Dec 102008

I have written about moving your Lightroom work from your laptop to your desktop (or any two computers) here. This involves exporting your work on the laptop as a catalog, then importing it into your desktop catalog.

Sometimes though you may want to simply move your catalog. Mine was initially on an external hard drive; I then decided to move it to my internal C: drive because it would read and write faster.

The first step in doing this is finding out where it is stored currently.

  • In Lightroom go to Edit>Catalog Settings on the PC, or Lightroom>Catalog Settings on the Mac.
  • In the General Tab, the location of your catalog is shown.
  • Click on the Show button to open up a Mac Finder or Windows Explorer window with this catalog folder highlighted.

Finding Your Catalog Using the Catalog Settings Dialog

  • Close Lightroom.
  • Next, open up a second Windows Explorer or Finder window (Mac: File>New Finder Window; Windows 7: right-click on the folder icon in your task bar, choose Windows Explorer) ; navigate to where you want to put your catalog folder, and then drag the Lightroom Catalog folder from its current location in the first window to its new location in the second window.
  • Double-click on the .lrcat file within this catalog folder, to launch Lightroom with this catalog.
  • Lightroom will open, recognizing the new location of your catalog.
  • Go to Edit (Lightroom on the Mac)>Preferences, General tab, and where it says “When starting up use this catalog”, choose this one.




  35 Responses to “How to Move Your Lightroom Catalog”

  1. […] If you are not sure where your catalog is, or you know where it is and you want to move it, see this post on how to do […]

  2. Great tip. I didn’t know I had my catalogue in a stupid place…and with a stupid name!
    Now I have catalogue and photos in one place, easy to understand, easy to copy to laptop, easy to backup.
    Sorted – many thanks.

  3. hi laura
    i have tried this, copying the catalog file from the external hard drive where it was, onto my laptop hard drive. i can open the catalog file which is on the laptop and see all the previews, etc fine. but if i go to develop, say, it says that the image file is missing. so the new catalog file is not seeing all the original images that are still on the external drive. how do i get round this?

  4. Hi David, I’m not sure why LR lost the connection to the images, but see this post for how to reestablish it:

  5. Thanks very much Laura – that has solved it! Knowing to right click on a question mark and click ‘find missing file’ is great to know.

    • Except if you don’t know where the image is, or your dealing with LOTs of question marks. But I haven’t read the link yet, so maybe that will be addressed.

      I’m think Lr should, somehow, be able to find images that got disconnected.

  6. I am switching from a PC to a Mac. I need to switch everything over to the new computer. At first I was thinking I could just copy my Lightroom File to the new computer along with all of the photo files, load the photos into Lightroom, double click on the LRCAT file and I would be in business. Now I don’t think so. Can you help?

    • Hi Rob, I apologize that I didn’t see this question sooner. This is on my list of blog posts to do soon, but basically, that is almost it. As you have probably discovered though, moving the catalog and launching it worked perfectly, but moving your photos probably resulted in Lightroom losing track of them. If so, right-click on your highest level folder and choose Find Missing Folder, and show Lightroom where it now exists.

      Because I will be writing a post, do let me know how your experience went.

  7. Hello Laura,

    Love your site, just came apon this discussion and thought Id give it a shot asking on here..
    I have just installed a NAS RAID server to backup my Lightroom photos and archive my RAW files. Problem is, I havent found a way (if there is one) to make Lightroom pull the LRCAT from a network device. When I follow your steps (of which I tried similarly before) It tells me;

    “Lightroom cannot open the catolog named ‘Lightroom 3 Catalog’ located on network volume \Myserverexample’ Lightroom catalogs can not be opened on network volumes, removable storage or read only volumes.”

    I have tried for a while to make a workaround, like mirroring the My Pictures on my main workstation, but if I could have my catalog on my NAS Server I could use my MacBook Pro with the same catalog.

    Thanks for your time, and your site


    • Thank you, Drew. Unfortunately this is an easy one to answer — your catalog can’t go on a network drive. I haven’t followed work-arounds, but the moderators over at know everything. 🙂

  8. I moved my photos to an external hard drive as I was out of space on my laptop. Now the name of the catalog appears at the top of the Lightroom display. How do I remove it or is it okay?

    • Hi Michele, the catalog name will always show there, unless you hit “F” for full screen to hide it. Hit “F” a couple more times to get it back.

  9. I love your clear and concise instructions Laura. You have been the most help of all the places I have searched for help with Lightroom. Thanks for being there for us.

  10. I still cannot get the picture folders to drop in under catalog. I an transferring everything to a new laptop.

    Thanks Laura!

    • Hi John, I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean – please elaborate.

      • Hi Laura,
        I installed LR in a new laptop. I transferred my folders; LR5 Catalog, LR Previews, Images and back ups to “My Pictures” on the new laptop. I go to Edit – Catalog Settings, hit show, and see all the folders.

        When I launch LR on the new machine, nothing is transferring – next to All Photographs is 0.

        I did the same thing with a image folder that had older pictures originally (my original question), Under Catalogs, it showed the number of photographs but the separate folders would not drop in under the Folder heading. I am baffled.

        I installed LR and transferred images on my old computer years ago with no issues at all. I am baffled here. I have Windows 8.1, could that be a problem? Hope I am making sense.

        • Hi John,

          You have most likely figured this out by now, but for anyone else, transferring your catalog is only the first step. Next you need to tell Lightroom to launch with this catalog by double-clicking on it, and then going into Preferences to set this catalog as the one to always launch.

  11. I have moved LR to an external hard drive and want to download my photos to that drive as well. However , they are still downloading to my internal drive. How do I fix this?

  12. Laura- thank you so much for all your comments and advice that have helped so many of us. I’m looking for reassurance that I’m not going to do something crazy while moving my catalog. My LR5.7 catalog is now too big to fit on my iMac 2TB HD. The plan is to export the catalog through LR to an 8TB RAID. Then attach this RAID to a new iMac, just for photography, and install LR and CS6 there. That should work, shouldn’t it?

    Many thanks for any comments.


    • Hi Andy,

      I would keep the software itself installed on your Mac HD. I don’t see a reason to export the catalog – you can move it, with Lightroom closed, using the instructions in this post.

  13. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!

  14. Hi Laura,

    You have helped me SO many times. Thank you so much. I have transferred my LR catalog to a new external hard drive to clear up space on my computer’s hard drive. Should I delete the old catalog where it was first located (on my actual computer hard drive) to do that?


  15. HI! I followed the instructions above; however, when I import files they are still importing in the previous location. How do I transfer the import files to the new catalog location? Thanks!

    • Hi Christy, the catalog and your photos are two independent pieces of your photo library, just like the stacks of books and catalog in a public library are independent pieces. Moving the catalog has no impact on where your photo files are located. To change where new photo files are copied to when you import, select the new location in the Destination panel of the Import dialog (as explained in my Fundamentals & Beyond video on importing from memory cards.

  16. Hi Laura! I’ve followed both of your instructions for moving all of my images located on my Mac HD to a new empty External HD and also moving the catalog over to said new HD. (I have also cloned the new HD onto a second new HD to have two copies of these images and catalogs.) My question is, once Lightroom backs up the catalog going forward will it know to backup onto the first new HD and will this mean I will have to keep the External HD plugged in every time I exit LR (as I have backups set on ‘every exit’), which is almost daily? Oh, and if you were me would you delete the catalog from your Mac HD now that it is on two external HDs?

    • Hi Vicky,

      In the backup prompt you’ll see a Choose button so that you can choose where the backups are stored. I usually recommend accepting the default of storing them in a subfolder of your catalog folder, and then having a backup program back up all your user files to a backup hard drive. This way you have redundancy. You say that your catalog is on the external – so you’ll have to have the external plugged in anytime you use Lightroom.

      If you’re actually using the catalog on the external, and this is backed up to another external, then I’d delete the version on your Mac HD. You wouldn’t be keeping this up to date anyway, so it would become obsolete quickly. Note that further backup redundancy is a good idea – check out an online backup service such as Backblaze – cheap, automatic.

      • Thank you Laura.

        From what I am understanding– If I do not actually want to keep my external hard drive plugged in at all times, then I should refrain from having my catalog on the externals. And instead, keep it on the Mac HD. Which I will assume would work better/faster if I were to have it on the HD. Am I right in any of this?

        Will having the Catalog on the Mac HD, but RAW files on the External cause an issue?

        I currently use TimeMachine on a separate External HD for continuous backups of the Mac HD itself. But, have completely intended to purchase a Backblaze membership as well to back up all the the externals and Mac HD into a cloud based system.

  17. Just started following you after somebody pointed me to this article. Embarrassed to say that I had been running my catalogue off an external hard disk until now. I moved it to my internal SSD and it is so much faster. Thank you!

    • Welcome, Jeff! Nothing to be embarrassed about. There are good reasons for some people to store their catalog on an external drive – so that it can be moved from one computer to another, for example. I’m glad you are experiencing faster performance though.

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