Lightroom Tips

The Top Q&A’s About The Lightroom 5 Upgrade

I’ve seen a bunch of questions about the release of Lightroom 5 and what it means to existing Lightroom users. So I wanted to write a quick post to answer some of the most common questions about upgrading. Here goes:

Q. Can I upgrade from Lightroom version 3 (or 2 or even 1)?
A. Yes. The Lightroom 5 upgrade will work for any version of Lightroom (1 thru 4). As long as you own a previous version of Lightroom the upgrade costs $79.

Q. What happens to my old Lightroom catalog?
A. When you first install and launch Lightroom 5, you should get a message telling you that you need to upgrade your previous Lightroom catalog. It actually makes a copy of the catalog and doesn’t modify or change your existing Lightroom 4 catalog. So you don’t need to do anything really. Your new Lightroom 4 catalog can life side-by-side along with your LR 5 catalog and nothing has to change until you’re ready to delete the old stuff.


The Official Lame Disclaimer: Whenever you install new software or upgrades EVERY software maker suggests you back up your computer and files. Personally, I didn’t back anything up before installing LR5, but hey, that’s just me 😉

Q. I use multiple catalogs. When I installed Lightroom 5, it just upgraded my default catalog. What about the other ones?
A. Lightroom 5 will upgrade your default catalog (the one that opens by default when you launch Lightroom). If you use multiple catalogs (which I don’t think you should btw…), you can upgrade them by going to the top menu and choosing File > Open Catalog (or Open Recent). Lightroom 5 will do the same thing it does the first time you launch it. It’ll make a copy of the catalog and upgrade it for Lightroom 5, while leaving the old Lightroom 4 catalog alone.

Q. Can I delete my old Lightroom 4 catalog?
A. Yes, when you’re all settled with Lightroom 5 you can delete your old Lightroom 4 catalog. You don’t need it anymore. Lightroom 5 won’t look for it and if you’re not using Lightroom 4 anymore then you don’t need the older catalogs.

Q. Can I remove Lightroom 4 from my computer?
A. Sure thing. Again, once you’re settled and up and running with LR5, you can uninstall Lightroom 4 (or whatever earlier version you were using) and everything will still work fine. And if you ever wipe your computer or install Lightroom 5 on a new computer, you can just install Lightroom 5 from scratch without installing the earlier version first. You’ll just need your serial number to active it.

Q. Will my presets carry over to Lightroom 5?
A. Yep. When you install Lightroom 5, all of your presets (Develop module, metadata, print, etc…) will all get moved over to Lightroom 5 automatically.



  1. Tom S 24 April, 2014 at 14:41 Reply


    I currently have Lightroom 3 on my Pc. I have just bought Lightroom 5 but I want to install it on my laptop instead of my PC.
    Should i install lightroom 3 on the laptop first, transfer everything over from my old pc and then install lightroom 5?


    • Matt K 24 April, 2014 at 14:56 Reply

      Nope. Just install Lightroom 5. If it’s an upgrade it’ll probably ask you for the LR3 serial number but that’s it. From there, move your LRCat file over to the laptop and open it in LR5 and it’ll take care of everything after that.

    • Shalmai Littleford 13 May, 2016 at 18:44 Reply

      I would like to upgrade to lightroom 3 to lightroom 5. I haven’t been able to locate a lightroom product for $79.00? Is there a specific website?

  2. Barbara Moon Batista 13 April, 2014 at 19:08 Reply

    I just imported new work into LR4 without thinking. I have already updated the LR4 catalog to LR5. How can I move the new work folders over to LR5? Thanks.

    • steve childs 18 April, 2014 at 15:46 Reply

      i upgraded from lr4 to 5 and registered 5 but my adobe acct still only shows lr 4. the last 4 license key numbers are xxxx on lr5 so when i buy a new computer will i have problems installing lr5?

  3. Abhijeet 18 March, 2014 at 04:40 Reply


    I have LR3 on my laptop.
    I have just bought an imac (has trial version of LR5) and I want to upgrade to LR5 on imac.
    I do not have internet connectivity on imac yet.

    a) Can I upgrade on laptop and use the code key on the imac to convert the trial version of LR5 to full version?
    b) Do I need internet on imac just to upgrade using code key?


  4. amy4hanum 8 March, 2014 at 13:36 Reply

    I accidently purchased photoshop lightroom 5 upgrade instead of the full program. So when I tried to install the program it asked for the original serial number, which I don’t have. So from reading the above review, you are saying I can purchase any of the former photoshop light programs and it will upgrade to 5?

  5. Bruce Berg 1 February, 2014 at 15:38 Reply


    Just an FYI: With MS Explorer; your photo/icons are covering up the underlining text. I suspect you use a different browser as Safari. Each browser has its own idiosyncrasies and your web page needs to be tested on each.

    Other than that it is a great design…

    You have your classes for 2013 posted… But, not for 2014…

    Enjoy your site… Bruce

  6. Peta 17 January, 2014 at 11:31 Reply

    Hi..I have used an old email address for my ADOBE ID…registering my lightroom 3 on that email…now adobe is not recognizing my address and say I have NO registered SOFTWARE with them…i bought LIGHTROOM 3 have the box and all…want to upgrade to LIGHTROOM 5!

    Can I upgrade and how do i find out what email I have used for my adobe id??????

  7. Monica 27 December, 2013 at 07:55 Reply

    My mom went out and bought me photoshop lightroom 5 for christmas and neither one of us knew you had to have the serial number to the previous one jst to put it fully onto the computer. So my question is do i have to buy a previous version just to download all of the lightroom 5 onto my computer?

    • Matt K 27 December, 2013 at 09:40 Reply

      Hi Monica – you only need the serial number if you bought the Lightroom 5 Upgrade version (the cheaper one). If you bought the full version you won’t need a serial number. Good luck!

  8. Bob Strle 30 November, 2013 at 01:56 Reply

    Matt, I’m wondering if you can help on an issue that happening on two of my computers. When I import NEW images into LR5, it is NOT applying the CURRENT 2012 process version. It USED to but now it is using the older version. I have not changed ANYTHING. Is there a setting somewhere that’s some how been checked/unchecked? Help or guidance is appreciated. Many thank.

  9. Alan Dixon 29 November, 2013 at 05:49 Reply

    Hi matt,

    I have just upgraded via the disc bought from Adobe and my new catalogue (I only have one) is called;”lightroom 3 catalog-2-3-3-2″, and hasn’t changed to “5”. The same thing happened when I upgraded from LR3 to 4, except the new catalog was called “lightroom 3 catalog-2-3-3”. Is this correct – the programme did ask me to upgrade the catalog but I thought the name would have also changed?

  10. Ang 11 November, 2013 at 07:47 Reply

    I have just upgraded from LR3 to LR 5. All of my presets moved over which I thought was fantastic, however, when I started editing, all of my most favorite presets are different in LR5. They are horrible and when I go back to LR3 to try it through there, they are all awful in there now too? What can I do to bring them back to what they were. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  11. tim 6 November, 2013 at 23:28 Reply

    In the slideshow application in LR 5, how do you add audio that has more than one song?? I made a play list in i tunes and the audio applications would only take the first song of the play list. Is there a way to get a playlist or multiple song in the audio portion??

  12. Hope 23 October, 2013 at 20:16 Reply

    I bought lightroom 5 and when i went to download it it said that i neeeded an original serial number… where is that??

    • Matt K 24 October, 2013 at 08:47 Reply

      Hi Hope. You somehow have an “upgrade” version of Lightroom 5. It’s looking for an old serial key so it can upgrade. Best thing to do is call Adobe to ask.

  13. martin weber 20 October, 2013 at 09:45 Reply

    I have lightroom and have been upgrading every yr. now i have lightroo 4 but my catalog says this
    Lightroom photos
    Martin_Weber_Catalog-2 does this mean I haven’t been upgrading the catalog when I upgrade my software? I would like to upgrade to lightroom 5 what shoild I do?

  14. Suzanne 14 October, 2013 at 03:21 Reply

    I have used the LR5 trial for almost 30 days but I dislike some elements of it and would like to purchase LR4. Do you know how libraries I created with LR5 can be viewed on an older version?

    • mattk 14 October, 2013 at 08:36 Reply

      Hey Suz – If you’re not happy with LR5, I’m not sure you’ll be happy with LR4. Aside from 5-6 features, they’re the same exact programs and I’d even say LR5 is slightly faster than LR4.
      As for buying LR4, I don’t know any place that sells old software other than ebay so maybe give them a try.

  15. Donna 6 October, 2013 at 13:34 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    I recently upgraded to LR5 from LR4. Some of my older images still reflect the old LR4 develop sliders instead of the new LR5 sliders. If I click reset, the LR5 sliders appear, but I loose all my edits. Some images shot during the same photo shoot reflect the new sliders. Very weird. Any ideas?

    • mattk 14 October, 2013 at 08:43 Reply

      Hi Donna – if the sliders are different that means they were edited in Lightroom 3 actually. LR4 and LR5 are exactly the same.
      If you hit reset it resets it to the defaults and uses the new LR4/5 sliders. You can always go to the Calibration panel, and under Process Version, choose the old (and not as good) 2010 version.

  16. John Kincaid 6 October, 2013 at 09:58 Reply

    Well, migration to LR5 has been anything but easy – not a single preset, brush or plugin came across. Reinstalling all the above is simply not an option. I’m an Adobe CC owner – should I uninstall LR5 (5.2) and start over or whAT? This is a first for me – to have an Adobe program be such an epic installation fail.

  17. Nicole 10 September, 2013 at 23:42 Reply

    I downloaded LR5 free trial and it wont let me launch it. It dont show the LR icon and when I click on it it says it can not open because its unrecognizable, can anyone help me?

  18. Steve 10 September, 2013 at 12:08 Reply

    This may seem like a stupid question, but: if I want to re-install LR5 is the catalog still kept? Also, I had bought LR5 before the CC version and I would like to have the CC version so do I need to uninstall my already purchased version and then install the CC version?

    • mattk 12 September, 2013 at 09:19 Reply

      Hey Steve – I wasn’t sure either so I asked some one from Adobe and here’s what they said:

      Lightroom is exactly the same, regardless of whether you obtain it via CC or through another channel. Lightroom catalog files are not part of the installer, so Steve can uninstall without it impacting his Lightroom catalog. Given that Lightroom is exactly the same from CC or not from CC, there is no advantage to uninstalling his purchased version and then reinstalling from CC. Btw, how did you get Steve Madden of shoe fame ( to read your blog? 🙂

      • Steve 12 September, 2013 at 09:38 Reply

        Thanks Matt for checking up on that for me. I noticed that the other applications have the “CC” appended to their start-up screens and my LR5 doesn’t which is what brought up the question to begin with. Great comment about the “other” Steve Madden…I get asked this by every young female when I present them with my credit card! Wouldn’t mind having his money…I could afford more and better gear!

    • mattk 8 September, 2013 at 22:13 Reply

      The Cloning/Healing tool in the Spot Removal brush is probably worth $80 by itself. Smart Previews and the Radial filter make it well worth it.

  19. Conrad Schafer 24 August, 2013 at 19:11 Reply

    I just installed Lightroom 5 on my desktop pc. How do I install a 2nd copy on my laptop? I know that I don’t have to buy it again but I don’t know how to upgrade the laptop.


  20. James 18 August, 2013 at 15:34 Reply

    Matt, I just bought a new IMac computer and I am installing LR 5 – I could not install LR5 on my old laptop (too old). I am curious, Is it a good idea to have the catalog on my hard drive or install the catalog on my IMac hard drive. And is it better to keep my photos on my IMac hard drive for post editing and then copy the images later to my external hard drive. I appreciate your assistance and look forward to your comment. Thanks.

  21. Ronald Stein 16 August, 2013 at 01:24 Reply

    after installing Lt Rmm 5, and importing, I can see my photo numbers with a photo square for each photo, but all the photos re grayed out??? Help??

    • Meagan 18 September, 2013 at 21:55 Reply

      The same thing is happening to us. I can’t find anything posted anywhere about this problem. We are a color correcting company so we deal with smart previews and catalogs all the time. But every once in a while we will get a catalog that has all the images grayed out in the develop mode you can see the image but only one at a time and the rest of the film strip line is also grayed out. It really slows down production time. If anyone has an answer I would love love love to hear it! Thanks!

  22. Hank 11 August, 2013 at 15:55 Reply

    When I am in the Book Module of LR 5, and I try to ‘Export Book to a PDF.’ I get an error message saying, “An error occurred adding text & fonts to the book.” This happens around page 21 while exporting.
    Can anyone help me?

  23. Nyemare 1 August, 2013 at 14:33 Reply

    I am having an issue with LR5. Every time I start it up my processor jumps to 75-80% usage even if I am doing nothing. I am running on a dual core i5 Macbook with hyper threading and 16 gb of ram. Its only about a 9 month old Macbook so I don’t feel like I should be having these issues. I have tried uninstalling and reinstalling but I still have the same issue. Any thoughts? I am out of town right now working so I have not had a chance to call Adobe.

  24. beka 24 July, 2013 at 18:15 Reply

    When I upload my new Adobe 5 from the 3rd…. will all my pictures go over to the 5? or will they all be gone?

  25. Graham 20 July, 2013 at 07:19 Reply

    Hi Matt. I am fairly new to the world of Apple Mac and have been dabbling with LightRoom 3 for some time now. I have decided to stop dabbling and have acquired a MacBook Pro. Historically I have been working on a standalone desktop Mac whenever working with photographs. Please can you advise how I go about upgrading from my LightRoom 3 to Light Room 5 on a completely new machine?

  26. Gayle 18 July, 2013 at 04:18 Reply

    I watched the napp video. If I put folders inside a single catalog, can I still search the entire catalog or do I have to search within each folder?

  27. Bob 10 July, 2013 at 19:05 Reply

    When I upgrade from LR4 to LR5 will LR5 automatically migrate my user collections (I understand it will migrate the smart collections). If not, how to I get my user collections into LR5.

  28. Vibranze 10 July, 2013 at 07:31 Reply

    Hi Matt, I have a question regarding LR catalog and hope you can help me.

    Due to the NR and sharpening issue for not being applied during the export, I tried to export my selected photos as a catalog to use with LR4 but unfortunately, LR4 didn’t able to open LR5 catalog.

    Appreciated if you have any solution or workaround to my issue. Thanks.

  29. Dawn 7 July, 2013 at 12:09 Reply

    I’ve been using LR 2 for years and have an extensive catalog of photos. Even though Adobe has stated that you can upgrade from LR 2 to LR 5, do you think something will be missing in that upgrade since I’ve bypassed so many versions? And, what will happen to the catalog since it was created with LR 2? (realistically) Thanks for your thoughts.

    • mattk 7 July, 2013 at 18:04 Reply

      It’ll upgrade just fine Dawn. You shouldn’t lose anything and everything will get moved over. And if there were any issues you’d still have the original Lightroom 2 catalog.

  30. Corey 7 July, 2013 at 11:37 Reply

    Hello. I’ve been on PS elements 11 & switching to LR5. I can’t purchase the upgrade being I don’t have a previous version, correct? I’d have to buy the “full” version?

  31. Justin Perry 1 July, 2013 at 15:57 Reply

    Hey Matt, I want to upgrade my personal laptop to LR5, but my school is most likely going to stay on LR4 for at least another year (I’m going to need to be able to open my catalog on their computers and mine). Will I be able to open my LR5 catalog in LR4, or should I just not upgrade?


    • mattk 2 July, 2013 at 14:34 Reply

      If you absolutely can’t get them to upgrade to 5 then yes, you’ll have to stay on 4. I think you can install it on 2 computers so if you do buy it, and the school lets you), you may be able to install it on both.

  32. Stuart 30 June, 2013 at 14:38 Reply

    When viewing old photos from lightroom 3, Lightroom 4 gave me an option to update the photos and then process them with Lightroom 4 controls. I cannot find this update option in Lightroom 5. My old photos only show the controls of Lightroom 3 inside Lightroom 5. Understand??

    How can I update my photos so I can edit them with Lightroom 5 controls instead of the old “Recovery, Fill Light, etc.” controls?

    Thanks, Stuart

    • Les Howard 6 July, 2013 at 01:18 Reply

      Hi Stuart. They changed how you upgrade to a new process version in LR5. Select the photo you want to upgrade and go to the Develop module. Just below the histogram on the right hand side, you will see a little ‘lightening bolt’. Click on that to upgrade the process version to 2012. Both LR4 & LR5 use the same 2012 process version.

  33. nigel 30 June, 2013 at 10:56 Reply

    I installed 5, but it did not prompt me to move the 4 file.
    I cant seem to do it any way at all, tried all of the above and open recent does not work, import might but I have no way of knowing how to find the 4 catalog, i cant access the lr4 file from import..

  34. Jenn 27 June, 2013 at 10:20 Reply

    Hi Matt!
    This Q&A is wonderful. My situation is that I work with multiple catalogs that are accessed by multiple users..If I upgrade one LR to 5, will the other users be able to work on the LR5 catalogs with LR4? Is it backwards compatible?

  35. Lance 24 June, 2013 at 21:19 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    Thanks for the post. Have a question about Lightroom CC. I have purchased the LR 5 upgrade but have not installed it yet on either my iMac or Macbook. I have recently signed up for the entire Adobe Creative Cloud and was wondering if you recommend I use the stand alone LR 5 or Lightroom CC? Are there advantages/disadvantages with either way?

  36. douglas 24 June, 2013 at 11:26 Reply

    I upgraded from LR 4 to %. I keep my pictures under Pictures—“My lightroom photos”
    Now wneh I try to import from this file I get “prview unavailable for this file”

    I can open the pictures directly fomr ht e file. Any suggestions?

  37. Bruce 23 June, 2013 at 16:15 Reply

    I am a confused new user to Lightroom. This is what I know:
    -I have 5.0
    – I have both a Mac and Windows laptop and a AC desktop
    – I need to have my main files living on a large external drive
    – I have formatted external drives that have both Mac and Windows
    – when I shoot and travel I only bring my one of my laptops
    This is what I don’t understand:
    – how best to manage my files and always have backups.
    – do I need or should I set up a parent file? And how ?
    – how do I best import files from my SD card?
    Thank you – signed Confused in Colorado

    • mattk 23 June, 2013 at 19:56 Reply

      Hey Bruce – If you’re a NAPP member I just released 4 new online training classes on the NAPP Member website. The first one (all about catalogs and organizing your photos) goes into most of the things you brought up. And if you’re not a NAPP member, there’s a 24-hour free trial you can check out.

  38. Murali 22 June, 2013 at 07:45 Reply

    I installed nik collection after i installed LR5. viveza works fine. Silver EFX runs but nothing happens. any ideas on how i can get it fixed?

    • Arnel 23 June, 2013 at 14:09 Reply

      Hi Alan, This is how I combine one catalog to another. Open the catalog that you want to add into. ( or the master catalog). Then go to File > Import from another Catalog. Then locate the catalog that you want to combine it with, and just follow the succeeding dialog boxes. Hope this helps.

  39. Kenneth Anderson 19 June, 2013 at 11:18 Reply

    I upgraded to lightroom 5 and Facebook, smugmug,flickr and everything else I try to upload says not connected to internet.

    • Fred Kuhlman 30 September, 2013 at 11:03 Reply

      I have the same issue with the new 5.2 release. It seems that Facebook or Flickr plugins do not work. It indicates that there is not app for them. Also, I have lost the Help. It displays the “cannot display help” error message. However, the MAP feature does work, so it looks like the internet interface is OK. I have uninstalled multiple time, I have done the “lightroom -register” trick. Nothing works. Please help.

  40. Dennis Zito 19 June, 2013 at 08:09 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    I just upgraded to LR5 from the LR5 Beta Version. Everything went okay, but I didn’t get the message to update catalogs. Should I have uninstalled the Beta version before installing the upgrade LR5? Do you need to update the old catalogs? Oh, I still have a problem with LR when I use a plug-in. It doesn’t matter what plug-in Nik or onOne. Once I use the plug-in, and start working on the photo again (in Develop module) the sliders become uncontrolable and I keep getting “file loading” message on the screen. I have to close LR and then reopen for it to stop. I tried clearing the cashe, but that didn’t work. Any ideas what could be causing this? I’ve uninstalled and re-installed LR and plug-ins, but it does the same thing. This all started with LR 3 and has continued. I’m using a late 2012 iMac 27inch with 32GB on Ram. It happened on my old Windows machine too. I’ve written Adobe, but never got a response other than uninstall and re-install. Oh, and it happens on my new Mac Pro Retina laptop.



    • Uli 19 June, 2013 at 19:29 Reply

      Hi Dennis,
      does LR5 uninstall the LR5 beta when you install over it? I have LR5 beta installed and bought a full version of LR5. I am new to LR and for some reason I did not find any information about this topic, neither on nor elsewhere.

      Take care…

      • William Chinn 20 June, 2013 at 21:39 Reply

        I installed LR5 Trial over LR5 beta. It deleted the LR5 beta after it copied all of the plug-ins and even Matt’s Dev modules. Photo catalogs were retained.

    • nan 3 August, 2013 at 09:00 Reply

      I have a Mac Lion and once I installed the LR 4.4 upgrade, my Develop sliders become uncontrollable and the screen flashes and a loading message comes up every time I make an adjustment.
      Obnoxious? Never happened before. What is going on.
      See someone else is having the same problem.

  41. Jim Kahnweiler 19 June, 2013 at 07:51 Reply

    I use multiple LR catalogs. I do not like the editing tools and prefer MediaPro. I’ll make my selects in MediaPro and open them in a new LR catalog for processing. So, what’s your opinion on multiple LR catalogs?

  42. Dave 19 June, 2013 at 06:51 Reply

    Can you confirm or deny that you can get Lightroom 5 for free with a Creative Cloud Membership? Do you have to subscribe to the full Creative Cloud membership or can you get just one app aka Photoshop CC to get Lightroom 5. Thanks

    • mattk 19 June, 2013 at 07:40 Reply

      You do get LR5 as part of your CC membership. But not just with the Photoshop single app. You’ve got to have the full subscription.

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