Moving the Catalog in Lightroom Classic


Today’s Question: I am getting ready to take an overseas trip in which I will not have internet access. I am wanting to copy my Lightroom Classic catalog from its current location in Dropbox over to a laptop computer which I will use to import the images from my trip. Could you provide instructions on how to do this? Also, would I just reverse the process once I return home to get the catalog back into Dropbox?

Tim’s Quick Answer: To transfer the Lightroom Classic catalog you can copy the entire folder that contains the catalog file and related helper files, and then rename the original folder to clearly identify it as a backup copy.

More Detail: To transfer the Lightroom Classic catalog you’ll first need to know where that catalog is. Fortunately, this is easily done through the Catalog Settings dialog. Start by choosing Edit > Catalog Settings from the menu on Windows, or Lightroom Classic > Catalog Settings on Macintosh. Go to the General tab and click the Show button at the top-right of the Information section. That will open a window in your operating system with the folder that contains the Lightroom Classic catalog highlighted.

Next, be sure to quit Lightroom Classic, because there is a risk of the catalog being corrupted if it is copied (or moved) while it is in use.

You can then drag-and-drop the folder that contains the catalog and related files to the desired location. With both Windows and Macintosh if the folder (or file) you are dragging is being dropped to a different hard drive location the default will be for the folder to be copied rather than moved. If you want to copy to a different location on the same hard drive, you can hold the Ctrl key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh to copy rather than move.

Next, rename the folder in the original location to make it clear that it is now a backup copy. For example, I generally add “BACKUP” in all caps to the beginning of the folder (or file) name to I have the copy as a backup but don’t inadvertently use it.

You can then open the catalog from the new location by double-clicking the catalog file (the file with the .lrcat filename extension). When you return from your trip you can use the same process outlined here, just changing the source and destination locations for the transfer.

I should hasten to remind readers that I don’t recommend storing your Lightroom Classic catalog in a synchronized folder (such as Dropbox) for the purpose of accessing the catalog on more than one computer, as there is a degree of risk that the catalog could become corrupted. If you are going to use this approach, I suggest that whenever switching computers you make sure that the synchronization has updated on both computers before using Lightroom Classic.