The way to do this is to organize your photos inside of Lightroom. After all, it was designed for you to use it as an organizing tool.
If you want to move them to a different location, you drag them to the proper folder inside of Lightroom.
If a photo is missing, you import it into Lightroom (or use synchronize folder) Hint: in the future, you should adopt the policy of importing ALL of your photos into Lightroom (yes, I said ALL), not just some of them, and this problem will never happen in the future.
In this way, you don't lose any of your settings, and you also don't have to do anything with the photos that are properly organized.
As an alternative, you could organize by keywords, and then not only does this give you the advantages provided by keywords over folder organizing, but then also no photo can be in the wrong folder.
As alternative number two, you could have Lightroom write the metadata to the files and then import them into a new catalog. You will lose collections, stacks, virtual copies and pick flags (and a few other things I can't remember now), but your edits will appear in the new catalog.
No matter what you do, you should make a backup of your catalog file before you start this process. In fact, you should make regular and automated backups of your catalog file regardless of what you are doing, no excuses.
Great, thank you so much. I will try this. And as you said, I will import all photos into Lightroom in the future. The problem is that I had no idea how Lightroom was set up when I started using it. So when I had imported my photos to my laptop, I draged them into Lightroom to start sorting them out. And it was first after these steps, that I re-located it and put it into my main folder for my photos - the one I'm using to keep and organize them in. This created a major mess, which I've been trying to sort out now.
Again, thank you so much.
I have no objections to dj_paige's advice, but also:
if the only thing you care about preserving is develop settings and photo metadata, you can:
* Save (xmp) metadata.
* Organize photos using OS, rename folders/files using 3rd party naming tool (assuring xmp sidecars are handled appropriately, and won't become dissociated or lost).
* Build a new catalog from scratch, importing images in place.
That will reset all edit history, and you'll have to remake collections etc. - so only a good option if you really don't have any of that sorta stuff that you care about.
Great - this is exactly what I was looking for. I don't care about my collections and the other crap I have saved so far (I'm still experimenting and trying to figure out how everything is working). All I want to do is to save my metadata, delete the catalog I'm using right now (as I said - it's too messy and too hard to get an idea what photos are linked to the catalog and not). And when I have my metadata saved - build a new catalog from scratch.