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Can I delete old copies of the LR4 backup catalog?

SuperiorImagery

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Once a week or maybe less frequently, I back up the LR catalog. I was surprised that all the old backups are retained, and that the size of the back ups are substantial. I tried to delete a couple older back ups, and the next time I restarted LightRoom, it couldn't find many of the photos. I had to restore the computer to the week before I deleted the old back ups, even though I was able to restore the back up files I had deleted. Is it supposed to be safe to delete old back ups? These redundant files take up space I could be using for photos. Thanks!!
 
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Welcome to the forum.

It is supposed to be safe to delete old backups - as long as more recent backups truly represent current reality.

This whole issue of digital asset management is a bit thorny because Lightroom itself does not provide a rounded solution.
What I tend to do is delegate an entire internal drive (appropriately named) for both my images and the catalog.
I then back up that drive in a bit-for-bit fashion to two external drives to ensure redundancy.
In this I way I avoid backing up only the catalog and not the image collection.

Tony Jay
 
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...I tried to delete a couple older back ups, and the next time I restarted LightRoom, it couldn't find many of the photos.... Is it supposed to be safe to delete old back ups?
Welcome to our forum.
LR catalogs do not contain images, only pointers to images. If you have missing images in your master catalog, you have moved them outside of LR or you have them on an external drive and Windows changed the drive letter on you and of course LR can not possibly know about this to change the pointers in the master catalog. The images were probably showing as missing before you did anything to the backup catalogs and this was just a coincident. Or you became more vigilant about images files after making the Backup changes

It has happened sometimes that LR users will open a backup catalog by mistake. Any imports to the accidentally opened backup catalog won't be seen in the master catalog And conversely the accidentally opened backup catalog will not contain images imported into the master catalog after the back up was created. You need to make sure this has not happened to you before you go off deleting backup catalogs. Neither of these situations will generate the (?) associated with missing image files or folders.

The purpose of the LR catalog backup is not to maintain a fall back catalog in any other instance except when the master catalog gets corrupted or the user makes some stupid mistake and it becomes easier to fall back to a point in time when the catalog was correct. You only need enough backup catalogs to recover from Stupid user errors. How many is that? It depends upon the level of risk you are comfortable with and how much work you are willing to recreate to fix your mistake. I once had to go to a backup catalog that was 3 months old to correct an accidental keywording replacement that affected several thousand images.

The LR catalog backup or the "Make a second copy" on import are not intended to be a permanent backup in the accepted sense of the word. They do not replace a good 'bullet-proof' system wide back up of ALL of your critical files and not just LR catalogs and master image file copies.
 

SuperiorImagery

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Cletus, thanks for the reply. Deleting a few of the old catalog back-up files did cause trouble for the existing catalog, namely, many folders of images could no longer be found. While I know that the images aren't saved in the catalogs, that LR just saves the pointers and edit instructions to each image, it seemed odd that deleting an old back up would cause trouble for the existing catalog. Yes, perhaps something else had occurred simultaneously to cause the (?) associated with missing image files or folders, but it's nothing I'm aware of. So, it should be perfectly safe to delete old copies of the lrcat files, yes? I back up my hard drive once or twice a month (depending upon activity) perhaps I will add the most recent lrcat file to my backup routine as well. Thanks again.
 
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...it seemed odd that deleting an old back up would cause trouble for the existing catalog. Yes, perhaps something else had occurred simultaneously to cause the (?) associated with missing image files or folders...
Did you delete just the backup catalog file or thefolder containing the catalog back up file? Folders and file go "walky-walky" because fo filesystem operations (i.e. Move and delete). If you delete a folder containing your backup catalog and that folder and image files contained in it, was referenced in your master catalog, then you did the deed causing the (?). Otherwise, based upon the actions that you have described, nothing would have disrupted the continuity of your master catalog.
 
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Using the plugin TPG LR Backup has done two things for me:
1. It compresses (zips) the catalog to a fraction of its former size
2. Since it is a zip file it is virtually impossible to confuse a backup catalog with the current one
 
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