Today’s Question: I recall your online talks warning about “never move photos outside if Lightroom” but here is a new twist. I bought a new computer and need to transfer my Lightroom Classic catalog to that computer. How do I transfer my photos on external hard drives so Lightroom Classic can find them on the new computer?
Tim’s Quick Answer: This migration can actually be handled with relative ease. You just need to copy the entire catalog folder to the new computer, and make sure the new computer is identifying the external hard drives with the same identifier as had been used on the previous computer.
More Detail: Because the Lightroom Classic catalog references your photos based on their specific storage location, it is actually quite easy to migrate to a new computer when the photos are stored on external hard drives. The key is to make sure the hard drives have the same drive letter (Windows) or volume label (Macintosh) on the new computer, so they will appear the same to Lightroom Classic on the new computer based on the configuration from the old computer.
You’ll need to copy the catalog files to the new computer, which involves quitting Lightroom Classic and copying the entire folder containing your catalog and supporting files to the new computer. You can copy that folder to any location you’d like on the new computer, though the default for Lightroom Classic is to store the catalog in the Pictures folder. Make sure you then open that catalog rather than a new empty catalog that may have been created when you installed Lightroom Classic on the new computer.
With the catalog available on the new computer, you can connect the external hard drives and ensure they are configured properly based on what Lightroom Classic is expecting. For Macintosh users this simply means making sure not to change the volume label, which is the name of the hard drive. For Windows users you’ll need to make sure the drive letters assigned on the new computer match the assignments on the old computer. This can be changed in the Disk Management utility, and you’ll find an article outlining the process here:
When you open the catalog you copied to the new computer and have the hard drives configured as they had been on the old computer, you’ll be right back to your expected workflow in Lightroom Classic, with everything just as it had been on your old computer.