Whenever you’re working within Lightroom, you’re working in a catalog. A Lightroom catalog contains all the information about the image files you’ve imported, as well as any adjustments you’ve made or metadata you’ve added to them. The catalog is a file residing on your hard disk; see figure below.
A catalog file is specific to the version of Lightroom that created it. For example, a Lightroom 2 catalog is different than a Lightroom 3 catalog. When you upgrade Lightroom between major versions (such as from v2 to v3) — and sometimes between “point versions” (such as from 3.0 to 3.2) — you also need to upgrade the catalog.
When you launch the new version of the program, Lightroom looks for the default (or most recent) catalog used, and if it finds an older version, you will be prompted to upgrade the catalog. You must allow this upgrade to be successfully performed before you can access your old data with the new program!
During a catalog upgrade, the Lightroom installer copies your old catalog to a new file and then performs the upgrade to the copied catalog. As a result, you end up with two catalogs – one from the old version and one for the new version.
After you’ve performed a catalog upgrade and confirmed the integrity of all the data it contains, it’s imperative that you remove the old catalog(s) from your system. This will prevent accidentally opening the old catalog when you didn’t mean to.
If you have multiple catalogs from the old version of Lightroom, all of them will need to be upgraded to support the newer version, and then all the old catalogs should be deleted. (If this makes you nervous, back them up first.)
Also, at this point you should completely uninstall the old version of Lightroom.
If you ever launch Lightroom and are unexpectedly prompted to upgrade the catalog (and you haven’t just done a program upgrade)… STOP! If you’ve already upgraded this catalog, don’t do it again – you will just end up with more copies of the same catalog. One of the worst things you can do in Lightroom is work in multiple catalogs without knowing it!
You can always confirm the catalog that’s open by using the Catalog Settings command. On Mac, it’s located under the Lightroom menu at the top left of the screen. On Windows, it’s under the Edit menu.
You have a bunch of image files in your Lightroom catalog that are on one hard disk and want to move them to another.
1. Look in the Library left panel > Folders. Note that each hard disk that Lightroom is aware of is listed there. Is the disk that you want to move files to listed?
If so, drag and drop within Lightroom to move/copy files from one disk to another. (And as necessary then delete any duplicate versions from older drives.)
2. Click the plus + symbol on the Folders panel header.
3. Use the "Add Folder" command to create a new folder on the destination hard disk (the one you want to move files to). This will add that disk and folder to the catalog.
4. Drag and drop as described above to move files to/from disks/folders from within Lightroom.
No need to do any work outside Lightroom for this.
Notes about this process:
1. If you’ve already imported files into Lightroom, it’s always best to move, copy, delete etc. from within Lightroom. This will always keep your organizational systems intact… including Collections and Develop settings.
2. Think about the physical location of folders on disk outside of how they appear in Lightroom. Ultimately, your goal should be to have your Lightroom catalog match what’s on disk at all times. If you have missing items there, resolve them.
Send me an email if you have any questions or problems. Good luck!
Unnowingly using multiple Lightroom catalogs is dangerous.
Make sure you always know what catalog you’re working in. If you accidentally do some of your photo work in one catalog, and more work in another catalog, you stand a good chance of losing some of that work.
Most photographers can work with just one master catalog. If you need to separate personal from work photography, that makes sense for multiple catalogs. But again, always know what catalog file you have open in Lightroom!
To open a different catalog:
When Lightroom is running, you can use the Open Catalog… command (File menu) to find and open a specific catalog. Or hold Option/Alt while starting Lightroom.
Use OS X or Windows search functions to find all the catalogs on your system and get rid of unnecessary ones. And back up the important ones.