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), there may be additional files/folders associated with the catalog that share the same name. These include:
*.lrcat-shm and *.lrcat-wal (data not yet written to the catalog)
*.lrcat-data (Select Subject/Sky data and LUT’s)
* Helper.lrdata (temporary cache to improve performance)
* Sync.lrdata (local cache of cloud sync data)
* Previews.lrdata folder/file (Library module previews)
* Smart Previews.lrdata folder/file (Develop module previews)
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 other folders/files to match. For example:
- Lightroom Catalog.lrcat > New Name.lrcat
- Lightroom Catalog.lrcat-data > New Name.lrcat-data (only exists for Classic 11.0 on, and only after Select has been used for the first time in Masking)
- 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 extensive information on Lightroom Classic, see Adobe Lightroom Classic – The Missing FAQ.
If you have the Photography Plan, then as well as Classic you have access to the Lightroom cloud ecosystem including the mobile apps and web interface. For more information on these apps, see Adobe Lightroom – Edit Like a Pro.
Note: purchase of these books includes the first year’s Classic or cloud-based Premium Membership (depending on the book purchased), giving access to download the latest eBook (each time Adobe updates the software), email assistance for the applicable Lightroom version if you hit a problem, and other bonuses.
We also have a special bundle offer for the two books. This includes Premium Membership for the first year as described above for the whole Lightroom family!
Originally posted 26 April 2016, updated for Lightroom Classic and earlier versions in 2022.