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So I’ve had some issues with data integrity over the past few months. This is part two of two; part one is here. But in a nutshell, I went looking for an old file, and couldn’t find it anywhere. This is despite having two backups of my data drive, one which writes daily and the other weekly, and two copies of my archives that I keep on detached USB drives, including one that’s stored off-site and swapped every few weeks.

Losing the files on the backups of my damaged drive mostly makes sense: the corrupt files were copied over, which is exactly why people stress that a backup is not the same as an archive. So that’s why I use the two USB sticks as a further layer, copying over my higher-value photos to keep them safe. Or so I though.

I was using Lightroom’s publishing feature to create running collections of two- and three-star photos, export them, and keep those published collections synchronized to folders on a hard drive, which is what gets copied over to the USB sticks each time they’re connected. Did you spot the problem with that? I didn’t, not until it was too late: synchronized. When the bad drive sectors made the file go away in Lightroom, it went away from the collections and the folders on my hard drive as well. Lightroom has the authority to delete photos from the hard drive that are exported as part of a published collection without so much as a warning dialog.


I’ve tried to fix that by doing it the hard way, and manually exporting images that meet the archiving threshold criteria every week or so. That works, but capturing images that have changed – a new edit to an older file, or even increasing the rating to meet the archiving criteria – is hard to do. At best it means creating a lot of duplicate files with subtle variations and conflicting names; at worst it means missing many important images while still churning through USB drives because of inefficient administration. Still, if it means that Lightroom and I can’t auto-delete anything that should be safe it’s a win. It’s just an ugly, painful win, and it’s what I’ve been doing since I realized ‘In Search Of’ was gone.

But wait! I may have found a system that combines the strengths of both the published collection and the manual export: I move the published files out of the folder that Lightroom puts them in. Believe it or not, simple as that is, it works.

Unlike the images in the catalog itself, Lightroom doesn’t care that its published images aren’t where it last saw them. The Publish function in Lightroom still keeps its collections up to date compared to the catalog, so changing the files still prompts me to republish the new versions, but Lightroom can’t reach any previously created archive copy to manage what’s already been exported. No more auto-deletion, no error messages, no problem. Lightoom’s Publish To Hard Drive feature is clunky and unintuitive, but I think I have if figured out. Now I manually copy the newly-created files into the real archive folder, letting the Finder – instead of Lightroom – overwrite any older files with the new versions with the same name. The result is a secure and space-efficient collection that’s protected from external misfortune.

I’m still going to be testing out this system over the next few weeks to be sure, but my initial experience is: Ta-da! It all seems to work.