Moving the Catalog Safely


Today’s Question: I have my [Lightroom Classic] catalog and images on an external hard drive. I think there are advantages to have the catalog on the internal hard drive. Can I move it without causing problems?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can indeed move your Lightroom Classic catalog to a different storage location. Having the catalog on an internal hard drive will often provide improved performance compared to using an external hard drive. You just need to be sure to quit Lightroom Classic first, and then transfer the entire folder containing the catalog file to the new storage location.

More Detail: Lightroom Classic revolves around a catalog that contains the information about the photos you have imported into Lightroom Classic. Performance can be improved by having the catalog on the fastest hard drive available, which often means an internal hard drive rather than an external hard drive.

Of course, some photographers prefer to have their catalog on an external hard drive along with their photos so that they can move the drive between more than one computer, and work with their catalog and photos on different computers.

Moving the catalog is relatively straightforward. First, you’ll want to know where the catalog is actually stored. You can get this information in the Catalog Settings dialog, which can be accessed from the Edit menu on Windows or the Lightroom Classic menu on Macintosh. On the General tab of the Catalog Settings dialog you can click the Show button to open a window in your operating system showing the folder that contains your catalog, with the folder selected.

Before moving that folder, you need to quit Lightroom Classic. You can then drag-and-drop the folder to the preferred storage location. As a precautionary step, it is a good idea to back up the catalog before moving it. In addition, I recommend copying the folder that contains your catalog files, rather than moving it. You can then rename the original folder to indicate it is a backup copy, so you don’t accidentally use that version of the catalog moving forward.

Once you’ve copied the catalog files to the new location, you can open the catalog in Lightroom Classic by double-clicking on the catalog file with the “lrcat” (as in Lightroom Catalog) filename extension. That will launch Lightroom Classic and open the catalog in the new location, and everything within Lightroom Classic will be just as it was before you moved the catalog.