Migrating to a New Computer


Today’s Question: With the passing of Windows 7 (and my computer was old), I bought a new computer, with Windows 10, and yesterday got Lightroom Classic installed and running. I went to attach my external drive where I was hoping to just tell Lightroom to look at the right folder. It did, but it asked me to import the photos. Is there a way to migrate Lightroom from the old computer to new? What should I do now?

Tim’s Quick Answer: To migrate to a new computer with Lightroom Classic you would need to transfer the catalog files from the old computer to the new computer. Without transferring the catalog, much of the information about your photos would be lost.

More Detail: Lightroom Classic makes use of a catalog to manage the information about your photos. While much of the information about your photos can be written to the metadata for the images themselves, that does not include all of the information about your photos. For example, information that can only be saved in the catalog (not the individual photos) includes collections, virtual copies, history in the Develop module, and pick/reject flags.

When migrating to a new computer, as part of the process you would need to transfer your catalog files to the new computer. For example, let’s assume your Lightroom catalog is stored in the Pictures folder on your computer, which is the default location. You could copy the folder that contains your Lightroom catalog and related files to an external hard drive, so you could then transfer that folder to the new computer.

After copying the catalog files to the new computer, you could double-click the catalog file (the file with the “lrcat” filename extension) to launch Lightroom Classic using the new catalog. As long as the photos were in the same location, including being stored on a hard drive with the same drive letter (Windows) or volume label (Macintosh), you would then be able to continue working with your photos in Lightroom Classic just as you did on your old computer.

If for some reason you have lost your Lightroom Classic catalog and don’t have a recent backup to fall back on, it would be possible to import all of your existing photos into a new catalog. However, doing so would cause you to lose information as noted above that can only be stored within the Lightroom catalog rather than in the metadata for the source image files.