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How to move my photos to a new computer

This article describes how you can move the pictures you manage in Picasa from your present computer to a new computer. The two techniques in this FAQ will work regardless of which Windows version you have on the source and destination computers.
Note: If both the old and the new computers have the same operating system (such as both computers are Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 10, you may be able to use the following method to copy your Photos and Picasa database to the new computer. Be sure to review the instructions carefully to be sure you can use the technique. This method is faster and doesn't require a database rebuild; see: How to move my photos and the picasa database to a new computer

Important remark no matter what type of computer you have: Besides photos, you probably have all kinds of different data on your computer such as the following:
  • documents (.pdf files, .docx files, .txt, .odt, etc.) 
  • spreadsheets
  • music (audio) files 
  • pictures you don't manage using Picasa

The following how-to does NOT deal with document and spreadsheet files, music files, hidden photos/folders, and photos "removed" from Picasa - so don't forget to manually move those files as well!

Before you begin, read the instructions for Method A and for Method B and decide which method works best for your situation.

Phase 1: Preparation

Before moving your pictures to a new computer it is best to embed all the name tags (if you use this feature) in the pictures files you are about to move. Read here how to do this:
Where does Picasa store facetags? 

Phase 2: Copy all necessary data using either Method A or Method B

Method A: Use the Picasa backup feature

Method A is the easiest and most automatic way, so it is the recommended way for most users.
The backup will "save" everything that Picasa needs, including the photos, edits, captions, tags, name tags, and album definitions. We suggest doing this backup to an external hard drive. 

Cautions when using Picasa Backup

  • Remember that the Picasa Backup tool only backs up the Photos and Picasa data files, so if the photo folders contain documents or anything else besides photos, those files will not be backed up by Picasa, and if you want them on the new computer you should copy and restore them after the Picasa Restore.
  • The Picasa Backup tool will NOT backup folders which are set to "Remove from Picasa" nor will it back up hidden photos or folders.
  • Picasa arranges it's left column into "Collections" such as Albums, People, and Folders. These collections can be Open for viewing or Closed.
    • A collection is Open if it has a green triangle to the left of the collection, or a red triangle indicates it is closed.
    • In Flat Folder View there can be user defined collections and all should be open for a complete backup.
    • When backing up, the Albums collection should be open and all selected so Album definitions will be retained.
    • When Backing up, the People album should be open and all selected to be sure face names are defined if faces are defined in the metadata.
    • If you want to back up Hidden Folders, it can only be done in Flat Folder view by opening the Hidden Folders collection and selecting the folders.
  • If you want to back up Hidden pictures, they are backed up if View menu -> Hidden Pictures is checked.
  • If you want to back up Small pictures, they are backed up if View menu -> Small Pictures is checked.

 Back up pictures using the Picasa backup tool

  1. In the left column of Picasa make sure that ALL Collections are OPEN (they have a green triangle to the left of the name)
    Collections include Albums, People, Folders, and depending on options may include Projects, Exported Folders, and any Collections you have named
  2. Go to the Tools menu and select "Back Up Pictures".
  3. In the Backup tool box 1 select "New Set" So you will create a new complete backup, not an Incremental backup.
  4. In the New Backup Set box that comes up, name the backup set and select Disk-to-disk backup.
  5. You will need a hard disk or external hard disk with enough free space to contain your complete photo collection.
  6. Select the backup drive and folder to contain the backup set, and select all file types to be backed up.
  7. Then click the "Create" button to create the new backup set.
  8. In the Backup tool box 2, click "Select All", then click the "Burn" Button to create the backup set.

The backup set will be created in the drive and folder you named and will contain the PicasaRestore.exe program you can use to restore all missing photos to the Original locations. You can also Explore the backup folder tree to find individual photos to copy back to the original location if you just want to restore a few deleted files.

Restore all photos and data to the original locations on the new computer

  1. Connect the external hard disk to the new computer
  2. Browse to the backup folder in the external hard disk, and double-click the PicasaRestore.exe program
  3. Select Restore to Original Locations, and start the restore

The Photos will be restored to the same locations on the new computer as they were on the previous computer.


Method B: Copy the necessary files by hand

The "by hand" way is more involved and a bit more error prone because you're doing it all yourself. 
  1. Make sure you are using version 3.9 of Picasa, otherwise you can run into trouble with your blue-book albums.
  2. Copy ALL folders containing pictures from your old computer to an external hard disk
    1. Remark: Copy whole folders and ALL of their content. Do not try to combine multiple folders into a single folder, or you will loose edits.
  3. Copy the contacts information of Picasa to the external hard disk, following these directions
    1. Open the correct folder on your old computer
      1. Windows
        1. Open the "Run" window by pressing the "Windows button" on the keyboard plus the R key; or type Run in the Windows Start/Search menu 
          1. You could also open Windows Explorer / File Explorer then paste the appropriate path below into the path bar
        2. In the Run window (or File Explorer), paste the appropriate path below and click OK
          • Windows XP: %userprofile%\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Picasa2\contacts
          • Windows Vista / Windows 7 / Windows 8 / Windows 10: %LocalAppData%\Google\Picasa2\contacts
      1. Mac
        1. Open finder, and navigate to ~/Library/Application Support/Google/Picasa3/contacts
      2. Note: If the above folders don't exist, you probably moved the Picasa database to another location. Look for the "contacts.xml" file there.
    2. Copy the "contacts.xml" file to the external hard disk
  4. Attach the external disk to your new computer, then copy all picture folders to the new computer, at any location you prefer.
  5. Copy the "contacts.xml" file to the location specific as follows
    1. Open the correct folder
      1. Windows
        1. Open the "Run" window by pressing the "Windows button" on the keyboard plus the R key; or type Run in the Windows Start/Search menu 
          1. You could also open Windows Explorer / File Explorer then paste the appropriate path below into the path bar
        2. Paste the appropriate path below:
          • Windows XP:  %userprofile%\Local Settings\Application Data\
          • Windows Vista / Windows 7 / Windows 8 / Windows 10: %LocalAppData%\
      1. Mac
        1. Open finder, and navigate to ~/Library/Application Support/
    2. In that path, create the subfolders Google\Picasa2\contacts
      1. Note: Even though the latest Picasa version is 3, the folder needs to say Picasa2
    3. Copy the "contacts.xml" file from the external hard disk into the contacts folder that you just created.
      Note: If the contacts.xml file already exists in the destination because you are adding to an existing installation, you can rename the new contacts.xml to backup.xml, and copy that the .destination Contacts folder. Picasa will merge it with the contacts.xml

Phase 3: Finalize

At this point, all necessary data is now available on the new computer. Do the following:
  1. Install Picasa3, see "Update Picasa to Latest Version"
  2. Start Picasa
  3. Go to Tools > Folder Manager in the top menu and be sure the location of your photos folder is set to "Scan Always"
  4. Have some patience while Picasa discovers your photos and does face recognition. The total process can take about 1 hour per 10,000 pictures.
  5. Enable embedding face tags on your new computer as explained here: