Archiving my Lightroom Collection


It’s been several years (Feb-2013) since I last took the time to make an archive (Flash-2160) of my Lightroom Library with the underlying assumption that it could be used to recover/restore my image repository as of a specific point in time in the event of a hard-drive failure or disaster. Given how my library has grown and the amount of time invested in managing the images, I plan to make this archive procedure an annual task.

But before beginning, I want to define the terms backup and archive as used within the context of this post and emphasize that images are not stored in Lightroom; images reside in an external hard drive, separate from the application and its catalog. The Lightroom application and catalog combined with the images it manages are collectively referred to as my Lightroom Landscape.

A backup refers to a copy of images and catalog that could be used to restore the Landscape to a know point-in-time. As an example, a catalog backup is typically created when exiting the application. If problems (i.e., damaged catalog or erroneous import) are detected the next time Lightroom is used, the backup can be used to restore to the most recent version.

An archive is similar to a backup in terms of its purpose (restore to known point-in-time) but distinguished by its retention time and the inclusion of additional files that aren’t necessary for Lightroom to function. My Lightroom archive (Flash-2650) will be stored off-site and retained indefinitely. More information about these additional files to follow.

Creating the Lightroom archive

As previously mentioned, digital images are stored in a separate device from the catalog which means the loss or failure of the Lightroom application won’t necessarily harm your images; they should remain intact. So, what is the purpose of Lightroom? Its purpose is to manage your repository of digital images in an organized manner and provide tools for creative modification.

Lightroom accomplishes this task with a catalog entry it assigns to every image imported into your image library. Any subsequent modifications to the image or its metadata are also recorded in the catalog in chronological order. When an image is viewed from within Lightroom, the application retrieves the original image from the hard drive where it’s stored, sequentially applies any (cataloged) changes made to it, and then presents the image to you. Adobe refers to this method of storing digital images “non-destructive” since the original image is never changed.

Now that we understand the components and underlying process Lightroom uses to mange the image repository, lets talk about creating an archive. The archive must include the following files in order to allow for restoration of the environment or migrating to another computer.

  • PHOTO/Lightroom Library is the external drive and folder containing all images managed by Lightroom. These are the original (unchanged) images, imported into LR since I began using it in 2009.
  • iMac/Gerry/Pictures/Lightroom is the internal volume and folder containing the Lightroom catalog files:
    • Lightroom Catalog.lrcat (6.15GB)
    • Lightroom Catalog Smart Previews.lrdata
    • Lightroom Catalog Previews.lrdata

Lightroom Catalog as of 17-Jan-2019

Note: Adobe requires a product key (License) when reinstalling the desktop version of its software. Because I’ve upgraded from earlier versions, this tedious requirement for upgrading to the current version (v6.x) may involve keys and metadata from earlier installations. Lightroom 2, 3 and 5 catalogs should be retained in the event a reinstallation of LR is required (I hope not!). See my Photography folder for more information.

Additional files included in the archive

My “Disaster Recovery” plan for Lightroom includes some additional files that, while separate and unnecessary for a recovering the Lightroom application, are integral to the overall landscape.

Digital Negatives

Images imported into Lightroom from a camera or folder are copied (or moved) to PHOTO/Lightroom Library folder. The import process includes an option to create a backup copy. Digital Negatives contains a backup of images from every import.

After images are imported into Lightroom, I use the Print module to create a proof set of everything included in the import. This proof set is an important reference because I usually delete 40-50% of all images imported, selecting only the best or most relevant as perceived at the time.

Digital Negatives contain a record of every image and the Excel workbook @FilmHeaaderIndex, provides a roadmap of everything imported – but not necessarily saved – since I began using Lightroom.


The BKUP_DN volume is contains a manual backup of Digital Negatives.


The logical volumes containing Photo, Digital Negatives, Bkup_Photo, Bkup_DN and the Lightroom catalog folder are on separate physical drives to insure a backup will exist in the event one of the three physical hard drives fails. Click here for a graphic overview of the iMac Storage Configuration.

Photography folder from iMac

The Photography folder consist of all things related to Gerry’s lifelong hobby including the aforementioned @FilmHeaaderIndex and SlideInventory, the deliverable from my Film Scanning Project. This folder isn’t required to the Lightroom restore.

Addendum of 1-Jan-2020

Created second annual archive of my Lightroom Landscape using the procedure outlined above prior to beginning project to migrate my existing landscape to Lightroom Classic (PID350). Lightroom Classic is a subscription only application from Adobe that will replace the soon-to-be obsolete version 6.14 currently running on the host (iMac) computer.

The catalog structure changes with the installation of Lightroom Classic. In the event a restore using the contents of this archive is ever required, the old version of Lightroom (v6.14) will also need to be restored to host running macOS not later than v10.14.6 (Mojave) or the archived catalog needs to be converted to work with Lightroom Classic (which is completely dependent on how long Adobe continues to recognized the v6.x catalog structure).

Note: Because of growth in my library and flash drive (#2655) space limitations for this years archive, the Digital Negatives folder only includes images from 2019. Images prior to 2019 are included on last year’s archive (#2650).


  • BackupHistory workbook contains a record of all retained archives. The size of this archive is 190GB; saved to Flash-2650
  • See Post XYZ for a narrative about restoring the Lightroom Landscape using the archive created today (To-do)
  • Which Lightroom files do I need to back up? by the Lightroom Queen (hard copy versions included with the archive)
  • My Lightroom Landscape is here
  • The iMac storage configuration is here
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