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Backing up Lightroom - All you need to know


Active Member
Nov 28, 2010
The Netherlands
Lightroom Experience
Lightroom Version
Dear Lightroom user,

So you like Lightroom and can't wait to learn more about its features? Or maybe you already imported some or all of your images and you're ready to jump at some real post processing? That is fantastic!

Take a short break
This is the time to take a short break and ask yourself what would happen if your computer (specifically the drives that hold your LR catalog and images) should fail. Remember that every drive will fail eventually. Here on lightroomqueen.com/community, we still see quite a few issue reports that lead to loss of work, even the loss of original photos. We can only assist in restoring to the previous state if there are adequate backups available to work with.

Did you know?
- All changes you've made to your photos like flags, ratings, color labels, keywords and develop settings are stored inside your Lightroom Catalog
- Your originals / source images are not stored "in" Lightroom, they reside on your hard drive in a normal folder you selected upon import.
- The Lightroom "automatic backups" only backs up your catalog, not your images. You need to backup your images separately.
- Any customizations you made to Lightroom like develop presets, watermarks, filename templates and so on are stored in yet another location, somewhere deep inside your home folder.
- The same goes for any changes you've made to the default preferences.

Set and forget
Even before installing Lightroom, you probably thought about backing up your most important stuff. Establishing a viable backup policy requires that your backups are performed even when you don't think about them. Creating manual backups from time to time is better than nothing, but you may well lose weeks or months of work in case of an unfortunately timed hard drive failure. Therefore, we recommend Automated Backups. There are many options for both Mac and Windows users, some of which are built into the operating system itself. You can have a look at some different options in the list below or do a search on the internet.

Remote Backups
Even when you've backed up each and every folder, in a solid automated schedule, think about what would happen if all of your computer equipment got lost altogether (like in case of fire or burglary). Keeping an additional copy at a cloud server or a friend's house will keep your data safe.

So what do I need to backup then?
Forum owner and LR Guru Victoria, a.k.a. the "Lightroom Queen", published a comprehensive article on her blog to serve as a road map for you to find your important Lightroom assets and set your backup software accordingly. You can have a look and decide for yourself what is important to you.


Backup software
Here are some suggestions you may like. Of course there are many more. You will need backups of system folders and libraries and you'll need incremental backups for your original photos. As your collection of photo's grows to multiple hundreds of Gigabytes, you'll probably move them to a different (dedicated) drive that you will need to backup separately (good), or as a part of a complete incremental system backup (not recommended).
- Windows 7/8 Backup and Restore: flexible, customizable and incremental backups
- Windows 8 File History: backup user library and desktop folders (not suitable for Lightroom)
- Microsoft's free SyncToy backup utility
- Macrium Reflect (free): clone entire drives (no incremental backups)
- Macrium Reflect (standard, USD45): customizable and incremental backups
* Many use Backup and Restore and SyncToy together
- Time Machine (free): complete system backup
- Carbon Copy Cloner (free): clone entire drives (no incremental backups, so not suitable for Lightroom)
- Carbon Copy Cloner (40USD, 28GBP): customizable and incremental backups
*I use a combination of Time Machine and Carbon Copy Cloner (full paid version)
- Crashplan (free): Limited options, only one backup set, incremental backup (suitable for one backup set to make incremental backups of a single folder containing all of your originals)
- Crashplan (paid options): cloud backups, multiple backup sets, incremental backups

Good luck!
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