I followed the steps, but my files are all found on the C: drive not the external drive. I tried to import them from my external drive and got this error message: Nothing was imported. The files/folders selected to import are already in the catalog.

      Thank you so much for your help.


      • Debbie,

        The simple answer is no. After Step 11, your pictures will be in the new location where you restored them. Use the Properties dialog to verify that this is indeed true. All your tags will be restored as well.

        The pictures that were backed up will still be in their original location. They are not relevant to PSE anymore and can be deleted once you have thoroughly checked to see that they were all copied to the new location you specified during the Restore step.


  10. Brian,

    I do not have an explanation for you as to why you had to manually Move all of your pictures to the F: drive. I do know that there have been changes/improvements to the Organizer since PSE 3. I have used the technique on more recent versions beginning with PSE 4 without experiencing your problem. I am stumped. I am glad you had the wherewithal to get things sorted out.

    You may want to check with the many knowledgeable people who are active on the Adobe PSE Users Forum. I am sure that someone there will be able to provide an approach the next time you want to move your images.

    Regarding your question on using one external drive for your catalog/pictures and a separate external drive for your backup, it is being done by others. However, I believe they are using later versions than PSE 3. Windows redefines drive letters on occasion. With PSE 3 this can create problems. Beginning with PSE 5 or PSE 6, Adobe changed how PSE keeps the specific disk drives straight, by changing to the embedded disk drive serial number to identify each drive. There have been discussions on the User Forum addressing this issue.

    By the way, here is the link to the Adobe PSE User Forum that discusses technical issues.


  11. Don, I have looked all over Adobe and google for the answer to this question:

    Is there a step by step description on how to move my 15,000 photos in PSE 3 on a WinXP to a Vista computer with PSE 5?

    I backed up PSE3 on three disks and restored to PSE5. Vista PSE5 requested and accepted disc #3, including tags, but rejected #1 and #2.

    I installed PSE3 on the Vista but temorarily lost my DVD drive because PSE3/Vista are incompatible.

    Suggestions would be helpful and appreciated. Thanks. Terry.


  12. Terry,

    First, I don’t have any answer as to why only CD #3 was the only CD accepted. I am extremely surprised that you were able to backup a catalog with 15K pictures onto only three CDs. That is barely 2 Gb. My catalog has about 19K pictures and it takes 80+ Gb to do a full backup of the catalog. Something does not sound right to me.

    If I were you, I would make another full backup on PSE 3, but make the backup to an external hard drive. I believe PSE 3 will allow that.

    Regarding running PSE 5 on Vista, make sure that you have downloaded the PSE 5 patch from Adobe making the program PSE 5.02 I believe. That is the only way that PSE 5 is going to run properly in all respects on Vista.

    Assuming you still have your Win XP PC, install PSE 5 on that machine. Then try to restore your PSE 3 catalog to PSE 5 there. If you are successful doing that, then make a backup on PSE 5 as installed on your Win XP PC.

    Use this backup to restore to PSE 5.02 on your Vista PC. Also, I assume that you have Reconnected any misinng images before you made any backup.

    Assuming you have not posted your question there yet, I would definitely seek the help of the experts who frequent the Adobe Users Forum.

    Good luck,



  13. Don, thanks for your quick and helpful reply.
    1. My “three discs” were DVDs, not CDs, for a total of about 11 Gb for 15k pics. I think I have a lot of small-file pics, cartoons, etc that don’t swell the catalog. After I got a successful burn to each DVD, I verified as the dialog box recommended.
    2. I am considering exploring your suggestion of backing up PSE 3 to an external drive. Are you suggesting a full backup and then connect the external drive to the Vista/PSE 5 computer for a restore? I have an ex dr on the WinXP now, but it’s nearly full. This gives me a reason to get a new one.
    3. I don’t know anything about PSE 5.02. My program disk says “Windows Vista/XP. I’m thinking that’s all I needed, plus I did not see anything on the net about 5.02 in my searching. That will be one of the first things I take care of.
    4. I do have my WinXP. That’s where PSE 3 is located. Your suggestion of loading 5.0 there and working from that angle sounds like a possibility.
    5. I connected all missing images before backup.
    6. In my searching, I found the Adobe Users Forum but I wasn’t much impressed with what I saw. I will have to give it another look. Maybe I missed some potential there.
    Thanks very much for all the suggestions and info. Got a lot of approaches to pursue.


  14. Don:

    Following up on Andrew’s question form July, I have recently added lots of video clips in the organizer to the 12,000 images already there as of my last backup. Now PS wants almost 800 GB for the backup! I don’t want to backup all the video segments, just the catalog with its tagging structure. I cannot find an option to exclude the video segments from the backup. Any suggestions???


  15. Don:

    I’ve moved 56,000 pics onto a 1 TB WD external hard drive and am importing them into PSE6.

    For the past several nights, at 3am, a mystery file is created by Adobe named “ac39d35ceef777048b9c97304b” and pictures are deleted off the Ext Hard Drive.

    What gives? I bought PSE6 to organize my photos, not erase them.

    Thanks in advance.


  16. Steve,

    I have a similat issue. Once you get into video, the size of the files and the number of files you may want to manage make it impractical to use the built in backup command in PSE 6. I have not totally finalized my video backup and management workflow.

    In Windows XP, the catalogs are in C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Adobe\Photoshop Elements\Catalogs\Your Particular Catalog.

    The “Your Particular Catalog” folder has several files and maybe a subfolder or two. The main database file has an extension .PSEDB which contains the tag structure.

    This folder also cointains the previews or thumbnails of the images in the catalog. To back up the entire catalog, I would copy the entire “”Your Particular Catalog” folder, as well as all the images themselves. I “believe” that would give you everything you need to reconstruct the catalog.

    There are many people who are active on the Adobe Photoshop elements Users forum who do not use the built-in command to back up their images.
    Asearch of the forum topics or posting your question there may be a good idea.

    Up to now, I have used the built-in command, but my backup file now is about 90 Gb and takes well over an hour to complete. That is why I am looking into ways to mange video. As I work my way throught this I will post some ideas/experiences here.

    Don S.


  17. Greg,

    I have pictures stored on external hard drives that I actively and successful manage using PSE 6. based on your brief description I cannot tell exactly what you are doing.

    What is the extension of the file that you mention? Are you using the GET command to import the images into the PSE 6 catalog? Are the pictures really being physically erased froi your external hard drive? Are you using Windows Vista or XP?

    The 3 am activity sounds like there is some automatic backup activity going on by a program other than PSE 6.

    Don S.


  18. Steve,

    I forgot to mention, that the path and file extension I described in my comment is for PSE 6. It is different for earlier versions.


  19. Don:

    Thanks for your reply.

    The alphanumeric I desrcibe is actually a new empty folder – no file extension.

    Migh the WD drive be auto-backing up and failing?

    I’m on Win XP, not Vista.

    I’m not using GET command, I’m using add Unmanaged Files from folder view – right click dialogue box. And I’m adding 1 folder at a time to try to prevent from choking PSE.

    Yes, they are absolutely being erased from randomly chosen folders. The subfolders are empty. I ran experiment last night and wrote GB, and exact number of files off HD and I woke up to missing JPG Files.

    It’s bizarre, but I still love PSE6. Would uninstall/reinstall have any hope?


  20. Greg,

    You are right, it is very bizarre. Are the files visible in the Organizer? If so, where does it say they are located? If you see the thumbnails, can you open them in the Editor, or does PSE 6 begin to try to reconnect them?

    If and when you find out what is going on (and you will), please leave a comment letting us know what the issue turned out to be.

    Good luck.


  21. Don:

    I have transfered as you described a FBU of PShop6 from my old computer to a catalogue on a external hard drive.(EXHD)
    The transfer was successful. I can see all 13G of the FBU catalogue in the EXHD when I open it on the new computer. Unfortunatly when PS6 askes me to browse in order to restore on the new comp., the EXHD will only displays.tly files while the catalogue is called a buc file…so I can’t select to restore

    Any ideas? Thanx Garth


  22. Hi Garth,
    I may not totally understand your question, but it looks like you did everything right and just need to make one more click. Here is a link to a quick, dirty and all around bad demo I put together for the restore steps. It is really too small to see well, but hopefully you get the jist of it.

    It looks like Comments do not support hyperlinks, so you will have to cut and paste to follow the link.

    Hope this helps somewhat.



  23. I am still learning how to make video tutorials and have a way to go yet, as you can tell. The one I posted in my previous comment was not readable. I have tried to improve on that one by including a magnified window in the center of the screen that basically follows the mouse. Inside the window you should be able to read the words the mouse is over. Outside the window you see the mouse move to various parts of the screen. The file is still quite large. It does take several seconds before the video begins to play. Here is the very long link to the file:

    I have a ways to go to make quality videos. But hopefully it will help you to successfully Restore your PSE 6 catalog.


  24. Ok. I have made yet a third PSE 6 Backup/Restore demo video. This one is visually much better. I set my PC monitor to 1024×768 before recording the demo. It was at a higher resolution. I am still not using a script, so my narration leaves something to be desired. Here is the link:

    If anyone sees this comment, let me know if the video quality is accptable.



  25. Pingback: Backing Up and Restoring a Photoshop Elements 6 Catalog « Don’s Digital Photo Corner

  26. Worked like a charm! Thank you so much for the guidance – I simply followed the steps outlined in the initial post.

    A separate question – is there a recommend way to do the following:
    I’d like to have PSE manage my photos on the laptop while on a trip, and then merge back to these new photos back into my external drive.

    Thanks again.


  27. Elizabeth,

    I’m glad the article helped you.

    I have run into the same situation myself, and frankly I do not have a good solution.

    While I’m on the trip, I basically just consider my laptop as a extra copy of my pictures. I do only only a minimum amount of tagging etc in the laptop. When I get home, I then upload the pictures from the memory card(s) in the usual manner.

    I have read several threads on this subject in various forums over the years. If you have not already done this, I would check out the two forums shown below. They have some very knowlegeable active users.

    Adobe Photoshop Elements User Forum:

    Photoshop Elements Villiage Forum


  28. Hi,
    I have backup on dvd my catalogue photoshop element 5.0. I then started to use a newer computer and started a new catalogue on that computer (much faster). Recently, my old computer crashed. Can I restore my backup from my old computer to my new one without erasing the new pics I imported on my new computer. In brief, those restoring from backup erase whatever is already there and replace it with the backup or does it add the backup to the rest of the pics already there ?



  29. Hi Christian,

    If you Restore your old PSE 5 backup to your new computer, it copies over all of the images to your new computer plus the catalog file itself, Your current Catalog will be replaced with you old one. This means that all of your Tags etc will be replaced.

    But your new images will not be erased. They are untouched. However, the Organizer does not know about them, so you will have to use the Get command to import them into the new catalog. Once there, you may have to re-tag the images.

    Before actually doing the Restore, I would back up your Catalog on your new PC, and or copy the images themselves to DVDs, just in case.

    I hope this helps somewhat.



  30. Hi Don,
    Thanks for the info on moving my catalog to an external hard drive. Now that my photos are there, and I can access them through my laptop, is there a way I can set up PSE6 on my desktop to use this same catalog? I would like to have access to my pictures from either computer using my external hard drive.


  31. Wayne,

    This is a popular desire and it has been done in a variety of ways. I have not done such a thing, “yet”. One of the best places to see what/how others have approached this need, you may want to check out the Adobe PSE User Forum at

    They have some very knowledgeable people there.

    I believe the following may be a workable approach, assuming that your external drive holds all of your pictures, and that the catalog is on the C drive of your desktop and laptop computer. And if your cataloging needs on your laptop are modest.

    Each computer would have there own catalogs, possibly with different names. When you are working on your desktop, your catalog has all of its pictures stored on the external drive, and they are readily available as long as your external drive is connected. Disconnect the external drive and your pictures should all display the small red circle symbol in their upper left hand corner.

    With PSE 6 installed on your laptop, make a new catalog, perhaps with a different name than your desktop catalog. Connect your external hard drive and click on File > Get Photos > From Files and Folders. Navigate to your External hard drive to complete the command.

    You may get a dialog that asks whether you want to import certain Keyword Tags embedded in your puctures. I think I would accept them. You will have to be disciplined enough to keep the two catalogs in sync- at least picture wise – by using the Get command on whatever PC needs it. For example, if you edit a picture on your laptop and save it to the external drive, you will need to use the Get command on your desktop PC to get it into your CAtalog there.

    Remember, you are only sharing pictures with this approach. There are several limitations. Here are some. There are probably others that I am not aware of or listed.

    1. If you delete, move, or rename a photo on one PC, that will not be detected on the other PC.
    2. Projects and Albums generated on one PC are not available on the other one.
    3. Your tag structure does not carry over from one OPC to the other.
    4. I believe when you back up your catalog using PSE commands, the pictures on the external drive are not copied, just the catalog and the pictures on the C drive on each PC are copied. By the way, I believe this is true even in your current case. You need to back up your images outside of PSE.
    5. Also, there are situations where PSE stores images on your hard drive even when your main collection is on the exteral drive.
    6. Also, Version Sets on one PC will only be properly stacked etc on the PC (Catalog) where they were produced.

    As you can see there are a lot of restrictions and potential problems with just sharing the images between your two PCs. What you really want is to also share the catalog. Maybe you could put your catalog & pictures on the external drive to get around the above.

    The above is off the top of my head, and should be taken as such. But I am quite sure there are multiple people in the forum that can guide you. One other piece of advice, whether it is exploring the approach outlined above, or following a suggested approach from the forum, I would test out the concept on a small special catalog before committing my prime catalog to an approach.

    And finally, I would definitely look into the contents of your PSE backups to ensure that your full resolution versions of your photos are included in the backup file. If they aren’t back them up separately using an aapropriate program.

    I hope this helps somewhat.

    Please post back with iformation you may find from the forum or your own tests.

    Don S.


  32. Pingback: Sharing Photos on an External Drive Between Computers in PSE « Don’s Digital Photo Corner

  33. Help? I did the “copy/move” function in PS 7.0 to move my catalog from C drive to an external hard drive (F). PS works fine accessing photos on F drive but now I have more memory and want to restore the entire catalog to my C drive. The Restore function will not recognize the tly files on the F drive. Any suggestions for resolving this problem? The Adobe forums have not helped.




  34. Hi Dennis,

    I aplogize for not replying sooner. I am leaving tomorrow on a cruise as a guest lecturer on digital photography, so I have been busy getting ready.

    First, you say you “moved” your “catalog” to your external F Drive. I assume youmeant your pictures. Remember the catalog file is not your pictures, just pointers to them, tags etc.

    The Restore command only works in conjunction with a Backup file. You make no mention of having done a backup using the File > Backup… in PSE 7.

    With your F drive connected are all of your files connected (Click on File > Reconnect > All Missing Files) and are your tags etc working properly? Reconnect any missing files before you do the backup below.

    If so do a full backup to somewhere, ideally another external hard drive or CD/DDVD just to be on the safe side. This just in case things don’t go right.

    Once that is done select some of your pictures that are currently on your F drive and use the File > Move command to move them back onto your C drive. Many people like the drag/drop approach from the Folder Location View, but I like to generally use the Move command and move a few at a time to make sure things are working as I thought.

    In the above, I assumed you meant you replaced your C drive with a larger one when you said “now I have memory”.

    If you meant you added more RAM (internal memory) then I am not sure why you want to move your pictures back to your C drive.

    I hope this helps somewhat.

    I’ll be gone for the next week or so.

    Don S.


  35. Don, Your latest video was excellent. I followed it exactly, using pse 6 on a PC with Windows XP SP3. For the restore operation I specified New Location, which I want to be my external I drive (I want to move 23000 photos from my C Drive to the I Drive). I also selected Restore Original Folder Structure. The restore completes, all photos and tags are present, but the location of every photo is still on the C Drive. I’ve tried it twice with the same result. Any idea what I’m doing wrong?




  36. Hi Lenny,

    When you do the backup/restore procedure, the photos are still in their original location, as well as where you moved them to, in your case your external drive. They are copied to the new location, not moved.

    You may have already done this, but try the following. When you are in the Organizer, click on Help > System Info. Included in all of the information there, is the location of the Catalog itself. It should show that it is located on your external drive.

    Then, right click on a random picture picture in your and then click on Show Properties. Click on the icon on the the top left of the dialog box that opens. You will see the specific location of the image. It should point to your external drive.

    You may have already done the above or their equivalent. If you have, I’m stumped.

    Within the last week, I did exactly what you did using PSE 7 for about 21K pictures. The only difference is that I went to an internal drive.

    Everything walked fine, and I had the actual pictures on both drives until I deleted them from my C drive. After working working with the Organizer for a week or so, frequently checking that I do not have any disconnected pictures, I have deleted the photos etc that were on my C drive.

    Don S.


  37. Hi Don,

    Thank you for the quick reply. The System Information indicates that the catalog is indeed located on the I drive, but the Properties indicate that each photo is still on the C Drive. It did make a copy of all photos onto the I drive, but the catalog points to the photos on the C Drive.

    Would another option be to Export all photos to the I Drive? I believe that would retain all tags. Or perhaps File/Move would work. I haven’t tried any of these options yet.



  38. Lenny,

    That really puzzles me. It has always worked for me.

    Using the Move command is your best bet if the backup/restore process does not work. Using the Move command is what many people do, but before you do that, I would delete all of the photos you copied to your I drive. There is a bug in the Move command that was at least there in PSE 6. I don’t know a lot about it, but files can be permanently deleted without any warning if the receiving location already contains the a file of the same name. Based on what you are doing, that may not matter, but…

    You can find out more about this issue at the Adobe User Forums. Others have also had good luck using the Folder Location view and dragging and dropping folders and files. But alas, it has its own issues even in PSE 7. I personally do not like this method, mostly because my subject folders are so far apart on the trry and it is too easy to let the mouse go at the wrong spot.

    I do not think the Export command will do what you want. When you use it, PSE makes a copy of the pictures wherever you tell it, but divorces itself of those pictures. Looking at the meta data of the exported photos you may see tags, but there is no sttructure as to Catagory or Sub-Catagory. Plus, you would have to build a whole new catalog.

    So, Move is a good alternative. Many use it and you can do it incremently so you can see what’s going on and is working.

    A couple of final thoughts regarding your Backup/Restore experience:

    Maybe there is an internal structure problem in your data base that the reconnect, repair and optimize commands you did prior to making your backup did not correct.

    In the Adobe forums there is an extremely knowledgeable contributor, John Rolf Ellis. He and a program he wrote were a great help to me when I was experiencing some strange things in my catalog.

    Another thought, does PSE think your I drive is off-line storage? When I was having trouble with my catalog, for some reason PSE was treating my external drive as off-line storage. The backup command does not back up pictures stored offline.

    I hope somewhere in the above comments you find something that helps you. Because right now, you do not seem to have a good backup. What if you were doing the restore after experiencing a disk crash or virus?

    Let us know, what you find and how you solved your problem.

    Don S.


  39. Thank you for your comments, Don. I’m sorry it took so long to get back to you, but fixing the problem has taken a long time. After the Backup/Restore technique resulted in all the photos being moved to the external drive, but the Catalog still pointing to the C Drive, I ended up using the Move Command to offload all my photos. It almost worked, but for some reason, about 2000 or so photos out of 23000+ photos did not make it to the external drive, and they were deleted from the internal drive. Fortunately, I had multiple backups on several external drives, and I was able to recover from that. The hard part was finding out what photos were missing. But in the end, everything has now been moved to the external drive, removed from the internal drive, and all tags and structure have been maintained. A lot of work I appreciate all of your guidance.




  40. Lenny,

    I am glad you finally got your Catalog fully restored where you wanted. I certainly do not know what went wrong, but one thing I am sure of. Your experience is yet another example of the value of having multiple backups for your pictures. As good as PSE is, things still do not always go as expected.

    For entirely different reasons, that I hope will never occur again, I had a terrible time going from PSE 5 to PSE 6. Adobe made a fundamental change in the way they handle off-line media, and I had evolved my workflow and storage strategy around how PSE 3 throught PSE 5 worked.

    Enough said about that. But like you, it took me a long time to get things working right. If you are like me, I bet you are glad it’s over so you can get back to the fun part of working with your photos.

    Don S.


  41. Yes, Don. I’m glad its all over for now. I know some people who had problems going from PSE 4 to PSE 6, and they lost all of their tags in doing so. That may not have been your problem, but in case others have experienced it, here is a procedure that worked for me (this may have been derived from the Adobe manual found at US/PhotoshopElements/6.0/pselements 6 help.pdf):

    You must convert your existing catalog, rather than have 6.0 automatically make a new catalog for you.

    1. Select File>Catalog
    2. Click Convert. The convert Catalog dialog box opens and searches the default locations for the catalogs of Photoshop Elements.
    3. (optional) To browse additional locations for catalogs, click Find More Catalogs, and browse to other locations.
    4. Select a catalog from the list to convert, and click Convert.
    5. Click Done, to close the Convert Catalog dialog box.

    I had a scare today, when powering up my new LaCie drive, which is where I moved all of my photos to, to free up my small C-Drive. While powering up, the blue light in from kept on flashing and would not stop. Additionally, Windows XP did not recognize the drive. This went on for about an hour. In the meantime, I searched for the problem, and found that other people had seen it also, but had no solution. I called LaCie, and they had me unplug the Firewire connection first, then unplug the power cord, turn the power switch off, replug in the power cord, turn power back on, and reconnect the Firewire. It then worked properly, and no data was lost (yes, I did have the Catalog backed up to two other external drives).

    Hope some of that is useful to somebody.



  42. Hi Lenny,

    Thanks for the feedback. You are right, the PSE 4 Catalog needs to be converted to the PSE 6 format. But the conversion may fail or not be totally successful regarding the conversion of the tags if there are internal problems with the PSE 4 catalog. Pproblems that the user may not even be aware of.

    Actually problem with going from PSE 5 to PSE 6 involved an entirely different issue. The conversion when fine in all respects.

    But the vast majority of my 19K images were physically stored on CDs & DVDs, which had been accumulated since I had started using PSE 3 since it had been released. Actually, my I started my catalog using Photoshop Album, which preceded PSE 3.

    That strategy (the bulk of my pictures being stored offline) worked quite well for me for versions 3-5 of PSE. I was able to make slide shows, view the pictures full screen, and even print a reasonably good 4×6 from the proxie that were stored on my hard drive, without ever needing to load the picture from its CD/DVD. I used the largest proxie size of 1280×960.

    If I wanted to edit the offline picture, PSE told me want CD/DVD to insert.

    When Adobe came out wiith PSE 6, they chose to change the way they handle offline media. In PSE 6 and PSE 7, let alone put the picture into a slide show etc. unless you have the CD/DVD loaded. This not a real problem, if your offline media is an external drive, wich is connected.

    To me that meant I had to move all of my offline images back online – about 16k of them. If that was not bad enough, PSE 6 was unable to proerly identify many of the CD/DVDs, even though it had generated them. Somewhere in the version evolution identifying/name the CD/DVD rules changed.

    Recovering from that was time consuming. Along the way, I chose to put my images onm a second internal drive ather thanm an external drive. It “appears” that PSE does not copy the full resolution image that is stored on an external drive, just its preview. One must back up the images on the external drive separately.

    My backup catalog for about 21k pictures is about 100 Gb, but it includes everything.



  43. Hi Don,

    I like your idea of a second internal drive, even though I don’t understand the part about PSE6 not making a copy of the full resolution image. When I look at or edit a photo in PSE6, which is stored on the external drive, the properties indicates that it is a full resolution photo. Maybe I just don’t understand the statement. But in any case, I have never been a fan of storing photos on DVD’s or CD’s, even though I did do that when I had Album2 and PSE2. CD’s are just too unreliable over the long term. I also want to have all my photos on the same storage medium, so that I can search all photos at once, using a combination of tags. A second internal drive or an external drive makes that possible. I now have 4 external drives, with the Catalog backed up on each one.

    Let’s hope we go a long time now, without any more disasters.



  44. Lenny,

    That’s true, as long as you external drive is connected, you will edit or whatever the full resolution picture that is stored there.

    I had never had a problem with bad CDRs generated by PSE, because it used single session on in the early days, and I always had it Verify the data.

    And so far, I have not had CDR/DVDs become unreadable in general due to age, but I periodically check them. With the recent changes in PSE, my photo CDR/DVDs have basically become my doomsday backups.

    Don S.


  45. Hi Don,

    I am using 32-bit Vista with Elements 6. I just got a new external hard drive and am trying to move all of my pictures and catalog, as well as the backup onto that drive. What I want to be able to do is use the hard drive on my desktop (Vista 32bit) and laptop (Vista 64bit) so that I can have all of my tags shown on both computers. I am assuming that if I have PSE installed on both computers, and I have all of my pics and the catalog on the external hard drive it should work. Am I correct?

    I have already done the full backup onto the external hard drive. I went to file –> restore and chose a new location. The new location is the same external drive I just did the backup on. I used Browse and made a new folder for the restored files.

    Here is the problem: Once I hit the Restore button, I get a Windows message that says that the program has an unknown error and needs to shut down….thus closing the program. I have no idea what I did wrong…any suggestions?


  46. Hi Jaime,

    My first question/comment is why would you want both your pictures and catalog along with their backup on the same drive? If you lose the drive you lose everything.

    Regarding your problem in the third paragraph, the error might be caused by your trying to restore your catalog to the ame drive. Again, I am not sure why you would want to do such a thing. Also, if you requested the same file structure, it seems like that would cause PSE 6 problems. If I understand you you are asking PSE to Restore the catalog right over itself. What am I missing here? There may be some other problem, however. I would hve expected PSE 6 to give you a more specific error message rather than the generic shutting down one.

    Finally, your goal to share your catalog/pictures between to PCs accessing the same external HD is a common desire. Have you checked the Adobe User Forums? There have been several discussions there. Also, why not make a small test catalog and try your idea on it?

    Hope this helps a little.



  47. Hi Don,

    Thanks for the reply. I didn’t realize that the catalog could be moved separately from the backup files. I thought that I needed the backup on the external drive in order to go between computers. I have been doing more research and tested my idea…and figured it out! I was able to move the catalog onto the EHD and use it on both the laptop and desktop.

    Now I have a very disturbing issue with my pictures. They somehow got corrupted. Luckliy I have them all backed up on CD’s, which I will need to reload since I had not done a full PSE backup (still learning the ropes).

    Thanks again,


  48. Hi Don,

    Great post (even if it is almost 2 years old). Anyway, I am running PSE 7 and am trying to do a backup to an external drive with the intent of then restoring that backup to a new computer. However, when I attempt to do the backup, I get an error message that reads, “Error encountered while writing file.”

    I have tried everything I can think of, but still cannot get Adobe PSE 7 to create the backup. PSE 7 works fine in every other way.

    Do you have any ideas? Also, what about a workaround? Is there a way to get my pictures, tags, captions, and daily notes over to a new computer other than doing a backup?



    • Ron,

      First, I’m assuming that copying data to your external drive via Win Explorer is no problem.

      Also, is your external drive AC powered or does it use power through the USB port. Some external drives require a special cable that has two USB connectors. They work much better if both connectors are used. This is especially true if you are using a laptop. None of this may be relevant in your case.

      I am now using PSE 8, but I backed up to an external drive multiple times using PSE 7, so I am pretty sure it is not a PSE 7 program problem. Prior to trying to make a backup, did you run the Repair command under File > Catalog? If it comes back saying no errors were found, select repair anyway. Also run the Optimize command. Then try the backup command again.

      When you get the error message, does it come on right away or at some point in the middle of the backup? If some files have been written, about what percentage of those that represent your entire catalog? The backup folderbascically exists of all your images/videos and audio files renumbered, plus two additional files. So its pretty easy to see how far you got before the error occurred. THat information may prove useful in your troubleshooting.

      Is the size of your Catalog such that backing up to DVDs is practical?

      You may want to turn off your virus protection software or any other software that could interfere.

      Here is another idea you might try. The Catalog file has all of your tags and information you’ve entered. Its location is found by clicking on Help > System Info. You could copy this file to the external drive, and then copy all of your pictures maintaining their current path using Windows Explorer. Then on your new PC you would just copy the CAtalog back to its path, and the pictures etc to their identical path. I’ve never done it this way, but others have.

      As you can see, I’m jumping around a bit here, and I apologize. Here is probably the best thing you can do to solve your problem. Go to the Adobe Photoshop Users Forum and post your question/problem there. That group has several experts who can help you. One particularly knowledgeable contributor is John R. Ellis.

      Hope this helops somewhat. When you find out what the problem was and how you solved it, report back. I would certainly like to know, and possibly others as well.

      Hope this helps somewhat.



  49. Hi Don

    I am moving my PSE catalogs from c drive to external hard drive F.
    I followed your backup/restore approach. At first everything was fine and nand new location of files in organizer said location as F/. I changed the preferences and checked by importing a photo from the camera and seeing it went to the f/ which it did. Then I went through and checked that everything was in order before deleting from c drive. one last check and the location in organizer switched back to c drive??? Can’t seem to get PSE5 to look for the files in the f/.
    (this is the same problem as stated by Brian/2008 for PSE3) but he fixed it manually and I have 15k files and don’t really feel like deleting c drive and then reconnecting everything up again.
    Any suggestions would be very much appreciated. Thank you in advance.
    Donna March 30 2010.


    • Donna,

      Off the top of my head, I am not sure what is causing the problem. I do know that earlier versions of PSE sometimes got confused when external drives were used to store photos and then their driver letters changed for some reason. This was a known issue, and I believe that it was corrected in PSE 6. Later versions now use the embedded serial number in the external drive to find the location of the pictures. So if the drive letter changes PSE doesn’t get confused. That being said, it doesn’t appear that matches your situation.

      Donna, it sounds like you are doing things in a methodical way checking as you go. What about incrementally moving your pictures to your external drive using the File > Move command. I’ve done this on occasion with small numbers of pictures, and it has worked quite well for me. I know most people would generally move the files by dragging/dropping them in the Folder Location view, but I am not a big fan of dragging/dropping anything. Using the Move command you can check as you go. It will take awhie to do this, but yu can move bigger and bigger groups as you gain confidence in the technique. Going back and forth between the Folder Location view and the Thumbnail view can help keep track of what you are doing.

      You may want to pose your question to the Adobe User’s Forum, assuming you have not already done so. Some real experts monitor the forums.

      Hope this helps somewhat, and good luck.



  50. Dear Don
    I set up a 2 TB mirrored external hard drive on which to store my growing collection of photos. I have PSE5, and followed your original instructions (backup and restore) to copy the photos in 2 catalogs from my C drive to the external drive. It was successful, in that the photos and original file structure are now on the 2TB drives. However when I open PSE5 the catalog shows the picture location to be on my C drive (I haven’t deleted them yet), and doesn’t recognise the ones on the external drive. Is there a way to fix this, I don’t want to reconnect all the thousands of photos? Should I have moved the catalog files too?
    Many thanks for any help you can give me.



  51. Hi Rosemary,

    If I understand you right, you first did a full backup to an external drive or some where using the File > Backup command of the Organizer.

    But I do not understand “copy the photos in 2 catalogs”.

    But ignoring that for the moment, did you then use the File > Restore command to another external hard drive (or at least another place on that same hard drive?.

    Assuming that is what you did, in the Organizer, you should see the location of the photos no show a folder location that is on your external drive. From within the the Organizer, select a photo, click on Window > Properties, and then click on the left icon Scroll down to the folder location. The path should start with the drive letter assigned to your external drive.

    At this point your photos are still on the the C drive where they started as well as on the external drive. In other words the backup/restore command sequence reconstructed the catalog and copied the images to your external drive.

    The small catalog file is still on your C drive. You can see its location by clicking on Help > System Info from within the Organizer.

    The bottom part of your description seems to imply that you did not do the steps I outlined above. Or am I just not understanding you.

    What confused me is your question – “Should I have moved the catalog files too?”

    That is done automatically with the the backup/Restore command sequence.

    Definitely keep you photos on the C drive until you get everything working from your external drive.

    Finally, what you mean be the Organizer does not recognize the ones on the external drive? I thought you did a full backup. All of your photos from that external drive what your catalog shows.

    Feel free to email me. As you can see, I need more specifics, and its harder to interact just through these comments, using such things as screen captures etc.

    My email address is


  52. Dear Don

    Many thanks for your help. When I did the backup and restore to an external drive, I didn’t realise that the catalog.psa files would be copied across too. Now I know that, I have manually browsed to find the correct catalog on the external drive, and once opened it shows all the photos on the external drive too – excellent.

    I did change the default location of catalog.psa through Edit > preferences, but it PSE can’t seem to find it, however manual browsing to locate it isn’t much of a problem.

    Once again thanks for the instructions!



    • Rosemary,

      I’m glad I could help a bit. I’m not sure that PSE 5 has this, but in newer versions of PSE, there is a command, File > Catalog where you can Move etc the Catalog files itself.

      But, Im glad that things are working better for you now.

      Take care,



  53. Hello,
    Thank-you for the step by step tutorial! I am helping someone organize their pictures and back them up to an external hard drive…He has many different folders filled with pictures. In many of the folders there are about 2000 jpg images but 8000+ XML files. The XML file seem to be created a while after the pictures are originally backed up. (JPG-2006, XML-2010.) There are clearly way more XML files than JPG, so it’s not as though they are just copies.

    Another issue, he backs up (some?) of his photos using Adobe Photoshop Elements 8…and there is a folder called Goderich Organizer, and it is an Adobe Organizer file/folder…we can see the pictures on the hard drive, however, we cannot find the original on his computer…after doing a search for it, it says that its under My Computer>App Data, etc.

    Thanks for any help!


    • Mika,
      You’ve asked a very detailed question. I would like to help you. Unfortunately, I’ve been out of town for a week, and am leaving for another two weeks in two days. Upon my return I will review your comment more closely to see if there is anything I can suggest.

      I’m sorry the timing is so bad.


    • T’Miika,

      I am very sorry that it has taken me so long or possibly even approve this comment. I have been out of town for the past few weeks. If you are still having problems, please add another comment or email directly, and I will see if I can be of some help.


  54. Pingback: I Fried My PC’s Motherboard–Part 3 « Don's Digital Photo Corner – Blog

  55. Don,
    I’m not sure if you are still taking comments and providing help on this topic since it is 6 years old; but I thought I’d give it a whirl.

    I ultimately want to accomplish exactly as you described above but first have to clear some hurdles. The bulk of my pic’s are on an old laptop running PSE6. More recent pic’s from the Ipad etc are on my new desktop which currently has no PSE on it. I just received my copy of PSE 12 today.

    I want to combine all my pic’s from both computers into one catalog (stored on external drives as above) with all my tags, stacks, etc intact. I intend to install PSE 12 on the new desktop and run it all from that computer.

    I’m unsure of the best way to:
    1) add the pics currently on the desktop to my PSE6 on the laptop so that I can have them all in one catalog before I backup/restore.

    2) Have a file structure at the time of backup to the external that will allow a tidy organization upon restore. You had indicated it is important to retain the original file structure upon restore — but if I use the “get files” function to add the desktop files to the laptop across my wireless network, will that then cause it to create some sort of laptop/desktop file structure on the external that I restore to?

    3) Once I install the new PSE 12 on the desktop is it simple to import the old catalog and convert it to PSE 12?

    One last question, do you generally add your tags to the metadata of the picture files? I have not yet and wondered if that is a must from this point on to ensure my tags etc secure.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge!


    • Hi Dorene,

      First let my give you a quick reply, so you know I saw your question. It’s not a trivial question, so I will reread it, and hopefully give you a useful reply later this weekend.


    • Dorene,
      I believe I understand what you want to do. It sounds like you have been using PSE 6 for some time and have a large Catalog of photos. Assuming that is true, I would proceed as follows:
      1. First make sure your PSE 6 Catalog on your laptop is in good shape, by first reconnecting any missing files, running the Rpair command, and the Optimize command.
      2. Make a full backup of your PSE 6 Catalog on your laptop, writing the backup to an external drive (Drive A). By the way, you will need two separate disk external disk drives, one for your photos and one for your backups.
      3. Install PSE 12 on your desktop. During the installation or the first time you run PSE 12, it may ask you if you want it to find/import pictures on your computer. Decline.
      4. Connect whatever external drive you are going to use to store your photos on your desktop. Let’s call it Drive B.
      5. Connect your external drive that you wrote your full backup to – Drive A.
      6. Make a top level Folder on Disk B. You cam name it anything you want. For Example, you might name it “Restored Photos in PSE 12”, but it can be any name really.
      7. Now in PSE 12 run the Restore command. Define the destination to be the Drive B folder you named in Step 6. To maintain the same folder structure you had on your laptop underneath the folder you made n Step 6, select the keep same folder structure option.
      8. When you run the command, PSE 12 will recognize that the backup is from an earlier version and will convert it to PSE 12 format. Depending upon how large your Catalog is this can take awhile to complete. It may generate new thumbnails as well. This take awhile, but you can use PSE 12 while it is being done.
      9. Once you are satisfied that the Catalog was properly restored, you then can use the Import command to enter the photos you have on your desktop into the PSE 12 Catalog.

      As you are looking at your new Catalog, your Tag structure will look different, because of the big changes they made in PSE 11 and finished in PSE 12. The differences are beyond what I can cover here. You may want to check out my eBook. A link to its listing on Amazon is on my website. A little commercial here. 🙂

      Let us know how it goes and don’t hesitate to ask any additional questions you may have.

      Regarding my opinion of writing the tags etc, personally, I think it is a good idea, although I have not done it to all of my 41K images. There are people who do not want to do that, but I am not sure just why. By the way tags etc are automatically written to the image file whenever you open the image in the Editor, even if you do not edit it in any way.

      Hope this helps somewhat.



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