How to Export the Lightroom Catalog to Another Computer

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Sometimes you might want to change your computer or backup your data on another computer. Doing this involves transferring a lot of files to and from computers. Learning how to export a lightroom catalog to another computer allows you to keep your edited photos intact.

How to Export the Lightroom Catalog to Another Computer

To export the Lightroom catalog to another computer, you will need an external drive or USB. This way, you can export the whole catalog or a particular folder in the catalog. An alternate way is to sync it between different computers, which allows you efficiently use it on both without transferring.

An image of a person using an external hard drive

Method 1: Export the Whole Catalog

The first stage of transferring your Lightroom catalog to a different computer involves copying the catalog to a secondary storage option such as a USB. After copying the Lightroom catalog to an external drive, you need to move it to a second computer with the Lightroom software pre-installed.

To export the whole catalog from one computer to another, simply follow the steps discussed below:

  1. First, Install Adobe’s Creative Cloud Software on your second computer
  2. Then open Lightroom on the 1st computer and navigate to the “Edit” menu (on a PC) or the “Lightroom” menu (on a Mac).
  3. Click on “Catalog settings,” and three tabs will be displayed on the top.
  4. Select the “General” tab, and a ” location ” menu will pop up.
  5. Click on the “show” button in front of the menu, which launches file explorer (on PC) or Mac Finder(on Mac) to locate the Lightroom “catalog” folder.
  6. The file explorer highlights the catalog folder, which you can copy to the external drive.
  7. Next, eject the external drive and insert it into the second computer with the creative cloud pre-installed,
  8. After inserting the external drive into the new computer, copy the catalog folder to the computer.
  9. Open the catalog folder you just copied and search for a file in it that ends with “lrcat” which is the catalog file.
  10. Double-click on the file to open that catalog file in lightroom
  11. Navigate to the “develop” module, and you might see that the file is still missing on lightroom.
  12. To provide the file’s location on lightroom, click on the library module and go to the left panel.
  13. Right-click on the topmost folder, which is the parent folder, then select “Find missing folder.”
  14. Click on the already highlighted folder and select the “show” option

It might take a while, depending on the number of your photos. You can review the progress in the top left corner. When it is done transferring, there is a chance that it shows a problem that it is unable to find a particular photo. This should not bother you unless it is a very important photo.

Note: While copying the folder, it is essential not to rearrange or delete any file

Method 2: Import a Particular Folder

Instead of transferring the whole catalog, you can transfer a particular folder in your catalog. Another option is to transfer the whole catalog to a folder and transfer that folder. Follow these steps to do so:

An image of a laptop with USB flash drive
  1. Connect the external hard drive to your computer.
  2. Open the Lightroom App.
  3. Go to the Library module.
  4. On the left, click on the “+” sign under the Folder.
  5. Link it to your external hard drive. Create a folder for ease.
  6. Drag the folder from the Lightroom module to your hard drive.

You can then connect the external hard drive to your other computer and paste the photos into the Lightroom folder. Afterward, go to the Lightroom folder, click import, and click on the folder full of images.

Another similar thing you can do is go to the source folder and copy the folders from there. Follow these steps to do so:

  1. Right-click on any image and click on “Show in Folder”.
  2. Copy all the images and paste them into your hard drive.
  3. Transfer the images to the Lightroom folder on your other computer.
  4. Open the Lightroom App on the other computer.
  5. Go to the Library module and import the files through that.

Sync Lightroom Catalogs Across Computers

Syncing Lightroom catalogs across different computers allow you to access it directly from both of them. This decreases the need to transfer between different computers. You will need a cloud drive to achieve this and make sure that the Catalog is constantly being synced to the drive.

A recommended drive is Google Drive. However, any drive would work fine. Follow these steps to sync your files:

  1. Connect your external drive to your computer
  2. Go to the Library Module and click on Import.
  3. Connect it to your external drive.
  4. On the right, click on the “Smart Previews” check box.
  5. On the top, click on “Add.”
  6. Now on the bottom right, click on “Import.”

Doing this saves your previews in the external drive and the Catalog, which is synced to Google Drive. Now open your other computer and follow these steps:

  1. Go to Drive on the other computer and right-click on the Catalog folder. Click “Offline access” and click “Available Offline”.
  2. Open your Lightroom Catalog on the folder now. You can see the photo you saved on the external drive without connecting it.

You can also set up the sync to transfer files between different computers.

Are Catalogs in Lightroom Compatible Backwards?

The catalogs in the Classic version of lightroom are not backward compatible. This means that catalogs in newer versions of Lightroom cannot be opened in the older versions of Lightroom.

When you open a new Lightroom catalog in an older version, it fails to do so and displays a dialog menu saying that the catalog is too new to be used by that current version of Lightroom.

Instead, you can import photos from the newer version into your version and create a new catalog in the older version. The compatibility chart is given below:

  • Lightroom Classic 11x: Not compatible with the Classic version10x, version 9x, Lightroom Classic 8x,  the Classic 7x, Lightroom 6x, or Lightroom 5x and earlier versions.
  • Lightroom Classic 10x: Not compatible with the Classic version 9x, the Classic 8x, Lightroom Classic 7x, Lightroom 6x, or Lightroom 5x and earlier versions.

The case is similar to other versions of Lightroom.

An image of women using laptop

Related Questions

Where Are Lightroom Catalogs Stored?

Lightroom catalogs are stored in the My Pictures folder in Windows by default. You can access it through the C folder drive. If you are a Macbook user, Lightroom will default save its Catalog system in Pictures.

What Are the Benefits of the Catalog-Based System of Lightroom?

The benefit of a catalog-based system of Lightroom is that it allows non-destructive editing. This refers to the fact that no matter how many edits you make, the original file remains intact. Lightroom’s edits happen inside the Catalog as a description.

The descriptions are associated with the original file. However, they are applied in the previews and exported images instead of the original file. This is why you have an option of exporting the previews when you export the whole catalog.

What Are the Downsides of the Catalog-Based System of Lightroom?

The downside of Lightroom’s catalog-based system is that at a particular stage, Lightroom begins to slow down. This might happen when you reach 15 or 20 thousand images. You can manage this by creating multiple catalogs and working on them separately.


To export the Lightroom Catalog to another computer, you can transfer the whole catalog and individual folders. Lightroom’s catalog system ensures that your original file remains intact no matter how many edits you make. It also allows you to sync it between multiple computers.