Lightroom Q&A's

Lightroom Catalog FAQ – Should I Delete Old Catalogs?

A couple weeks back I posted about installing Lightroom if you have the Creative Cloud subscription. One of the questions I got back was a really good one so I wanted to post/answer it here.

Q. I’ve upgraded to LR5 and converted my catalogs over to the new version. Should I delete the old LR4 catalog?Is there any reason to keep it?

A. One of the best ways to answer the question is to let you know how Lightroom works when you install a new version. See, it doesn’t take your old catalog and “convert” it. It actually makes a copy of the old catalog and upgrades it to Lightroom 5. The old Lightroom 4 catalog is actually intact just as it always was. If you had a copy of Lightroom 4, you could still open it and use it like you always did. So…the answer would be that once you’ve upgraded to Lightroom 5 and you’re happy with everything, yes, you could go ahead and delete the older catalogs. Unless you plan on reverting back to Lightroom 4, you’ll never use it. And since Lightroom 5 made a copy of the catalog, it’ll never use it again either.

I hope that helps out. It’s a very popular question and maybe it’ll even help you clean things up and free up some hard drive space. See ya!



  1. Ivan Finkle 28 June, 2015 at 14:21 Reply

    When I started using LR I accepted the catalogues that were organized by date. I want to organize my images by subject and would like catalogues by subject. How can I get rid of the catalogues that are date oriented, stop LR from creating those, and create catalogues by subject?

  2. 30 January, 2015 at 15:48 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    A question: When I have three different catalogs in Lightroom5, whichever of the 3 catalogues I close and backup, are all the backups going to the same Backup Location? Do they appear as a single composite LRcat file?

    In other words, if I required going to the most recent backup Lightroom Catalog, would THAT backup file have all the info up to date for all 3 catalogs in my Lightroom Program? Or only the single catalog I most recently had open when I last closed my program and backed up?

    Appreciate answer. Thanks.

  3. Joel G 30 July, 2014 at 11:22 Reply

    any idea how to help with this: i had to buy a new back up drive and it wouldn’t let me or I didn’t know how to get it to back up Lightroom on exit, so i just used the time machine backup.

    Unfortunately I deleted the first backup of time machine on that drive and it somehow deleted all of Lightroom. Also I somehow managed to create a different catalog but just used that one and it opened all the time.

    I was able to locate all of my picture folders with the help of Apple but I can’t seem to locate the catalog i was using and am not sure if I re import back into lightroom if my updated metadata were saved.

    It doesn’t appear that they were because none of my keywords are there.

    any idea how to locate a missing catalog. all help truly appreciated.

  4. Tim Kavulla 3 June, 2014 at 07:34 Reply

    I have several folders into which I add new pictures. I have already imported the folder into Lightroom and labeled them as a “Collection.” I would like to import the additional photos, but when I do, it doubles the photos already there, so I have two copies of the same photo.
    Anyway this can be avoided.


  5. Imagehunter 18 May, 2014 at 06:00 Reply

    Congrats on your tremendous work and professional approach.
    I have messed up my Lightroom 5 Cataloge and I am getting the message”folder could not be found”often.What does that mean?
    Also can I start again from scratch?..How do I delete my cataloge and will it affect my original files?
    Thanks in advance..I welcome your advice.

    • Matt K 19 May, 2014 at 08:37 Reply

      Hi – Just go to File > New Catalog and create a new catalog. All of your original images are left untouched, so you can use the new catalog to start importing them. Good luck!

  6. VICKI 30 April, 2014 at 22:27 Reply

    HELP! I created a new catalog in my Lightroom 3 and now those are the only photos I can see. I found the photos, but how do I regain them within Lightroom so they are easily accessible? Stumped! 🙁

  7. Raj 27 February, 2014 at 19:37 Reply

    I want o rearrange my photofolders and pictures in a different way. Is it possible after altering the folder structures, delete the older catalog and import everything in a new catalog. Will this create any problems

  8. Julie H. 8 January, 2014 at 20:14 Reply

    To anyone out there that can help….I think I have accidently lost my original LR 4 and LR 5 presets. I upgraded from 4 to 5 and I may have messed up the preset directions. So what I have are the Lightroom Presets starting with Lightroom BW Filters, lightroom BW presets, lightroom BW toned presets, lr color, lr effect, lr general and LR video presets. I do not have starting lightroom 4 or 5 presets. Is this normal????
    Really appreciate any help.

  9. Jane Walker 3 January, 2014 at 20:58 Reply

    Actually I do use Lightroom 4 for most of my editing, except cloning which I find works best for me in Elements. I believe that Lightroom 5 has a cloning option.

    With the help of a friend, I was able to fix my problem yesterday. From Lightroom, after writing down the path, I went into Lightroom and under Editing, External Editing, I went to Application and realized that I had to choose PS Elements Editor.exe . That fixed the problem. I then did something similar in Windows Photo Viewer. I seem to be back to normal.

    Thanks so much for your interest and your suggestions. I will look at some of the Youtube videos.

  10. Jane Walker 30 December, 2013 at 18:07 Reply

    First let me say that I am challenged by technology and normally call friends for help. I thought that this time I would try a forum.
    I use Windows 7, Elements 9 and Lightroom 4. 2 days ago, I decided to “Uninstall” Elements 7 and Lightroom 3. Now I am unable to “Edit In” Elements 9 after doing my initial work in Lightroom 4. As well, when in Windows Photo Viewer with a photo opened from my Desktop, when I go up to the taskbar and click on “OPEN” Elements 9 is not an option.

    I am able, however, able to use Elements 9 and bring in photos from my Desktop and work on them so it is working.


    • Jeff 3 January, 2014 at 13:06 Reply

      Is there a reason you are editing in Elements instead of Lightroom? I have not used Element in many years but the editing tools in Lightroom are very robust. Use the Develop Tab. Youtube is a great source of help in addition to sites like this. Lightroom isn’t exactly intuitive so it is often worth the money to buy video tutorials.

  11. William Scott 24 November, 2013 at 02:00 Reply

    Hi. Matt. Another question re catalogues here. I notice in your most recent LR5 videos you don’t recommend using LR on 2 computers. Given that, if you do use a laptop at home and desktop on the move with your photos stored on an external drive, would you recommend keeping the LR catalogue on that external drive?

    This is something I’ve wondered about in the past but always kept the catalogues with LR and simply synced them as described. I’d be grateful if you could clear this up for me

  12. Miguel A. Briones 2 November, 2013 at 19:43 Reply

    Hello Matt, first of all Imwill like to thank you for your time and fine attention. I have been studying your Lightroom courses for 5 years and its been a great journey, I have been using for work and I do a lot of photography for big companys as Walmart and many more. I have been reading about Phaseone. So I wanted to know your opinion about this software.
    thank you!

    • Matt K 4 November, 2013 at 16:44 Reply

      Hi Miguel – I don’t use the software. What I can say is that I don’t think anyone else makes software as good for editing your photos as Adobe. You won’t find the support, community, and training on anything else like you’ll find with Lightroom. 🙂

      • Miguel A. Briones 5 November, 2013 at 21:04 Reply

        Hello Matt, again thank you for your comments. I have a question regarding backups of light room and moving a back up from one computer to another. Can I give you a call so I can explain what happen, or what would be the best way to contact you? I am based in Mexico city, I can call you thru skype to your skype account, if you have one, or I can call you to a phone number or mobile. Thank you again!
        You don’t have an idea all what I have learn from your courses. Soon I will be having an exhibit in a very important museum on fine art aerial photography, a project I have been working on for the last 5 years.
        best regards.

        • Matt K 6 November, 2013 at 07:27 Reply

          Hi Miguel – Thanks!
          Best thing you can do is post your question here and either I (or possibly some one else on the blog), can try to answer.
          Congratulations on the exhibit!

          • Miguel A. Briones 6 November, 2013 at 11:54

            Hello Matt, thanks again. I will try to be short and clear. I had this MacBook Pro and a backup of every thing on Time Capsule. So this computer got stolen. After that I got this new computer, an IMac, In the other computer I had Lightroom 2, but in the new computer I have Lightroom 3.

            So when I open Lightroom 3 in the iMac, I see it gets connection with Time Capsule, and what I see, is two different backups, one it says Backup of Ordenador de Miguel Angel Briones and the other one just says Time Capsule.

            If I go to Backup of Ordenador de Miguel A. Briones and right click on a folder and choose rename, then I can see the folders name.

            So now I haven’t done any new Backups on that time capsule, because, I don’t want to make a mistake and loose all those files.

            As you can see, this is intriguing, for sure is an easy task for you, but I don’t have any idea how to put this together again. And so, that I can have a complete backup of this images together with my NEW images( the backup is for about 3000 images, the new Lightroom has more than 35000) and then get Lightroom 5 and make migration of everything.
            This is what is all about.

            Thank you for your time and help, have a great day!

  13. Mark 22 October, 2013 at 15:16 Reply

    Help, along the lines of the catalogs, I combined folders that light room said had the same photos, and then deleted them, thinking they were in the folder, I saved all of the pictures to another disc, ( I had 35000) pix, and many quadrupled I was trying to get back to just one set. when I imported the saved ones back all of those deleted were still missing, even though they were saved to a different disc. this is true no matter how many times I import them. are they gone for good or did light room put them somewhere else, I have folders that are blanked out but the pictures are in the correct folder on the drive

  14. Chuck 12 October, 2013 at 05:49 Reply

    Great info about how the original catalog is saved. I think the relative part of “should” is dependent on whether the user is likely to find themselves without the newer version of LR in the future. Previously I would think the answer would be no as you would upgrade LR and know that you would always have it presumably with no reason to downgrade or to loose access to the newer version. That isn’t as certain with CC. For instance I have LR3…if I sign up for CC and get the latest version of LR, i lose access to that when/if I discontinue CC. I don’t know if Adobe will continue selling the then then-current version of LR as an stand alone license but will certainly be researching this before choose CC.

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