When you opened Lightroom the very first time, Lightroom created a catalog to store the information about your photos. Whether you’re tidying up, moving to a new hard drive, or even just checking your backups, you’ll need to know where to find it.
To find the catalog:
If you’re not sure of your current catalog’s name or location, open Lightroom and go to Edit menu (Windows) / Lightroom menu (Mac) > Catalog Settings. The name and location of your open catalog are displayed on the General tab of the Catalog Settings dialog. Press the Show button to open an Explorer (Windows) / Finder (Mac) window at that location.
Next to the catalog file (*.lrcat), you’ll also find a * Previews.lrdata folder (Windows) / file (Mac) and perhaps a * Smart Previews.lrdata folder/file too.
There may also be a Lightroom Settings folder, which may contain some of your presets (if you selected to store presets with the catalog) and a Backups folder containing your catalog backups.
To rename the catalog:
- Quit Lightroom.
- Use Windows Explorer (Windows) / Finder (Mac) to rename the catalog file, just as you would rename any other file.
- Rename the preview folders/files to match. For example:
- Lightroom Catalog.lrcat > New Name.lrcat
- Lightroom Catalog Previews.lrdata > New Name Previews.lrdata
- Lightroom Catalog Smart Previews.lrdata > New Name Smart Previews.lrdata
- (If you don’t rename the previews correctly, don’t panic, as Lightroom simply recreates them when you next browse those photos. As long as you have the original photos, there’s no harm done other than the time involved.)
- When you next come to reopen Lightroom, hold down Ctrl (Windows) / Opt (Mac) to navigate to the renamed catalog, or just double-click on the catalog file (*.lrcat). You may need to change the default catalog (in Preferences > General tab) so it opens the correct catalog automatically in future.
To move the catalog:
- Quit Lightroom.
- Use Windows Explorer (Windows) / Finder (Mac) to move the catalog file, just as you would move any other file.
- Move the other files at the same time, keeping them next to the catalog file, but don’t move the Mobile Downloads.lrdata file if it exists.
- When you next come to reopen Lightroom, hold down Ctrl (Windows) / Opt (Mac) to navigate to the catalog, or just double-click on the catalog file (*.lrcat). You may need to change the default catalog (in Preferences > General tab) so it opens the correct catalog automatically in future.
- The next time the backup runs, double check that you’re still happy with the backup location, or update it if needed.
If you’re moving the catalog as part of moving to a new computer, be sure to download the FREE eBook Moving Lightroom to a New Computer. This step-by-step guide takes you through not just moving your catalog and photos but all the preparation work, pitfalls to avoid, and any clean-up needed afterwards.
For many more questions and tips on Lightroom Classic, see my book Adobe Lightroom Classic – The Missing FAQ.
Originally posted 26 April 2016, updated for Lightroom Classic and earlier versions in 2019.