How do I move Lightroom to a new computer?

There’s an updated Lightroom 4/5 version of this post


It’s a question that comes up over and over again, because people expect it to be complicated.  It’s not really!  Even moving Windows to Mac is a straightforward operation.

First, a bit of preparation will go a long towards preventing headaches…

  1. Make sure your regular backups are up to date.
  2. Set Lightroom’s folder panel to show just a few top level folders, to make it easy to relink them if they get confused in the move.  Instructions are here:
  3. Install Lightroom (the program) on the new computer.  No need to install off the cd and then install updates, as each update is the entire program, so just skip along to the latest update which can be downloaded from Adobe’s website.

Now we’re ready to move.  Think about how you’re going to move the files – an external hard drive is the easiest option.

If you’re switching from Windows to Mac in the move, remember that OS X can’t natively write to a NTFS formatted drive, so either format as FAT32, or remember you’ll need to copy the data off and reformat again once you’ve finished moving.

You’ll want to transfer all of your presets, which are entirely cross-platform, over to the new computer, and possibly your preferences file too, if you’re moving Windows to Windows or Mac to Mac.  Don’t forget any plug-ins, and custom DNG profiles that you’ve created too.  You’ll find all of the file locations here: Bear in mind that these are hidden locations on Windows, so you’ll need to turn go to Start menu > Control Panel > Folder Options > View > Advanced Settings and turn on ‘Show hidden files and folders’ in order to find them.

You have 2 options for the catalog and images move – either moving and relinking, which is generally my preferred option, or using Export as Catalog, which is handy if data is scattered across your computer.

Option 1 – move and relink

  1. Find and copy your catalog to the new computer.  If you don’t know where to find it, go to Edit menu > Catalog Settings (Windows) or Lightroom menu > Catalog Settings (Mac) and it’ll be listed there.
  2. Find and copy your images to the new computer.  Personally I like to use File Synchronization software to make sure I don’t miss anything.
  3. Open your catalog on the new computer – double clicking on it is the quickest way.
  4. There may now be question marks all over the place, if it can’t find the files.  It’s just a question of relinking those top level folders with the updated folder locations.  Instructions here:
  5. Double check everything is up and running before you delete the old computer!

Option 2 – export as catalog
Warning – this option worked well with LR2, but when used with LR3 it can lose any Publish Services and other plug-in data, so I’d now highly recommend using Option 1 and moving the main catalog

  1. Open Lightroom and go to File > Export as Catalog.
  2. Select a location on your external hard drive, and ‘include preview files’ and ‘include negative files’ so that everything is taken along.
  3. Press Export and let it run.  It will take some time.
  4. Now on your external hard drive should be a catalog, with an Images folder containing all of your negative files.  It should warn you if it couldn’t transfer some files.
  5. Transfer the external hard drive to the other machine.
  6. You could transfer the catalog itself (the *.lrcat file and *.lrdata file) to the new machine’s internal hard drive if you wish.  (Don’t do this until you’re fully up and running, as the links to the image files are relative to the catalog location when you use export as catalog.)
  7. Double-click on the catalog to open it.
  8. If you move the images, the drive letter changes between machines, or you’re moving between operating systems (i.e. Windows to Mac) you may still have to do the relinking listed in option 1.
  9. Double check everything is up and running before you delete the old computer!

You’re all set!


  1. Ken Kennedy says:

    Hi victoria

    Thank you for your advice. I had a couple of questions though as the .lrcat file proceedure isn’t working. Could you go to the LR Support Forum and see what i wrote?

    Typically, in internet NG/forums, people respond with what they know, rather than to the question, so I feel that this thread will get sidetracked by somebody who didn’t answer the question.

    [My pleasure Ken – VB]

  2. Thanks for that.

    I have another question too. How does this work with merging? I have LR2 on my PC, and will put on laptop for my travels. I want to be able to then merge my raw images and the changes I make on the road, back into the PC library at end of trip.

    Is that more complicated?

    Ta, Matt

    [Hi Matt, well, that depends on whether anyone will be working on the desktop catalog while you’re gone. If they’re not, you could just copy the catalog back again. If they are, use Import from Catalog on your desktop and point to the laptop catalog, and it’ll merge the changes – but obviously back up first. – VB]

  3. Looks simple. I have a question before attempting transfer. Will all the editing history associated with each photo in a catalog also transfer over?

    [Yes, as long as you do it this way. Everything contained in the catalog will be safely transferred. People only run into difficulty when they start re-importing files, rather than relinking the existing files. – VB]

  4. Great, thanks.

  5. A quick follow up question. Do you have any recommended settings, etc. for exporting the catalog?

    [If you’re exporting as catalog in order to move to a new computer, checking both the ‘include previews’ and ‘include negatives’ are a good idea – include previews simply saves you having to rebuild all of the previews again, and include negative copies the image files to the new location. – VB]

  6. Ok, thanks. So, then exporting a catalog is different from exporting groups of photos where you have to say type of file, quality, etc.?

    [Yes, it literally copies the catalog (or part of it) to a new location, including all data, and the previews/original images too, if you so choose. It’s ideal for transferring all or part of the catalog between different computers, whether to a new computer or between a desktop/laptop. – VB]

  7. Michael Levy says:

    Hi Victoria. What happens if you buy a new desktop with much more memory to speed things up and to use it you need to migrate to 64 bit Vista? All my important files are on external drives (one a Drobo) which I carry from place to place where I have other computers including a laptop. All the other computers except the new one are running XP. What kind of a mess is this going to create if I decide to update a catalog by exporting it from from the laptop using the desktop on the new Vista computer or any other intra-computer tasks?

    [Exactly the same principles apply, whichever operating systems are involved – even Windows to Mac and back. Only glitches you’re likely to hit are missing files (covered above) and possibly file permissions with Vista, which tends to be a bit fussy, but are easily fixed. – VB]

  8. I need to move some photo folders to a new drive. How do I move them and have Lightroom still know where they reside?

    Thank you,
    Mike B

    [Mike, moving the files on disc, and then using the relinking as in the post above is the best option, as you can use file synchronization software with a verification option. Other option is to go to Library menu > New Folder and show new drive, and then drag the files within Lightroom. – VB]

  9. Hi,

    Quick question, my old computer died on me i have managed to save the hard drive and it is now set up as an external drive on my new computer. The problem is all my raw photos were saved on external drives but the lightroom catalogue was on the compute5r drive, i have the lightroom catalogue but am unable to get it into the lightroom on the new computer. What am i doing wrong?? The catalogue has not been exported from LR.
    Is there any way to get all the edit information on to the new computer without having to just import all my raw images and do the work again??
    My old computer was xp and i am now working on vista 64bit


    • Hi Amanda. Opening the catalog, wherever it’s stored, should just be a case of double-clicking on it. You can pick it up and move it to a new location before you do so – internal drives are usually faster than externals. When you’ve opened the catalog, it may ask where the photos are now, you may need to follow the instructions above for relinking the originals if they’re shown as missing. If Lightroom comes up with an error saying that you can’t use the catalog before it’s not writable, check the file and folder permissions, as Vista can be a bit fussy. – VB

  10. Thanks for the advice Victoria, i have just tried opening the catalog in lightroom and it came up with the error can not open as it is not writable….do you know where can i change the permissions in vista?

    Thank you

  11. Hi,

    Ok so i figured out how to change the permissons and it has opened the catalog but now says no phots in selected items…..any ideas….please

    Thank you

  12. That was quick! I was just booting up a Windows machine to double check. Try clicking on All Photographs (Catalog panel, top left) and see if they appear. You may have a filter turned on.

  13. Unfortunatly it says no photos in all photographs aswell. Do i have to inport a folder aswell or the original images??

    Thanks again

  14. Sounds like you may have opened the wrong catalog Amanda. Just try it again – and check the file size of the catalog, as that’ll give you a clue that you’ve got the right one. You don’t want to have to import anything, otherwise you’d have to redo all your work!

  15. I’m sorry for you if you think that your instructions are easy. If that’s your opinion of easy then you are much more of a geek than 99% of the population. How many esoteric pages of instruction did you include? How many additional web sites does one need to go to in order to accomplish something that should be so damn simple. We are photographers not computer nerds or IT wonks. If Adobe really wants people to use the program as intended they need to make this extremely important function much, much simpler.

    [I’ve known plenty of computer illiterate people do it just fine, and comment that it’s much easier than they thought. After all, moving to a new computer doesn’t happen very often! The instructions above are for a one way move, take into account a range of operating systems, and a couple of different ways of accomplishing it, so they are more complex than a 2 way conversation on the subject. If you some help, feel free to drop by and we’ll talk you through it, but it’s nothing to be worried about. – VB

  16. Hi Victoria-
    I think I’m on the right track with your advice, but my issue is this:
    Following Kelby’s advice in his Lightroom 2 book, I complied ALL of my folders (lightroom previews, My Pictures, etc.) into one “MY LIGHTROOM” folder, which I moved off of my computer to an external hard drive (my computer was 99.9% full of photos and was running about as fast as a one-legged elephant). Now when I open the LRM2 application on my computer, it says there is no catalog (right, because I moved it). However, I’m still unable to relink from my external drive.

    Do I need to reload my photos to my computer and start over again from scratch? I’m not sure what I did, but I’m having a hard time undoing it. Any help would be GREATLY appreciated. I have some work to do, and I can’t access any of my photos in LRM now…

    [Hi Cara, you should just be able to double click on the catalog (which you’ve moved) to open it, and from that point on, it should know where to find the catalog. You might find it says the photos are missing (because you’ve moved them) but it’s just a case of relinking them. If you get stuck, drop by and we’ll get you sorted out in no time.- VB]

  17. This is extremely helpful, and so far it all seems to be working fine. I have a question about “File Synchronization software” that you mentioned above. I am working on a MacPro and a MacBookPro as well as a PC occasionally all on my personal network. I would like to keep my systems synched when it comes to Lightroom, should I be doing that in the above manner or with some software?
    Thanks for all the information!!

    [Shelly, how are you planning on moving the files back and forth? If you’re regularly working on multiple machines, it’s often simpler to keep the catalog on the external drive along with the images. How many pictures are we talking about? – VB]

  18. I have about 15500+ for the last couple years in the Library, I would like to go back and include the images I have on other external hard drives from a few years before that. I do the majority of processing on the MacPro (or I will be as soon as I get this all set up). The MacBook is used when I travel and then merged back home (or that’s the plan anyway). I Have a Drobo to set up, so this idea of keeping the catalogue along with the images on that is a good idea I think. All my images are on an external now. Thanks Victoria, your insight and knowledge is very helpful! I do all this tech stuff on my own though I am no tech, I just bumble along much longer then I am sure I need to.

    [Really pleased to help Shelly. I guess the question is whether you need to edit the files when you’re away too, or whether just being able to view the existing previews would work for you. If you only need to be able to view the offline files on your MacBook, you could keep the catalog and files on your Mac Pro (faster than the Drobo), and just copy the catalog and previews to your MacBook or external. There’s a few ways to skin this cat! If you want to talk it through in more detail, drop by – VB]

  19. Sandrina says:

    Hi Victoria
    I use my laptop for my lightroom work. I keep a certain amount of my photos on the laptop with the rest on an external hard drive. Both laptop and external hard drive are full. Normally I would just use lightroom to drag and drop the photo file from one drive to another. this way LR knows where they are and adjusts the link (correct? ) In this case though I would like to leave the existing photos on the old hard drive (as a back up) and copy them to the new hard drive with lightroom having a link to the new drive. I could of course use LR to move them to the new HD and then windows explorer to copy them back to the old HD but that is two operations which include moving jpg. So the question is, CAN I do it in one function? Thanks heaps

    [I can’t think of a way to do it in one go. I’d do an OS or file sync software copy to transfer to the new drive, and then use the right click Update Folder Location on the parent folder to direct Lightroom to the new drive, which would leave the existing drive backup untouched. Just make sure they show in a folder hierarchy (the link was in this post) and it should be really quick to do. – VB]

  20. Bill Popik says:

    Hi Victoria,
    In my ideal world, I’d have the Lightroom program AND all of my photos on an external hard drive, which I would then connect to a number of computers (I sometimes work with my Mac Laptop, other times with my desk model IMac. If I did that, and manipulated a photo on one computer, or sorted and tagged photos on one computer, would this work then appear when the external drive was plugged into another computer?


    [Hi Bill. Yeah, that theory works very well. I’ve never tried putting the program on the external as well – you could just as happily have it installed properly on both computers under the license – but the main thing is to have the images AND the catalog on the external drive. The catalog (*.lrcat file) is the bit that holds all of the changes to your images, and you could just double click to open it and work directly on that drive. Works fine, just a little slower than internal drives! VB

  21. Jeff Levine says:


    This is probably a duh type question, but here it goes. When I get my new computer and download LR from the website, how does it know that I have already purchased a copy of the program.
    Thanks, and I really enjoy your blog (just discovered it the past week.

    [Hi Jeff. It won’t know that you’ve already bought it, but when you bought it there will have been a serial number – either on an email, or on the CD case if you bought the box. If you don’t know where to find it, try logging into your account on – they’ll have a record if you filled in the registration details when you entered it the first time. If you’ve still got it installed on your old computer, look under Help menu > System Info and it’ll be listed there too. – VB]

  22. Roger McCarthy says:

    I’m moving to a new computer, Windows Vista 64 from XP. I followed you instructions for option 1 and it looks like everything copied over fine but when I double click on the catalog I’m getting a runtime error. Any suggestions?

  23. Roger McCarthy says:

    P.S. I’m on Lightroom 1.4 if that matters. Thanks.

  24. Roger McCarthy says:

    Victoria, Just wanted to let you know that I solved my problem. I Loaded Lightroom on my new machine as administrator and loaded all my files as User. Once I opened up lightroom under my User account all is well. I am relinking my files now. Thanks for your instructions. They were clear. Vista is not.

    [Glad to hear you got it all sorted while I was out! – VB]

  25. Dear Victoria,

    I’ve just followed your great instructions moving from PC to a Mac. Everything went well – I think! What puzzles me now is that some – most – of my folders now display a somewhat greyed out arrow i/o the full solid grey arrow that I normally saw.

    Any idea what this means? I can access my pictures alright, just wonder why this is.

    I wonder if it has an impact when moving folders from one drive to another. It seems that when I move folders, LR still leaves the empty folder on the “old” drive, and when trying to delete it, it says it can’t as there are locked files inside; yet, there is none as they have been moved to a new drive.. Makes sense?

    [Hi Lars. A somewhat greyed out arrow usually means that the folder has no subfolders. Would that fit with what you’re seeing? If not, drop by and post a screenshot, and we’ll see what we can do.

    For the locked files, how was the old drive formatted? And which computer is it connected to? A permissions problem would be the obvious reason. – VB]

  26. Hi Victoria, Thanks for your answers. Yes, you’re right about the the grayed out arrow – it’s indeed the subfolder yes/no indication.

    For the locked files, the old drive that I used to transfer to my new Mac was Windows formatted (NCTS) and I used to work from a Windows laptop. Does that play a role in the new setup?

    [Ah, yes, that’s probably it then. Mac OS can natively read from NTFS, but can’t write (or delete etc). You should be able to REMOVE the folders from the catalog (when you press delete, it’ll ask whether to remove or delete, choose remove) and then when you hook your old drive back up to a Windows machine you’ll be able to delete anything that’s left – it’s probably a Windows thumbs.db file or something like that that’s left. If you’ve already transferred everything off that old drive, and you want to continue using it with your Mac, reformat using Disk Utility to HFS (or FAT if you’re wanting to use it cross-platform). – VB]

  27. ok, let me see if I get this right. I used to work with my LR catalog on a NTFS-formatted external harddrive. I connected this drive to my new Mac and then copied the pictures and the LR catalog onto a Mac-formatted drive. From the Mac-formatted drive, I copied the LR catalog and linked it to the pictures on the Mac-formatted drive.

    Is this what you say is giving me trouble? How should I otherwise have done it? Brgds, Lars.

  28. Think I figured where the issue is. I had not “unlocked” the folder that I had moved from the NTFS-drive to the Mac-drive. Hence Mac saw it as “locked” and would thus not move the folder. In the “Get Info” menu, I unticked “locked” and moving between drives now functions flawlessly.

    Thanks for all your help – which I highly appreciated came as promptly as it did, as there’s nothing worse sitting with these issue and having to wait for a long time to get help. Thanks again.

    [Now you’re answering your own questions Lars….!!! Well done! – VB]

  29. Hi Victoria. I currently have a desktop PC and an older laptop, both running LR 2.4. The laptop is old & slow, I was thinking of getting a MacBook Pro. Is there a way to download LR to the new Mac laptop & erase it from the old PC laptop, thereby keeping just 2 copies (the limit, i believe) of LR, or must I buy a new Mac version of LR for the MacBook, even though I only need it on 2 computers, the PC desktop nad the new MacBook? Thanks,

    [Hi Jay, yes, you can just download the 2.4 Mac version from the Adobe website and enter your serial number when asked. Just uninstall from the old PC laptop to stay within the license agreement terms of only on 2 machines. There’s no activation to worry about. – VB]

  30. Thanks Victoria. How does LR know that I’ve uninstalled fromthe PC? Do I uninstall then try to download to the new Mac while the old laptop is still connected to the internet, or try to download 1st & LR will prompt me to uninstall 1 copy? Thanks again,

    [It doesn’t – Adobe are trusting you. :-) – VB]

  31. “Personally I like to use File Synchronization software”.
    It has been asked previously. Wwhat you are suggesting using? Are there one or two you like or what do you use?
    Why can’t this synching be built-in to LR?

    [I like Vice Versa on Windows and Chronosync for Mac personally – they both have fully functional free trials which are long enough to complete the move even if you don’t want to purchase them. The reason I like File Sync software is that most also offer copy verification. As most file corruption happens while files are being rewritten in a new location, I want to know that everything has transferred correctly. That’s not just specific to Lightroom – I’d want the same validation for transferring any of my files. For a move as big as transferring to a new computer, I might not notice any corruption for quite some time otherwise, and by that time the old computer would be gone. However if you don’t want to go that route, and just want to use Lightroom, the Export as Catalog option works well too. – VB]

    Secondly, on my laptop running LR 1.4, I chose “export as catalog” (including export negative file and previews). I then, via my LAN and LR 2.4 on my desktop PC, imported the Ircat file.
    My only “import catalog” choices were “Supported files (*.Ircat; *Irdb; *aglib)”.
    The Irdata file is not an option for importing! Why? When I drill down with Explorer (so I can see the files), the files are called “NOINDEX files”.

    [The *.lrdata file is all of your preview files, not the catalog. Alongside the *.lrdata file should be a *.lrcat file – that’s your catalog including all of your information about the files. If you’ve checked ‘included negative files’ to move all of your images too, then there should be a Photos or Images folder alongside too. You will have to actually copy those files onto the new computer – or at least the *.lrcat file, as it won’t let you open it over a network because of corruption risks. – VB]

    Why am I asking this? Because, when I try and edit images on my desktop PC they show as missing. I was expecting to export the complete catalog from the laptop, along with my edits and the “negative files”, or originals (NEF or DNG). Even though I selected to export the “negative file”, I obviously can’t import them via LR. Just link them…True? I have to use some other means to physically copy or move these files?
    If I choose “import photos from device” in LR will I get what I want; the edited dngs? Then I suppose I will have to re-link them?
    What is the best method to do this? Why is this not intuitive for me? I’ve read the suggestions and I’m not completely getting it. I want to know the process rather than experiment on my own and get things fouled up. Though I’ve worked in LR a long time this is my first attempt to move LR edited images onto my desktop.

    [Nowhere in the instructions above did it mention Importing from Catalog…. so you might want to go back and check the instructions before you go any further. In short, you’d want to export the catalog to an external drive (or onto the desktop network location), double click to open it on your desktop, and all of the photos should all be available for you to start working. If the photos are going missing while moving that way, something’s going wrong. At no point in these instructions do you need to import anything.

    If you need a hand doing this properly, drop by, and we’ll take you through it one step at a time. – VB]

  32. Dear Victoria,
    I have tried unsuccessfully to transfer my LR2.4 catalog from my old PC (vista) to my new iMac, using a set of 3 DVDs and copying the .lcrat files from one computer to another.

    So I decided to follow your instructions carefully, steps by steps. First hurdle: how do you format your hard drive to FAT32? I don’t understand. What does it mean?

    [Hard drives can be formatted in different ways – usually NTFS for Windows, HFS for Mac, FAT is cross-platform. Which hard drive are you planning to format? Is it a spare external? And are the images going to stay on that drive once you’ve transferred them, or are you going to transfer them to the internal drive? – VB]

  33. Hi – I have successfully synched LR2 catalog from desktop to laptop (both Mac), but the ratings do not appear after transfer. Any suggestions? Much thanks!

    [Hi Kate, ok, explain a little further? Are they there if you look in the Metadata panel? It sounds like they’re probably just hidden by your current view options. – VB]

  34. Dave Alexander says:

    Hi, I am running LR 2.4 on a Desktop PC and a Laptop. I went on a vacation so I took an external HD with me. I had created a new LR catalog on the external HD and had imported the keyword structure from my DeskTop machine into the LapTop. I took m pictures and day by day on the laptop applied keywords, including adding new keywords. When I got back, my plan was to import from catalog including negatives from the external drive back to my main LR catalog. When I try to import, LR asks from which catalog, I tell it, it does some stuff then issues “Lightroom cannot import this catalog due to an unknown error” and quits. This happens shortly after I press the IMPORT button after identifying to import all photos.

    [What happens if you run Optimize Catalog or you test the integrity of that catalog whilst doing a backup? Don’t panic, there’s a few options. Probably easiest to drop by where we can discuss it in more detail. – VB]

  35. I have a group of photos (1500) that I would like to export as a catalog to DVD. (So they can be archived for now) The problem is that the catalog created is too big to sit on a single DVD. Is there a way to have the Catalog span two or more DVD’s? Any suggestions would be appreciated

    [You could export as catalog to your hard drive, and then use other disc burning software to span it to DVD. The catalog itself should be fine, and the resulting images would split over multiple DVD’s. – VB]

  36. I followed the instructions above (ie backed up all my data, downloaded the new LR 2.5, and COPIED the entire Lightroom folder from my external HD to the new HD. This included my catalogues, previews, presets and pics). Everything works fine except for two issues:
    1) In the Library Module, LR displays the full path of my folders (ie Documents and settingkazmy pics…) How do I get LR to just display the folder name?
    2) All my presets are missing? How do I get them back?

    Thanks for your help…

    [Whereabouts is the folders panel showing the full path name – in one long line as the name of a single folder, or is it showing a hierarchy of folders? Feel free to email me a screenshot of the Folders panel if you’re not sure. The presets – did you copy them to the same location – and did you have ‘store presets with catalog’ checked in Preferences, and if so, have you checked it again on this computer? – VB]

  37. Thanks for the quick reply…I sent you some screen shots of my folders panel, basically it’s showing one long line as the name of the folder (even when I try to rename it within LR the dialog box appears with the actaul folder name). As to the presets, after reading your reply I was able to get them back!

  38. Hi
    I found your blog from lightroomforums when looking at how to reinstall LR on a new machine. Whilst had few problems, going back over your guide solved them and everything is working fine.
    Just wanted to say thanks for this great site and for the time and effort you must put into this support!

    [Thanks Richard! – VB]

  39. I am looking for the reply to Kaz’s from Sep 22. I only want to display the folder instead of the full path.


    [Hey Lenny. Kaz needed to go to the + button on the Folders panel and choose the Folder Name Only option. Give that a shot and see if it does the trick for you. – VB]

  40. Thanks- Lot’s of great information. I am upgrading to 10.6 via a clean install. I have my entire system backed up as a bootable clone on an external drive. So all this stuff is there to bring over. I want to do my 10.6 install to a freshly formatted disk in order to leave the skeletons behind and build on a clean foundation. Extra work, but worth it in the long run. I appreciate all the work you put into making this info available to anyone interested.

  41. Julie Eastwood says:

    I have purchased Lightroom and want to know if I can install on more than 1 of my computers. Is this teh case?

    [Yes, the license allows for installation on 2 computers (i.e. desktop and laptop) and they can be both Windows, both Mac or 1 of each. – VB]

  42. Victoria,

    I just wanted to say thank you for your extremely valuable insight into this process. I have over 24,000 images to convert from PC to MAC and although it took 16 hours overnight to file transfer and then get everything in the right place. It was soo worth it. Everything works seamlessly. You are the best !


  43. Victoria: Lots of great info. Thanks much. Just wanted to quickly confirm what I think I should do in my case. Planning on doing a clean upgrade/install of windows 7 on my PC. I maintain the lightroom catalog, previews and all images on a separate internal hard drive. So I’m thinking when I come up in windows 7 after the clean install, all I would need to do is reinstall LR and then just double click on the catalog, and all should be well. I would ensure that this internal hard drive got configured with the same drive letter (F). Does that sound correct? That I don’t really have to move anything? Thanks.

    [You might want to backup the presets and any plugins too, but other than that, yes, sounds fine. The only glitch you might run into, off the top of my head, is Windows 7’s delightful security features. ;-)- VB]

  44. Does anyone know step by step how to correct the permissions problem in vista? I succesffuly moved a cat to external USB drive and was usig it for sometime before it stopped working. Cannot get the lrcat on either drive to open…local and external.


    [Tim, if you haven’t got this working yet, drop by and we’ll get you sorted out. I’ve managed to skip Vista personally! 😉 – VB]

  45. Jørn Kristensen says:

    Just wanted to say thanks.
    Followed your description and it worked. It was understandable, easy to read, and straight to the point. Will recomend your site to all my photograph friends.

    Jørn (norway)

  46. So if you covered this above. I have my LR images on a folder on an external HD. My LR catalog is stored on my computer (Mac) in the Pictures folder. I want to move the files to a new computer. Not the images but the catalog. Can i do this safely without removing the links to any images? You follow?

    [Assuming the new computer’s a Mac, then the drive name will follow the external drive, so you shouldn’t have a problem with the links. – VB]

  47. Steve Ruegnitz says:

    I am moving from XP to Win7 with LR2. No issue with the license or base install. Then i successfully exported a 41,000 image catalog (took 2.5 days to make on the old machine) and that import was fine as well. But now I want to have all the Collections I made on the old machine make it to the new machine (or said another way I want PRECISELY what I have on the old machine make it to the new machine.) I don’t see how to go about both preferences and how to make Collecitons move to the new machine.

    All help appreciated!

    [If you’ve copied the catalog (rather than a clean import), then the collections should have moved too. Which bits are you missing? – VB]

  48. Here’s my situation that I can’t seem to figure out. My HD crashed and the files were recovered and put back in a folder (Win Vista) called LR with sub folders for each date the photos were taken. Before the crash (BC) the photos were shown in the library by date and this is how I would like it to be again. I’ve tried relinking following your method (tried clicking on .lrdb and photo files) but nothing happens (I’m on LR1). Any ideas? My understanding is that importing will cause me to lose all my edits and still might not present the photos in the library as I would like. Thanks in advance!
    PS – Is there something I need to setup so that when I import new photos off my card they are shown by date?

    [Hmmm, ok, so, do you have any backups of the files in their dated folders already? If not, it’s something you might want to consider for the future. If not, don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world as long as the files have the same filenames… how were the files recovered? You definitely don’t want to reimport as you’d lose your settings, but we may be able to get them back into their dated folders automagically using a temporary catalog. Just need a bit more information first, particularly about the file names. – VB]

  49. I only have the copy of the HD files that are in the dated folders (I didn’t perform the HD recovery but I assume it was simply copied over to the new HD). The folder names are similar to 2008 03 12 (a few are named collections) and then the photos are JPEG’s with names like 2008 03 12 001 or IMG_0525.

  50. Maldon Walker says:

    My old computer ran 32 bit Vista. My new computer runs 64 bit W7. I want to move LR to the new computer. I have been using LR2.5 happily for a while now. I have tried downloading the program to the new computer, I found a copy of 2.5 and downloaded that, also tried a “cut and paste” of my entire LR 2.5 download and extraction and all that stuff. I tried to register, typed in the number snad the little red “x” obligingly changed to a green tick. BUT when I opened LR in every instance there’s this message in white across the name plate saying it’s a temp. And when I go into Help etc, same story. Do you want to register, trial or buy a rego number. Adobe phone support can’t help. Any ideas? So I haven’t got to the bit where I move files and catalogs and stuff.

    [Try downloading 2.7 which has just been released and see if that’ll accept your serial number ok. If not, it may be some kind of permissions issue. Drop by if that doesn’t do the trick. – VB]

  51. Isn’t it true that if one follows option 2, one ends-up with a new catalogue which only contains those keywords effectively used to tag at least one photograph, rather than one’s full hierarchy of keywords ?

    For instance, if one has “Porsche 911”, “Porsche 944” and “Porsche Cayenne” in one’s original keyword hierarchy, but only “Porsche 911” is used to tag a photoraph, one will end-up with only that keyword in the keyword list in the new catalog ?

    Lr ought to handle keywords more comprehensively than it does (e.g. via a centralized keyword repository). Don’t you agree ?

    [You’re right, any unused keywords may be purged in the process, although I haven’t checked. If that’s of concern, you could export the keyword list separately. Personally I prefer option 1, as it also allow the file sync software to verify that the files have transferred without corruption. – VB]

  52. This article is just what I was looking for! What is File Synch software? I’m going from XP to W7 on the new computer, running LR 2.7.

    [File Synchronization software just compares drives and copies files to keep them in sync, and a lot of it has data verification built in. Some backup software does too, but a lot of backup software ties you into a weird format rather than just copying your folder structure. On Mac, Chronosync gets my vote. It’s ages since I’ve been based on Windows, but Vice Versa used to be my software of choice. – VB]

  53. D. Fonseca says:

    I personally want to do option 1 because I have tried option 2 before and it takes FOREVER with the amount of photos I have. However my question is if I do option 1 will all my tags, flags, and keywords copy over as well? I need those because many of my albums are extensively labeled and rated for organizational purposes. Thanks so much in advance!

    [Hi David. Yes, all of those that metadata is stored in the catalog, so as long as you copy the catalogs and relink the photos, rather than reimporting them into a clean catalog, you’ll be fine. – VB]

  54. I have bought a new computer with Windows 7 on it. All my LR2 files are on the old computer with XP. I plan to install LR3 on my new computer. I plan to use your option 1 (if I can) and transfer all the files to an external hard drive. Do you anticipate that I will have any difficulty in opening the files on my new computer using LR3? Many thanks for your help. Russ

    [Shouldn’t be a problem Russell – if anything, might just be a case of updating the permissions on that drive. – VB]

  55. Hi. I recently lost my Photoshop Elements CD and I want to copy the Photoshop program itself (not images,tags or whatever) to another computer. Do I follow the steps above or the situation requires a different method?

    [The instructions above are for Lightroom, not Elements. Whether you can copy the program may depend on your operating system – that’ll be a question for the Adobe forums I’m afraid. – VB]

  56. steve knibbs says:

    You said in response to Russell’s query about transfering files from XP to Windows 7 via external disk – ‘might just be a case of updating the permissions on that drive’. Could you advise the easiest way to do this? My XP files have been copied to a USB disk using sync backup software. When I try to copy these files to the Windows 7 PC, some of them fail to copy because access is denied due to the security permissions on the files. It is possible for the Windows 7 PC to take ownership of a file and then reassign the permission to allow it to be copied but it is a laborious process and not practical for thousands of files. Can this be automated?
    [It probably can Steve, but I haven’t spent much time messing with W7 permissions, so I hesitate to venture a guess on that. Could I suggest you drop by, because we’ve got some really experienced Windows guys over there who will be able to answer that one much more concisely than I could. – VB]

  57. Hi Victoria,

    I’m trying to move my lightroom catalogue from PC to mac, i have followed your instructions above, i’ve dragged all my files onto the mac hardrive including the catalogue file but when i open it in lightroom there is nothing there…what am i doing wrong?? Help!


    [You’re probably opening the wrong catalog – try double clicking on the catalog you copied over. Does that work? – VB]

  58. No unfortunately not, i’m going to try copying it over from the hard drive again??

    [Sounds like a plan – VB]

  59. Fred Krieger says:


    Your help in getting my LR3 transferred from my PC to a Mac is really great. I was referred to you by the NAPP help desk (I’M a NAPP Member). I do have one question. I noticed there is a file named “Lightroom 3 Catalog Previews.IRDATA on my PC. Does this have to moved to my Mac as well as well as the catalog file. BTW thanks for the excerpts from your book on LR3 and I have ordered it from Amazon. I will be a regular visitor to your site.



    [Fred, thanks for ordering the book – hope you find it useful. The lrdata file is the previews. It would save you some time to copy it over along with the catalog, but if you don’t, it’s not the end of the world. If LR can’t find that previews file, it just goes through the original files and builds new previews, so they are replaceable if they get lost in the process. As you’re moving cross-platform, do take special note of the instructions above to set your Folders panel up as a hierarchy, as you will need to relink the files once they get on to the Mac. If you get stuck, you know where I am! – VB]

  60. Fred Krieger says:


    Thanks for your rapid response for being so helpful.


  61. Victoria,

    Thank you for this informative post.

    I am doing a clean install on the same computer. I am backing up all of my files onto an external hard drive, completely formatting my computer, then reinstalling Vista along with Lightroom 3 and all of my photos. Will doing the “Export as Catalog” onto the external hard drive save all of my non-destructive Lightroom edits (sidecar files?) as well? Or are those somewhere else?

    Thank you!

    – Masao

    [Are you LR2 or LR3? Rather than doing an Export as Catalog, which now loses any Publish Services you have set up in LR3, I’d just suggest copying your working catalog, along with all of the original photos of course, and don’t forget your presets too. All of your settings – Develop settings, keywords, etc., are contained safely in the catalog. Sidecar files are just an additional belt-and-braces backup and those would be stored with the image files. The updated LR3 blurb is available at – VB]

  62. Thanks for all of the great info… I recently switched to a new Win7 box from XP and used my eSATA backup drive to transfer most of my stuff to the new box. I’m running 2.7 and had to update locations and presets for Mogrify and Highslide Pro. Everything looks and feels just like it did on the old box and things were going great until I tried to do multiple exports at the same time. It immediately stops the 2nd export and kicks out an error. I can’t figure out why. Any ideas on what to check?
    [What does the error say Andy? – VB]

  63. Hi Victoria.
    how useful is your article about this subjetct!!!
    I lost the adjustments the first time I move to other computer and was very concernet about losing this again.
    but now, it wont happen. 😀

    thx a lot.

  64. Question? I have a laptop with LR3 and I have all of my LR3 photos located on a seperate USB drive. I have just put in a new bigger HD in my Laptop, so now I’m installing new LR3. Question is how do I get LR3 to now see my old pictures on the USB drive and also any edits that I have done of the past 6 months? We are talking about 60 to 80gigs of files. Is it possible to import the LR catalog/database file that I was using into the new install?

    Thanks for any help!
    Bill N.

    [You’ll need to copy the catalog to the laptop and then double click on it to open. You may need to click the question marks (as above) to redirect the links to the external drive if it shows them as missing, but it should be as easy as that. – VB]

  65. Hi Victoria,

    Thanks for taking the time to post this information. It was very useful when I had to migrate Lightroom to a newer PC.


    [Glad to hear it help Michel! – VB]

  66. =0) that’s the funny part…it’s the “failed to run export..abort” message and it says to look on the desktop for the log file, but there isn’t one. It looks like Mogrify is gumming up the works, so I’ll dig in there.

  67. Mmmm….found some odd stuff. There are two mogrify plugins competing. One works and is good, the other (presume it’s older version) says installed, but not running. The older one is going away.

  68. Hi Victoria,

    I just exported my catalog to an external hard drive (Windows 7) and wanted to use it on an older computer (Windows Vista). My new Del is having problems & it needs to go to the shop to get fixed. Anyway, I opened the new catalog in Lightroom and all of my files & pictures are there, but all of the pictures are so much darker & yellow tinted. Seems like my color is completely off. Is there a color setting that I need to change? Do you have any ideas? Thanks in advance for any advice! :)

    [Lisa, it sounds like your new Dell has a corrupted monitor profile. If you calibrate your monitor with a calibration puck like a Spyder or Eye-One Display, just recalibrate. If you don’t, then follow the Vista instructions in the following link to double check and provide a temporary solution. – VB]

  69. Thank-you so much Victoria! This worked! I’m really impressed! You’re like a genius!!!! I’m going to have to buy your book, too! Thanks again! :)

    [Excellent! And you’ll be pleased to know the book is full of gems like that, because they’re real world problems that come up on the forums constantly. – VB]

  70. Alessandro says:

    Hi Victoria
    first of all thanks for sharing your lightroom know-how!
    I have just moved my library and all photos from an older Pc to a newer Macbook Pro by moving and relinking.
    Everything went pretty smooth .. except for the fact that LR on tha Mac now shows a metadata warning on all photos.

    do you have any idea, what might be the problem here and what might be my best option to resolve the metadata conflict for all photos I moved? (that would be around 10k photos)

    thanks in advance for any help
    best regards

    [Which LR version Alessandro? There was a bug in 3.0 that did that, but it should be fixed in 3.3. If everything looks correct in LR, select all in Grid view and write the metadata to the files (Metadata menu > Write Metadata to Files) and then read it back again (Metadata menu > Read Metadata from Files) and it’ll fix that 3.0 bug. – VB]

  71. Annette Stewart says:

    Hi Victoria
    Thanks very much for sharing your knowledge – I’m in the process of moving from PC to Mac and your clear instructions are very helpful. I’m using LR 2.7; Ive installed the software & moved the catalogue with no probs, and I’m about to relink the images. Currently they are stored on an external hard drive – NTFS format – about 400gb of images under just a few root directories. I gather from your instructions that I wont be able to use the NTFS drive as my main library now, because Os X can’t write to it. Is this correct? If so, could you outline the steps I should take to re-establish my library on an external drive. Thanks for your help.

    [If you can copy everything off your external drive, reformat as HFS (or FAT if you’re still wanting to use it with Windows too) and then copy them back, then it will work fine. Alternatively a quick Google may find a couple of programs that will allow the Mac OS to write to the NTFS file system, but I can’t vouch for how stable they are. – VB]

  72. Annette Stewart says:

    Thanks Victoria. Copying and reformatting sounds like the best long-term option. I spotted some utilities for NTFS, but not sure that I want to entrust them with my main library. Thanks again.

  73. Hi Victoria. I really enjoy your site and thanks for all the great advice. Santa has brought me a iMac for Christmas – yeah Santa! I’m currently running Lightroom 2.7 on my PC and was wondering if I may be able to upgrade to Lightroom 3 for my new Mac using the serial number from my version 2 PC version. Do you know if that’s possible? Or will I have to purchase the full verson? I have asked Adobe, but thought you might be able to answer me sooner. Thanks for your constant great help.

    [Hi Ziona. Yes, that’s fine. The LR license is cross-platform, so you won’t have any problems with that. – VB]

  74. I enjoyed reading your articles on transferring files. I am using XP and upgrading to a new computer with Win 7. I have all the photos on 2 external hard drives. I hope after I install the LR it will find all the photos. I also have about 10,000 photos on Element 8 and I was wondering if I should put them all on LR and I do what is the best way. I can not backup Element 8 because the old computer is to low on memory.
    [Hi Bob. When you say the old computer is low on memory, do you mean hard drive space or RAM? – VB]

  75. Hi Victoria – I am a little confused by the process you have outlined. I moved the catalogue & preferences as explained in option 1, from my pc onto an external hard drive, which I then connect to my new Mac Pro. All of the images files also are on that same external hard drive. When I go into Lightroom>catalogue settings on my MacPro, it tells me my catalogue is in the default location it created when I installed Lightroom, which is “users/rich/pictures/lightroom” How do get LIghtroom on the mac to see the catalogue on the external drive?

    [Did you see step 3 Rich? Double click on the catalog on the external drive and it should open it. Shout if that doesn’t work for some reason. – VB]

  76. I was able to get the catalogue to load, that was thrilling to see all the images appear . Then I noticed the question mark on every thumbnail, so I went into a few, to help lightroom locate where the images actually are. (They are all on the external drive) But when I complete the path & show LR where the images are a message appears: The file (file name) is associated with another photo ion the catalogue. Each file can only be associated with one photo.” There is a button there “show in library” which if I click takes me back to the thumbnail with the question mark. If I click it & take it through the process to locate the actual file, the same thing happens. What am I missing?

  77. Well, since no answer has been forthcoming I have spent many hours (no exaggeration) on the phone with adobe support over the past week. Through four phone calls with several techs including one senior tech, I have learned why your method #1 is not a preferred method for doing this move, in fact they say it will not work if tried, which was my experience. So we went to the export/import catalogue method & in my case that also failed on three different attempts for reasons too lengthy to go into here. Suffice to say I finally seem to have it on the new MacPro by just installing LR fresh with a clean catalogue & then importing all of my (over 30,000) images from the archive on the external drive where they lived when I was using LR on the pc. Fortunately all the metadata & keywords are traveling into LR with them. I had maybe three presets, so those I can rebuild in the new computer. I lost a week trying to move the catalogue & in the end found it was impossible to do.

    [Rich, as I said when I replied to your forum post a few days ago, it’s far easier to chat over there, so I’ve been waiting for your answer to my questions. I can promise you option 1 does work well, and I’ve talked hundreds of people through it. The thing is, you do need to follow the instructions and relink the folders rather than starting to try to relink odd photos, as you create a lot of work for yourself when you do that. Anyway, glad to hear you’ve been able to get it working. If you’re just imported into a clean catalog, just be aware that anything that wasn’t stored in XMP hasn’t been carried over (incl. collections, flags, Develop History, VC’s, etc) so I’d suggest you keep hold of your catalog in case you discover missing data that you need. If you do find you’re missing data that you need, feel free to head back for the forum, but this time post the screenshots we asked for, and we’ll get your catalog transfer sorted in no time. – VB]

  78. Hi Victoria,
    thanks for instruction, great help. I am moving my Lightroom 3 files using method 1 to new computer from Win XP to Win 7 64. On my old computer in Lightroom folder are: folder Lightroom 3 Catalog Previws.Irdata and files: Lightroom 3 Catalog.Ircat.Lock and Lightroom 3 Catalog.Ircat.Lock-journal. Should I copy them to? On new computer Lightroom created Lightroom 3 Catalog and Lightroom 3 Catalog Previews. Irdata. Beacuse there is no picture on my new computer i thing that I should delete them? Thanks again for your great blog.

    [If you’ve got a .lrcat.Lock and .lrcat.Lock-journal file, it’s because Lightroom’s still open. Close it first and they should disappear, and then you can copy it over. – VB]

  79. Hi there,
    I would really appreciate your help. I just bought a new computer and am installing my old Lightroom 1 on it (it does everything I need so far, and I’ll upgrade to 3 later).

    I copied my files from an external drive to my hard drive and installed Lightroom on the hard drive. I tried double-clicking on the lrcat file, and my computer says it can’t recognize it the file type. I try to click on Lightroom to select the program to open it, and it won’t select. I can open Lightroom just fine. I try to point Lightroom to open the lrcat file, and it doesn’t show up in its file tree.

    I have already deleted and reinstalled Lightroom.

    Can you help me, please? ~Angela

  80. Nevermind–I fixed it. Thank you for hosting the page. ~Angela

    [Hi Angela. Sorry, I’ve been off for a couple of days and I was right in the middle of catching up with emails and posts when you replied. Well done for sorting it out! – VB]

  81. No need to apologize, VB! You are providing a very helpful service for free, so you can do this or not as you choose, and I appreciate your generosity. Now I am about to go use your helpful info on downloading presets and then look for your book on Amazon . . .

  82. Robert J Grau says:

    In all the good tutorials, the pros are using Mac or Apple computers, & I am wondering why. Is the Mac so much better. I am stuck with windows, should I switch to a Mac ? Is it a better choice?

    [It’s just a matter of personal choice Robert – at the end of the day, they’re both tools and they’ll both do the job. Graphics pros often use Macs because of the system wide colour management, which is why you’ll find them in a lot of tutorials. Personally I like the way the Mac OS thinks, and a lot of my favourite Mac software has iPad counterparts, which works well for me. As I spend most of my life sat at a computer, it’s important that I enjoy it. Windows 7 is a huge improvement over previous Windows versions though, and as I said, they’ll both do the job. – VB]

  83. royhanlon says:

    Hi, Victoria, that´s a nice guide on how to move Lightroom to another computer which I will probably have to do in the near future.
    My question would be: when you say ´install Lightroom (the program) ´ what do you have to do about the licensing?
    For a bit of background I was given a legit copy of Lightroom 2 at the end of a photography course in 2008, handing out free cigarettes in the school playground is a great tactic which in my case has worked, from Adobe´s point of view, brilliantly.
    I now have to upgrade to Lightroom 3, I´m currently using a trial version, to process RAW from my new Olympus EPL-2, and that´s fine; I will happily, if not exactly gladly, give them the money.
    So here´s the problem: my laptop, my only computer, is showing the odd sign of age and while I don´t want to change it yet the day may not be far off and when that happens what, exactly, do I do to transfer my, single user, license?
    Oh, and one final glitch, it would be so much easier if I could do all this by download since, although I´m registered with Adobe in the UK, it´s my most stable postal address, I am currently in Malaysia until the end of the year, and probably next year in China, so CD´s, while not impossible, would be pretty inconvenient.
    I´ve spent an age on Adobe´s website trying to get an answer to this without result so if you could resolve, if only partially, some of these problems I would be eternally your creature, or at least very grateful, yours in hope, Roy.

    [Hi Roy, apologies for the delay in replying.
    You shouldn’t have a problem – there’s no activation on Lightroom, so they’re trusting you not to use it on too many machines, so changing the computer won’t be an issue.
    And the trial/update downloads for Lightroom are all the full program, so you’d only need to enter your serial number. You can buy the update serial number online, or order the CD and have it sent to your home address and just get someone at home to email you the serial. – VB]

  84. Richard Green says:

    Hi Victoria
    I would really appreciate your help. I just bought a new Laptop and am installing my Lightroom 2.4. which i use on my window XP computor. My laptop is windows 7 64 bit.
    My computor is on a network in my house so i copied the catalog into a shared folder then transfered it to the laptop and downloaded ligthtroom 2.0 64 bit.
    Every thing seemed ok then notice that the jpegs and dng photos work fine but the raw photos i can view but they have printed across the top (The File appears to be unsupported or damaged) and when i open the develop mode i can view the photo but none of the controls can be used.
    Dont no what to do ? should i update from 2.0 to 2.7? will this help!!
    Thanks,Regards Richard.

    [Hi Richard. Yes, the camera that produced the raw files probably wasn’t supported by 2.0. Just update to 2.7 and you should be fine. – VB]

  85. Hi Victoria
    I have the identical problem as at the start of this page (the migrating from PC to Mac part) plus the following issue.

    The bulk of my image library is on an external hard drive connected to my PC, where I am running Lightroom 2. My latest images are on an external drive connected to my (new) Mac Pro, where I’m running Lightroom 3. Will it be problematic moving and merging the PC image library and the LR2 catalogs with the Mac image library and LR3 catalogs?

    [No, it shouldn’t be too big a problem. I’d be inclined to open the PC catalog on the Mac, let it upgrade and update the folder locations before you merge it with the current Mac catalog, but apart from that, no, it should be fine. Bear in mind that the PC external may be formatted as NTFS, which would be read-only on the Mac by default. And just make sure you’ve set up your folder hierarchy on the PC before you try to move it, to save relinking hundreds of folders individually. If you get stuck, you know where I am. – VB]

  86. Hi a colleague has been having performance issues with Lightroom 3 and as a test ‘moved’ the Lightroom program files etc to the same drive as the data. To his and my amazement this resulted in bot the program still working and a performance increase of an order of magnitude.

    I have sort of done the same on my system. I have just ‘copied’ the entire ‘Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3.4’ directory (found under program files/adobe) to the same disc as the catalogue and files etc. Amazingly Lightroom works when launching from this new location and although I don’t get an order of magnitude improvement there is definitely a margin improvement in performance.

    Any ideas why this should a) work and b) why it should improve performance.

    [Interesting! No, I haven’t a clue why that would improve performance – seems to go against all logic, unless the boot drive was slower than the new drive. Only thing I do wonder about is the camera raw cache location, whether that could be a factor. – VB]

  87. Hi again Victoria

    I have now successfully moved my LR2 catalogs over to my new Mac with LR3 as referred to in my previous question. Before doing so, I upgraded the LR2 on my old pc to LR3 as well. I thought that would avoid any possible hiccups.

    The only problem I have now, is with some derivative PSD’s and Jpegs from the original RAW files.

    Although they are connected, the thumbnails in the grid view in the Library, have an exclamation mark in the top right corner, which when clicked reveals a dialogue box telling me that “the metadata has been changed by both Lightroom and another application” and asking whether I want to “import settings from the disk or overwrite them with those from the catalog”. A similar dialogue box opens when clicking on the exclamation in Develop. This box is headed “Update Process Version” and generally recommends to update my images. I understand what that means, although I’m not so sure about the first box.

    The odd thing is that not all of the derivatives have this exclamation mark. Some have a down arrow telling me that the metadata file needs to be updated.

    So my questions are: Do both dialogue boxes mean the same thing? Should I do as recommended?

    Hope you can help.



    [Hi Terry. Well done!

    Import settings from disk or overwrite – if you’re happy they look correct in LR, then I’d overwrite. That warning comes from metadata that may have changed in 2 places, such as color labels being updated in Bridge as well as Lightroom. In this case, it’s probably as simple as file permissions changing or something along those lines.

    The process version is entirely different – that’s asking if you want to update to use LR’s new processing or stick with the LR2 processing. The only warning that goes with that is some of your pictures may improve! 😉 The noise reduction’s stronger in PV2010, so it might need adjusting a bit if you update PV. – VB]

  88. Hi,

    I hope you can help me. I have been running LR 3 for some time on Mac OX 10.6. My catalog is on an external drive.

    I just bought a new Mac with 10.7. I installed LR 3 on it and connected the external drive to it also.

    But when I try to open the catalog on the new computer I get a message stating that the catalog cannot be opened because the parent folder does not allow files to be written to it.

    I’ve checked the permissions and they are “Read Write” for everyone.

    I don’t understand where this message is coming from. Can you help?


    • Hi TJ. When I see that, it’s often a folder way up the chain – a parent of a parent of a parent folder, or an incorrectly formatted drive (i.e. NTFS on Mac). Might be worth checking the permissions of the whole drive. If that doesn’t do the trick, let me know and we’ll check other possibilities.

  89. Accidental submit :) Take two.

    Namaste Victoria,

    I just returned from almost a year of traveling across India. I had a MacBook Air along for the ride to take care of editing and publishing my photos. When I got home, I transferred my catalogue to my iMac. I did so by exporting the catalogue on the Air to an external drive, and then importing on the new computer. All my images and such came over OK. And I appreciate the help your website has been!

    However I have one problem! I used the LR Flickr plugin to publish all of my photos. i created and maintained several Flickr sets through Lightroom over the year. I essentially used them as collections. Any time I made an update to an image, Lightroom would track and synch with Flickr (knowing what was already published). None of this data came over in the transfer.

    Do you know how Flickr plugin data is stored and how I might get it onto my new system? If it’s not possible to migrate the Flickr plugin data, can I at least create collections from them and import those collections (sans images, since they are already there)? At least that way I would have a collection of all published images.

    Warm regards,

  90. Veryoldhouse says:

    Do these instructions apply to the Student/Teacher Lightroom editions? I recently bought this edition but I am considering buying a new computer in the next six months or so. I do not want to have to buy a new program.

  91. Indianojoe says:

    Hi Victoria –

    Really looking for some help here. I am experiencing a strange color shifting/muting issue with my LR3 when exporting. Here is my workflow detailed and then the issue arising explained:

    1 – copy .nef files from mem cards into respective folders on my external HD.
    2 – import images into LR3
    3 – adjust levels, exposure, etc in LR3
    4 – right click in image in LR3 and click ‘edit in photoshop cs5’ link
    5 – perform edtis then save. I have my preferences set up to save as a Tiff image. Now when I return to LR3 I will have the original .nef and the new Tiff edit side-by-side (1 of 2)

    Exporting as .jpg

    6 – I have a preset saved in my export dialogue that comes up to save in a specific folder, as a .jpg, re-size short edge for X inches, not resized, and at 300 ppi.

    Here’s the issue:

    When opened on my computer, the jpg’s look fantastic: full of detail, rich and sharp tones, vibrant colors. However, when I upload these images onto my stock agency’s site, the colors are coming out a bit softer and not as vibrant. If I, acting as a customer, click on the ‘download sample’ link on the site, the preview jpg that is downloaded is great – just like the one on my hard drive, yet the image online is still looking a bit (and by ‘a bit’ I turly mean it – not something HUGE, just when working at a professional level, I find it hard to rest at night knowing what an editor or collector see’s is not 100% accurate) muted.

    I have experienced this in the past when performing the same export (Tiff to jpg) to upload images onto my website and found a way around it to use Bridge (export Tiff’s out of LR3 into a specific folder then going into Bridge and performing another export from the Tiff –> jpg @ 72ppi) to perform an export there in the default 72ppi – images look fantastic on my site. This option won’t work for me as the agency requires a min of 300ppi at even at a settting of 12 in Bridge, that has given 240ppi resolution.

    My question now simply boils down to what is the issue? Is there a way to address this in some sort of setting or color profile in LR3? Should I follow your steps above and uninstall LR3 and re-install and point it to the saved lrcat. catalogue on my external?

    I am very perplexed by this and it seems nobody has ever heard of this happening before so I have been unable to get ANY advice. I just stumbled across your site today and hope you can help shed some light.

    Do you respond here all the time? It seemed Rich was awaiting a reply and you had done so, however over on your blog. Many many thanks!

    Kind regards,


    • Hi Joe

      Yes, I respond here. It’s just often easier to troubleshoot mysterious problems on the forum or by emails, where back-and-forth conversation is easier.

      A couple of questions for you:

      1. What colour space are you selecting when you export when you export to JPEG?
      2. Which stock agency? If you have a link to one of the photos, it’ll probably be the quickest way to spot the problem.

      • Indianojoe says:

        Wow! Such a quick reply – thank you!!!!

        Sorry that I failed to include that tidbit – Adobe sRGB 1998

        Here is the link to the stock site –

        These photos have not been added to the general library yet as I asked them to be deleted and this link may be locked as it is under my personal account.

        Attached you will find an image that I uploaded yesterday and compared it to it’s native jpg brother noting the differences. The only adjustment here is I limited this file to be within your upload limit here. I will let you ‘test’ it out however you see fit. If you would like, I can send you the direct file in an email if you think this will make a difference, however I was experiencing these issues regardless of file size in the past.

        (looking at the small thumb below, it seems a bit soft here, too.)

        Thank you VERY much!


        • Indianojoe says:


          Is there any way to ‘hide’ my link above to my stock account? It appears that it links to it and this is dangerous to say the least!

          • Don’t worry, I don’t appear to be able to see any private information, but I’ll remove the link anyway.

            I’ll look at the picture properly in the minute, but another question for you – Adobe RGB and sRGB are 2 different spaces – there is no such thing as Adobe sRGB. So which….?

          • Indianojoe says:

            adobeRGB 1998

            Whilst in my stock site, you can go to Manage Assets and find the exact image I sent you here and look at it on their site and also download a sample – comparing the two.

            Let me know if you need anything more to asses this.

            Thanks again!


      • Indianojoe says:


        Can you hide/collapse so outsiders cannot see my link to my stock account? It appears that this links directly to it (for me anyway) and it has all of my detailed info. If you would like, you can email me directly at to further discuss these issues.

        Thank you,


  92. Dear Victoria,

    First and foremost, thank you for your most amazing work! Without you Lightroom would seem like a much darker place… 😉

    Anyhow, I have recently (finally) acquired an actual desktop (after countless years spent hunching above a most wonderful laptop) and would like to start moving my LR3 onto the new computer. As I’ve been using LR from its very beginnings I have used it to store pictures from across the years and find myself now with somewhat of a cumbersomely huge catalogue stored on multiple external hard-drives.
    As in addition to this (add salt to injury) my old faithful laptop was stolen a bit over a year ago (replaced by another laptop) all my previous work in catalogueing and keywording (etc) was irretrievably lost (or so I have assumed all along) and hence I find myself in an odd situation:
    About half of my tens of thousands of pictures are without any order amongst them (except being organised according to the time of shoot) while the other half is neatly filed and ordered, and all are on 4 different hard-drives.
    Is there any way for me to “easily” transfer all of my catalogue onto my new computer while keeping the pictures’ location (on external hard drives) the same? I have still not managed to properly file all the files on my laptop (since the theft of the old one) as I have been so busy working on my current jobs. Will this mean that I will have to import all of the folders one by one and hence lose the catalogueing and keywording on those that have been filed as I need them to be?
    In addition to this, is there any way to “synch” LR on both computers so that when I do need to head out and use my laptop while I travel I can take along a properly filed set of pictures to wherever I need to take them without doing the import/filing process twice?

    Any help would be most greatly appreciated!
    Best regards,

    • Hi Julia, I’m pleased to help.

      Congratulations on the new machine. The good news is it’s very easy to move to a new computer. You just need to follow the instructions above to make sure you have a parent folder for each drive showing in the Folders panel, in case the drive letters change while moving computers. Don’t use the Export as Catalog instructions. Once you’ve got your parent folders, you can copy the catalog and any presets across to the new computer and plug in the external drives, leaving the photos exactly where they are on the external drives. Open the catalog, and you may need to relink the parent folders with new drive letters.

      Later, you can import the rest of the old photos into the same catalog, and the import will skip any photos that have already been imported, so you wouldn’t lose your cataloguing or keywording.

      Keeping 2 computers in sync is a little more tricky, but definitely possible. There are a few options, so I’ll need a bit more information – are you wanting to just import new photos out on the road, and then merge them with your main catalog when you get back, or do you want to work with existing photos while you’re traveling too?

      • Victoria,

        Many thanks for such a swift reply!
        I would very much like to work on the pictures on my laptop and/or my new desktop … the idea is that I do not always find myself in front of my desktop for a while but still would need to process pictures…. would there be any way of keeping the changes made, or in some way transferring, as it were, the settings onto the desktop and vice versa?
        For example yesterday, I had to take edited photos with me and so I found myself sitting in front of the laptop to do the adjustments since I did not know how easy/difficult it would be to transfer changes made on the desktop onto my laptop. This is especially important for me since I like to be able to show changes that can be made to my clients without having to then export some of the pictures onto another platform. This allows me to present a variety of different options to especially picky and demanding clients and then make adjustments on the spot if need be.

        Both computers are running on Mac OS X and LR3 :)

        Thanks again for your precious time and help!
        All the best,

        • So are you planning on carrying all 4 external hard drives around with you too? If so, the easiest option would be to store the catalog on one of those external drives, along with the photos, and it’ll then be available on whichever computer you plug the external in to.

  93. Hi Victoria,

    Your site has been incredibly helpful. Thank you! I have a quick question for you. I followed your instructions to transfer my catalogue, presets, and preferences to my iMac from my macbook pro. When viewing the files in the lightroom library, none of the changes I had made to the images using presets pulled over with the files. Is there a way to export the files from the old computer and import to the new computer in such a way that the presets used on individual files pull over?

    My apologies in advance if there is an obvious answer to this question… I’m a bit of a newbie with LR.


    • Hi Logan. The changes you made to the images, whether with presets or not, are stored in the catalog file. If those changes aren’t showing up, then it sounds like you might have reimported files or imported them into a new catalog?

      Talk me through what you’ve done so far and we’ll figure out what’s happened.

  94. thanks for your site. I followed your directions and transferred my stuff from a PC to a new MAC. The catalog is now on the MAC and i can see the photos but when i try to access them, it says “the file is offline or missing” even if i have the external hard drive from where the files were loaded running and attached, lightroom still can’t find them.

    • Hi Michael

      Which of the 2 options did you use – move and relink or export as catalog?
      I’ve just spotted an error in the instructions – you don’t want to transfer the catalog to the internal drive until you’re back up and running – export as catalog creates relative links, relative to the catalog location.

      That said, your folders panel should be in a hierarchy now? If you want to post a screenshot of your Folders, I’ll talk you through it from here. Don’t worry, easily sorted.

  95. THANKS A TON!!!

  96. THANKS A TON!!!

  97. Hi
    I used Optiopn 1 when moving a 20K image catalogue from a LR 2 on a PPC PowerMAC to LR3 on an Intel Mac Pro. Went like a dream…

    Only thing was time taken to copy the image files across. Copied them to my main NAS box and back to the new Mac. SO that took a few hours. I now have 2 copies but the one on the NAS box is now my back up copy. IT wil replace the original back up file.

  98. Hi
    I used Optiopn 1 when moving a 20K image catalogue from a LR 2 on a PPC PowerMAC to LR3 on an Intel Mac Pro. Went like a dream…

    Only thing was time taken to copy the image files across. Copied them to my main NAS box and back to the new Mac. SO that took a few hours. I now have 2 copies but the one on the NAS box is now my back up copy. IT wil replace the original back up file.

  99. Hi
    I used Optiopn 1 when moving a 20K image catalogue from a LR 2 on a PPC PowerMAC to LR3 on an Intel Mac Pro. Went like a dream…

    Only thing was time taken to copy the image files across. Copied them to my main NAS box and back to the new Mac. SO that took a few hours. I now have 2 copies but the one on the NAS box is now my back up copy. IT wil replace the original back up file.

  100. Catearly76 says:

    Hi Victoria,
    Thanks for your website, how I wish I’d found it a couple of weeks ago!

    I recently bought a new laptop to replace my old one – both pcs. I paid some IT people to move all my data, including Lightroom, thinking they would save me time(!) It turns out they lied about their knowledge of Lightroom, which was non-existent and they’ve made a bit of a hash of it (luckily I got my money back!)

    All the folders are listed, but the links are all missing. My old laptop had a C-drive and a D-drive, whereas the new one only has a C-drive. When I click on “find missing folder” and follow the instructions, it moves the folder to the C-drive parent folder in Lightroom. Now there is no question mark on the folder, but all the images still have question marks on them. When I click on the question mark in the Develop module, as per instructions, it doesn’t come up with this menu:

    as on your instructions. It just comes up with a drop-down box with options: Lock to second window, Show in Explorer, Go to folder in library etc etc etc.

    At any rate, I can’t face having to find every one of 3,500 photos!

    I’m tempted to uninstall Lightroom and start again following your instructions rather than try and work out what they’ve done, but please let me know if there’s a simple solution to this before I do that.



  101. Catearly76 says:

    Hi Victoria,
    Thanks for your website, how I wish I’d found it a couple of weeks ago!

    I recently bought a new laptop to replace my old one – both pcs. I paid some IT people to move all my data, including Lightroom, thinking they would save me time(!) It turns out they lied about their knowledge of Lightroom, which was non-existent and they’ve made a bit of a hash of it (luckily I got my money back!)

    All the folders are listed, but the links are all missing. My old laptop had a C-drive and a D-drive, whereas the new one only has a C-drive. When I click on “find missing folder” and follow the instructions, it moves the folder to the C-drive parent folder in Lightroom. Now there is no question mark on the folder, but all the images still have question marks on them. When I click on the question mark in the Develop module, as per instructions, it doesn’t come up with this menu:

    as on your instructions. It just comes up with a drop-down box with options: Lock to second window, Show in Explorer, Go to folder in library etc etc etc.

    At any rate, I can’t face having to find every one of 3,500 photos!

    I’m tempted to uninstall Lightroom and start again following your instructions rather than try and work out what they’ve done, but please let me know if there’s a simple solution to this before I do that.



  102. Catearly76 says:

    Hi Victoria,
    Thanks for your website, how I wish I’d found it a couple of weeks ago!

    I recently bought a new laptop to replace my old one – both pcs. I paid some IT people to move all my data, including Lightroom, thinking they would save me time(!) It turns out they lied about their knowledge of Lightroom, which was non-existent and they’ve made a bit of a hash of it (luckily I got my money back!)

    All the folders are listed, but the links are all missing. My old laptop had a C-drive and a D-drive, whereas the new one only has a C-drive. When I click on “find missing folder” and follow the instructions, it moves the folder to the C-drive parent folder in Lightroom. Now there is no question mark on the folder, but all the images still have question marks on them. When I click on the question mark in the Develop module, as per instructions, it doesn’t come up with this menu:

    as on your instructions. It just comes up with a drop-down box with options: Lock to second window, Show in Explorer, Go to folder in library etc etc etc.

    At any rate, I can’t face having to find every one of 3,500 photos!

    I’m tempted to uninstall Lightroom and start again following your instructions rather than try and work out what they’ve done, but please let me know if there’s a simple solution to this before I do that.



  103. Catearly76 says:

    Hi Victoria,
    Thanks for your website, how I wish I’d found it a couple of weeks ago!

    I recently bought a new laptop to replace my old one – both pcs. I paid some IT people to move all my data, including Lightroom, thinking they would save me time(!) It turns out they lied about their knowledge of Lightroom, which was non-existent and they’ve made a bit of a hash of it (luckily I got my money back!)

    All the folders are listed, but the links are all missing. My old laptop had a C-drive and a D-drive, whereas the new one only has a C-drive. When I click on “find missing folder” and follow the instructions, it moves the folder to the C-drive parent folder in Lightroom. Now there is no question mark on the folder, but all the images still have question marks on them. When I click on the question mark in the Develop module, as per instructions, it doesn’t come up with this menu:

    as on your instructions. It just comes up with a drop-down box with options: Lock to second window, Show in Explorer, Go to folder in library etc etc etc.

    At any rate, I can’t face having to find every one of 3,500 photos!

    I’m tempted to uninstall Lightroom and start again following your instructions rather than try and work out what they’ve done, but please let me know if there’s a simple solution to this before I do that.



  104. Catearly76 says:

    Hi Victoria,
    Thanks for your website, how I wish I’d found it a couple of weeks ago!

    I recently bought a new laptop to replace my old one – both pcs. I paid some IT people to move all my data, including Lightroom, thinking they would save me time(!) It turns out they lied about their knowledge of Lightroom, which was non-existent and they’ve made a bit of a hash of it (luckily I got my money back!)

    All the folders are listed, but the links are all missing. My old laptop had a C-drive and a D-drive, whereas the new one only has a C-drive. When I click on “find missing folder” and follow the instructions, it moves the folder to the C-drive parent folder in Lightroom. Now there is no question mark on the folder, but all the images still have question marks on them. When I click on the question mark in the Develop module, as per instructions, it doesn’t come up with this menu:

    as on your instructions. It just comes up with a drop-down box with options: Lock to second window, Show in Explorer, Go to folder in library etc etc etc.

    At any rate, I can’t face having to find every one of 3,500 photos!

    I’m tempted to uninstall Lightroom and start again following your instructions rather than try and work out what they’ve done, but please let me know if there’s a simple solution to this before I do that.



    • Hi Cat. No worries, I’m sure we can get you sorted out.

      On one of the question marks on the thumbnails in the Library module, LEFT click on the thumbnail rather than right click (it’s right-click for folders – I know, confusing!). Try it on one and see if it finds the rest of the folder.

      If not, no panic, just email me a screenshot of your Folders panel showing the folders that contain the missing photos.

      Don’t uninstall LR – that won’t achieve anything. But do you still have the old PC around? If so, that’ll probably be the quickest way of sorting it.

  105. Very helpful!! Thanks Victoria.

  106. Very helpful!! Thanks Victoria.

  107. Very helpful!! Thanks Victoria.

  108. Very helpful!! Thanks Victoria.

  109. Thanks for this, extremely handy, I have sent it to everyone I know that uses LR.

    I am actually looking to use LR on a second USER on the same machine. Is it just a simple case of pointing to the catalogue and that’s it? no need to re-import or move the images to the new users directories? Both users have full access to each others data so there is no security or access issues. Thanks in advance.

  110. Thanks for this, extremely handy, I have sent it to everyone I know that uses LR.

    I am actually looking to use LR on a second USER on the same machine. Is it just a simple case of pointing to the catalogue and that’s it? no need to re-import or move the images to the new users directories? Both users have full access to each others data so there is no security or access issues. Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Dave, yes, if you’ve both got access to the same data, then it should just be a case of opening the catalog. If you have fast user switching turned on, it won’t let you open it while the other person has it open, but apart from that, you should be fine I think. You might want to look at storing the presets with the catalog, which is an option in preferences.

  111. Ryan Azad says:

    Hi Victoria. My HD recently needed to be formatted (OS error), so I had all the files backed up to an external HD. Afterwards, I dragged my “Lightroom” folder, which contains my catalog and previews, back onto my HD. However, when I try to open my catalog that I’ve been using for over 3 years, I receive an error message– “Lightroom cannot use the catalog named “xx” because it is not writable and cannot be opened.” I already checked permissions and that’s not the issue, so I’m a bit confused (and scared!) as to what to do. I tried opening another, older catalog I have and it works just fine. Any advice?

    • Hi Ryan, don’t panic. I’m sure it’s something we can sort out. First things first, which operating system are you running, and which LR version? First thought is it may not be the catalog permissions, but the folder or a parent folder containing that catalog.

  112. Megellens says:

    I moved my catalog to a new computer. Almost everything looks find – except it didn’t transfer my color codes. I use them for smart collections, so they showed as empty since I didn’t have any “blue” photos. How do I get the attributes to all transfer?

    • Did you move the catalog, or just import the photos? Assuming you moved the catalog, just try going to Metadata menu > Color Label Set and check the names match the names of the labels you used previously.

  113. Hi Victoria.

    I recently had a drive fail which stored my images and the Lightroom catalogue. I use LR 2.0 on a Mac running 10.5.8. I had a second copy so switched to using that without any problem but I wanted to make a safety copy on a new drive which would then become my master as the drive is a better make.
    I copied everything on the old drive to the new one with Super Duper. Before I opened Lightroom I renamed the new drive and the old one. Now neither will work with Lightroom when I try to open the catalogue file. When I try this with either drive the error message comes up “Lightroom cannot use the catalog named “xx” because it is not writable and cannot be opened”. It also says that this may be because of faulty permissions. I’m the administrator though and have read/write access to both drives. Is it just the name change which is confusing things?

    Any thoughts would be very welcome!

    Many thanks.

    • Hi John, double check that there’s not a .lrcat.lock file next to the catalog – that shouldn’t be there when the catalog’s closed.
      Other than that, double check that the permissions have applied to all of the folders and subfolders, as sometimes it can be a parent folder that’s causing the error message. If that still doesn’t do the trick, just try renaming the catalog (and the previews) – I’ve seen a false error message once or twice. And if that still doesn’t do the trick, we’ll rack our brains further!

    • Thank you very much Victoria. Will try that asap. John

  114. That’s all it was Victoria, the permissions in the lrcat and previews folders didn’t match and once I’d sorted that out the programme could recognise the catalogue. Thank you very much for your help. It’s great to be able to rule out so many other more worrying things so quickly. John

  115. I have LR3. I have been told my hard drive is failing and I want to move LR3 to a new computer. I read your instruction and it says you need the disc to move the program. I downloaded it online and never had a disc… can I still do move the program?

    • Hey Rob, that’s no trouble. Each update/trial version that’s available for download from the Adobe website is the full program installation, so you can use that to install and then type in your serial number. Just download the latest version.

  116. Maureenpetru says:

    Hello Victoria-

    I am trying to transfer lightroom 3 from an old computer ( windows vista) that has one foot in the grave to a new computer (windows 7). I used option 1. When I go in through the pictures folder to the lightroom folder and then click on Lightroom 3 Catalog, I get this error message: “The Lightroom catalog named Lightroom 3 Catalog cannot be opened because it is from an earlier version of Lightroom. Would you like to select a different catalog.”. I then have the option of 1. Choose a different catalog or 2. Exit. HELP! If it makes any difference, I did download the lightroom 4 beta program on the old computer, and also downloaded it onto the new computer.

    • Hi Maureen, try opening Lightroom 3 and go to File menu > Open Catalog and navigate to it that way. I think the Lightroom 4 beta has just changed the file associations, so it’s trying to open any Lightroom catalogs into LR4beta. No big problem, so don’t worry too much about that. I can talk you through how to fix the associations, but it’s not likely to cause you a problem once you’ve done this first step.

  117. Cornelia-I says:

    Hi Victoria,

    As you do not mention the previews (Folder Previews.lrdata) I assume you suggest that the new computer should create them itself ?
    Is there an easy way to trigger that on the new computer so that it will run some days&nights to complete that for a biggish catalog?
    When I try the “Library Menu – Previews – Render Standard-sized previews” it takes a long time scanning for existing previews, and it stalls at some point.
    So I have tried smaller portions.
    I guess the stalling might be due to some corrupted files on my NAS?
    I had to recover some of them a while ago and now they have funny file names, but otherwise seem ok when accessing them directly from both the old and the new catalog, so I do not understand why there should be problems in scanning them for previews.

    Are previews dependant on OS? Or could I think of using file synch software to move my 85 GB of previews over to the new computer (which is Win7-64 bit, the old one was 32 bit) ?

    Thanks, Cornelia

    • Hi Cornelia, oh I didn’t notice that I hadn’t mentioned the previews, thanks! Yes, should be able to copy them over to the new computer. Or just set a chunk running overnight. I’m not sure why it’s stalling though – I’d probably try optimizing the catalog, see if that helps.

  118. Hello Victoria,

    Now that LR4 is out (hooray) and I am changing from an XP computer (32-bit) to a new Windows 7 (64-bit) computer, I guess that I simply download the LR4 to the new computer and copy the folders as you have mentioned on this page. If so how do I find the serial number on the XP machine (as I used the download version)?

    I initially thought to transfer LR3 to the new computer and then simply upgrade to LR4, but did not think moving 32-bit to 64-bit is correct? and also how would serial number be transfered?

    Thanks, Nigel

    • I have just found my serial number on the Adobe account section, do you think that copying 32-bit folders to 64-bit OS might be a problem?

      • Hi Nigel.

        Copying the folders between OS versions shouldn’t be a major issue. There may be some file/folder permissions to sort out, but as long as those are correct, Lightroom won’t be worried.

        Install LR4 directly onto the new W7 machine (congratulations!). I wouldn’t worry about installing LR3 on the new computer – just enter your LR3 serial number when LR4 upgrade version asks for proof of a previous copy.

        And then follow the instructions above. When you come to open the LR3 catalog on the new W7 machine, it’ll ask you to upgrade the catalog for use with LR4, which just adds an extra step to the instructions.

        Any questions or problems, just ask.

        • Thank you, the new computer arrived this morning and I feel like a big kid waiting till work finishes so I can get home to try it out…..I’m always the same when a new release comes out!!
          I’m looking forward to render times less than 30 seconds!….
          I have added your site to my RSS and look forward to more of your informative posts

  119. my pic file are on an external drive; can I then uninstall from old computer and then install on new computer if I have all the codes? thanks for your help. Terry

    • Hi Tayter, just make sure you follow the first lot of instructions above to ensure that it’s easy to link the files up on the new computer, and don’t forget to copy your catalog onto the new computer if it’s not on the external drive with the photos.

  120. Thanks for the tut on transferring. I’ve transferred most of my photos but many of my edited shots are not found…Any Ideas why and where they might be!
    Thanks for your help

  121. Can I buy lightroom 4 download it to my work computer, and also use at home- is it just a serial number that I put in on various coomputers?

  122. Hi Victoria

    I have already installed my lightroom on two machines and now need to replace one with a new computer (MAC) how do I transfer the licence from one of the older machines to the new one. Adobe will surely not let me have three installation. Thanks for your help

  123. Hi Victoria! I found your tutorial through google and decided that you know a lot about Lightroom. I was wondering if you could help me with this issue of mine.

    I bought a student/teacher version of lightroom because I am a teacher. I downloaded lightroom 3 on my school/work laptop and suddenly, the program deleted completely off my harddrive while some tech guys were working on it (it’s a macbook pro) Can I reinstall it? I am asking this because I ordered a personal computer (not for teaching) and would like to download lightroom on that computer once it comes in. Will LR allow me to reinstall on my work/school computer AND my personal one?

    Thank you so much for your time!

    Take Care,

    • Hi Tory, yes, that should be fine. The education version is the same program but with a cheaper license, so you can just download the latest version (3.6) from Adobe and install that without installing 3.0 first. There’s no activation to worry about, and the license allows you to have it installed on 2 different computers.

  124. Dwoodruff says:

    I will be moving from a PC to a Mac next week and moving my LR2 over. I also want to upgrade to LR4. Can you suggest what order I should do this?

    Thank you.

    • As long as you’ve followed the instructions for setting up a folder hierarchy, then you should be fine to do it all in one go. Go from LR2 on PC straight over to LR4 on Mac. Skip straight to LR4.1RC on the Mac to avoid a couple of upgrade bugs and then it’ll upgrade the catalog and you can relink the photos to their new Mac location. Leave the photos safely on the PC until you’re happy you’ve got everything running on the Mac, but it should be quite straightforward.

  125. Msmithm says:

    How would you recommend moving folders back and forth between LR on two different computers (such as a desktop and laptop)? Also, would this be easier if it was being moved between the same (copied) catalog on both computers, or would that not matter?


    • That depends – how often are you doing it? If you’re doing it regularly, I’d probably just put the whole catalog on an external drive, and plug that drive into whichever computer you’re using. Dropbox could work the same way if both computers are always connected to the internet. Other than that, export as catalog and import from catalog would be a safe bet.

  126. You mention for Option 1 – Move and Relink to “Find and copy your catalog to the new computer. ” I’m moving my pictures from original internal HDD (almost full) to another internal HDD that I just got (I backup to an external eSata HDD). I’m using Windows 7 with LR3 and when I navigate to the correct folder I see 6 files there (2 each of *.lrcat, *.lrcat.lock and *.lrcar-journal). I have two catalogs that I use (Lightroom 3 Catalog) and another specific images catalog (technical files) but this is not named the same thing in the Explorer view (Temporary Import Data). Can you please help me understand which files that I need to move and to where? Thanks so much.

    • Those extra files are because LR’s still open. When you close LR, the lock and journal files should disappear. The Temporary Import Data, I’d check and see how old it is. I’ve seen those left behind by much older LR versions – if it’s really old, you could probably delete it.

      • Vicki – Thanks so much for getting back to me, I really do appreciate it. I shutdown LR and see the Lightroom 3 Catalog.lrcat file and four Temporary Import Data files that are all dated 1/3/11. I guess I can safely delete all of them. As I mentioned I do have two catalogs with the other pictures in the smaller catalog in a separate directory off the C: drive. LR3 tells me the Catalog file is in this same directory, but when I look at the directory in Explorer, there’s no .lrcat file to be found. Any idea why I can’t seem to find this one? Please let me know, thanks.

  127. My client has all his image files and catalogs on an external drive using them this way on computer #1. He’s moving to another location where computer #2 has LR4 installed. Will he be able to simply open the catalog on the external drive and have complete access to his image files on computer #2? Thanks for your help

    • Hi trfoto, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I was off on holiday last week. Yes, in theory he should just be able to open the catalog and carry on working as normal. I’d probably follow the instructions to set it up as a folder hierarchy, just in case the drive letter changes along the way (which OS?), and depending on the OS, there might be some permissions issues to figure out too.

  128. Jedsmen says:

    Thanks for the advice – much more helpful than the Adobe support people!

  129. seoking12 says:

    which is generally my preferred option, or using Export as Catalog, which is handy if data is scattered across your computer.

  130. seoking12 says:

    Now on your external hard drive should be a catalog, with an Images folder containing all of your negative files. It should warn you if it couldn’t transfer some files.

  131. Do I have to also recreate my cache folder also or can I move that too? Perhaps just recreate them after I move?

  132. David P. says:

    What about moving plug-ins? I’m moving LR3 from an XP machine to a newer Win7 system. Can I just copy the Plugins directory from the old Program Files directory to the new installation?

  133. Michael says:

    Hi Victoria – many thanks for the tutorial – I apologise if someone already asked this but I was wondering if you can help. I’ll be moving to a new computer but I am planning to migrate my 1Tb hard drive (on which the files and LR3 are currently installed) over to the new computer where I’ll install LR3 on the SSD. What steps should I take before moving – should I leave LR3 installed on the migrating 1TB drive and reinstall it on the new SSD and let if find the previous settings? Or would I need to uninstall LR3 on the old HDD first? Thank you!

  134. Michael says:

    Hi Victoria, wow, very quick response! The 1TB drive is the boot drive on my current computer but won’t be on the new computer – this will be the SSD. Both computers run on Win7. Catalogue currently stored on the 1Tb system with everything else.

    • You caught me sat at my computer composing a blog post! 😉

      Ok, the drive letter will be different, so make sure you’ve set up the folder hierarchy (as above) before you move, to make it easy to relink the files. And make sure you know how to find the photos and catalog on the hard drive if they’re currently in the My Pictures folder – perhaps move them to the root of the drive. You’ve got good backups on another drive too, I hope?

      Other than that, yes, install LR3 on the SSD. I wouldn’t worry about uninstalling LR from the 1TB – I assume you’re going to delete all of the OS and program files from the 1TB once you’ve moved it?

      • Michael says:

        Ah, that explains it! Appreciated nonetheless! Will work through setting up the folder hierarchy. So move photos from My Pictures to e.g. C:/? I have back-ups on an external drive but think I’ll re-back-up just to make sure…and might consider the LR4 upgrade once the move is (hopefully successfully) complete…..we’ll see :)

        • I would move them back to C: personally. Once it’s on the new machine, you don’t want to have to rummage through the full C:usersyourusername…. path every time you want to find them!

          • Michael says:

            Okay, great – should I do this before or after I do the folder hierarchy thing as I guess I’d have to relink them before migrating? Sorry for all the questions!

          • I’d set up the folder hierarchy first, and then I’d move them to C: and relink (good practice while you can still put them back!) and then I’d switch to the new computer.

          • Thanks so much for your help! I think I’ll look out your book if I decided to upgrade to LR4! Invaluable help! :

          • You’re very welcome Michael. There is an LR3 version too, if you don’t end up upgrading (but I think it’s a worthwhile upgrade!)

  135. Hi Victoria,
    I copied the whole “My Pictures”, containing the photos, the Lightroom folder with the catalog file, the backups and the previews to a new W7-64 computer, where the same Lightroom 3.6 was installed.
    After opening Lightroom, most changes to pictures and the whole history logs are lost.
    Of the 16000+ pictures, around 1200 will have to be re-synchronised, as the previews lost their link to the raw or jpg files.

    What can I do to get them back? I didn’t copy the settings folders. Is that the reason?
    How come some of the pictures kept their changes, while most of them are just the original?
    Where are the history logs? I know they are just logs for non-intrusive changes, but they help to remember what changes were applied.

    • No no no, don’t synchronize. LR can’t lose the changes to the photos and history just by copying the catalog to a new computer. It might lose the link to the photos, but that’s not an immediate issue – all you need to do in that case it find the missing links. The synchronize folder command is by far the most dangerous in the whole program, as it essentially removes (losing all of the settings) and reimports. When you say the some pictures kept their changes, I’d bet those had xmp settings which were read when you reimported (intentionally or otherwise). The history’s stored in the catalog along with the rest of the settings. This time, start again, but don’t touch synchronize – copy the catalog and relink the files, as per the instructions above.

      • Thank you for your quick response!
        It makes sense, as recently I changed the settings to save to xmp.
        In fact, I copied the complete catalog and files a second time after I had synchronised. The second time however, might have run synchronise, but without actually go trough with it, just to find out if files got lost in the process.
        Is it best to delete all files before restarting the transfer? Is it best to use method 2?

        • A strange thing is that in both copy cases, recent additions to the catalog are missing in the navigator: no folders no files.
          Recent backups on the original laptop were inadvertently saved in the wrong folder. I corrected this, but I don’t think that has anything to do with my problem.
          I thank you very much for your help.

      • I found out what the problem was.
        At some time in the past I must have started LR double-clicking on a backup catalog. It probably happened when correcting the backup path. Because LR standard settings are to open the last opened catalog, I opened that previous catalog time after time again. On the original computer however, the most recent catalog was still the one I worked with. So that issue is solved.
        Normally I add new pictures using the synchronize feature. Is that the best way?

        • Dear Victoria,
          After I moved the most recent catalog to its rightful place, all pictures seems to be there, along with their history log. After that the move to the new PC went well.
          But I still have a problem as “Synchronize folder” still thinks there are 400+ pictures missing in the catalog. But they are not missing (no question marks, no messages). How can I make LR understand that?
          I find “Synchronize folder” to be the better way to import pictures from various folders and subfolders in one go.
          Can you help me?

          • Hi Thierry. Ok, so when you press the Show Missing Photos button, does it group those 400 photos into a collection? And are they all from the same folder or scattered around? Any chance of a screenshot so I can see what you’re seeing?

          • Hi Victoria,
            After switching LR to English to create the screenshot I realize now my explanation is a bit confusing. LR does not show them as “missing”. But LR wants to “Import” those 400+ pictures all over again, while they are already in the catalog. These photos are from different folders. Most of the time, they are only a part of the pictures in that folder. Some of them are pictures I did some work on.
            I keep all the pictures of all (sub)folders of “Fotos” in one single catalog.
            Is it ok to import them when “Don’t import suspected duplicates” is on?

          • Ah, ok, yes, you can just ignore that then. The ‘don’t import suspected duplicates’ doesn’t actually run until you either open the Import dialog or run the import. If you hit ok, it’ll just skip the duplicates.

  136. I have an external hard drive for my laptop with lightroom2, and all the pictures and information stored on it. I just bought a new computer and loaded lightroom4 on it, and want to take the external hard drive and connect it to the new computer. How do I have lightroom 4 use all the information from LR2 on that external hard?

    • It should automatically pick up your previous used catalog when you run LR4, but if it doesn’t, you can go to File menu > Open Catalog and navigate to the catalog on your external hard drive. It will then ask to upgrade your catalog, so say yes to it, and you should be all set.

  137. Thank you for the very informative instructions. I store my photos on an external hard drive and my Lightroom 3 catalog on my internal hard drive on my Windows XP PC. I am planning to buy a new Mac. You indicated that OS X can’t natively write to a NTFS formatted drive. Will I be able to place the LR catalog on my new Mac and also have the new Mac read from and write to my external drive to access my photos? If so, what additional steps, if any, versus those you have described would I need to do.

    Thank you.

    • Hi Mike. OSX would be able to read from the NTFS drive, so yes, you’ll be able to copy the catalog to the Mac internal drive. If you copy the photos onto the internal drive temporarily too, then you’ll be able to reformat the external drive and copy the photos back again.

      • Victoria when you say copy the photos onto the internal drive temporarily too , then format the external drive and copy the photos back , do you mean copy the photos back onto the PC internal drive or the Mac internal drive while your re formatting the external drive ? I seem to be in the same situation Mike was in. I have moved my catalog over to the mac successfully but my photos have always been on external drive.

        • Hi Chris. If the external drive is formatted using NTFS, then the Mac wouldn’t be able to write to it, so you’d need to reformat the drive as HFS. Doing that would wipe all the data, so you’d need to temporarily move the photos and any other data to another location (another external would be ok too) in order to reformat the external drive, and then you could put the photos back on the original external drive if you want to.

          • Hi Victoria , thanks for responding . I will look into getting a larger external HD and move everything off my older external HD’s onto a new one going through the mac and take it from there. Thanks again, Chris

          • Excellent plan Chris, shout if you get stuck.

  138. Hi! Good tutorials! I hope you can help me….I am in trouble! I have my L2 catalog on an hard disk (pc was broken, but saved its hard disk and backups), I am trying to open it with a Mac which has L4 (mine was windows with LR 2.7). Problem is that it numbers the files differently, so even if I do File->open catalog then upgrade, I can see the metadata of each file, even my red label, but not the photo itself. I need to get hold of my photos with the editing that I had done, and I am afraid if I synchronize, it will just re-import everything, loosing the postprocessing/selection info! Help! Thanks!

    • What do you mean it numbers the files differently? That doesn’t sound quite right. Don’t go synchronizing or reimporting – post on the forum or drop me an email and we’ll figure it out.

  139. Christian says:

    Hi Victoria, great tutorial, but I am stuck now. I have Lightroom 3 and I had to reinstall windows so I did the backup in lightroom and copied the lightroom folder on my external hard drive including

    catalogue 3 previews
    catalogue 3 previews copy
    catalogue 3 Lcrat files ( I double clicked here for reinstalling)
    some temporary import data files and journals

    After the reinstallation I installed lightroom and following your instruction I double clicked the lcrat catalogue the folder, lightroom loaded, I imported the copied catalogue but my issue is now that it included the original photos but not my modification, do what do I need to do to get them back?

    Many many thanks for your help

    • Hi Christian. It sounds like you’ve probably just opened the wrong catalog. You said there were 2? Try double clicking on the other one. When you say you “imported the copied catalog”, can you tell me more about that?

  140. Hey Victoria, thanks for your instructions. I’m going from mac to mac, so fairly simple. Forgive my stupidity, but when you say ‘Find and copy your catalog to the new computer’, does that mean all the catalog files (ircat.lock, ircat-journal, catalog previews.Irdata and Backups)?

    Also, when you say ‘Find and copy your images to the new computer’, where am I looking and what is the role of file synchronisation software?

    Sorry for such amateur questions


    • No worries batesy. The .lrcat.lock and .lrcat-journal should automatically disappear when you close LR, so it’s just the catalog, the previews, and maybe the backups to transfer. If you’re not sure where your photos are stored, open LR and right-click on a photo and choose Show in Finder. That should point you in the right direction.

      This blog post has since been replaced with a more detailed version here:

      That said, if you’re going Mac to Mac, have you tried Apple’s own migration tool? It sounds like you’ve left everything in the default locations, so it might be simpler to do that.

    • No worries batesy. The .lrcat.lock and .lrcat-journal should automatically disappear when you close LR, so it’s just the catalog, the previews, and maybe the backups to transfer. If you’re not sure where your photos are stored, open LR and right-click on a photo and choose Show in Finder. That should point you in the right direction.

      This blog post has since been replaced with a more detailed version here:

      That said, if you’re going Mac to Mac, have you tried Apple’s own migration tool? It sounds like you’ve left everything in the default locations, so it might be simpler to do that.

  141. memories muse says:

    Hi, i backed up all photos and lightroom2 catalog from pc to external. But whenever i try to open on new pc with lightroom 5 it says file corrupt. Ive backed up catalog 3 times…..what am i doing wrong?

  142. Hi Victoria,

    I am trying to move Lightroom from PC to Mac and am already stuck at the beginning of your instructions. I downloaded the most up to date version of Lightroom onto my Mac. I have an older version on the PC. My question is, now that I have Lightroom 5 on my Mac, when I follow the rest of your instructions and move my files, I will then be able to use Lightroom 5? Because right now it’s a trial download and is asking me to “Buy” or “Try”.

    Also, I don’t understand this at all: If you’re switching from Windows to Mac in the move, remember that OS X can’t natively write to a NTFS formatted drive, so either format as FAT32, or remember you’ll need to copy the data off and reformat again once you’ve finished moving.

    Do you mind ‘dumbing’ that down for me a bit? I’m not familiar with that terminology.

    Thank you for your help!

  143. Hello Victoria

    I needed to re-install Lightroom because of issues with Windows 7. I have followed all instructions and everything is as before…my catalog has been re-imported, photos are linked up, old presets re-imported and the folder hierarchy maintained.

    Except, I can’t see the Edit History for any photo. Even when I open an edited photo in the Develop panel all the sliders are at their default settings. This is mystifying, because according to what I have understood so far if the Catalog has been properly imported History should also appear.

    Please help

    PS For this photo I know that I have played around with the various sliders to get this look but as you can see in the screengrab the sliders are all at 0

    • Hi Bhas. You’re quite right in your thinking – there should be entries in the History panel, beyond just the import state. That would make me think that possibly you copied the wrong catalog. I’ve seen cases like this, where someone has accidentally ended up working on a backup copy of the catalog some months previously, and therefore the catalog they should have copied was buried in the backup folders. Do you have all your backups? Might be worth checking in the folders to see if there’s a backup with a previews folder next to it.

  144. Hi there and thanks for the great tutorial
    However I still have an issue. I imported my (latest) backup catalog and got the little question mark on most of my photos. I followed the steps you described (located each photo separately) but the edit history is still missing :(
    Anything I can do about that?


    • Hi Nikolas. The history should still be there if you’ve opened a backup catalog. If you open it on the old machine, can you see the edit history ok?

      • Thanks for the reply
        No, the history is not on the old lightroom version (3.6) – missing from there too

        • That explains why it’s missing on the new machine then. The question is when did it go missing. You could try going back through old backup catalogs to see if you can track it down, but if it’s long ago, it’s probably just worth moving forward from here.

  145. Dumb question warning: LightRoom is on my wife’s computer and we need to move it to a new computer. I assume I could extract product key et al from that install on old computer. We have moved recently and I cannot find the media (not helping my position any). If I have the product key from the current install, can I download the equivalent of a trial and then enter the product key to make it permanent (before or after uninstalling from the source machine). Her Dell is very near death and hard to work with, moving it to a much new HP running Windows 8. Wondering if this is doable or if I have to bite the bullet and buy new. Thanks,

    • Hi Mike. Not a dumb question at all! Do you remember whether it was a full version or an upgrade? If it was a full version, just open it and go to Help menu > System Info and the serial number will be listed there at the top. If it was an upgrade, we need to do a bit more digging to find the older serial too. And then yes, you can just download the latest release from Adobe. For example, if you have LR4, you can download 4.4.1 from Adobe’s website. If you have LR5, you can skip to 5.3 or the trial version.

      • It was a full version and thanks so much for your excellent and timely assistance. So, once I figure out what version she has (likely whatever was current about a year ago) … seems like I can download trial and give it the key and she’s good to go (and we can get one more thing off the Dell before it collapses).

  146. Jeremiah says:

    How does one relink graphical images for watermarks once all of the presets and whatnots have been moved? My user name is not the same on the new computer, so Lightroom is not finding it on its own.

  147. I am using Light room 5 on my iMac. I plug in my external hard drive with my lightroom catalog and Lightroom won’t open. when I try to eject the hard drive a message shows up saying that it can’t be ejected because Lightroom is in use. I have no problem opening lightroom with the same external hard rive on another computer. I recently installed lightroom 5.4 on the computer I am having the iMac- the computer I am having trouble with. Any thoughts?


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