Cross-Platform with Lightroom Classic


Today’s Question: Can you use the same Lightroom Classic catalog on both an Apple computer and a Windows computer? I’m thinking of switching to a Mac laptop, but am concerned that once I convert to a Mac I’ll never be able to use Lightroom on a Windows desktop again. If you put the files and the catalog on an external hard drive, can you access it from both computers?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can use the same Lightroom Catalog on computers running either the Windows or Macintosh operating system.

More Detail: The Lightroom Classic catalog file format is the same for both Windows and Macintosh, so you can switch a catalog between both operating systems without any problems.

The only thing you need to do is make sure the Lightroom Classic catalog is on a hard drive that can be written to by both operating systems. The default file system for hard drives on Windows is NTFS (New Technology File System) and the default for Macintosh is APFS (Apple File System). While it is possible to write to hard drives with either file system on both operating systems, this typically requires special software or drivers.

I recommend simply using a file system that is compatible with both operating systems. More specifically, I recommend using the ExFAT (Extensible File Allocation Table) file system.

If you store your Lightroom Classic catalog as well as your photos on an external hard drive that is formatted with the ExFAT file system, you can switch between working on a Windows or Macintosh computer by simply connecting the external hard drive to the computer and opening the Lightroom Classic catalog from that external hard drive.