Safely Moving Catalog


Today’s Question: I was thinking of moving my Lightroom [Classic] catalog to the faster of my two hard drives. How would that work out with leaving the images (and the catalog backups) on the original drive, and if it’s a good idea how do I to go about it?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can indeed improve performance in Lightroom Classic by making sure the catalog is stored on the fastest available hard drive. Moving the catalog is quite easy, simply requiring you to move the folder containing the catalog to the desired location, and then opening the catalog from there.

More Detail: While moving your Lightroom Classic catalog is easy, you do want to be careful not to create any problems in the process.

First, you’ll want to be sure you have a full backup of your catalog. You can perform a backup via the Catalog Settings dialog. Choose Catalog Settings from the Lightroom Classic menu on Macintosh, or from the Edit menu on Windows. Then go to the General tab and click the “Back up catalog” popup. Choose “When Lightroom next exits” from the popup. Then close the Catalog Settings dialog, quit Lightroom, and follow the prompts to create an updated backup.

Then you’ll need to know where your catalog is currently stored. If you’re not sure, you can find the catalog location in the Catalog Settings dialog. On the General tab of the Catalog Settings dialog click the Show button to the right of the Location field. This will bring up a window in your operating system showing you the folder that contains the catalog files. Quit Lightroom at this point so you can actually move the catalog files.

You can then move the entire folder containing your catalog (or copy it if you prefer) to the desired location on your faster hard drive. After the folder is in the desired location, you can double-click the catalog file (with the “lrcat” filename extension) to launch Lightroom with the catalog in the new location. The photos will still be referenced in their current location, so at that point you can continue working normally.

Note that by default the catalog backups are stored in a “Backups” folder within the folder that contains your Lightroom catalog. If you haven’t configured Lightroom to save the backups somewhere else, you may want to make that change the next time you perform a backup, and perhaps move the existing backups to a different location.

Also note that if you copied the catalog folder (rather than moving it), you’ll want to be sure to avoid confusion between the old location and the new location. At the very least you can rename the folder containing the original catalog, such as by putting “backup” at the beginning of the folder name. Since you created a new backup as part of this process, once the catalog is working properly at the new location you could also simply delete the catalog folder at the original location.