Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Checklist for Moving Lightroom

I'm pleased to report that I migrated my Lightroom successfully. If you have a new computer or need to reformat your current computer, be aware of some migration pitfalls for the unwary.
I wish I had to migrate my Lightroom because I had a new computer.  Instead it's because my PC was plagued with a stubborn virus.  I couldn't get them all even with 3 antivirus programs installed, and I was getting so many antivirus alerts (several per second) that my computer became unusable.  Finally I hit the proverbial Big Red Button and reformatted my PC which is now back to normal.
Before I reformatted my computer, I was very concerned about Lightroom.  I didn't want to lose all my edits or my photos.
Everyone knows that Lightroom has a built-in function for backing up a catalog.  However, if you don't read the fine print, you may be in for a surprise.  The backup catalog only includes the catalog itself.  It does not include:
  • the photos themselves
  • sidecar files (with edits)
  • previews
  • slide shows
  • web galleries
Let me add a few more to that list:
  • presets (unless you select "Store presets with catalog")
  • plugins
  • custom preferences
  • custom lens correction profiles
  • camera profiles
  • I haven't tested this but I think it also may not include collections and publish services settings either.
Losing all that would be a nightmare!
Fortunately, in my revived computer, Lightroom now looks pretty much like it did before I formatted my computer.  I didn't rely on the backup catalog or even the export catalog command.  Instead I took these steps:
1. Note the location of your photos, slideshows, and galleries (again, they are not part of your catalog).  Copy all those files into an external drive.  In my case, my photos already reside in an external drive.
2. Note the location of the Lightroom catalog (see under Additional Resources below re default file locations).  Copy the whole Lightroom folder into an external drive.  Confirm by checking the total number of files and file size of the original Lightroom folder and the copied folder.
3. Note the location of each of the following and copy them to the external drive (see under Additional Resources below re default file locations):
  • Presets (if not stored with the catalog).
  • Plugins
  • Preferences (note: if you're moving from PC to Mac or vice-versa, preferences are not cross-platform)
  • Custom Camera Profiles
  • Custom Lens Correction Profiles
*Note that the folder AppData is a hidden folder in Vista.  You need to go to Control Panel then select Folder Options and view hidden files.

4. In your new computer, install Photoshop or Photoshop Elements (if you have either) before Lightroom so that when Lightroom is installed you'll automatically get the option for roundtrip editing in those programs.
5. Install Lightroom, including updates.  Exit Lightroom.
6. Start copying back all the files you copied from your old PC, and place them in the same directory locations:
  • photos, slideshows, galleries
  • replace the new Lightroom folder with the copied Lightroom folder from your old computer
  • Presets (if not stored with the catalog).
  • Plugins
  • Preferences
  • Custom Camera Profiles
  • Custom Lens Correction Profiles
7. Relaunch Lightroom.
Voila.  It will look like you never left (well, almost -- I had to re-register one of the plugins).


  1. Glad you were able to make it unscathed, nothing like the old copy-paste backup routine we are used to since Windows 95.

    I bookmarked this one for future reference.

  2. Thanks buddy. On a separate note i changed the title to make it easier to find.


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