Moving a Catalog from Windows to Mac

Now that Photoshop Elements 9 for Mac includes the Organizer, lots of people are wondering how to get their photos and their catalogs from the Windows version of the Organizer onto their Macs. You can do this, but there are a few caveats. The basic process is pretty simple:

Photoshop Elements 9 Windows Organizer
The Windows Organizer

1. Install Photoshop Elements 9 in Windows. You have to do this because the Mac version can pick up a Windows catalog, but only if it’s a version 9 catalog, so update your catalog to version 9. If Elements 9 doesn’t find your catalog automatically, in the Organizer go to File->Catalog->Open and find it in the list of catalogs. Check for disconnected files and be sure your catalog is in top-notch shape by going to File->Catalog->Repair, and then choose Optimize in the same window.

2. Back up your catalog to a removable drive. It can even be something like a thumb drive, if your photos will fit. It can’t be a network drive, though. Adobe says you can use a backup to disc, as well, but I’ve never been able to make this work, so I don’t recommend it.  To start your backup, in the Organizer go to File->Back up Catalog to CD, DVD, or Hard Drive, and follow the instructions in the window that appears. Once it’s done disconnect the drive from the Windows computer.

3. Install Elements 9 on your Mac, then connect the drive.

4. Launch the Mac Organizer, then go to File->Restore Catalog from Hard Drive. Under Restore From, click the Browse button next to Locate the Backup File, and find your backup. Then under “Restore Files and Catalog to”, choose New Location, click the Browse button to specify where you want to put everything, and turn on the checkbox for Restore Original Folder Structure if you want to keep the same folder organization you had in Windows. Otherwise everything will be dumped into the top level of the destination folder you chose, and the original folder structure and subfolders will be gone. I’d also suggest creating a new folder for the restore, no matter where you decide to put it. Click Restore.

Photoshop Elements 9 Mac Restore

That’s all there is to it, pretty much. Just remember that the Mac Organizer is still pretty much of a version 1.0 product, so you won’t find all the features you had in Windows. No Slide Show Editor, no Watched Folders, no Export command, no Yahoo maps, for example. But having the Organizer for Mac greatly simplifies life if you need to move your photos from Windows to the Mac.

Photoshop Elements 9 Mac Organizer
The Mac Organizer with the restored catalog. Looks just the same as it did in Windows.

If you’re done with Elements 9 in Windows, you can uninstall it. Before you do, don’t forget to go to the Editor->Help->Deactivate so that you don’t waste one of your two permitted installations.

This is the file you want the restore to use.

EDIT If you find that your restore consistently fails, try pointing the restore to the file Backup.tly inside the backup folder, instead of to the folder itself.  You’ll find it down towards the bottom of the list of contents. (Thanks to jazzfisher from the Elements Village forum for figuring this out.)