I recently got a new Hard Drive, much larger than my previous one. I'm wanting to move my entire library to the new HD, but I'm not seeing an easy way to do it. Can anyone out there offer me some help in achieving this? Thanks!

5 Answers 5


The catalog itself is a single file. If you simply move it, you're done with the catalog moving. There is also a subdirectory with a gazillion files which is your cache, you do not need to move that since it will be recreated as needed.

It's not clear if you want to move the images as well, if you don't you're done. If you do, then you can move them in Lightroom using drag-and-drop on the folder view in the left pane and Lightroom will adjust its library but it will be a very slow process.

You can move the files outside of Lightroom using the operating system. In this case, the files will have a question mark next to them in the grid view. Click on it and it will let you select the path where that files is. When it does the dialog will have an option to look for other files around it at the same location. Use that option, if you do not want to manually relocate each file.

  • I did want to move the photos as well as the catalog. Thanks! Jan 16, 2011 at 14:48
  • "you do not need to move that" -> but you can and it doesn't hurt. I for example have a 50GB cache, I don't want to regenerate that. Works flawlessly to move the *.lrcat as well as the cache.
    – Dennis G
    Jan 20, 2014 at 21:15

After asking this, I decided to ask Google as well, and found an excellent article on the Digital Photography School on the subject. Here is the basic steps.

  1. Backup your current catalog.
  2. With Lightroom closed, move the catalog into the new desired location.
  3. Create a folder that has the new desired location, and copy at least 1 picture into it (Preferably not already in your catalog).
  4. Open up Lightroom, and have it find the new location for it's catalog. It should work just fine, as you haven't changed any picture locations, yet.
  5. Import the photo you put in the new desired photo folder in step 3.
  6. Drag the photos from the original location to the newly desired location.

There are a few other gotchas that are included in the article, I'll let you see them if you want them, but this will answer the question.


To move an entire lightroom catalog, you can start by moving the catalog file itself. This is the .lrcat file. The catalog is a self-contained file, all of your edits, history, snapshot information, etc. is located within the .lrcat file. Usually co-located with the catalog is the thumbnail cache, a folder with the same name as the catalog, plus " Previews.lrdata" tacked on the end. You can move this if you don't want to regenerate your thumbnail previews. It can be quite large, however, and it might be easier to just delete the old one and let lightroom regenerate previews at the new location.

Moving actual master photo files is also pretty easy. Assuming you wish to maintain the same folder structure in the new location, you can simply move your existing root photo image file folders from one drive to the other. Once moved, open Lightroom. In the Library module, under the Folders panel, right-click each root folder that is missing, and click "Find missing folder...". You will then be able to find the new location of that folder on disk. Just pick the same root folder on the hard drive you moved your photo library to, and LR will instantly update the catalog. No need to manually move photos one at a time or anything else.

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Just move the catalog file and the image files in the Explorer/Finder. When you open the relocated catalog, LR won't find the image files at first, but will let you specify their new location. Once you've done that, you're finished.


This may seem like an indirect answer to the question but it involves moving Lightroom catalogs and images between two hard drives, not on a once off basis but continuously - synchronizing two systems.

I work on Macs and use both an iMac desk-top and a MacBook Pro notebook. I do a fair amount of travel photography and therefore have created a set-up where I run Lightroom on both systems and keep them synchronized.

This involved initially setting up a dedicated Pictures folder (which includes Lightroom Catalog files [not the program or execution files] and all image files so that everything is 'in one bag') on one of the systems and making a complete copy of it on the second system. I then use a neat little synchronizing program "Synchronize X! Plus" which I downloaded costing about $30.00 and keep the two computers synchronized. A couple of tips I have learned from this:-

  1. Make sure that you synchronize often.
  2. Close Lightroom on both machines before you synchronize.
  3. You will be copying image files and Lightroom files so it can take time - use a fast Firewire connection if you can. Working with Lightroom of course, you are not synchronizing the raw image files each time (apart from the initial uploading of new images), only the Lightroom data and preview files.
  4. If you work on the same images in Lightroom on both systems between synchronizing you are going to get conflicts (both systems will have updated files since the last synchronization) - the program does give you options but it can get confusing so avoid it if you can.
  5. I find it useful to always place the two computers physically on my desk in the same configuration (eg notebook on the left, desktop on the right) so that in the preview list which the synchronizing program gives you, you have an intuitive 'feel' for which direction files are being copied, updated etc. This is particularly helpful if you have deleted image files through Lightroom (not merely deleted the file from the Lightroom Catalog but deleted the image file from the hard drive.) - you do not want the synchronizing program to copy the files back onto the system you have deleted them from - I use the synchronizing program to easily identify and delete the files from the other system as well.
  6. One of the most frustrating aspects of keeping two systems synchronized and the most common difficulty that I have had is the 'permissions' issue. Copying folders or files from one system to another requires that each computer has 'permission' to read and write on the other system. This is a computer software issue which is beyond the scope of this thread (I think) but it is not insurmountable as I have learned.
  7. One great advantage of this is that you have a complete extra backup system of your images and Lightroom files.
  8. With everything set up right it takes me about 5 minutes to synchronize (depending on how many images need to be transferred).

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