How to use a Lightroom Catalog on a Network Drive

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Friday, June 12th, 2015, 6:02am
Categories: Tech / Nerdery

I think I just had a "Eureka!" moment with Adobe Lightroom. Basically, there's this thing where Lightroom prevents you from using a Catalog over a network, presumably because it's too slow and/or could be destroyed if more than one person accesses it at a time.

Well damn it! I want to use a catalog over the network! It's more convenient, more centralized, more... blah, adobe. Blah. Plus, I'm the only one using my catalog, but I want to be able to use it from more than one computer at different times.

Anyway, it just occurred to me that Lightroom might not be smart enough to detect something called a "Symlink", which is sort of like a shortcut that behaves like it's a normal directory. I tried it ... and Eureka! It works!

So, without further adieu, here's how to make that symlink.

Specific DISCLAIMER: Subverting Lightroom's anti-network-drive protections might possibly corrupt your Catalog, especially if more than one person accesses it at the same time. Make sure you have a backup of everything, before you try this.
General DISCLAIMER: Never take my advice, as it will probably destroy everyone and everything in your life.

So yeah, windows has a command called "MKLINK" which does this. To start, you'll need to open a command prompt with administrator privileges. For me on Windows7, I click the start menu, type "cmd", and then when it pops up in the choices, I right-click and select "Run as Administrator" or whatever. Your setup may be slightly different.

Once CMD is up, the command is pretty simple.
  • 1. Go determine the path to the folder containing your catalog(s). Let's say for the sake of argument, you have all of your catalogs on a network drive mapped to "N:", inside a folder at "N:\Photography\Lightroom\Catalogs\". We'll call that _SOURCE_
  • 2. Go determine the path to some folder on your local machine, which we'll use to trick Lightroom into thinking your catalogs are on your computer. Let's pretend we have a user account named "Carlton", and we want this folder to show up on the desktop. The path to your desktop might then be "C:\Users\Carlton\Desktop\". We'll then tack on "LightroomCats", so the link shows up as a folder on the desktop, making it "C:\Users\Users\Carlton\Desktop\LightroomCats\". We can also call this _DESTINATION_


We're now ready to build our MKLINK command. The pattern is pretty simple, really:

mklink /D _SOURCE_ _DESTINATION_

Where "/D" tells the command to make a softlink/symlink, _SOURCE_ is the original catalog folder over a network drive, and _DESTINATION_ is the fake link/folder we're creating on our desktop.

So having said that, this is the command you would enter if you were using the same folder paths as in this example:

mklink /D "N:\Photography\Lightroom\Catalogs\" "C:\Users\Users\Carlton\Desktop\LightroomCats\"

Windows Network Drive Symlink
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Note that I quote all paths, because the command line is stupid and poop's its pants if you have any spaces in your directories.

Hope that helped! Hope it works for you! It seems to be working for me at this moment, anyway.

Final DISCLAIMER : Remember - Don't actually follow any of my advice or you'll most likely ruin your entire life.

~Mike Peralta

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Mike Peralta is an independent musician and you should follow him on Twitter (@MikePeralta) and Instagram (@MikePeraltaMusic), then subscribe to his blog just a bit below this text!
Current avatar photo by Heinz von Bockelmann (CC by 2.0, modified by Mike Peralta)

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