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Friday Vid. – Moving Between Laptop and Desktop

Happy Friday. This week I’ve got a video for you that answers the never ending question of how to move between a laptop and desktop with Lightroom. I’ve been asked this just about every time I teach Lightroom and it occurred to me that I haven’t really done a video to cover it. Fortunately it’s a lot simpler then it may seem and Adobe has given us an easy way to save out specific images or folders to move from one catalog to another (which by the way is really what is happening when you move from one computer to another). If you’ve had any experiences that are similar to what I show then let us know in the comments and if you’ve found any hiccups along the way, by all means let us know as well. So, watch the video. Enjoy it. Feel the thrill of moving freely between computers with no chains to hold you back 🙂 Oh yeah, and enjoy your weekend.

Click here to watch the video. (22MB)



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  3. Martin Ericson 21 February, 2010 at 10:46 Reply

    I would like to know how to implement Dropbox with Lightroom. I want to sync pictures, catalog & presets between my computers.

  4. keith carter 18 January, 2010 at 00:44 Reply

    I have a dedicate external hard drive for my pictures. So I can move from machine to machine with out duping the original. I work on my pics in three different locations. I am finding it hard to keep the catalog (keywords and rating) with the hard drive and not the home drive of what ever machine I am home. It is time consuming and creates mess when it doesnt stay with the dedicated hard drive. I have not watch your video yet but I hope it solves my problem. Great program though.
    P.S. Can you get them to do something about the scroll bar on the modules and libary. They are always popping up when you dont want them to. Finally, The heal circle is a great tool…but why not more than one shape…and maybe a build your own shape. Kind of like we use to do…by cutting print paper….way back when home individual dark room still existed..

  5. Richard 5 January, 2010 at 04:27 Reply

    I am using unison to keep mac and PC catalogs in sync. It’s a great little program for synchronising 2 directories (or whatever) and I am now running my life through it.

    I had the same problem as Viktor above – the catalog from my mac would lose rotation information when loaded on the PC.

    It appears that Lightroom will re-scan pictures if the timestamp on the file changes, and part of this re-scanning will reset the rotation information. It turns out that unison does not synchronise timestamp information by default (very strange). However, you need to use the ‘times’ option – I set it in my profile file with:


    And voila, I can work on mac or PC perfectly (although only been a day thus far).

    Unison worth checking out if you need to do this kind of thing. It’s open-source-free.

  6. Anand 5 January, 2010 at 01:23 Reply

    To Ronald,

    I also have a D300s and it seems that the sharpness is not the same in LR vs. ViewNX. I know ViewNX incorporates the Picture Style, but even if I disregard that, LR2.6 shows unsharp pictures.


    To All,

    It seems even with LR 3, Adobe is NOT listening about network drives. I wonder why????????? We did put a man on moon, right? So don’t tell me it is “hard”. It is IMPERATIVE this be done.

  7. Ronald Widha 28 December, 2009 at 01:16 Reply

    Hey Matt, I notice you work with NEF within lightroom on the video. I found that Lightroom does inaccurate color rendering of my Nikon D300 NEF. Do you find the same issue?

    Cause of this, I now always work with Capture NX first and then export to JPEG which then stored into lightroom. Not ideal 🙁

  8. Dean Riggott 9 November, 2009 at 17:19 Reply

    When I go to “import from catalog” and select the library that I’ve just moved to my desktop computer, it gets hung-up/stuck on “checking for duplicate photos.” The progress bar get almost halfway and then it never goes ant further.

    Any ideas? Is it ok that my originals files are in multiple folders?

  9. bigdani 8 September, 2009 at 05:03 Reply

    To Kneedeep Says

    To move photos between folders, just use the Lightroom’s folder browser just as the Finder or Windows Explorer, by dragging them to the new folder.

    By doing it inside LR, it keeps track of the new location the file is in, and this is stored in the LR Catalog file, not the xmp file.

    Xmp are RAW’s sidecar files. If you hit Ctrl+S on PC or ?S on Mac, all the image related information will be saved to the image (metadata, keywords, develop settings…) so if you open it in PS, bridge, or LR on another computer, all the work is done already.

    But only on DNG’s and JPG’s. As RAW files are propietary, they’re read only, and then LR writes the data in a seidecar xml file, which is glued to the RAW, they travel together from one folder to another.

  10. Viktor 24 August, 2009 at 09:40 Reply

    First of all, it’s not necessary to export first. You can import from the source catalog directly and just select the appropirate files. (You should choose “Copy files to new location” in this case.)

    Secondly, this process screams for automation! That’s why we use computeres in the first place, isn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s not easy. I use unison to keep files on my laptop and desktop the same. It usually works great (including stuff like iPhoto), but Lightroom breaks in subtle ways. Specifically Lightroom seems to lose the rotation information, ie. portrait photos get reverted to landscape. Develop settings and metadata are all there, but the orientation breaks. Anybody have a solution for this problem?

  11. Arlene P 26 July, 2009 at 03:41 Reply

    Why can’t I view the video on Friday “Moving Between Laptop to Desktop. It looks like the file type M4V is only available for viewing on Macs. Is there a version available for PCs?

  12. Paul Hancock 29 June, 2009 at 11:10 Reply


    I’ve come up with a great way to backup images and move LR catalogs between your laptop and desktop remotely using Foldershare (Windows Live Sync).

    I setup 2 folders on my laptop and desktop, “LR Catalog Sync” and “Picture Sync”. Using Foldershare (which is a free app) I setup these folders so that they are synced between each computer. In LR I configure the image import to backup images to the “Picture Sync” folder on the laptop.

    Now, whenever I’m on a photo shoot or photo trip, when I download my images into LR at the end of the day on my macbook pro the backed up images in the “Picture Sync” folder are automatically sent to my desktop provided I have wifi access.

    After I’ve tagged, keyworded and geotaged my images on the laptop, I export my LR catalog to the “LR Catalog Sync” folder on the laptop. That file gets synced back to my desktop at home automatically.

    Arriving home, my images and an up to date catalog are sitting on my desktop ready to be imported into LR.

    It’s a great solution which is not only convenient but also gives me peace of mind as my images are backed up to my desktop once they are imported into the laptop.

  13. John Harrison 22 March, 2009 at 19:06 Reply

    Thanks for publishing this!! I have been working on 2 or 3 different computers (laptop, desktop, work desktop) and needed an easier way to get things moved across!! This helped tremendously! Now, if this could be transparent, that would be even better. Maybe a great feature for LR3.0


  14. Rasmus K. 5 February, 2009 at 21:24 Reply

    Can’t you not just import the whole laptop catalogue directly via network. If Lightroom checks for duplicates anyway this should be a lot easer.

    I will try this. Anyway, I’m using a professional sync program yet (also for backups). I ignore previews completely since its faster to recreate them than to coping all that stuff. The catalogue can only be copied on way but that only means that I have to do the sync after each shoot somewhere else. (Which shouldn’t be a problem.Because syncing is relativity fast)
    Therefore I don’t need to worry wich Photos to sync and I need one click and a short review of the sync table only.

    Also i story presets etc in the catalogue folder, and exclouded the configurationfiles and backups to make it work smooth.
    I’m using syncbackup for this purpose.

  15. Chris Allen 21 January, 2009 at 07:14 Reply

    This doesn’t work for us. We store our photos on a network drive which has a volume name of CPhotos. When we export a project called
    ABC Products with two subfolders Shoot1 and Shoort2 to a catalogue for the Macbook and client visit, the volume name gets incorporated into the path of the new catalogue so when we import the catalogue we then have a subfolder called CPhotos with a subfolder ABCShoot under it and Shoot1 and Shoot2 under that providing we’ve removed the catalogue first.

    If we haven’t removed the catalogue first then we end up with a structure like this:-
    ABC Products
    -CPhotos/ABC Products
    -CPhotos/ABC Products/Shoot1
    -CPhotos/ABC Products/Shoot2

    What a mess! Over time it’s going to be a disaster. I hope I’m doing something wrong. Any ideas?

    Thanks Chris

  16. Erik 28 December, 2008 at 21:51 Reply

    Thank you. This was a life saver. After spending hours pulling out my hair and not getting the changes copied over … who’d have thought it was so easy. Thanks.

  17. nicole anjolie 24 October, 2008 at 17:05 Reply

    I have a question about the importing question. If I import from current location; that leaves a copy of the images on my laptop, right? What do you do if you are trying to eliminate several different copies of the same photo? If you didn’t chose to copy from current location, would the original still be on the laptop or is that moved also? I am asking because I moved photos from my laptop to a hard drive and now I seemed to have multiple copies of photos everywhere; from Lightroom, from Photoshop, from different extensions, and from the move.
    How do I sort all this out, delete copies that aren’t needed and make sure I don’t accidentally delete the original?

  18. Geof Kusch 2 October, 2008 at 16:57 Reply


    I’m new to NAPP and these Killer Tips (which are awesome, BTW). Many of the comments pose questions to you, but I never see any answers from you. Sometimes another member will add a comment to a previous question. Do you directly answer individual questions, or is there a way for me to get answers to specific questions? For example, how will I get an answer to this inquiry??

    Thanks. Your tips are really helpful.


  19. Bob Kupri 2 September, 2008 at 20:30 Reply

    Lots of us could use 7 Killer Tips how to make Lightroom 2 work as it should. Tips like having the round trip actually work, freeing up the sticky sliders, overcoming the extremme slowness of the brushes, getting back the lost keywords, etc. etc.
    Lightroom is wonderful as you say but please give us the 7 Killer Tips to make it work properly today.

  20. john 18 August, 2008 at 23:47 Reply

    My LR says ver.1 but does not have the command ‘Export to Catalog’
    It looks different than the one in the movie, there iare also no commands for ‘New Catalog’, ‘Open Catalog’ neither.
    Sync button also is not highlighted, has no function.
    Searching my PC for lrcat doesn’t give any result.

    ??do I have an imcomplete version?
    AS I must transfer my files/develpments from a PC to a notebook, how to proceed? Can I still do it? Or do I have to get a newer/complete version of LR first, but if so, how will it load my developments?

    thank you for any hint,
    best regards

  21. Kneedeep 14 August, 2008 at 23:10 Reply


    Sorry if this is not the right place to ask…..
    I am trying to move a selected few pictures from one folder to another in LR2. I have tired using export, but that does not delete the files from the original folder. I am seeing a xmp file in the new folder. I am guessing that is an information file telling where the original files are?

    My question, can I select a couple of pictures in LR2 and then move them to another folder without the xmp file?

  22. Irene 25 June, 2008 at 05:03 Reply

    Thanks Matt, for those of us using a PC, who are constantly organizing our images into folders, your suggestions and comments about the Photo folder and m-o-v-i-n-g the exported catalog folder to w-h-a-t-e-v-e-r location we want is very easy to understand and right on.

    For those people who are not folder and sub-folder oriented for organizing their photos this may be confusing.

    Overall a good tut. Thx!

  23. Ted Z 24 June, 2008 at 22:49 Reply

    Matt: I enjoy your Tips and received a lot of neat presets. I have a slightly different catalog problem. I have located an corrected a number of files that were out of sync but I still have a number of “Red” files which I get the following message:

    The file “xxxxxxxxxxxxx” is associated with another photo in the catalog..

    Each file can only be associated with one photo.

    The problem is that there is no suggestion on how to correct this problem. Is there any way to resolve this issue?


  24. Kevin O'Connell 24 June, 2008 at 01:09 Reply

    This is an unrelated question. In the Library module what is “missing files” and if they are missing, why do they show up when you click on them?

  25. Lew 24 June, 2008 at 01:06 Reply

    Matt- I appreciate your taking the time to answer this perplexing and very confusing problem. Hopefully Adobe will make this process much easier in future versions. I’m confused a bit. Are you importing the folder with the catalog and the images or just the catalog. I watched the video several times and thought you were importing the catalog and not the folder with
    the images and the catalog. That doesn’t make sense as the size of the images is much,much greater than that of the catalog. Have I missed something? I would greatly appreciate some clarification. Also, I use an external FW HD to store all of my images. Can I copy or move the images/catalog directly from the laptop to this drive or must I import them on to the desktop computer and then direct them to the external hard drive which is now connected to the desktop computer? Again- are we moving the images or the catalog or both?

    Again, thanks for your help.

  26. Arni 23 June, 2008 at 19:35 Reply

    Thanks, that’s really helpful!

    I have a related question about importing photos:
    Is there a way to tell LR to move (and not copy) photos from e.g. an SD card when importing?

  27. Stephen 23 June, 2008 at 13:53 Reply

    I second the external hard drive. Most of my photos and catalogs are on a WD firewire drive. This is formatted as FAT32 and I switch it back and forth between my MacBook Pro and PC laptop all the time. (I have an NTFS driver for my Mac so I can also use that).
    Catalogs and Photos are also backed up to a Drobo and a Network attached storage device as well.
    I find the firewire drive gives the best performance for actually working with the files in Lightroom. Just picked up a portable Firewire drive to use as well.

  28. Jeff 23 June, 2008 at 13:07 Reply


    Incase you did not know, you do not have to ‘export as catalog’. If your on your desktop, you can simply import from the catalog on the laptop. In the import dialog box you can pick and choose what photos you want to bring in. No need for that extra step!

  29. Florent 23 June, 2008 at 06:21 Reply

    Hiya Matt and all!

    – How to move catalog(s) from PC to Mac – does it work the same?

    – Since 2.0 is on its way, it does not make sense to purchase the Mac version of LR if one already owns the PC one… But then, how to switch a PC license for a Mac one? Would Adobe accept to do this? I will (try to) contact Adobe…

    Thanks a billion – cheers – Flo.

  30. Eric 22 June, 2008 at 21:28 Reply

    A good tip, but to echo part of what others have said, and to add my own $.02…

    It’d be nice if there was an automatic way to move photos/catalog from one machine to another. I’m guessing (for the Mac anyway) it’d be possible to write an Applescript/Automator Action to automate the process.

    However, I’m not always working on one set of photos at a time. My changes could be made in multiple folders all over the place. What would really be useful would be to have a general sync function where you specify the root of the directory structure for two photo areas and catalogs, and it just syncs up changes.

    Alternatively, being able to access a Lightroom catalog over the network on another machine, where the photos themselves also reside on the remote machine would be great. That way you can have a machine as a central repository “server”, and do your work on a remote (maybe faster) machine. And of course you should be able to integrate catalogs (note I said integrate, not just copy) and photos imported from the remote machine with the “server” machine.

    Right now it’s a royal pain in the rear for my workflow.

    Thanks Matt!

  31. Joe 21 June, 2008 at 11:56 Reply

    Thanks for the info Matt. One question: What if I want to export a whole laptop lightroom catalog into my desktop catalog – not just some images from a particular folder – how do I do that? For that matter how do I transfer a whole lightroom catalog to a new computer?


  32. David 21 June, 2008 at 10:53 Reply

    one more question.
    can you then e-mail folder with changes made to either computer as long as images are on each machine & they will then be in sync with each other?
    Thanks again

  33. David 21 June, 2008 at 10:37 Reply

    will LR Handle Going between platforms?
    Pc to mac laptop.mac laptop back to pc?

  34. Jim Wright 21 June, 2008 at 09:05 Reply

    Hi Matt –
    Great tip. Left me wondering about when “save in current location” and then you can move photos to where you normally store them, like under main folder “photos”. I must have missed a beat because I think that causes LR to lose track of them, since they’re no longer where LR thinks they should be.

    Make a terrific day! (I am)

  35. Nicolaas Kuipers 21 June, 2008 at 08:00 Reply

    I still have little problem to understand how to move pictures between a laptop and a desktop, keeping all adjustments and metadata intact.

    I am converting all pictures directly to DNG in lightroom. Is it not so that this file then contains all lightroom adjustments and metadata which has been put in?

    Thank you for a lot of good stuff concerning Lightroom and Photoshop!

  36. Dilip Barman 21 June, 2008 at 03:25 Reply

    Thanks, Matt. One question I have is about how keywords are handled. If I export images from computer1 (C1) to computer2 (C2), I assume that any keywords on C1 along with their taxonomy will get copied to and integrated within C2’s taxonomy. I guess if the pictures are copied back and then deleted off C2, those keywords which weren’t originally on C2 will show up greyed-out on C2’s taxonomy. By the way, in the video do you really mean that you *move* the images when you export them, rather than *copy* them? Thanks!

  37. JFLaplante 20 June, 2008 at 22:27 Reply

    I keep my NEFs and catalog on a portable HD and switch between my laptop and desktop all the time. The files are in one place so there no risk of ‘multiple versions’. Lightroom is smart enough to know that if the portable HD changes drive letter, it will look for my NEFs on the same drive and within the same structure as the catalog is located. On both computers, I have Synctoy installed to back-up in a common network directory when the computers are in my local network.

    It is a hassle to carry around a portable HD but the WD Passports are quite small and they are available in 320gb size wich is quite respectable for a catalog and pictures.

    For all of Lightroom qualities, this is one area where Adobe doesn’t shine. Fortunatly, there are other ways.

  38. timofej 20 June, 2008 at 18:44 Reply

    “Adobe’s easy way” sucks. It takes time to mess around with the catalogs and pretty soon you end up with catalogs that you can’t trace version of. You simply loose control which of your catalogs has the latest version of your settings.

    The best solution would be enable Lightroom to read catalogs located on network drives. I’ve got all my photos on a network drive so that I can access them from any computer. The drive is regularly backed up with traceable snapshots back in time.

    It would be very logical to have the LR catalog at the same place in order to be able to edit the photos from any computer on the network and to have a proper backup.

    Now I have to mess up with moving the catalogs as you describe and find it _extremely_ inconvenient. I find the inability of the LR to work with network-based catalogs the major drawback of the program. It ruins the whole work flow.

  39. Lawrence 20 June, 2008 at 13:31 Reply

    I use Microsoft’s Sync Toy (from their pro photography site) to basically copy the entire catalog, all the DNG files and all the lightroom data. One of my three backups is a passport 320 mobile drive that becomes basically a mirror of the primary photo drive (the third is one of two external hard drives that gets rotated off site on a weekly basis). This way I always have at least two backups out of the office when I am gone and I can work on anything at the drop of a hat.

    Downsides, since I use DNG files, if you touch the file it gets backed up so you can end up moving a lot of data since the DNG files are pretty large (especially with the RAW file embedded). You have to keep track of which drive has the most current data so working on the same file on the different drive sets is a no no. Other than that it has worked since Lightroom came out.

    I tried the making a catalog option but just never could get it to work out, always seemed like I had extra catalogs floating around from doing importing of cards on the go etc and invariably a client would call and ask about an image that was back at the studio when I was a 1000 miles away.

  40. Chris Fitch 20 June, 2008 at 13:00 Reply

    I’ve been using folder syncing to make sure I have the more current version in both places but what I’ve found is that while automatic, doesn’t always work. Even with automaticly writing changes to XMP, sometimes it doesnt save it right away. Which is why I like this method, even though not automatic, works better.

    What I want to see in Lightroom 2.0 is built in catalog syncing.

  41. Seim Effects 20 June, 2008 at 12:57 Reply

    Cool Matt. that’s a great tip. I do wish Adobe had a more integrated method to sync without exporting the files in a new catalog. Can’t have everything I guess.

    I suppose another way to do this without exporting a new catalog would be to simply copy the whole catalog to the other machine (say the desktop) and then import it wetting the sync settings needed.


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