Resetting the lightroom preferences file - updated

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Jim Wilde

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Feb 1, 2010
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Quite often when trouble-shooting a Lightroom problem, it will be suggested that you 'reset' or 'trash' your Preferences file. This procedure is often remarkably successful at fixing what are otherwise inexplicable problems.

Before you start

It would be useful to understand some implications, before embarking on the reset action.

Firstly, resetting the Preferences file will cause Lightroom to create a new one when it is next started, and this new file will have all settings at their default positions. If the act of resetting the preferences file fixes the initial problem then obviously you will want to keep the new file. However, any changes which you had previously made to the Lightroom Preferences will have been undone. In itself, this is a simple thing to correct: you could for example take a screenshot of each of the 5 to 7 tabs in the Preferences settings before the reset, then a simple comparison after the reset will enable you to restore the settings to the way you had them. Similarly, any changes you have made to the various Grid and Loupe View Options will also be reset to defaults, so again a screenshot of the View Option tabs (Ctrl+J on Windows, Cmd+J on a Mac) will help in restoring things back to the way you had them.

Secondly, in the event that the reset doesn’t cure the problem, you may wish to revert to the original preferences. This means that the original preferences file should be retained, which is achieved by either moving it away from its current location, or more simply by renaming it, e.g. by adding “old” to the file extension.

One other thing before starting (Lightroom 1 to 5 only): make a note of the name and location of your existing catalog, as you will need this knowledge after the preferences file has been reset. This information can be found in the General Tab of the Catalog Settings on the Lightroom Menu (Mac) or Edit Menu (Windows).

Resetting the Preferences File – Lightroom 1 to 5 only

On Windows systems:

1. First, locate the existing Preferences file: the easiest way to find it with Lightroom active is to go to Edit menu > Preferences > Presets tab and press the Show Lightroom Presets Folder button.

If you cannot start Lightroom, then use Windows Explorer to navigate directly to C:\Users\[yourusername]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Lightroom\Preferences\ - note that AppData may be hidden by default, but you can type %appdata%\adobe\lightroom into the Start menu search box and you’ll be taken directly to the Lightroom user folder.

2. Whichever way you choose to find that folder, close Lightroom before going any further. In the Lightroom user folder will be the Preferences sub-folder which contains the “Lightroom X Preferences.agprefs” file(s) (there may be other older versions if you have upgraded Lightroom) - move the complete Preferences sub-folder to another location outside the Lightroom user folder or simply rename it, and then restart Lightroom.

On Mac Systems:

3. Locate the file: you’ll find “com.adobe.LightroomX.plist” with the other Preferences files rather than Lightroom’s Presets, so using Finder you’ll need to navigate directly to Macintosh HD/Users/[your username]/Library/Preferences/. The Library folder is hidden by default, so in Finder hold down the Alt (Option) key while using the Go menu. The user library folder will then be listed below the current user's home directory.

4. As with Windows, close Lightroom and move the plist file to another folder or rename it, but do not restart Lightroom yet. NOTE: if there are other “com.adobe.LightroomX.plist” files from earlier versions of Lightroom (which will likely be the case if you have upgraded Lightroom from an earlier version), also move or rename those, which will prevent Lightroom from using them as the basis of the new Preferences file that it will create on start-up.

5. An additional step is now required on Mac systems due to changes made at the OS level (i.e. outside of Adobe’s control). Put simply, the active LR preferences are now stored in the system cache and would then likely be used in the event of the file on disk being reset as described above. To prevent this, and to force Lightroom to create and use a new preferences file, it is necessary to do a System Restart (to flush the system cache) after resetting the existing preferences file, and before starting Lightroom again.

N.B. If you are comfortable using the Terminal app, the need for the system restart can be avoided by entering the following command (after ensuring that Lightroom has been closed down):

defaults delete com.adobe.LightroomX

N.B "X" means enter the appropriate single digit version number.

Resetting the Preferences File – Lightroom 6/CC only

With the introduction of Lightroom 6/CC, Adobe has changed the Preferences handling in two ways:

Firstly, the specific details of all “Recent Catalogs” have been separated away from the main preferences file, and included in a new “Startup Preferences” file. The simple idea being that this file should not need to be reset when the main preferences file is, so there’ll not be a need to search for the catalog in the file system in order to re-launch Lightroom after performing the reset.

The new file is called “Lightroom 6 Startup Preferences.agprefs”, and is stored as follows:

Mac: Macintosh HD/Users/your username/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Lightroom/Preferences

Windows: C:\Users\your username\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Lightroom\Preferences

This makes it much simpler for Lightroom to open the correct catalog after the reset.

Secondly, the actual Preferences reset has been incorporated into a special Lightroom launch mode. Simply by holding down the Shift and Opt keys (Mac) or Shift and Alt keys (Windows) when starting Lightroom 6/CC, a new prompt will be received, giving you the option to "Reset Lightroom Preferences".

Selecting “Reset Preferences” (Mac) or "Yes" (Windows) is obviously all that’s needed to effect the reset, and it will use the new “Startup” preferences file to locate and open the existing catalog. This new preferences reset process will no longer build upon any existing prior version preferences, so it's not necessary to first “hide" any such files from older versions. However, it will still be necessary to preserve the existing LR 6/CC preferences file should the reset not fix the problem and you want to revert to the pre-existing file. Thus you do need to rename this file before using the reset procedure:

Mac: "com.adobe.Lightroom6.plist"
Windows: "Lightroom 6 Preferences.agprefs"

After the Preferences have been reset:

For Lightroom 1 to 5, once the above actions have been completed, Lightroom can then be restarted to see if the problem has been cleared. To start Lightroom after the reset has been done, you will need to tell Lightroom the name and location of your catalog. The easiest way is to navigate to your catalog using Explorer or Finder, then double-click on the catalog (*.lrcat) file. That will launch Lightroom and open your catalog.

For all versions: after Lightroom has started, you can then test to see if the reset of the Preferences file has fixed the initial problem. If it has not, then you can simply revert to the original Preferences file by deleting the newly created Preferences file and reversing the rename reset action. Note that on Mac systems only, a system restart is needed to clear the new preferences file from the system cache before restarting Lightroom.

However, if the action HAS fixed the problem you will obviously want to keep the new Preferences which case you should spend a few minutes going through the various tabs and ensuring that you get all the settings the way you had them. Pay particular attention to making sure that the Default Catalog setting on the General Tab is correct.

NOTE: Obviously the above instructions assume that you are able to start Lightroom normally in order to examine existing settings. There have been rare bugs in the past which made it impossible to start Lightroom until the Preferences file had been reset, so if that is happening you’ll be unable to carry out the above precautionary checks, and will instead have to go straight ahead to reset the Preferences file.

What is deleted when I delete my Preferences file?

When you delete your Preferences file, the obvious settings that you lose are those in the Preferences dialog, but it also includes other details such as your View Options settings, last used catalogs, last used settings, FTP server details, some plug-in settings (the plug-ins may need to be re-installed or re-enabled), etc.

Your original photos, Develop settings, collections, presets and suchlike aren’t affected by resetting the Preferences file.​

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