Platform Switch

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Today’s Question: If I switch from Windows to Macintosh will the Lightroom catalog still work or do I have to create new one?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The Lightroom catalog file is cross-platform, so you can simply move the catalog files to a new computer (with a different operating system) and continue working normally. The only minor issue would be the photos referenced by your catalog having a different location reference.

More Detail: Adobe developed the Lightroom catalog to be represented by the same file format on both Windows and Macintosh operating systems. As a result, migrating from one platform to the other is relatively seamless. The only real issue relates to the differences in how storage is managed on the two platforms.

The key difference in terms of storage structure on Windows versus Macintosh relates to the way hard drives are represented by the operating system. On Windows a drive letter is assigned to the hard drive, while on Macintosh a volume label name is used to reference the hard drive.

So, because the catalog file is compatible with both platforms, you can simply copy the catalog files from one computer to another and open the catalog file in Lightroom on either platform. However, there will be some “confusion” about where your actual image files are located based on the differences between how hard drives are referenced on each operating system.

Fortunately, when you make a switch like this it is relatively easy to resolve the “missing” folders that will result. Because the folders will not be in the same location they are expected based on the differences between both operating systems, initially all of your folders (and therefore photos) will appear as missing when you migrate.

In most cases, when all of the folders appear missing after initiating this type of migration, you can reconnect all “missing” folders (and photos) by reconnecting a single folder. If you right-click on a folder and choose the “Find Missing Folder” option, you can identify the updated location of an individual folder. In most cases Lightroom will be able to use that update to resolve all of the other missing folders on the same hard drive. That, in turn, means that resolving the missing folders that result from this type of migration will not be a significant issue in most cases.