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World Backup Day – what should I be checking?

It’s March 31st again… it’s World Backup Day! But as far as Lightroom’s concerned, what do you need to back up? Here’s our definitive guide for Lightroom Classic. We also mention Lightroom Desktop (Cloud) and a suggestion on backing up. The details also mostly apply to earlier versions of Lightroom too.

Why is backing up so important?

We receive so many messages from distressed Lightroom users who have lost their catalog, photos or presets. Most don’t have adequate backups, if they have backups at all. Sadly, this can sometimes mean not only years of work are lost, but also irreplaceable, treasured photo memories. We don’t want you to lose anything!


Catalog files, photos and presets

So, first maintenance job for Lightroom Classic… make sure that all of the catalog files, photos and presets are being backed up regularly!

To check what should be included, compare your backup software settings with the list in our blog post Which Lightroom files do I need to back up? You may think your routine is fine, but there have been changes over time, including the location of some presets and also the new *.lrcat-data file (version 11), so it’s worth double checking.

Also, think about where your backups are stored. 3-2-1 backups is a popular strategy… 3 copies of your data, on at least 2 devices, and at least 1 copy off site. For example, you might have your main copy on your computer, plus an external hard drive that you unplug when the backup completes, plus an online backup such as Backblaze.

If you use the Lightroom Cloud ecosystem, the photos and metadata are automatically stored in the cloud, but it’s still worth considering keeping a local copy of the original photos, by checking Store a copy of all originals at the specified location in Preferences.


Document Your Workflow

As well as checking your backups, it’s worth documenting your workflow, especially things like:

  • Where is your catalog located?
  • What is your catalog’s name?
  • Where are your photos located?
  • What are the backup routines you have in place (hopefully automated ones so you never forget to do them!)?

Many people don’t know where their catalog is located. If you’re not sure how to find out, our blog on finding and moving or renaming your catalog will help.

The answers to the above probably seem obvious when you first set-up your system, but a regular review saves additional stress when something goes wrong. March 31st, World Backup Day, is an ideal time to do such a review.


Protect against Catalog Corruption

Every single week, we receive requests for help with corrupted catalogs, because there are no recent catalog backups. Sometimes a corrupt catalog can be partially repaired, but sometimes, sadly, it can’t. While catalog corruption does remain quite rare, and it’s almost always due to a hardware fault, that doesn’t help if it happens to you!

What can you do then? Two things: run catalog backups regularly, and tick the two options to Test integrity before backup and Optimize catalog after backing up. These steps will flag up early if there is a potential issue developing, and minimize data loss if you need to revert to a backup. Check our blog posts Why should I let Lightroom run its own backups? and Where should I put my catalog backups?


Regularly Check for Missing Photos

Okay, let’s also look at some preventative maintenance. One of the most frequently asked questions, and most-popular blog posts, is Lightroom thinks my photos are missing – how do I fix it?

But wouldn’t it be good to have a routine that alerted you when Lightroom has lost track of some of your photos? It’s so much easier to reconnect a small number of missing photos, when you can still remember where you put them! The fact is, the sooner you discover that Lightroom can’t find some of your photos, the easier it is to fix. Read through our blog How do I check my catalog for missing files? for a simple guide. We’d suggest making this a part of your regular routine – perhaps weekly or monthly – depending on how good your memory is!


Final notes

One frequent question we’re asked is How often should I back up my catalog, and how long should I keep backups for? It’s a great question, so check the linked blog post for guidance.

World Backup Day is a great reminder to check your backup systems, but our photos are so important to us, please don’t just make this a once a year check.


For extensive information on Lightroom Classic, see Adobe Lightroom Classic – The Missing FAQ.

If you have the Photography Plan, then as well as Classic you have access to the Lightroom cloud ecosystem including the mobile apps and web interface. For more information on these apps, see Adobe Lightroom – Edit Like a Pro.

Note: purchase of these books includes the first year’s Classic or cloud-based Premium Membership (depending on the book purchased), giving access to download the latest eBook (each time Adobe updates the software), email assistance for the applicable Lightroom version if you hit a problem, and other bonuses.

We also have a special bundle offer for the two books. This includes Premium Membership for the first year as described above for the whole Lightroom family!

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