How To Move A Lightroom Catalog

There are a few reasons why you might find yourself needing to move your lightroom catalog to a new location. Whether it be to save space, share it with another photographer, or store it on an external hard drive. Regardless of the reason, what matters most is that you learn how to move your Lightroom catalog safely. After all, it has a lot of important information stored inside! This article will break down everything you need to know about moving, copying, or sharing your Lightroom catalogs. Let’s jump in!

What Is A Lightroom Catalog Used For?


Think of a Lightroom catalog as the storage space for image information. Each catalog you create will store all the information regarding location info, ratings, keywords, image adjustment, and more! Any information about your photo (besides the actual image file) is stored within your Lightroom Catalog.

Catalogs are a great way to organize your photos based on location or project. For example, you could make a catalog for a big wedding or event you just photographed. You could make another catalog for all your vacation pictures from Europe and another for your portfolio images.

It’s totally up to you how many Lightroom catalogs you use, but they’re a great way to segment your pictures.

When Should You Move Your Lightroom Catalog


It may be time to move your Lightroom Catalog for a couple of different reasons. Let’s go over the three primary reasons you may want to do so.

1. You’re Running Out Of Disk Space

The main reason being that you are running into storage issues. If your computer is running on low memory, moving your Lightroom catalog to an external hard drive could help to solve this problem.

2. You Want To Access Your Catalog From Another Computer

The second reason why you should move your Lightroom Catalog is when you want to edit from another computer. A lot of people work from both their desktop and laptop computers. Rather than having to start over with file organizing and image adjustments, you could copy your Lightroom catalog over.

This way, you could seamlessly work from another computer. That’s assuming you have the actual image files stored on both devices of course.

It’s important to note that copying a Lightroom catalog will not sync them in the future. Just because you make a change on one computer doesn’t mean it will reflect on the other, even if you’re using the same catalog.

By copying your Lightroom Catalog, you’re only creating a duplicate to work from. The two copies are not connected.

3. You Want To Create A Backup Of Your Lightroom Catalog

The third reason why you might want to move or copy a Lightroom Catalog is to create a backup. If you want extra assurance that your Lightroom information is extra secure, you can always create a backup catalog copy.

This way, you can access a duplicate on another hard drive if something were to go wrong.

Lightroom does automatically backup catalogs periodically. The trouble is that it’s backed up to the same location. This is fine if one of your catalogs becomes corrupt, but you’ll be out of luck if the entire hard drive goes down.

Moving your Lightroom catalog to a separate external hard drive can solve this potential issue.

The Difference Between Moving And Copying A Lightroom Catalog

Although this may seem like an obvious answer, it’s important to remember before you make any changes to a catalog.

Moving a Lightroom catalog will take it from one destination and put it in another. Now the catalog can only be accessed from the new saved location and not it’s original.

Copying a Lightroom catalog will copy it from one location, and create a duplicate in another location. Now there are two versions of the catalog, saved in two different places.

Consider whether you want to move or copy your Lightroom catalog before you proceed through these steps!

Keep This One Thing In Mind When Moving Lightroom Catalogs

If you are moving your Lightroom Catalog to a new device or hard drive, you need to bring the image files over too. A Lightroom catalog only carries file information, not the actual image file.

If you access the catalog from a device separate from the image files, everything will be unlinked. To avoid this issue, transfer over any necessary image files to your new device after you move the catalog.

How To Move A Lightroom Catalog

Below is the step-by-step guide on how to move your Lightroom catalog. Follow these steps, and you’ll be done in just a few minutes!

Step 1: Locate And Access Your Lightroom Catalog

Before you can move a Lightroom catalog, you need to find it. Rather than digging through your computer files, make it easier on yourself with the help of Lightroom.

Go to the menu bar and click Lightroom Classic > Catalog Settings (Mac) or Edit > Catalog Settings (Win).

Under the general tab of your catalog settings, you will find the location of your Lightroom Catalog.

Click ‘Show’ to bring up the file on your computer.


Step 2: Select Your Catalog And Move It To A New Location

With access to your Lightroom Catalog file (.LRCAT), it’s time to move or copy it to a new location.

To move the catalog, click and drag all related files to a new location, such as an external hard drive.


To copy the catalog, highlight all related files, right-click, and press ‘copy‘.


Access your new location, right-click, and press ‘paste‘.

Depending on the file size of your Lightroom catalog, the transfer time may vary.


Step 3: Open The Catalog From It’s New Location

To make sure your catalog is working, it’s time to open it up.

Double click on the .LRCAT file to open the catalog in Lightroom.


Make sure everything looks as it should.

Step 4: Confirm It’s New Location

To make sure your Lightroom catalog is being accessed from the new location, it’s worthwhile to double-check.

Just like before, go up to Lightroom Classic > Catalog Settings.


Under the general tab, the location should be listed as the new save location.

How To Switch Between Different Lightroom Catalogs

If you’re looking to move a Lightroom catalog to an external hard drive, you likely have a lot already going on. Most photographers aren’t operating out of just one catalog, so it’s pretty important to know how to switch between them!

The easiest way to access any of your previously used catalogs is by going to File > Open Recent.

Open Recent will provide a list of all your recently accessed catalogs on that computer.


If your catalog doesn’t appear on this list, you can go to File > Open Catalog to manually select its location.

After you’ve opened the catalog, it should appear in your recents for later use.


Learning how to move a Lightroom catalog is simple and only takes a few minutes. Practicing the methods outlined here will ensure your catalogs stay safe while you transfer them.

After all, what’s the point of moving them if they don’t work from their new location?

These methods are suited to help you move your lightroom catalog to any new location you see fit. Whether that to a new folder, external hard drive, or a completely different computer, the process remains the same.

The only difference will be where you choose to move the catalog!

Lastly, keep in mind that moving your Lightroom catalog will only transfer the image information, not the actual photos. If you’re moving the catalog to a new hard drive, all your files will remain unlinked until you copy them over too.