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Right Now, Go Backup Your Lightroom Classic Catalog (and here’s how)

It’s 2021, and if you haven’t backed up your Lightroom Catalog in a while (or maybe ever), well…there no day like today, right? Having a corrupt catalog is pretty rare thankfully, but it does happen (it has happened to me), and backing up your catalog is so easy (literally one click), there’s no reason not to do it right now.

Above: The dreaded “Corrupt Catalog” dialog. I hope you never see this in real life. Or worse yet, the one that says “This catalog could not be opened due to an unexpected error”

Remember, without a backup, if your LR Classic catalog becomes corrupt you’ve lost all your edits. All your organization. All your star ratings, pick flags, photo books you created, collections — everything — you are starting over from scratch with Lightroom. Don’t let that happen — it only takes 10-seconds (literally) to back it up right now. The single click of a button.

IMPORTANT: backing up your catalog does NOT backup your photos (that’s a completely a separate topic), I’m talking about backing up your database of edits and organization (known as your Lightroom Classic catalog).

Here’s how easy it is to backup your catalog:

When you quit Lightroom Classic, this backup reminder dialog (above) pops up. Don’t just hit the “Skip this time” button (like you’ve been doing). Start by choosing how often you want to see this backup reminder dialog in the first place. Here are your options (and the ramifications of each):

Once a Month: If you choose this one, it means if your catalog got corrupted, and you had to use your backup, you would lose ALL the changes and edits you made in the last month. You’ll be back to what your catalog looked like a month ago. That’s a lot of edits down the drain, but at least you don’t have to start over from scratch.

Once a week: means that if had to use your backup, you’d only lose a week’s worth of edits. That could be a little loss, or a lot, depending on how often you edit and organize in Lightroom during a given week.

Once a day: (my preferred choice), means if your catalog gets corrupted, and you have to use your backup, you’ll only lose the stuff you did yesterday.

NOTE: If you choose this daily backup method, you are going to have A LOT of backups accumulating and taking up needless space on your drive. Anything older than a few days you won’t need, because you have a fresh updated new backup every day, so go back and read my article on how to get rid of those outdated backups.

So, right now, hit the “Backup” button

That’s all you have to do. Hit the Backup button, choose where you want this backup stored (that’s the 2nd click, so technically it’s two clicks the first time you do this), and boom — done — your catalog is backed up, and you’ll sleep better tonight for it, knowing your protected if your catalog goes kerplunk.

IMPORTANT: These backups will be saved into a folder named “Backups” and that folder will be in the same folder where your current Lightroom catalog lives on your computer. That’s fine, as long as your computer doesn’t ever crash or get stolen, which is why I recommend saving your catalog in The Cloud (Dropbox, Backblaze, Google Drive — wherever you do your cloud storage). That way, your backup is never lost, even if your computer is.

Hope that helps to start your week off right. Stay healthy, my friends. 🙂

-Scott

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13 comments

  1. Cynthia 9 February, 2021 at 15:17 Reply

    I needed to transfer my catalog to a larger external hard drive. I’ve duplicated the data from the old to a new EHD, but is there anything else I need to do (consider) before starting to use the new external hard drive as my primary? I’m basically going to change the drive letter to the new EHD to match the former, but I’m not sure if the serial number of the drives is what LR is reading. ~ Thanks for any resources or suggestions

  2. Ian McLeod 8 February, 2021 at 21:55 Reply

    This assumes one doesn’t use DNG which I still don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t. DNG stores the edits in file. I convert all photos to DNG on import and it works great. I wish printers used it too.

    • Anibal Martel 9 February, 2021 at 05:10 Reply

      Converting to DNG is probably a good idea because all the information is inside the file, yes, but there is a big problem with this. If you make a change in a keyword that affects for example 1000 images then the system you use for backup copies will have to save 1000 DNG files again, in the case of making the same change with a proprietary file of the camera it will only be the backup system is required to save the sidecar files which is much lighter and faster.

      • Rob Sylvan 9 February, 2021 at 12:29 Reply

        Also keep in mind that LrC does not write to individual photos by default, so converting to DNG alone does not ensure edits (or anything) has been written to the actual photo’s own metadata.

  3. Angus Gibbins 8 February, 2021 at 21:10 Reply

    Recently realised that LR Classic locks the catalogue when it’s open. That means if your backup system doesn’t use snapshot technology (BackBlaze doesn’t for example) your catalogue isn’t getting backed up while Lightroom is open.

    As a result I’ve started backing mine up every time I close Lightroom. That way my offsite backup is at worst is only one editing session behind.

    The file compression is good enough that the backups folder is usually a few GB at most, and if it does grow too fast I’ll write a script that cleans it keeping the last 10 or so backups.

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