Moving Picasa from Windows XP to Windows 7

I love Google’s Picasa application for managing photos, but I have been putting off migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7 for some time.  Blogs and forums show that this is a troublesome task that often results in people losing their face recognitions, etc.

It seems that Google have not provided a mechanism for restoring a Picasa backup onto a new machine with a different directory structure.  Instead of a Picasa backup, I used a backup of my photo directories and a backup of my Picasa database, but you could modify my procedure to get this to work with a Picasa backup.

So, for my own future reference, and hopefully to help others, here are the simple, though time consuming, steps.

  1. Restore the photos to the correct locations.  This is essential.  The Picasa database refers to photos in specific locations, so if these are wrong, you will lose things such as your face recognitions.  I had to create a Documents and Settings directory on Windows 7 and put my photos in the correct place under there, matching the exact orignal paths.  I also had to use an external drive for the photos that had been on a separate E: partition on my old PC.  If you are unsure what the original paths were, you can find these in the watchedfolders.txt file in the Picasa2Albums application data directory (see step 2 if you are not sure where to find this).
  2. Copy the 2 picasa directories from settings/Google. Both of the Picasa directories are needed: Picasa2 and Picasa2Albums.  Make sure you put them in the correct location on the new machine.  The precise location of the application data directory will vary, but on XP is likely to be under the user’s Local Settings / Application Data / Google and on W7 to be under the user’s AppData / Local / Google.  There are two Picasa directories, one called Picasa2 and the other called Picasa2Albums.
  3. Install the latest version of Picasa.
  4. Run Picasa. If you sign on with your Google account, you will need to use the same account as previously so that the contact information matches.  I don’t sign on and Picasa just uses a local contacts file which it keeps in its settings directory.  At this stage, you will be able to tell if everything has worked.
  5. Use Picasa to move photos to the correct location.  It is important that photos are moved using Picasa if you want it to keep track of them and associated data, such as face recognitions.  Set Picasa to watch the new directories before you move, use the tree view in Picasa and move directories to their new location.  In my case, I wanted the photos moved from C:\Documents and Settings to C:\users and from E:\ to C:\users.
  6. Tidy up the temporary photo locations. In my case, I had to delete the temporary directories from E:\ and the temporary Documents and Settings directory.

Enjoy Picasa on your new machine!