How does Picasa handle folder changes done outside of Picasa

Updated: October 21, 2018 | Contains affiliate links

If you have been using Picasa for a while you have probably noticed that it scans your computer every time you add new pictures. Depending on how many pictures you have added, Picasa takes some time until you can access and modify the new pictures in Picasa. I have recently received a question from a reader asking if he has to reinstall Picasa if he changes the entire folder structure of his pictures collection. The answer is very simple, so read on to find out.

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Some technical stuff first about how Picasa works

Picasa, like Adobe’s Lightroom and a number of other photo management tools, don’t work directly with your pictures. Rather, Picasa creates “pointers” to your pictures. A “pointer” is a simple reference indicating to Picasa where a certain picture is on the hard drive.

It works very much like the table of contents of a book. In the table of contents you find a reference, or a “pointer” to the actual page where each chapter starts.

Picasa creates a database, like the index of a book, where it lists all your pictures and the actual path to its location on your hard drive.

This seems convoluted and I would agree it’s useless if this is all Picasa puts in their database. However, Picasa puts a lot more information in their database than just simply the physical location of the pictures. Every time you make a change to a picture (adjust colors and brightness for example), Picasa stores those changes in the database and this is how you can revert all those changes with a click of a button. Pretty cool actually!

If you would like to know more about database driven software please read “Understand all photo management software“.

So what happens to Picasa if I rename my folders outside of Picasa?

If you change your folder and file structure on your hard drive apart from Picasa here is what will happen. When you bring up Picasa again you will see how it will start changing things according to the new folder and file structure.

It does take a while because Picasa will have to essentially rescan your computer again and remove the old references it had to the old folders and create new references to the new folder.

So, the short answer is that yes you can close Picasa, reorganize your folder structure and then restart Picasa and Picasa will re-do everything and depending on your computer and how many pictures you have, it will be up and running probably in less than 10 minutes.

I have actually done this very thing quite a few times and Picasa has adapted to the new structure without any problem. It’s a great piece of software.

You can actually change your folders within Picasa

In general with Picasa, anytime you rename a folder or delete or create one outside of Picasa, when you start Picasa, it will actually scan your folders and recreate its database that will point to these folders. So, this is general practice for Picasa.

You have an option to actually do the reorganization of the folder structure from within Picasa. You use Picasa to rename your folders and to move your folders around. If you do it this way, Picasa will not have to re-scan anything.

It is however a bit harder to change lots of folders in Picasa…it’s not really meant for folder management.

Conclusion about Picasa’s handling of external changes

The first conclusion is that if you change your folder structure outside of Picasa, you do not have to reinstall Picasa. It will take a while for Picasa to scan the changes but it will work fine.

Secondly you can make folder structure changes from within Picasa and in this case, Picasa will not have re-scan anything, so it will be very fast.

My “Picasa” book has been a great help for many of my readers and it contains lots of day-to-day tips that will make Picasa very easy and fast to use.

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If you do a lot of image editing like I do, I recommend using Adobe Lightroom Classic CC via the annual Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Lightroom has best photo editing capabilities even though it comes with a steeper learning curve. If you do image editing, Adobe Lightroom is my favorite.

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