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Moving Your Classic Catalog to a Different Drive

Last week I wrote about how to point the Lightroom Classic catalog to a new drive for your photos, and someone asked about moving the catalog and previews too. I thought that would make a great post for this week. Thanks, Stephanie!

Now, don’t go moving your catalog around just for fun. This would only be if you had a pressing need, such as you need to replace the drive it is currently on, or maybe you had the catalog on an external drive, but now you want to move it onto your internal drive. All things being equal, you will always get better performance from the catalog when it is stored on an internal drive versus an external drive (especially if that internal drive is SSD).

Ok, here’s how to make the move simply and safely:

Step One: Go to Lightroom  > Catalog Settings > General (under Edit menu on Windows).

Step Two: Click the Show button on the General tab of the Catalog Settings to open the folder containing your catalog in your file browser.

Step Three: Quit Lightroom. If prompted to backup, click skip for now (unless you haven’t backed up for a while, in which case you might want to run that backup).

Step Four: Copy the entire folder containing the Lightroom catalog (.LRCAT) and its associated preview caches to the location you want it to be stored (pick a locally connected internal or external drive).

Step Five: Once the copy operation is complete, double-click the catalog file to open it back into Lightroom. This way you can make sure all is working fine, and the new location will be included in the preferences. Then update your Default Catalog preferences.

Once you are 100% certain the copy of the drive is secure and functioning correctly you can go back and safely delete the original catalog (and its associated preview cache) from the original location. You will then move forward with the catalog in the new location.

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4 comments

  1. Rusty Brown 3 June, 2019 at 21:28 Reply

    Great article – thanks! My issue is that the C drive on my desktop, albeit SSD, is only 250GB (whereas my traditional hard drive – the “D” Drive, is 3TB) and I’ve got a ton of photos in LR, so the catalog keeps growing to the point I’m searching for what’s filling up the C drive.

    Followed your tip, after I’d copied the entire catalog to a dedicated space on the D drive. Relaunched from the lcat and she came up just fine. Next, I went with your suggestion of modifying the default catalog preferences where it now says the actual new location on the D drive. Was able to free up 57GB. Much-appreciated.

  2. Dan Roeder 9 January, 2019 at 07:57 Reply

    Hi Rob
    I really enjoy all your tips; I find them very informative, and I’ve been using Lightroom since version 3.

    You wrote, “All things being equal, you will always get better performance from the catalog when it is stored on an internal drive versus an external drive (especially if that drive is SSD).” I assume you were meaning especially if the internal drive was an SSD. What if the internal drive is a spinning drive and the external drive is an SSD? Do you think that would that speed up Lightroom? With external SSDs getting cheaper, could I get a “cheap” performance boost that way?

    Thanks for your insight.

    • Rob Sylvan 9 January, 2019 at 07:59 Reply

      Right, sorry, I meant internal SSD. I haven’t done the comparison you state, but I’d imagine the speed of the port the external was attached to would be the deciding factor. That would have to be as fast or faster than the internal drive.

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