New Computer and New External Hard Drive - why do folders and photos not show up?

I replaced my desktop with a new laptop and external hard drive. I transferred photos from the desktop to the external hard drive. Lightroom 2 only shows the mapped hard drive, but does not show any folders or photos. Can Lightroom be set up to house all the photos on an external hard drive rather than using space on the internal laptop hard drive? Do the photos and folders need to be imported again into LR2? The photos are available for viewing when you search folders, but they open up in Photoshop not LR2.
What should I do to configure imports to be housed on the external hard drive? Is this wise? I will not be able to hold all the photos on the laptop internal hard drive. Photos used to be JPEG and DNG from D700. I am starting to see NEF. Does this replace DNG? Besides RAW I also need to have JPEG for other family members to access photos on other computers connected to the network. I am watching a tutorial DVD and slowly picking up how this all works. Let me know if I am not using the correct terms.
Hardware: HP laptop w/64bit, Buffalo 1TB RAID hard drive.

Lot's of questions here. I'll do a few.
Yes Lightroom can work with images on external drives. As many drives as you want.
I assume from what you said in your original post that you have had lightroom installed on the old desktop and now wish to transfer your catalogue and all files to the external drive and work from that.
So what you would do would be to transfer the entire contents of the lightroom folder on your old computer, except for any images, to the same location on your new laptop. This would include the catalogue files and any folders containing previews. Then you would copy all your image files to the new external hard drive. When you open lightroom you can then select the catalogue you copied from the old computer and open it. In the the folder pane in the library module you can then right click on one of the folders and select "locate missing files". Then you just need to point light room to the new location of your images. You may or may not need to regenerate all your previews.
I store all my images on external hard drives and I even run the catalogue and previews from the same external drives. I have backups of all my images of course. I have light room make backups of the catalogue to the C drive on my laptop so that the original and the backup are stored in different locations.
NEF is the proprietary file system for raw images used on Nikon cameras. DNG is a universal raw file format developed by Adobe. You can convert your files from NEF to DNG on import, but as Lightroom can read both types of files it is not necessary. At this point in time if you are using lightroom you should get similar results from either type of file.
To store imports on the new external drive you can you tell light room to copy the files to the new drive or you can manually copy the files to the new location and have light room import From the current location.
Hope this helps
Gordon

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