Lightroom: Will my catalog survive if I reinstall the OS and apps?

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  • Updated 3 years ago
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I may have to have my Windows operating system reinstalled. The tech said my documents, etc would be intact, but I would have to reinstall my software. My photos are on external drives, but I think my LR catalog backup is in my computer. Will it be deleted ? If so, can I save a catalog backup on my external drive before the OS reinstall? I have LR 4. And once I download & install it again, how do I get my catalog back into it.

Another question. I have been thinking about getting an iMac. If I do, how do I transfer my LR catalog over to it. In either case I'll need to download from the Adobe site
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Lynne Dugaw

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Posted 3 years ago

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Becky Sowada, Adobe Employee

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Hi Lynne,

You can find the location of Lightroom-specific files here:

I would recommend you make sure to keep your preferences file, any custom presets you've created/installed, and most importantly, your catalog file.

Note that the catalog locations given on that page are for the default catalog location. To make sure you get the catalog you are using, open Lightroom and go to Edit > Catalog Settings. On the General tab, you'll see the location of the catalog. You can click the Show button to open that folder in Explorer. Inside the folder you are shown, you'll see several files. The most important one is the one with .lrcat at the end of the filename. The previews.lrdata folder contains your previews; you can leave them behind and Lightroom will rebuild them as needed. That could mean Lightroom is slightly less performant initially while it is building out previews, but give it some time and it will catch up again. How much time depends on the number of images in your catalog.

If you have backup catalogs, they are probably going to be in that same location. You can copy the .lrcat and any backups to your external drive. After you do your OS reinstall, you can move the catalog files back onto your internal drive. After you install Lightroom again, hold down the Ctrl key when you start Lightroom. You'll see a dialog prompting you to select your catalog. If you don't see yours in the list, just click "Choose a Different Catalog" and navigate to the location where you put your catalog. Then click Open to start Lightroom. From this point on, Lightroom will remember and select this catalog on launch, just like it does currently.

To move from Windows to Mac, see steps to follow here: