Moving Lightroom from PC to Mac

Lightroom IconAs mentioned in my last post, I just made the switch to a Mac. One of the migration duties was to move my Lightroom catalog and photos… fortunately this is a pretty simple task. Here are the steps I went through:

Moving the Lightroom Catalog and Photos

  1. Download Lightroom from Adobe. The Lightroom license allows for installation on two computers, so my existing license key for Windows works just fine on the Mac.
  2. Install Lightroom on the Mac.
  3. Locate your Lightroom catalog and preview cache files. The catalog (filename ends in .lrcat) is the Lightroom database containing all of your edits and metadata. The cache file (same name as your catalog, plus the word Previews, and ending in .lrdata) contains the image thumbnails for your photos. It’s not necessary to move this file, but if you do, you’ll save a bit of time because Lightroom won’t have to rebuild all of your thumbnails.
  4. Take a look at where your photos are stored. After moving Lightroom, you’ll need to update the file locations so that it can find your files. Hopefully you have your images in some sort of logical storage locations.
  5. Move your Lightroom catalog and cache files to the Mac. I used an external (firewire) hard drive but you could also use any other file transfer method. I created a “Lightroom” folder within the “Pictures” folder for my Lightroom files and put them inside.
  6. If you’re moving your photo files, move them at this point. If they’re on a external drive or another storage location that isn’t changing, continue along…
  7. Open Lightroom on the Mac and open up your catalog. You should see thumbnails but if you look in the Folders panel, you’ll see that the names are grayed out because Lightroom can’t find the files.
  8. The final step is to help Lightroom find your photo files. Right-click on a grayed-out folder location and choose “Find Missing Folder” and browse to the correct location.

That’s it! You’ve moved Lightroom and all of your data is intact. You can also move plugins and presets which are as straightforward as moving them from the PC file location to the Mac file location.

Moving Lightroom Plugins and Presets

Since Lightroom lets you choose your own plugin location, you will simply move files from your plugin location on your PC to a location on your Mac, then reinstall the plugin via Lightroom’s Plugin Manager (on the File menu).

Presets might be a little more hidden. On Windows Vista, they’re stored in folders under C:\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Lightroom\. On Windows XP, they’ll be in C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Adobe\Lightroom. Move your custom presets to the Mac. On the Mac, you’ll want to store them inside ~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Lightroom.

Overall it’s a fairly simple process given the complexity of the program.

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. My new MAC Pro will arrive in about a week. Thank you for posting this information. I had forgotten about the plugins and presets; had a hard time with those so I suspect I’ll be frustrated for a while getting them set up again.

    To transfer the files with the image files from my PC to the MAC, can I move the entire folder array from my Drobo unit to the MAC? So, my idea is to copy the LR Library to the Drobo and then copy it to the MAC; if all goes well, then I can delete the Library from the Drobo; will this work?

    I use Drobo for backup of image files and the catalog.

    1. Yes, you can use the Drobo as an intermediate storage device just like any external hard drive. The Mac should be able to read the Windows-formatted filesystem on the Drobo.

  2. I did that, but LR says that the catalog can’t be used because it’s not writeable and can’t be opened. Any idea?

    1. I haven’t seen that problem myself, but based on the error message I’d check the file permissons of the .lrcat file as well as the folder that it’s inside.

  3. I assume then the catalog structure is identical for both LR Versions (Win/Mac) as it should be. I’m thinking of having LR’s catalog and the source files in some network storage (some form of NAS) and accessing it both from Win (my wife) and Mac (me). I plan to ensure that LR is never opened from both ends at the same time.

    My prediction is it will not work for some reason I can’t forsee. Help?

    1. I suspect you might run into issues with the file system differences between Mac and Windows. Your catalog will be looking for the files from one system using a drive letter and path (Windows) and by volume name on the OS X machine…

      This is just a guess…

    2. Lightroom isnt happy with storing it’s catalog on the network. But it’s happy to keep the source files on a network.

      I carry my catalog and previews on a USB flash disk, while all my source photos are in a linux server on the network. Works mighty fine with my windows computers. I would be trying it out with a Mac soon.

      1. This is really great!

        I to have my masters on a Linux file server and I access them from Aperture (from a Mac) and from LR (from my wife’s PC); both catalogs/libraries are local which is messy.

        Somewhere in LR there must be a spec that points to the catalog (as the post below suggests). Could we somehow have two of these ‘files’ (one for windows one for mac) so that the catalog (living on some Network File Saver) gets correctly pointed to depending on whether it is being accesses from a PC or Mac?

  4. If you are confused about this symbol in the path example above ~ which could lead you to the wrong location on your drive.

    please be advised that the standard paths on my imac are like these:

    catalog: username / pictures / ligthroom / Lightroom . lrcat
    settings: username / Library / Application Support / Adobe / Lightroom

    After copying everying from windows xp to the imac, i had to start Lightroom, then open the copy of the catalog from my windows xp machine, locate the tree with all folders containg the images and within seconds, it all looked like at home.

    not a single error so far…

  5. Thanks allot this post really helped me out.

  6. Thanks a loT!! I’m not a computer wizard and was able to do this with no problem, just followed your instructions!

  7. I’ve done what you describe above. No probs with the catalogue so far. I struggle to get LR on the Imac to recognise my settings from the PC though. I’ve copied them exactly in the location described above but they don’t appear in LR at all.

    1. What do you mean when you say “settings”?

  8. Thanks! Worked for me with 75gb of pics!

  9. Can anyone help me with a similar problem please? I have recently purchased a MacBook Pro OS X Snow Leopard. I am using both Windows and Mac on this computer. I downloaded Lightroom on trial and installed it in the Windows section. Now I have purchased a new boxed version but I have not as yet either a) used the licence number to validate the trial version nor b) install it from the CD.

    I want to install it on Mac and retrieve my Lightroom files from Windows. Being a beginner to Lightroom, as yet I do not have anything too complicated on the trial version.

    How do I do this please?

    Many thanks in advance

    Carl-Robert Hall

Leave a Reply

Close Menu