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The snow is finally melting here in New Hampshire. I can see my lawn for the first time since December, and the road crews are busy patching up potholes. Spring must be here! Now, before you get swept up in spring cleaning fever and do something you'll regret, please hear me out.
I can't tell you how many frantic people I encounter who all have a story that starts with "I finally got around to cleaning up my hard drive and now Lightroom says all my photos are missing, but I know they are there! Help!" Inevitably they go on to relate a story about how they used Adobe Bridge, Windows Explorer, or Finder to reorganize, rename, or delete photos that had all previously been imported into Lightroom. The result of this well-intentioned act is that Lightroom's catalog will be out of sync with all the photos that were changed! All Lightroom knows is where they were the last time it was open. It would be like someone breaking into your office and organizing all those piles of papers on your desk while you were out. The office will be cleaner, but you won't know where anything is! That actually wouldn't be so bad. Missing photos though are a different story.
This brings to mind that phrase about a certain road to a very hot place being paved with good intentions. I'd like to keep you from going down that road. There is someone else who wants to keep you from going down that road too. His name is George Jardine, he's Adobe's Pro Photography Evangelist, and he produced a video tutorial that should be bundled with every copy of Lightroom. By the end of the tutorial you should have a pretty good handle on the Lightroom catalog file and its relationship to your photos.
The key piece of information I want you to walk away with is that you need is to do your spring cleaning from within Lightroom! By using Lightroom to move, rename and delete you are not only getting a tidier disk, but you are keeping the catalog updated while you work.
However, in case you do find yourself down that road some day I suggest that you bookmark this tutorial on locating missing files and folders from Ian Lyons, the Forum Host of the Lightroom User to User forum. Happy Spring!