I have a NAS drive where I keep all my photos, and I have just cataloged this using an instance of Lightroom which is on my laptop - 15,000 photos or so.

Now I want to use Lightroom on my Surface Pro (taking advantage of the touch screen). So my question is: can I safely copy the catalog over from machine to machine and still have Lightroom work, accessing all 15000 images?


3 Answers 3


Yes, you can. However, the real consideration is what to do with the catalogs after you do some editing on either copy.

Remember, you need not only the catalog, but the images themselves, so you need to copy all 15,000 images, and then inform the Surface Pro version of Lightroom where these photos are located (on the surface pro). This can get tedious, and must be repeated whenever new images are added. If you make edits, you will want those edits to be sync'd to your main Lightroom database.

Rather than simply copy everything over to your Surface pro, a better solution is to use the 'Export as Catalog" function of Lightroom. In this case, you would select all your photos, and choose the option 'Build/Include Smart Previews", which will include preview images that you can use to conduct edits, without actually including the photos themselves. Then, from your main machine, have it create this catalog. You then move this catalog to your Surface Pro, and open it from the Lightroom installed there. No need to move the images, as the Smart Previews will allow you to edit with the preview.

When you wish to consolidate your Surface Pro edits or any new photos you have added to the Surface Pro Lightroom, you simply select those new/edited images and 'Export as Catalog". Copy this catalog to a thumbdrive, or to your NAS, and them on the main computer, select 'Import from Another Catalog', which will copy your edits and move any new images to your image store location.

  • thanks, that makes sense I will try it out and let you know how it goes.
    – chris
    May 28, 2015 at 17:05

Agree with @cmason. Additionally, I've found this video helpful when I was looking for an answer like this http://tv.adobe.com/m/#!/watch/adobe-evangelists-julieanne-kost/questions-about-lightroom-and-photo-management/. Start around 6:30 when she is answering question #3.

  • Could you summarize, even briefly, what she is talking about in the video? A reference to a video is ok, but it's really not an answer without some context.
    – MikeW
    May 28, 2015 at 21:10
  • Sorry, it's very much what @cmason was was explaining, but I've found it helpful to be walked through things like this at times. This video is actually put out by Adobe.
    – reddisht
    May 29, 2015 at 13:30

Why do we keep talking about copying images?

He specified the pictures live on an NAS device...I'm assuming that means the NAS is as available to the Surface as it is to the laptop?

Even if the NAS is only sometimes available to the Surface—you have the Surface generate Smart Previews when it's connected so you can still edit when you're away from the NAS.

Initially copy the whole catalog... there's no point in using export at this point, just copy it. If you're in a hurry now but have time later only copy the lrcat file and let the Surface regenerate the previews in the probably-huge lrdata file.

Handle updates per cmason's last paragraph.

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