Today’s Question: How do I transfer my catalog from one computer to another?
Tim’s Quick Answer: To move a Lightroom catalog from one computer to another, I recommend copying the entire folder that contains your Lightroom catalog to the new location. Then rename (or move) the original folder to clearly identify it as a backup copy, so you don’t inadvertently open what is out an outdated copy of your catalog.
More Detail: The Lightroom catalog actually consists of several individual files, which are all stored within a single folder location. So the first step here is to identify the folder location for your catalog. To do so, within Lightroom choose “Catalog Settings” from the Edit menu on the Windows version of Lightroom or from the Lightroom menu on the Macintosh version. In the Catalog Settings dialog you can click the “Show” button to the far right of the Location label on the General tab. This will open a window in your operating system showing the location of the folder that contains your Lightroom catalog, with that folder highlighted.
Next, close Lightroom so the catalog will be closed and the temporary files within the catalog folder will be deleted. Then copy the folder that contains your Lightroom catalog to the new location. I then recommend renaming (or moving) the original folder that contained your Lightroom catalog in order to avoid confusion. From this point forward you want to be sure to only open your Lightroom catalog in the new location.
The first time you want to open the Lightroom catalog from the new location, you can navigate to that location within your operating system. Then double-click the file with the “lrcat” filename extension, which is the actual Lightroom catalog file. This will cause Lightroom to launch automatically and open the catalog. You should also confirm that on the General tab of the Preferences dialog in Lightroom that the Default Catalog setting is set to “Load most recent catalog” (or to the specific catalog you want Lightroom to open every time you launch it).
Provided your photos remain in the same location, when you open the catalog from the new location all of your photos will be referenced and available in their original storage location. In other words, moving the catalog to a different location does not create any problems referencing the photos in their existing location.