A Better Backup


Today’s Question: I recently purchased your course on Fixing my Mess in Lightroom [“Cleaning Up Your Mess in Lightroom”, https://timgrey.me/mess29]. During the presentation, you stated that the backup in Lightroom Classic only backs up the catalog, not your photos. You discussed using GoodSync to backup photos. I need some clarification. During import I import photos to my “Photos” external drive and also send a backup to a “Photo Backup” external drive. Do I need to sync the photos in both drives periodically?

Tim’s Quick Answer: It is true that the built-in backup in Lightroom Classic only backs up the catalog, not your photos. Backing up during import is a good practice, but I highly recommend using a synchronization approach to backing up your photos either instead of or in addition to the import backup.

More Detail: The option to backup during import into Lightroom Classic ensures that you have a second copy of all of the photos being imported into your Lightroom catalog, which is obviously very important and helpful. My issue with this backup option, however, is that it doesn’t represent a perfect match of the overall folder structure of your primary storage. The backup during import will cause copies of photos to be placed in an “Imported on [Date]” folder, rather than a folder with the same name used for the primary storage of your photos.

So, for example, you might have photos from a trip to Iceland in a folder called “Iceland 2020”. But the backup folder would be called “Imported on…”. If your primary hard drive failed, you couldn’t just continue working with the backup, but instead would have to track down all of the backup images and copy them to the original folder structure. That would be frustrating because it would be difficult to ensure that all photos got to the right place.

By contrast, if you backup your Photos hard drive using a product such as GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup), the backup drive will be an exact match in terms of folder structure and file location compared to your primary storage. So, if the primary drive failed you could more or less just plug in the backup drive to replace the source drive, make sure the drive letter (Windows) or volume label (Macintosh) matched the original, and you’d be back in business.

For this reason, I generally use the backup feature in the Import dialog to backup photos to a temporary location. Then, after I have completed a backup with GoodSync, I can delete the import backup. Of course, I don’t delete that import backup right away, as it provides an “extra” backup in the meantime. But as soon as I want to free up some hard drive space, I can get rid of the import backup.

Note, by the way, that I actually maintain two backups with GoodSync for each drive. So, my Photos drive, for example, is backed up to a “Photos Backup 1” drive as well as a “Photos Backup 2” drive. You can learn more about GoodSync at http://timgrey.me/greybackup. And keep in mind that I have a video course that covers GoodSync, which you can find here: