I’ve seen a few questions recently concerning Lightroom Catalogues and back up workflows. Often people get confused when it comes to the difference with backing up images and backing up LR catalogues. Some tutorials are fun to try, others are lifesavers.. Have a guess which one this is.
A catalog does not contain your photographic images, it contains all of the collections, publish services, ratings & keywords relating to your images. Losing all that data would be very time consuming to correct manually. Therefore when considering your back up strategy for your photos, it is essential that you plan to back up both your images and your catalogues.
This tutorial only covers backing up and restoring the LR catalog.
The first thing we need to do is set up how often Lightroom will back up the catalog. So, as in the image below, click on the Lightroom menu (File menu in Windows) and choose Catalog Settings.
This will bring up the dialog box below.
Under the Backup section, choose how often you wish LR to back up the catalog. Personally, I consider once a day to be more than adequate for my needs.
You can now close the dialog box, as LR is now set up to backup upon exiting. One strange quirk of Lightroom is that you can only set the location of these backups when prompted to back up. You can see in the screenshot below that when I close LR I get the Backup dialog box that allows me to choose its location.
Clicking on ‘Choose’ allows me to pick where I want my backups stored. If possible, I would advise that these backups are on a different drive to your lightroom installation to avoid losing your catalog and your backups at the same time.
Pick a location for your Backup catalogs.. I would suggest creating a folder to place them in as otherwise you will end up a very messy file structure. Once you have chosen the location, Click the Backup button and LR will proceed to run checks, back up and optimise your catalog as shown below. This can take some time, depending on the size of your catalog.
Once this is complete, you will have created a back up of your catalog. Lightroom with create a new backup subfolder each time it runs. This can get quite large over time and I would advise that this folder is trimmed down every so often to reduce the disk space used.
Restoring an old catalog is as simple as just opening the backed up catalog, from within Lightroom. I find it quite helpful to move the backed up catalog before using it, to prevent live catalogues mixing with the backups.
Find the location of the backup you wish to restore from, using Finder (for Mac) or Windows Explorer (for Windows). The file will have a .lrcat extension. Copy the file to the same location as your live catalog and rename it (or replace if your live catalog is corrupt)
Open Lightroom and choose Open Catalog from the File menu
Select the Catalog that we moved to the live location.
At this point, you have restored a catalog from the backup. This may seem like a hassle to set up, but I can promise you that when you need it, you will be very glad you did!
As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask in the comment section below.
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