Today’s Question: I just closed Lightroom Classic and had it back up the catalog. However, the backup folder for today only has one ZIP file in it. It used to back up the catalog, a review file, helper file, etc. Did something change or am I not getting a full backup?
Tim’s Quick Answer: When you back up the catalog in Lightroom Classic only the actual catalog and the related catalog data file (with version 11 or later) are backed up. Those files are included in the ZIP file that is created when you back up the catalog.
More Detail: It is worth keeping in mind that the backup feature in Lightroom Classic only backs up the catalog, and not all the “helper” files associated with the catalog. It also doesn’t backup other files, such as presets and settings.
Obviously the most important file in the context of a workflow that revolves around Lightroom Classic is the actual catalog. That is the file with the “.lrcat” filename extension, and as of version 11 of Lightroom Classic the file with the “.lrcat-data” file is also important to include.
The other helper files associated with the catalog are not generally critical to include. For example, the previews files aren’t critical because previews can always be rebuilt based on the source images again if needed.
However, there are other files beyond the Lightroom Classic catalog that can be important to back up. That includes any presets you’ve created or purchased, for example. It can also be helpful to back up the various other files related to preferences within Lightroom Classic.
I consider the included backup feature in Lightroom Classic to be very helpful for backing up the catalog. I highly recommend using this backup feature because it includes options for testing the integrity of the catalog and optimizing the catalog. However, backing up the catalog doesn’t back up all important data related to your Lightroom Classic workflow. Most importantly, that backup doesn’t include your photos.
So, it is important that you have a complete backup workflow that includes all files you care about. For example, I use the Time Machine feature of the Macintosh operating system to back up my internal hard drive. I also use GoodSync software (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) to back up my hard drives locally, and I use the Backblaze service (https://timgrey.me/onlinebackup) to create an additional backup of my important data in the cloud for offsite storage.