Today’s Question: I keep all my images on a mirrored hard drive setup, so I have ready access to my images regardless of which computer I’m using. The “issue” has to do with the Lightroom Classic catalog: how do I make sure I’m always using the same catalog without having to keep current copies on both computers? I’m thinking that putting the catalog on a small, external, SSD that I plug into the computer I’m using at the moment would be the solution?
Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, in my view the best solution for using Lightroom Classic on more than one computer is to store the catalog (and generally the photos) on an external hard drive that you transfer between the computers.
More Detail: With Lightroom Classic the catalog is used locally to manage the information about your photos, and the catalog can’t be stored on a network drive. It is possible to store the catalog on a synchronized cloud-based storage service, such as Dropbox or Google Drive, but I do not recommend using this approach due to the risk of the catalog files getting out of sync when used across more than one computer.
Therefore, I consider the safest approach to be storing the catalog on an external hard drive. You can quit Lightroom Classic and then copy the entire folder containing the catalog and related files to an external hard drive. If you have your photos on an external hard drive, you could use that same drive for the catalog folder.
Once the catalog is stored on an external hard drive, you can simply open the catalog from that external hard drive from whatever computer you’re currently using. If the photos are also on that same hard drive, this provides a convenient way to manage all your photos and catalog files in one location. The important thing is that on each computer the path to the photos remains the same. That means, for example, having the same drive letter assigned to the drive on each computer if you’re using Windows, or making sure the volume label remains the same if you’re using Macintosh.
So, if you keep the catalog on an external hard drive, you can simply move that hard drive between computers and open the catalog from the external hard drive, so you never need to worry about using the wrong copy of the catalog when you switch between computers.