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What To Do When Lightroom Asks If It’s OK to Update Your Catalog

This is a question I got at my seminar last week (in fact, she brought her laptop up to the stage to show me the warning dialog she was concerned about, which is seen below).

When Adobe releases an upgrade to Lightroom with new features (like the one they released last week) and because of that update, it requires you to let Lightroom upgrade your catalog so it can work with this newly updated version.

After you download this recent update, when you launch Lightroom you’ll see the message dialog below.

What you’re seeing is a pretty standard message (even though the part in bold sounds kinda scary). Clicking upgrade won’t erase your images or anything crazy like that. In fact, when you click the ‘Upgrade’ button, once the upgrade process is done you probably won’t notice anything different at all (well, except that you’ll have a different splash screen, and a few new features, and probably none of them are the ones you were hoping for). In short, it will be business as usual.

It doesn’t delete your old catalog — it creates a brand new catalog based upon your old catalog with all the same photos, sorting, edits — all the exact same stuff, and it puts it in the same folder as your old catalog (so yes, now you’ll have two catalogs. The old one will no longer work with this new upgraded Lightroom, but you have a new catalog that works and looks just like your old catalog, so nothing really lost here.

So, when you see that warning what should you do?

I just hit the upgrade button and move on. The only reason I can think of that you might want to backup your Catalog and preview file is that you don’t think you’ll like this version, or to protect yourself in the event something is terribly wrong with this particular upgrade (that hasn’t happened so far, but I guess it’s possible). So, if you feel the least bit queasy before you hit Upgrade, you can certainly back up your catalog (here’s how), but just so you know, I don’t do that — I don’t think it’s necessary, especially since you do have your original catalog still intact.

Hope you found that helpful.


P.S. One week from today I’m teaching my “Ultimate Photography Crash Course” full-day seminar in Atlanta and then in Seattle a few days later on Wednesday, Nov. 20th. Hope you can come out and spend the day with me. Tickets and info here.



  1. Jerry Bloch 18 June, 2023 at 13:30 Reply

    Last time you upgraded I lost ≈ 5k worth of images.
    Can you describe the path to the ICRAT?
    Thanks been a fan for years however, lately just travel
    for our books.

    • Rob Sylvan 21 June, 2023 at 19:58 Reply

      With the catalog open, go to Catalog Settings, and click the General tab. It will show you the name of the catalog and the path to where it is stored on your computer.

    • Rob Sylvan 30 May, 2020 at 13:10 Reply

      Hi Terrance,

      You must be opening the old catalog file each time. If you have successfully upgraded a copy of your catalog, then you want to open the upgraded copy instead. With Lightroom closed, open the folder containing your Lightroom catalog (it has a .lrcat file extension) and you want to find the most recent catalog file. An upgraded copy will have a number appended to the file name (like -2). The higher the number the more likely you’ve upgraded the catalog file multiple times. Hopefully by looking at the file name and the date associated with the file you can determine which is the most recent. Double-click the most recent upgraded copy of the catalog, and you should not get that prompt. Once it opens, verify it is the catalog you expect by looking at its contents. If all looks good, set that catalog as your default catalog (Preferences > General).

  2. Shael 15 November, 2019 at 14:31 Reply

    I am such a novice and not tech savvy so your help is most appreciated. I am about to take the plunge and hit the upgrade button! Thanks for such a simple and easy approach to your posts. Really found it easy to follow and read.

  3. Alex 12 November, 2019 at 18:53 Reply

    I did notice one thing, my export presets were not the same as before. I realize there are check boxes to export to multiple locations but the presets themselves as well as the destinations were different. I have since re-made them all as i remembered them so I don’t have any proof. I want sure if there was a way to transport the old preset files to the new upgrade. It might help somebody else.

  4. Graham 12 November, 2019 at 04:13 Reply

    The only really irritating part is having to exit Lightroom after it’s upgraded the catalog, move the original and rename the new one back to the name I want it to have, then restart Lightroom (I have it set to open a named catalog on startup).

  5. Lisa 11 November, 2019 at 18:09 Reply

    Thanks so much for explaining this.
    Once I upgrade, and if everything seems to be working fine, is there a reason, other that backup, to save the old catalog?

  6. John H 11 November, 2019 at 06:13 Reply

    Thanks much, Scott, that’s very reassuring. I’ve done as you said, and it’s worked out just fine. I now have four catalogs in the Lightroom folder as the result of multiple Lightroom upgrades over the years. I’ve kept all the older ones “just in case”, but never once used any of them; so I’m moving them out of the Lightroom folder to one of my backup drives (where I imagine they will sit forever, unused, but I’ll feel good about having them anyway, “just in case”).

    Maybe Adobe should use some of your words in the upgrade warning, instead of the scary message they give us!

    Thanks again…

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