Today’s Question: I had a complete hard drive crash and had to replace the hard drive in my laptop, my photography computer. I was able to retrieve the data (via Carbonite). I am replacing the whole computer. Do I start a new Lightroom Classic catalog, or somehow copy and use the one from before the crash?
Tim’s Quick Answer: I strongly recommend recovering from the backup of your most recent Lightroom Classic catalog, rather than starting over with a new catalog, in order to preserve all of the information about your photos.
More Detail: When starting off with a new computer (or even just a new hard drive) I recommend transferring your existing Lightroom Classic catalog to that new computer or drive, rather than creating a new catalog. The only reason I would create a new catalog is if the previous catalog had been corrupted and I didn’t have a good recent backup.
If you have turned on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog in Lightroom Classic, the metadata fields represented by established metadata standards will be preserved alongside the original photos. That would include things like star ratings, keywords, and even the adjustments from the Develop module.
However, there are a variety of features that are only included in the catalog, and that would be lost if you started over with a new catalog. That includes collections, virtual copies, the History list in the Develop module, pick and reject flags, and more.
Therefore, if at all possible I highly recommend recovering from a catalog backup rather than starting with a fresh catalog. Having said that, if for some reason it was necessary to start with a new catalog you could import all existing photos into that catalog using the “Add” option. If you had the XMP option enabled, the majority of metadata for your photos would come along with those photos as part of the import process.