If you regularly work on two or more computers and carrying an external hard drive is not a problem, then consider putting your images and your Lightroom catalog on the external drive, so that you can move easily between the two.

If your catalog is currently on your internal hard drive, you will need to move it to the external drive:

  • In LR, go to Edit (Lightroom on a Mac) > Catalog Settings, and on the General Tab note the location of your catalog. Then close Lightroom.
Finding Out Where Your Catalog Folder Is

Finding Out Where Your Catalog Folder Is

Now all you have to do is to tell LR to launch this catalog when it starts:

  • With your external drive plugged in,  using Finder or Windows Explorer/My Computer, go into the folder you just moved over onto your external drive and double-click on the .lrcat file to launch Lightroom with this catalog.
  • Next you’ll tell Lightroom to always launch with this catalog: in the menu bar in the top left, go to Lightroom (Mac) or Edit (PC) > Preferences, and on the General tab, click on the dropdown to the right of “When starting up use this catalog:” and choose the catalog on the external drive – it should be listed first. (Don’t choose “load most recent”).  Close Preferences.

On your second computer go through the same process above to tell Lightroom on that computer to launch with this catalog.


That’s it!  When you need to work on your other computer,  plug in the drive, point to the catalog on this drive when you launch LR.


  • Always close Lightroom before disconnecting your external drive.
  • Always plug in your external drive before opening Lightroom. If you forget this you’ll get a message asking you what catalog you want to use – cancel out of the dialog (don’t open Lightroom), plug in the drive and then launch Lightroom again.

I would suggest a different approach if you ocassionally work images on your laptop when you are in the field photographing.  See this post for more information.