LR011 - LR Classic Files to Backup and Restore

January 02, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

LR Classic Files to Backup and Restore

Published January 2019:  This is a re write and replacement of Blog LR002 – Before and After Lightroom Crashes first published in January 2016

Why Do I Need a Backup?

In general (other than the total meltdown with version 6.2 that we'll try to forget about), Lightroom Classic and its predecessors have been quite stable.  However, even stable programs can crash from time to time.  Add to this unexpected disk drive failure, computer malfunction, computer theft, fire, natural disaster (flood, fire, earthquake, hurricane, tornado, volcano) and just plain doing something stupid and you will have a myriad of ways for you to lose all your work and/or images.   This is why having backups is very important. 

Let me put it another way.  There are two kinds of people in the world.  Those who will have a loss/theft/failure without having a back up and those who will have a loss/theft/failure who do have a back up.  It’s that simple.  Every couple of weeks, someone will call me having just had a disk drive crash or their laptop was stolen or some other catastrophe resulting in their LR catalog and/or image files being missing or unusable.  Most say, “I meant to take a backup last week, but didn’t get around to it”.  Sorry, you’re out of luck, your images or all your LR work over a half dozen years is gone. 

You may be a wonderful person who donates to charity, rescues small animals and calls your mom every other day – but none of that will keep you from have having a failure where all your images or LR Catalog are no longer usable.  You are not immune!  Neither is your friend around the corner.  And, there is no difference in outcome between someone who isn’t aware they should back up and someone who just hasn’t gotten around to it yet.

And LR is quite remiss in helping you understand what needs to be backed up.  So, let's start there.

What to Backup

As you have probably noticed, LR Classic has a built-in "backup" feature.  The frequency of this is controlled by a preference setting that can be found in the “Catalog Preferences” dialog box.  From your menu select “Edit” (“Lightroom” on a Mac) then “Catalog Settings”.  This will bring up the Catalog Preferences dialog box as shown below.

05 Catalog Preferences05 Catalog Preferences

On the “General” tab, use the pull down in the “Backup” section to select how often you want to see the reminder window asking you to back up the Lightroom Catalog.  Your choices for this setting are:

  • Every Time Lightroom Exits
  • Never
  • Once a month when LR exits
  • Once a week when LR exits
  • Once a day when LR exits
  • When LR next exits

As this setting only influences when you get the reminder, it is recommended to use the “Every time Lightroom Exits” option so you get the reminder screen every time you close Lightroom.  Then, if you don’t want to back up the catalog when you see the reminder just click “Skip this time”.

When you exit LR, it looks at this setting to determine if it should show you the reminder screen below

01 Backup Reminder Screen01 Backup Reminder Screen

However, and THIS IS IMPORTANT, this ONLY creates a back up of the LR catalog itself.  It does NOT back up ANY of your images or any of the other files LR uses on a day to day basis.  So, to protect yourself you need to back up other things on your own.

Back up your images

As mentioned, the automatic LR backup does not back up your images.  You must do this yourself.  You can use any number of tools on the open market to do this (including Apple Time Machine if you are on a Mac) but it is imperative that you do this.  I suggest doing it at least as often as you actually back up the LR catalog itself.  Select a backup tool that is smart enough to only back up changes each time you run it.  Some do this at the file level but even better are ones that do this at the block level.  With block level tools, once all the full files have been saved, they only need to re-save the portions of files that have changed; usually in 2k or 4k blocks, so can run quite quickly.  In addition to saving the backup to another disk drive attached to your computer, having a tool to back up to the cloud over the internet is a good idea. (see bottom of this blog for list of back up resources)

If you have chosen in LR to “Automatically write changes to XMP” or on selected images you “Save data to disk”, LR does not alter your actual image files.  However, if you have it set to automatically write changes to XMP or you do so manually on selected images then LR will alter the content of your image files or will create a new file next to your image file called a “Side Car” file which will have an extension of “.XMP”.   If your original image file is a Jpg or DNG the changes are written into the actual image file.  For most other file types the changes (just the changes – not the whole image) are written to an XMP side car file.  So, in the case where it uses XMP files, the amount of data that changes as you work with images in LR is quite small.  However, with Jpg and DNG (perhaps a few others) you may need to re-backup the entire image file after you’ve made either metadata or image content changes.  But even if you have loads of DNG or Jpg files you will be very sorry some day if you do not keep them backed up or at least have a backup of the original version you imported – preferably on a separate disk drive or even better to some cloud storage and ideally to both.

13 XMP Files13 XMP Files

Other files to back up

Now we get to the more subtle files and folders that you may want to protect.  None of these are as crucial as your catalog and images – so if you do nothing else, do those -- but by having backups of these other things you can save yourself a fair amount of time getting back to normal operation after a failure. 

As with most computer programs, Lightroom creates files and folders where it stores information pertaining to the particular choices you have made in your use of LR.  For example, whatever you select in the various preferences screens in LR must be stored somewhere.  Every time you save any sort of a preset or template it must be stored somewhere.  How you have your grid and info screens configured must be stored somewhere.  Etc. 

If there is a mishap, and these files get lost or corrupted, LR will automatically recreate them but it will do so using default settings – just like a new install of LR.  This means that you will have to re-do all your customization, and even worse, depending on which files and folders were lost or damaged, you may have to re-create your preferences, presets, and templates among other things.  This is not a good thing.  So, to protect yourself from this sort of problem you need to backup these files and folders.  For an official list of where Adobe stores all sorts of LR related files (at least up through version 6) see the link below (most recent one published by Adobe that I could find):

The above link mentions many different types of information and where they are stored for both Mac and Windows operating systems.  However, the key folders and files you need to protect are your images, catalog, preferences, presets, and plug-ins. 


The preferences file contains your LR configuration information.  This includes the choices you made in various preferences dialog boxes but also contains additional information.  For example, what data you wish to see in the grid cells and film strip cells in the library module.  What data you want to see in the Loupe View and Develop module when you click “I”.  What Identity plate (if any) to show.  Print templates, and many other things.  None of these things are earth shattering critical if lost as is the catalog itself or your image files, but nonetheless it is a pain in the posterior to have to redo these settings if they get lost or corrupted. 

Note:  Version numbers in file for folder names will differ depending on release number

(Win, through LR 6)  C: -> Users -> (user name) -> AppData -> Roaming -> Adobe -> Lightroom -> Preferences -> Lightroom 6 Preferences.agprefs

(Win, LR Classic)  C: -> Users -> (user name) -> AppData -> Roaming -> Adobe -> Lightroom -> Preferences -> Lightroom Classic CC 7 Preferences.agprefs

(Mac, through LR 6)  Users -> (user name) -> Library -> Preferences -> com.adobe.Lightroom6.plist

(Mac, LR Classic)  Users -> (user name) -> Library -> Preferences -> com.adobe.LightroomClassic7.plist

In Mac OS 10.9.x and later, to reset Lightroom's preferences to factory defaults, delete the above file and restart your computer and press the shift + option keys immediately after you restart Lightroom, and select Reset Preferences from the resulting dialog box.

Here’s what it looks like in Windows

09 Preferences files09 Preferences files

Start up Preferences:

In addition to the preferences file listed above, LR also has a file of “startup preferences”.  These include information about what catalog you opened last, recently used catalog list, Catalog upgrade history, and which catalog to load on startup.  This file is stored in the same folder as your regular preferences file (see above) but the file name ends with
 “ Startup Preferences.agprefs”.

(Win, through LR 6)  C: -> Users -> (user name) -> AppData -> Roaming -> Adobe -> Lightroom -> Preferences -> Lightroom 6 Startup Preferences.agprefs

(Win, LR Classic)  C: -> Users -> (user name) -> AppData -> Roaming -> Adobe -> Lightroom -> Preferences -> Lightroom Classic CC 7 Startup Preferences.agprefs

(Mac, through LR 6)  Users -> (user name) -> Library -> Preferences -> Lightroom 6 Startup Preferences.agprefs

(Mac, LR Classic)  Users -> (user name) -> Library -> Preferences ->  Lightroom Classic CC 7 Startup Preferences.agprefs

12 Startup Preferences12 Startup Preferences


The catalog should be backed up using the back up dialog upon exiting LR as described above which backs up the catalog file itself (the file name ending in “.lrcat”).  If you want to back up other catalog related files and folders (e.g. preview folders, helper files, journals, etc.) they are in the same folder as the catalog and all start with the catalog name.  By default these files and folders are in the following location but can be anywhere you put them:

C: -> Users -> [user name] -> Pictures -> Lightroom ->

To specifically find where yours are, on Windows open LR and then click the LR icon at the left end of the Title Bar or right click anywhere on the title bar and select “Show Catalog Location”.  On a Mac <Ctrl> + <click> on the title bar.

06 Catlog Location 106 Catlog Location 1

You can also use the menus by clicking on Edit -> Catalog Settings and then look for “Location” on the “General” Tab

04 Catalog Location 204 Catalog Location 2

Depending on personal preference (and who has coached you) all your LR catalogs may be in one folder, or each catalog may be in a different folder (if you have more than one),  The catalog file (which ends in “.lrcat”) is backed up when you say OK upon exiting LR but none of the other files and folders in the same folder as the catalog are. 

The primary catalog extras are folders containing various types of previews.  But, from time to time you will also see other files and folders such as journals and helper files.  You can pick and choose which of these files and/or folders to include in a separate backup as you wish but be sure LR is closed when you do these backups as you do not want to also get the “lock” file or other temporary files that are only present when LR is running, 

I should also point out that unless you changed it (as you should), a folder for “Backups” is also here.  These are the backups taken when you exit LR.  Again, you may choose to include these in your backup strategy or not.  In my case, I have each catalog in its own subfolder and I have the LR created backups going someplace else, so I just backup the entire folder containing my current catalog.

Here’s a sample from my system

03 Catalog Extras03 Catalog Extras

Presets & Templates:

Prior to 7.3, all the presets and templates were stored in “.lrtemplate” format in subfolders as shown here. 

08 Pre 7.3 presets08 Pre 7.3 presets

But, as of 7.3, Adobe converted Develop Presets to a different file type and placed them in a different folder.  And, certain presets that are shared with Photoshop’s Adobe Camera Raw are also in unique folders (not sure if this is new or always been like this).  The non develop presets, and the old version of Develop presets stayed in their original locations.

So, as it is a bit confusing it is best to ask LR itself where it is storing your particular presets.  To do this, use the LR menu path Edit (Lightroom on a Mac) -> Preferences and select the Presets tab.  Then click the Show Lightroom Develop Presets button which will show you your Lightroom develop presets folder. This folder in turn has a subfolder for each type of preset (e.g. Color Profiles, Develop Presets, Watermarks, Print and Web Templates, Etc.).  These are the new (as of 7.3) Develop module presets in XMP format.

11 Presets Preferences diaog11 Presets Preferences diaog

Right next to this button is another button called “Show All other Lightroom Presets”.  This button takes you to all the “other” presets.  These other presets are the non Develop Module presets (e.g. Filter Presets, File Naming Presets, Export Presets, Keyword Sets, Etc.) in the LRtemplate format.  In addition, if you had created your own Develop Module presets prior to 7.3, the originals of those will be here as well, but with “~~” at the front of the file names to indicate that they have been superseded with an XMP version which are in the “Develop Presets” subfolder (see below).

So unless you find them someplace else, here’s where they live so you can be sure they are backed up.

All non Develop Presets and
Develop Presets prior to version 7.3 (.lrtemplate)

These folders contain the non Develop Presets (e.g. Import, file naming, export, filter, etc.) for all versions.  They also contain Develop Presets created in or for versions prior to 7.3 (see note below).  These folders contain various subfolders which in turn contain “.lrtemplate” type files.

(Win)  C: -> Users -> (user name) -> AppData -> Roaming -> Adobe -> Lightroom

(Mac) HD: -> Users -> (user name) -> Library -> Application Support -> Adobe -> Lightroom

Note:  Each time you open LR 7.3 or later, any develop module presets of file type “.lrtemplate” that doesn’t start with “~~” found here will be copied to the location below and converted to the “.XMP” file type and the original will be renamed with “~~” in front of the file name.  If you buy presets that come as “.lrtemplate” file types, place them here, close LR and then re-open LR so they will convert.

Develop presets for LR 7.3 and later (XMP)

Beginning with LR 7.3, old Develop Presets which were “.lrtemplate” files that do not start with “~~” are automatically copied to the folders named here and are converted from “.lrtemplate” to “.XMP” files. When this is done the old files are renamed with a “~~” in front of the file name.  This processing happens each time you start Lightroom

(Win)  C:-> Users -> [user name] -> AppData -> Roaming -> Adobe -> CameraRaw

(Mac)  HD: -> Users -> [user name] -> Library -> Application Support -> Adobe -> CameraRaw

Within these folders are subfolders for different preset types.  One of these is the settings subfolder and is where the user defined or 3rd party purchased presets are stored.  In addition to these there are some other folders of interest such as:

CameraProfiles for camera profiles (.dcp format)

LensProfiles for lens profiles (.lcp format)

02 Camera Raw Folder02 Camera Raw Folder

Presets stored with catalog

If you have changed your Lightroom preferences to “Store presets with this catalog” on the presets tab of the main Preferences dialog, then the preset and template folders are stored in the same folder where each LR catalog is found in a subfolder called “Lightroom Settings” and each catalog can have a different set of presets. 

The screen shot below is the folder structure where my LR “settings” are.  For this screenshot I configured LR to save my presets and templates with the catalog and this catalog happens to be on my “P” drive (“P” for “Photos”) where I also have all my images. 


10 Presets folder10 Presets folder


If you have installed any plug-ins on your own, it is a good idea to back those up as well.  Most plug-ins come in the form of a zip file which you download to your computer and then unzi (or “Extract”).  Once un-zipped the plugin will be in a folder whose name ends with “.lrplugin”.  These plug-ins are then installed into LR using the Plug-in Manager on the File menu.   As such plug-ins can be anywhere you choose to put them, I can’t give you a folder path.  However, wherever you choose to put them, they too should be backed up from time to time.  Here’s an example of plug-ins from my computer.

07 Plug-in list07 Plug-in list

When Lightroom Crashes

From time to time LR just decides to stop running.  As a matter of fact, this happened to me this morning for no apparent reason – which prompted me to write this blog.  In windows you get a pop up message that says Lightroom has stopped responding and do you want to terminate the task or wait to see if it recovers on its own.  Sometimes it asks if you want to search the web for solutions to the problem (which has never actually found a solution to any crash I’ve ever had).  I presume that Mac’s have something similar.

If you have a disk failure or if you wind up having to terminate the program through this dialog box or through the Windows Task Manager tool (or a Mac equivalent) or you have a power failure while running Lightroom you may loose more than just a few minutes of time.  The next time you start LR after such a failure it may be fine or it may behave as if it were a new install (and in some cases will actually be a new install).  All of your choices in preferences, settings, configuration, plug-in installations and other things may be gone.  Those view options you laboriously established for what data to see in the compact and expanded cells may have reverted to the defaults.  The data you choose to see when you press “I” in the Loupe view or in the Develop module will be back to the Adobe default, those presets you created or purchased may no longer be there, and if you had set up an identity plate it may no longer be shown.  But, don’t panic.


If your failure or problem resulted in damage to or deletion of the Lightroom program itself you will need to reinstall Lightroom.  For simplicity and avoidance of issues, it is best to re-install the same version of LR you had been using.  Once your recovery is complete then consider updating to a newer version if you wish but do the recovery on the version you had been using.


If you have backups of your preferences files all you need to do is restore them.  First close LR.  Then go to the location where LR stores the preferences file(s) (as described above) and rename those files something else (these are the rebuilt default versions that LR just created for you when it couldn’t find or use the old ones).  Then copy your backup versions of the files to the location LR expects them to be and restart LR.  All will be back to normal (or at least back to the way it was when you created the backup). 

01 Restore Preferences01 Restore Preferences

If your identity plate is not showing after restoring the preferences file, click where the ID plate should be on the screen, then select the one you want from the list.  Your custom ID plate should now be shown.

Restoring Presets & Templates

Although it doesn’t happen often, if you discover that the crash also damaged some of your presets and templates, restore those file and folders.  This usually only happens if you were in the process of creating or modifying a preset or template at the instant of the crash so is not as likely.  However, for a fresh install this will be needed. 

See the section on backing up Presets & Templates and using those backups, restore the relevant files to their prior location.  It should be noted that you ONLY need to restore presets you created or purchased through a third party, not ones that came with Lightroom.

Restoring Plug-ins

If your plug-ins have also gone away then you’ll need to restore those as well.  With Lightroom closed, go to the backups (see section on backing up the plug-ins) and restore them to their prior location.  Then open Lightroom and your plug-ins should be present. 

In many cases you will also have to enable the plug-in.  Go to the LR Plug-in Manager and you should see your plug-ins.  Then click on any that indicate that they are disabled, and then click on the “enable plugin” button in the right part of the plugin manager window.  In some cases (depending on how the plug-in was coded and whether or not you are on a new computer) you may need to re-register or re-authorize the plug-in with the plug-in developer. 

Backup Tool Resources

Here is a list of some of the more popular programs and tools one can use for backing up computer information and that I’ve heard good things about.  Some of these can be used for local as well as cloud backup.  I am not endorsing or recommending any of these, just listing them for convenience. 

  • (Mac) - Time Machine (comes with your operating system)
  • (Windows) – File History (comes with your operating system)
  • CrashPlan (for small business). (I use this one)
  • Backlaze
  • Acronis
  • iDrive

For a more complete analysis, search the web for “computer backup software”.   As of January 2019 here are a few review pages I found with this sort of search and seem to be objective and well researched.


Self Promotion

Thanks for reading.  I also offer one on one Lightroom Tutoring and Help.  This can be done locally in the Palo Alto California Area (between San Francisco and San Jose) or, if you are farther away I can dial into your computer and provide support in that manner.  For information see



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