How to Transfer Lightroom to Another Computer - Digital Darkroom Academy

How to Transfer Lightroom to Another Computer

How to Transfer Lightroom to Another Computer

If you’re planning on getting a new computer or reinstalling your operating system, you’ll be haunted by the question of how to transfer Lightroom to another computer. It’s a well placed concern, because if you don’t do it the right way, you may end up losing photos, your edits, catalogs, presets – basically the empire you’ve built in and around Lightroom. Lightroom doesn’t work like other software, so it needs special care when it comes to moving it to a new computer. It can be worrisome to think about the fact that if you don’t do it right, you could lose your work.

It's scary to transfer Lightroom to another computer

But, don’t fret it. Moving Lightroom from one computer to another is actually not that difficult a task. There’s a lot to take care of, so it may be overwhelming, but if you understand what’s going on, you can easily do it. Following these steps, you will learn how to transfer Lightroom to another computer with ease. Just make sure to follow them to a tee!

Before the Move

I hope you haven’t already wiped everything off your drives because there are two important things to be done on your old system before moving.

1. Setting Up Hierarchy in the Folders Panel

This step is only applicable, if you don’t already have a hierarchical folder structure. I recommend that you have one right from the beginning. I go into the details of it in The Complete Lightroom Course, where we look at the exact folder structure you should have.

Having a hierarchical folder structure becomes even more important when you’re moving Lightroom to a new computer. Just like you should organize everything in proper boxes when you’re moving from one house to another, it’s crucial to organize the Folders panel before moving from one computer to the other. By default, Lightroom shows all the folders on a drive as a single filed list, regardless of their placement on your drive.

The folders need to be in a hierarchy
Folders as seen in the panel after Import.

This isn’t usually a problem but can become one when you try to visualize their placement, or they need to be relocated, or they need to be linked again. Building hierarchies solves all these problems in one go and is especially important if you’re changing your computer.

This way, instead of individually linking every folder, you only need to link the one at the top level and the folders under it will automatically link themselves.

To set up a hierarchy:

Step 1 – Select top level folder

Right click on a top level folder and select ‘Show Parent Folder’.

Show Parent Folder

Immediately, Lightroom will build the hierarchy and show you where the folder had been picked from. In fact, it will also add other ‘top level’ folders under the new parent folder, exactly as they are placed in your drive.

Folders in a hierarchy are easier to re-link when transferred to another computer.
All folders which were present in ‘2017’ on the drive are shifted under it in the Lightroom Folders panel, setting up a hierarchy. In this image, ‘2017’ is the new top-level Parent Folder.

Note: If ‘Show Parent Folder’ is not appearing then you’re probably clicking on the wrong folder. Try another one.

Step 2 – Repeat

In some cases you might need to select ‘Show Parent Folder’ more than once to reach the highest hierarchy level.

Folders in a hierarchy are easier to re-link when transferred to another computer
I had to click ‘Show Parent Folder’ twice to get this hierarchy: once on ‘201701 – Uni…’ and then on the folder ‘2017’.

In case you overdo it, there’s an easy fix for that too. Right click on the parent folder you want to remove and select ‘Hide This Parent’.

If you go too far, you can always hide a parent

If there are any images inside the Parent Folder, Lightroom will warn you against removing it because those photos will be removed as well. However, all photos within sub folders will remain safe.

2. Create & Check Backups

Better safe than sorry! Even if you’ve already created backups, go through them one final time to make sure nothing is missing before you say goodbye to your old computer. Here’s a list of things that you need to be sure are backed up:

  • Catalog
  • Catalog backups
  • Previews
  • Photos
  • Presets
  • Plug-ins
  • Preferences
  • Shared Camera Settings

Let’s dive a little deeper to see how we can take these things along with us to our new home.

Catalog

You can find where your catalog is placed by going to the Edit menu and then Catalog Settings.

The Catalog Settings dialog will help you find your Catalog

When you click the Show button, it opens the location in Explorer.

The location of your catalog file

There, you’ll find your catalog file with the extension .lrcat. Keep this catalog in your backup because everything you’ve done in Lightroom are in those little *.lrcat files.

Catalog Backups

Unless you’ve changed your settings, Lightroom asks to backup your catalog every week. By default, all these backups are stored in a folder called Backups, which you’ll find in the same location as the catalog file.

You’ll notice the backups date back to when you first started using Lightroom. If you want to free some space, you can delete older backup files but be sure to keep recent ones. Once you’ve done some cleaning, make your copy.

Photos

It goes without saying that you need to backup all your photos. Remember, photos aren’t inside Lightroom – they’re linked to it. Lightroom doesn’t do anything to backup your photos. That’s something you have to do manually.

It’s best to copy them in the exact structure they exist currently on your drive. This way they’re easy to link back when you reinstall Lightoom.

If you’re can’t find where certain folders are on your drive, you can have Lightroom assist you in looking for them. Right click on the folder you want to find, from inside of Lightroom and select Show in Explorer (PC) or Show in Finder (Mac). This will open that folder in your operating system’s default file browser.

Find your photos by right-clicking a folder and clicking on Show in Explorer

Previews

Ideally, it’s convenient to copy everything in the folder alongside the catalog file. But if you’re running low on backup space, you can skip copying the previews. This is a folder with ‘Previews.lrdata’ at the end of the name.

Lightroom catalog location

As the name says, they’re previews of the photos you’ve imported into Lightroom. So even if you don’t copy this folder, Lightroom will generate new ones when you launch it again in its new home. It’ll just take some extra time to create those previews again, but you won’t lose anything even if you don’t bring this file along to the new computer.

Presets

You’ll want to keep any presets or templates which you’ve made or downloaded. You can find them by going to the Edit > Preferences (PC) or Lightroom > Preferences (Mac)

Find your presets by going to Preferences

In the Preferences dialog, under the Presets tab, click the Show Lightroom Presets Folder button. This folder contains all your presets: Import Presets, Develop Presets, Metadata Presets, Export Presets and all the other kinds of presets available to you within Lightroom. Everything inside that folder needs to be brought along to the new computer.

Your presets location can be found in the Lightroom presets folder

Plug-ins

If you’re using any Lightroom plug-ins other than the standard ones and don’t want to download them again, you can make backups for them as well.

Go to the File menu and click Plug-in Manager. Select the Plug-in you’ve downloaded and click the Show in Folder button. Backup the folder and don’t forget to copy the registration code or serial number!

Preferences

You don’t have to back them up since Lightroom will create them again as you start using it on your new computer, but it certainly saves time if you drag them along with you: they are your preferences after all. They include data like your last used settings, last used catalogs, plug-in settings etc.

You can find your Preferences by following this path:

Windows: C:\Users\[your username]\ AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Lightroom\Preferences\ [your Lightroom version] Preferences.agprefs

Mac: Macintosh HD / Users /[your username]/ Library / Preferences / com.adobe. [your Lightroom version].plist

Shared Camera Raw Settings

If you’ve created or downloaded any custom camera settings, lens profiles, custom point curves etc, they’re stored in a separate location where they can be shared with Camera Raw. In newer versions of Lightroom (since Classic 7.3), they also include your Develop Presets.

By default, you can find them at:

Windows: C:\Users\[your username]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\CameraRaw\

Mac: Macintosh HD/Users/[your username]/Library/Application Support/Adobe/CameraRaw/

On your new computer, you can simply place all these files in their correct locations on their new home and it’ll seem like nothing has changed when you run Lightroom. But, if you make any mistakes and place them at incorrect locations, you may end up hating your life.

Transferring Lightroom to another computer can be frustrating
Don’t place your files correctly and this is exactly how it will end.

Moving

1. Install Lightroom in New Computer

Now that everything is safely backed up, you can install Lightroom on your new computer, if you haven’t already done that. When you’re installing Lightroom though, don’t be hasty! Let it set up before you bring in your folders and photos.

2. Transfer Files to New Computer

Once you’ve ensured Lightroom is installed and running properly, now you can copy your folders onto your new computer. Be sure to place them in the same locations as they were in the previous computer.

If you’ve moving from Windows to Mac or vice versa, the position of some folders will be different so be careful where you paste them. The default locations for all the files & folders that Lightroom Classic needs are listed below. So, if you want to stick to the default locations, make sure to copy these files to these locations:

Catalog

Windows: C: Users\[your username]\My Pictures\Lightroom\ Lightroom Catalog.lrcat
Mac: Macintosh HD/Users/ [your username]/Pictures/Lightroom/Lightroom Catalog.lrcat

Presets & Templates

Windows: C:\Users\[your username]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Lightroom

Mac: Macintosh HD/ Users/[your username]/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Lightroom

Shared Camera Raw Settings

Windows: C:\Users\[your username]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\CameraRaw\

Mac: Macintosh HD/Users/[your username]/Library/Application Support/Adobe/CameraRaw/

Preferences

Preferences are hidden by default and are not cross platform.

On Windows, you can open these hidden files by the Run command in the Start menu. Type %appdata%\Adobe\Lightroom in the search box and the Lightroom folder location will open up.

On Mac, you need to go to Finder, select the Go menu, and hold down the Opt key. This makes the Library appear in the menu (In MAC, Library is hidden by default). Now head over to the Preferences folder.

Windows: C:\Users\[your username]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Lightroom\Preferences\Lightroom Classic CC 7 Preferences.agprefs

Mac: Macintosh HD/Users/[your username]/Library/Preferences/ com.adobe.LightroomClassicCC7.plist

If you’ve followed everything diligently until now, the next few steps will be a breeze.

After The Move

Now that everything is where it’s supposed to be, it’s time to start linking and checking up on them.

1. Selecting Catalog

When you’re launching Lightroom, press the Ctrl key. This will open up the Select Catalog dialog box and you can choose the catalog you’ll be using. If your catalog is not in the list, you can click on the Choose a Different Catalog and navigate to your catalog file.

Alternatively, once you have opened Lightroom, you can simple go to the File menu and choose Open Catalog from there.

2. Link Missing Files

In case you’ve moved your photos to a different drive (even a different drive letter), or one thing or another changed and now there are little question marks or exclamation points on your folders and photos, you will need to re-link those files.

Missing photos are marked with an exclamation point.

 

This image shows the missing folders, marked by a question mark.

On the Folders panel, right click on a Parent Folder (they are now the top level folders according to the hierarchy we created in the beginning) and select Find Missing Folder.

Navigate to where you’ve placed the folder on your new computer and Lightroom will link all the folders under it automatically!

What I usually recommend in The Complete Lightroom Course is to place your photos on an external hard drive. Then, on the new computer, simply plug that hard drive in, make sure it gets the same drive letter (PC) and simply open the catalog file you’ve moved from the other computer. Everything should automatically be in it’s place. You won’t need to re-link missing files & folders.

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3. Check Presets, Templates and Plug-ins

Go through the panels to make sure all your presets and templates are present and usable. If they’re missing, you probably copied them into the wrong folder. No need to lose your cool! Carefully follow the destination folders I’ve showed you above and paste your files again.

To load your plug-ins, go to File and then select the Plug-in Manager. All active plug-ins will have a green color beside them. If your plug-in has a grey or red color, it means something is amiss. Simply copy them again at their new location and you should be good to go!

It’s a Wrap!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how to transfer Lightroom to another computer!

You’ll have realized that moving Lightroom and all things related isn’t quite as daunting a task as we make it out to be. You don’t need to re-import any files or download anything again. There’s no need to delete missing links or panic over misplaced folders. If you’re working in an orderly manner, things will run as smooth as silk! It’s simply a matter of placing things where they belong.

Shajee Aijazi

Shajee Aijazi is the founder of Digital Darkroom Academy. He helps people speed up their post-processing workflow and organize their photos in a way that they don't have to waste time managing it and they can focus on creating great looking images.

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