Transferring Your Lightroom Catalog to Another Computer


Moving Lightroom to another computer isn't as complicated as you might think. We've broken it down into a simple-to-follow multi-step process which makes it easier to do. 


1. Install Creative Cloud App first

Before you can install or move Lightroom, you need to install the Creative Cloud application on your new computer and authenticate it. 

creative cloud

2. Lightroom

Once you've installed the Creative Cloud app, then initiate or trigger Lightroom installation in the Creative Cloud app. You can only activate Lightroom on two computers, so if you already have it on two, you have to disconnect one of them (not the one you're currently working on, of course) through the Creative Cloud web portal. 

lightroom application

3. Photo Library Organization

The easiest way to back up and move your entire library is to have all your photos in one folder. If, instead, they're stored across various directories or drives, managing the library can be pretty challenging. We recommend you organize your library from within Lightroom, and create a one-directory structure before you begin any transfer. Once you've done this, then you can use an external drive to copy your library to another computer.

external hard drive

4. Move Catalog File

Your Lightroom Catalog is where the application stores all of the information about your photos. First, you'll need to find it, which isn't always easy to do, but on Lightroom, there's a shortcut to help:

* Select File (Lightroom on Mac) > Open Catalog. 
* You can identify easily by its .lrcat extension.

You'll have to copy the catalog file to the other computer, preferably on your fastest drive.

open catalog in lightroom

5. Configuration, Settings, and Presets

All of your needed settings, configuration files and presets are in your Lightroom Settings directory, and it can be located either in the Lightroom installation folder or the catalog directory. It contains everything related to your Lightroom Catalog including all of the presets, keyword sets, etc. That means it's very critical that you import all of that configuration information! It's a key part of the transfer process.

You must be sure to copy the entire Lightroom Settings folder to the other computer and place it in a new catalog folder or a new Lightroom installation directory. 

copy catalog

6. Launch New Catalog

Once you've completed all of the previous steps, you can launch your newly imported Lightroom Catalog on the other computer. Keep in mind that Lightroom won't be able to find your photos now because they are in a new location given that you likely have a new file structure as well. 

When you see a question mark in the Lightroom Library module, it means Lightroom can't find it. You need to add a link to the missing folders. Luckily, you won't have to go one by one. Right-click in the parent folder at the top and point to where you placed the photo library in its new location. Lightroom then maps the direction for all of them.

new lightroom catalog

7. EXTRA: Catalog Backups:

An additional step we'd recommend is to take advantage of Lightroom's built-in ability to backup catalog files in case the master catalog is corrupt. This is one of Lightroom's most critical builtin functionalities given how much-accumulated information resides inside catalog files. You can configure the backup process to run on a regular schedule - whether it's monthly or weekly. The critical point is to do it.

Lightroom Catalog backup files are stored, by default, in the Catalog folder. We recommend you chose a different location than the master drive where the catalog is stored. That way if the master drive becomes corrupted, you have a backup elsewhere. Most people recommend that you import the backup files, although it's optional. Once you've finished the transfer or migration process, you can go ahead and create the first backup on the new computer. 

backup your lightroom data


Transferring your Lightroom Catalog doesn't have to be as complicated as it is important that it's done correctly. In other words, if you follow the previous steps carefully, you should be able to complete the transfer successfully.