Which Catalog Files to Back Up


Today’s Question: I am currently using GoodSync for all my backups, thanks to your class on backups. I even backup my data using a Sinology NAS, in a fast and efficient way. But how should I backup the Lightroom Classic catalog? Copying the complex structure of the catalog folder takes a long time and I am not confident about this process. Should I first make a backup in Lightroom Classic and after that make a backup of this file?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While copying the entire folder that contains your Lightroom Classic catalog can serve as a backup, I recommend using the built-in backup feature. This ensures only the data that is really necessary gets backed up and provides the opportunity for the catalog integrity to be tested and for the catalog to be optimized.

More Detail: Along with the catalog file that contains most of the information about your photos for Lightroom Classic, there are a variety of other “helper” files that are stored in the same folder as the primary catalog file. However, some of the files in this folder don’t really need to be backed up, and they can be quite large as well.

For example, the previews file contains all the previews Lightroom Classic generates, such as the standard previews used when viewing a full image and the 1:1 previews that are generated if needed when you zoom in on a photo. There’s no need to back up these previews, as if you ever needed to recover from a backup of the catalog, you could simply rebuild the previews.

In addition, by default Lightroom Classic stores any catalog backups you create in a “Backups” folder that is contained within the same folder as the catalog itself. That further means you are potentially copying much more data than you need if you copy the folder containing the catalog each time you want to create a new backup copy.

Instead, I recommend using the built-in backup feature in Lightroom Classic. You can configure the frequency for this backup on the General tab of the Catalog Settings dialog. When you are prompted to back up the catalog, I recommend making sure that both the “Test integrity before backing up” and “Optimize catalog after backing up” checkboxes are turned on.

Note that you can also specify a different location for these catalog backups in the Back Up Catalog dialog, by clicking the Choose button to the right of the Backup Folder field. You could, for example, have the catalog backup stored on the drive you’re currently using as the destination of your backup. If you wanted more redundancy you could also store the catalog backups on another drive that will in turn be backed up to a backup drive.

It is important to keep in mind that backing up the Lightroom Classic catalog only backs up the information about your photos that is contained within the catalog. This backup will not include your actual photos, so you’ll want to be sure you’re backing up your photos separately.