Backing up the catalog

Lightroom allows you to schedule regular catalog backups when you exit the software. Backups executed from Lightroom include only the catalog file. You must manually back up your edited photos, previews, sidecar files, slide shows, web galleries, and exported photos outside Lightroom.

Performing frequent, regular catalog backups is only part of what should be a more comprehensive backup strategy. When formulating a backup strategy:

  • Remember that the more frequently you back up your catalog and photos, the less data you stand to lose when a crash or corruption occurs.

  • If possible, store the backup copies of your photos and catalog on a separate hard disk from your working files.

  • Consider using dedicated backup software to automate the process and synchronize changes between your working and backup files.

  • If you’re worried that your backup files might be accidentally erased, create redundant backups on additional disks, or on read-only media such as DVDs.

  • For greater security, store your backup disk in a separate location from yyour working disk, preferably off site or in a fire-proof safe.

Important: The interaction between Mac OS X Time Machine™ and Lightroom catalog files is unknown. Running Time Machine backup or restore operations while Lightroom is in use is not recommended.

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Specify catalog backup frequency

  1. Choose Edit > Catalog Settings (Windows) or Lightroom > Catalog Settings (Mac OS).
  2. In the Backup area of the General panel, choose an option from the Back Up Catalog pop-up menu:
    When Lightroom Next Exits
    Backs up the catalog the next time you exit Lightroom, and then the Back Up Catalog option switches to Never.

    Every Time Lightroom Exits
    Backs up the catalog every time you exit Lightroom, so changes from every working session are always backed up.

    Once A Day, When Exiting Lightroom
    Backs up the catalog the first time you exit Lightroom each day. If you exit Lightroom more than once a day, additional changes are not backed up until the next day.

    Once A Week, When Exiting Lightroom
    Backs up the catalog once a week. If you exit Lightroom more frequently, additional changes are not backed up until the next week.

    Once A Month, When Exiting Lightroom
    Backs up the catalog once a month. If you exit Lightroom more frequently, additional changes are not backed up until the next month.

    Never
    No backups are performed by Lightroom. (Not recommended.)

Choose the catalog backup location

By default, catalog backup files are stored in a Backups folder. Backup files are in a folder named by the date and time the backup was performed:

  • Mac OS: /User home/catalog location/catalog name/Backups/YYYY-MM-DD HRMN/

  • Windows: C:\Documents and Settings\username\catalog location\catalog name\Backups\YYYY-MM-DD HRMN\

Note: The time is represented by a 24-hour clock without a colon between hours and minutes.

You can change the location of the backup files, however.

  1. Exit Lightroom when a catalog backup is scheduled.
  2. In the Back Up Catalog dialog box, click Choose next to the Backup Folder path. Then, navigate to the new location.
Lightroom writes a new catalog every time it creates a backup. To save space on your hard disk, delete or compress old backup files.

Check catalog integrity

Lightroom lets you check for catalog corruption when you open or back up a catalog. Checking catalog integrity increases the time it takes to open or back up a catalog, but reduces the risk of data loss.

 To check for catalog corruption, do one of the following:
  • Exit Lightroom when a catalog backup is scheduled. In the Back Up Catalog dialog box, select Test Integrity Before Backing Up, and then click Backup.

  • In the General panel of the Preferences dialog box, select When Starting Up Use This Catalog > Prompt Me When Starting Lightroom. Start Lightroom. In the Select Catalog dialog box, select Test Integrity Of This Catalog, and then click Open.

Perform a catalog backup

  1. Exit Lightroom when a catalog backup is scheduled.
  2. In the Back Up Catalog dialog box, choose one of the following:
    Backup
    Back up the current catalog.

    Skip This Time
    Postpone the backup until the next time you quit Lightroom.

    Backup Tomorrow
    When you’ve opted to back up your catalog once a day, you can choose to postpone the operation for a day.

    Backup In One Week
    When you’ve opted to back up your catalog once a week, you can choose to postpone the operation for a week.

    Backup In One Month
    When you’ve opted to back up your catalog once a month, you can choose to postpone the operation for a month.

Restore a backup catalog

  1. Choose File > Open Catalog.
  2. Navigate to the location of your backed up catalog file.
  3. Select the backed up .lrcat file and click Open.
  4. (Optional) Copy the backed up catalog to the location of the original catalog to replace it.