Backup Catalog to External Drive


Today’s Question: Is there a way to back up the Lightroom catalog to an external drive from within Lightroom? To me this seems to be a logical choice but if there is a way I cannot find it.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes. You can initiate a Lightroom backup at any time by choosing the “When Lightroom next exits” from the “Back up Catalog” popup in the Catalog Settings dialog. And when you initiate the actual backup, you have the option of specifying the location where you want the backup saved.

More Detail: By default Lightroom will prompt you to backup your catalog once each week. If you don’t specify a location where you would like the backup copy saved, the backup will be saved in a folder structure along with the source Lightroom catalog. Hopefully it goes without saying that keeping your backup copy on the same storage device as the original isn’t the best idea. So you’ll want to refine the default settings.

First, as noted above, you can initiate a backup of your Lightroom catalog at any time. Start by choosing Catalog Settings from the Lightroom menu on the Macintosh version or from the Edit menu on the Windows version. In the Catalog Settings dialog go to the General tab and click the “Back up Catalog” popup. Choose the “When Lightroom next exits” option, then close the Catalog Settings dialog and quit Lightroom.

At this point you will be prompted to backup your Lightroom catalog. The “Backup Folder” label indicates the destination where the backup copy will be saved. You can click the “Choose” button to bring up a dialog where you can specify the location to save the backup copy. I always recommend saving this backup on a drive other than the drive where your Lightroom catalog is actually stored.

I recommend always leaving the two checkboxes in the Back Up Catalog dialog turned on. The first is “Test integrity before backing up”, which as the name suggests will cause Lightroom to check that there aren’t structural problems with your catalog file before the backup. The second checkbox is “Optimize catalog after backing up”, which will clean up the catalog to help improve overall performance in Lightroom.

The “When Lightroom next exits” option in the Catalog Settings dialog is actually a temporary setting. When you select this option and quit Lightroom, you will be prompted to backup the catalog. However, the next time you launch Lightroom you will find that the setting has reverted back to whatever it had been set to previously. So, for example, if you have Lightroom set to backup your catalog weekly but then you use the option to backup the next time you quit Lightroom, the setting will actually return to a weekly backup schedule after that.