Migrate To A New Photo Computer

By Roger (13 March 2016)

Switching to a new computer can be great, especially when it is a planned event, not a breakdown. You get a newer processor; more memory; better graphic cards.; and an easy way to upgrade your operating system. Today's computer prices are pretty good. Really, comparing present features to present costs, the computer is a relatively inexpensive tool.

However, if you're not careful, moving to a new computer can cause major aggravations to your photography workflow. The changeover can cause a loss of presets, and Photoshop actions you rely on, not to mention your precious photographs. Let's walk through an approach that will make your switch less painful.

We've talked organization and backups to death, but let me say, one more time, this stuff is important. You'll really appreciate that upfront organization when it's time to migrate your files.

My favorite scheme is creating a single folder – I just call it “Photos” – within which I place every file that is photo-related. You can use any sub-folder system you think is best inside this one top-level folder. Everybody has their own systems, so use whatever makes sense to you. Despite the fact that Lightroom can sort by dates, I create one sub-folder, every year, labeled with just the four-digit year, for my new photographs. I use more descriptive folder names for other photo-related files. I won't argue with whatever you system you come up with, but put it all under a single, top-level folder.

I don't limit my “Photos” folder to just my photographs and video clips. I put everything photo-related in there: Lightroom catalogs; presets; custom keyword lists; Photoshop actions; photo ebooks; and instructional videos and PDFs you bought or were given. I also put a document with all my license keys to my photo software and equipment serial numbers in there. Everything.

This allows me to set my automatic backup software to a single folder, and I know where to find it all. To prepare for the switch from old to new, I backed up that “Photos” folder on two separate (portable) hard drives, connected to the old computer. I connected one of the backup drives to the new computer, and, with one click and a drag, I was putting all my photo stuff onto the new computer. I didn't delete either backup. My new computer has a RAID array where I store all my data, so I have an automatic copy there. I will still make a manual backup every couple of weeks, and the first time I do, I'll overwrite one of the portable hard drives with the new backup.

If you use the Adobe CC subscription, you should start any one of the Adobe programs, on the old computer. You want to sign out of the Adobe CC app, prior to uninstalling the apps. Go to Help > Sign Out. This will remove the old computer from your account. Download the Creative Cloud app from Adobe onto your new box; sign in; and you're back in business. Lightroom will know where all your photos are located because they're in the same place they were on the old computer. You point to your presets, and now they're back where you left them.

In Photoshop, again, you just reload your actions and brushes, and go to work. You will need to reload your external plug-ins, but you have all your license keys in one document. That will make re-activating them easy.

I recommend at least 16Gb of RAM and the best processors and graphics card you can afford. I also prefer separate drives for my program files and data. As I said earlier, I budget for a new computer every 3-4 years, to keep up with the pace of technology. This strategy has kept me pretty free of computer problems, with only one hard drive failure in 30 years. By the way, if you're on a PC and tired of the Windows 10 reminders, go ahead and upgrade your operating system. Adobe software runs fine on Windows 10.

I am lucky enough to have a friend, a qualified IT guy, build my new computer for me. He works on computers for a living, so I have plenty of confidence in this build. Thanks, Brian. Time to go have some fun.

Barge Tug, in Virginia Beach