Deleting Old Catalog Files


Today’s Question: If in Lightroom Classic I go to File > Open Catalog on the menu and navigate to the folder where my catalog and back-ups are stored, I can see old catalogs. I am happy with my current catalog. If I right click on an old one, I am offered the chance to delete it. Is there anything wrong with deleting it from here?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There isn’t anything inherently wrong with deleting files from what amounts to the “File > Open” dialog, but in general I recommend deleting old catalogs through the operating system. I also recommend moving all files associated with old catalogs to a temporary backup folder rather than deleting them, at least for a period of time.

More Detail: In many software applications, including Lightroom Classic, it is possible to delete files from within the “File > Open” dialog. However, I generally recommend performing this type of file maintenance work through the operating system.

When you have an older catalog that you don’t need, such as the original catalog that an updated catalog version was based on, you can certainly delete that old catalog. The two key things to keep in mind are that you want to be certain the older catalog isn’t needed, and that you may want to move the associated files to a temporary location in the short term just to better confirm that there wasn’t any reason to retain the older files.

The primary file for a Lightroom Classic catalog has a filename extension of “LRCAT”, as in “Lightroom Catalog”. In addition, however, there will be a series of “helper” files that will have a similar base filename. It is important to carefully review those filenames to ensure you know exactly which files can be safely removed.

For example, the file containing the previews for your images will have the same base filename as the catalog file, with the text “Previews” appended to that name. This file will also have a filename extension of “LRDATA” rather than “LRCAT”. If the catalog file was called “Lightroom Classic v11 Catalog.lrcat”, for example, the previews file would be called “Lightroom Classic v11 Catalog Previews.lrdata”.

All files that have the exact same base filename will relate to the catalog file with that same base filename. To help ensure you don’t accidentally delete a file that you really need, I again recommend moving the files you would otherwise delete into a temporary folder. You can create that folder in the same folder as the primary catalog, and then when you’re certain that Lightroom Classic is behaving normally and you’re confident the files can be deleted, you can delete that temporary folder to free up the disk space consumed by those files.