Today’s Question: I had to put a new hard drive into my computer. I tried to reinstall Lightroom [Classic CC], but it doesn’t open the photos on my external drive. I use two external drives for Lightroom, one as my main drive, and another as a backup. Can you tell me how to get things to where they were?
Tim’s Quick Answer: When you reinstalled Lightroom, a new empty catalog would have been created as part of the process. To get back to your previous configuration, you’ll need to open the catalog you had been using with Lightroom before the reinstall.
More Detail: Lightroom requires a catalog in order to manage your photos, and so when you install Lightroom a new catalog will be created. Of course, if you had already been using Lightroom that new empty catalog won’t contain any of the information about your photos. However, even when uninstalling and then reinstalling Lightroom, your existing Lightroom catalog will remain where it was.
Therefore, all you need to do is open your existing Lightroom catalog within the new Lightroom installation, and you’ll be back to where you were before reinstalling. To open a catalog, simply choose File > Open Catalog from the menu. Then navigate to the location where your catalog is stored and select that catalog (the “lrcat” file) to be opened.
Of course, you may find that actually locating that original catalog is the biggest challenge. By default, Lightroom will create catalogs in the “pictures” folder for your operating system. So, the first step would be to navigate to that location and see if your catalog is there. Otherwise, you’ll want to check the various other storage locations (including the location where your photos are stored) to locate your catalog.
It is critically important to be sure that you are opening the actual catalog you’ve been using to manage your photos in Lightroom, and not a backup copy of your catalog, for example.
Naturally, this sort of issue is much easier to manage if you actually know where your Lightroom catalog is stored. You can find this information (before having reinstalled Lightroom) on the General tab of the Catalog Settings dialog, which can be accessed from the Edit menu on the Windows version of Lightroom or the Lightroom menu on the Macintosh version.