Today’s Question: How many versions of your Lightroom Classic catalog do you retain when backing it up?
Tim’s Quick Answer: I generally retain only five backup copies of my Lightroom Classic catalog, including the most recent couple of backups, and backups from about one, three, and six months ago.
More Detail: The whole point of backing up your Lightroom catalog is to provide you with a way to restore from a backup should something go wrong. In general that means recovering from the most recent backup of your catalog. However, in some cases you may need to go back a bit further, which is why I recommend retaining more than just the most recent backup.
For example, if your Lightroom catalog becomes corrupted, it is possible that the most recent backup will also include some of the corruption that caused your catalog to be unusable. In that type of situation you may need to recover from an older backup.
Of course, if you restore from a particularly old backup of your catalog, you’re going to be missing many of the recent photos and metadata updates in that catalog. Therefore, it doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense to retain especially old catalogs. If you need to go back very far, it might be best to just start with a new empty catalog and re-import all of your photos into that catalog.
So, I tend to retain a couple recent backups, as well as a few older backups of my Lightroom catalog. But I don’t retain especially old catalog backups, as old backups may be more trouble than they are worth.
Note, by the way, that one of the ways I help reduce the impact of a corrupted catalog is by saving metadata updates to my source images. This is enabled by turning on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog in Lightroom Classic. With this option enabled, most of your metadata updates will be written to your source image files, helping to reduce the impact of having to start over with a clean catalog and re-importing your photos.