A Guide to Transferring Your Lightroom Catalog

Why you need this article

Creating stunning photos is just part of the photography journey; ensuring our work is safely stored and transferable is just as crucial. In this instructional guide, we delve into how to prepare a Lightroom catalog for safe transfer. Whether you’re moving to a new system or sharing with a colleague, follow these steps to ensure a smooth transition. Let’s dive on in!

Preparing Your Lightroom Catalog for Safe Transfer

Supplies Needed:
  • Computer with Adobe Lightroom installed
  • External hard drive or cloud storage service
  • Lightroom catalog and associated image files
Step 1: Consolidate Your Catalog

Firstly, open your Adobe Lightroom. This step is about making sure all your photos are actually in one spot. If your images are spread out over multiple drives or folders, now’s the time to bring them together. Go to the ‘Library’ module, click ‘File’ and select ‘Consolidate Photos’. This process might take some time depending on the size of your catalog.

Step 2: Backup Your Catalog and Files

Before any transfer, backing up your data is essential. To backup your catalog, click on ‘Edit’ (or ‘Lightroom’ on Mac), choose ‘Catalog Settings’, then go to the ‘General’ tab. Here, click the ‘Backup Catalog’ button and choose a location other than where your original catalog is stored – ideally, an external hard drive or cloud storage. For your image files, simply copy the entire folder where your photos are stored to your backup location.

Step 3: Check Catalog Integrity

Ensuring your catalog’s health is crucial before a transfer. Go back to ‘Catalog Settings’ under ‘Edit’ (or ‘Lightroom’ on Mac), and under the ‘General’ tab, find and click the ‘Test Integrity before backing up’ option. This step makes Lightroom check your catalog for any errors and fix them automatically.

Step 4: Compress Your Catalog

To make the transfer easier and faster, compress your Lightroom catalog. Navigate to where your catalog is stored on your computer. It will usually end with “.lrcat”. Right-click on the file and choose ‘Send to’ > ‘Compressed (zipped) folder’ (on Windows) or ‘Compress Items’ (on Mac). Wait for the compression to complete.

Step 5: Transfer Your Catalog

Now, take the compressed catalog file and your backed up image files to transfer them onto your chosen transfer medium – the external hard drive or the cloud. Drag and drop or copy and paste your files to the destination (external or cloud). 

Step 6: Verification After Transfer

Once the transfer is complete, it’s time to make sure everything is transferred correctly. Connect your external drive to another computer or log in to your cloud storage. Unzip the compressed Lightroom catalog and open it (with Lightroom) to ensure it runs correctly. Additionally, browse through the image files to ensure they’re all accessible.

And that’s it! You’ve successfully prepared your Lightroom catalog for safe transfer, This process not only ensures the integrity of your work during transfers but also provides you with a robust backup solution for peace of mind.

Transferring the Catalog and Photos to Your New Puget Computer

Step 1: Connecting to New Computer

Once the copying is complete, safely eject your external drive from the old computer and connect it to the new computer. 

Step 2: Installing Adobe Lightroom on New Computer

If Adobe Lightroom is not yet installed on your new computer, now’s the time. Download Lightroom from Adobe’s suite and install it. If you already have Lightroom installed, you may skip this step.

Step 3: Transfer Files from External Drive to New Computer

Create a folder on your new computer where you’d like your Lightroom catalog and photos to reside. Open your external drive, and you’ll see the folders you copied earlier. Transfer these folders to the newly created folder on your new computer.

Step 4: Opening Transferred Catalog in Lightroom

Launch Adobe Lightroom on your Puget machine. Find ‘File’ in the top menu, then select ‘Open Catalog’. Navigate to where you’ve transferred your catalog. Choose your catalog file (.lrcat) and click ‘Open’. Lightroom may prompt you that it needs to upgrade the catalog format; proceed as instructed.

Step 5: Linking Missing Photos

Because you’ve changed systems or drives, Lightroom might not instantly locate your photos. If you see question marks or exclamation points on your photos or folders, right-click on a folder or an individual photo marked as missing, and select ‘Find Missing Folder’ or ‘Locate Missing Photo’. Navigate to the new location of your photos on your computer and select the correct folder or photo. Repeat as needed until all photos are linked.

By meticulously following each step, you transfer both your Lightroom catalog and photos safely to a new computer, ensuring continuity in your photo editing workflow without losing any of your precious work.

Setting Up the Lightroom Catalog on a Secondary SSD

After transferring your Lightroom catalog and images and linking any missing photos, setting up your Lightroom catalog on a secondary SSD (Solid State Drive) is your next step. This process ensures your workflow is snappy and your files are organized on a reliable and fast storage solution. Let’s walk through the setup.

  • Computer with Adobe Lightroom installed
  • Secondary SSD (already installed in your computer)
  • External HDD or Cloud Storage
Step 1: Create a New Folder on Your SSD

First, navigate to your secondary SSD in “My Computer” or “This PC” if you’re on Windows. Right-click in the folder view, select “New”, then choose “Folder”. Name this folder descriptively, such as “Lightroom Catalogs”, to easily identify it later.

Step 2: Move Your Lightroom Catalog

Open Lightroom. Go to “File > Open Catalog”. Navigate to where your current Lightroom catalog resides. This could be the catalog you’ve just transferred or any existing one you wish to move.

Close Lightroom after noting your catalog’s location. Using “File Explorer”, manually move this catalog file to the new folder you created on your secondary SSD.

Step 3: Re-linking the Catalog

Open Lightroom again. This time, select “File > Open Catalog” and navigate to the new location of your catalog on the secondary SSD. Select it, and click “Open”. Lightroom may prompt you to relink missing photos if it doesn’t automatically detect their new location.

Step 4: Direct Future Imports to the SSD

To benefit fully from your secondary SSD’s speed, direct future imports to this drive. In the import dialog box, under “Destination”, browse to a folder on your secondary SSD or create a new one for your incoming images. This setting will save all future imports to this location.

Step 5: Optimize Your Catalog

After setting up your catalog on the secondary SSD, optimizing its performance is essential. In Lightroom, go to “File > Optimize Catalog” to start the optimization process. This helps in maintaining the catalog’s responsiveness and stability, especially when it’s located on an SSD.

Backup Considerations

Now that your catalog and images reside on the secondary SSD, adjusting your backup strategy is crucial. Use Lightroom’s built-in backup feature under “Catalog Settings” to schedule regular catalog backups. Consider using external drives or cloud storage services for backing up your SSD’s content, ensuring your data’s safety against drive failures.

After following these steps your Lightroom setup is efficient, organized, and takes full advantage of your secondary SSD’s capabilities. By moving your catalog and directing future imports here, you’re not only securing your data but also ensuring a faster, more reliable editing process.


By carefully following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ve taken significant strides in protecting and managing your digital photography assets. Not only does this process safeguard your work during transfers, but it also sets a foundation for a more organized and efficient workflow on any new system or storage solution. Remember, the effort you put into preparing your Lightroom catalog for transfer not only preserves the integrity of your photographs but also ensures that your creative legacy remains intact and accessible for years to come.

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