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Backing Up Your Catalog in Lightroom 2 (This Is VERY Important)

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The Lightroom catalog file is one incredibly important file. The good news is Lightroom will back up this catalog database for you, but you have to tell it to. Here’s how.
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Backing Up Your Catalog (This Is VERY Important)

All the changes, edits, keywords, etc., you add to your photos in Lightroom are stored in your Lightroom catalog file, so as you might imagine, this is one incredibly important file. Which is also why you absolutely need to back up this catalog on a regular basis, because if for some reason or another your catalog database gets corrupted—you’re completely hosed. (Of course, unless you backed up your catalog, in which case you’re not hosed at all.) The good news is Lightroom will back up this catalog database for you, but you have to tell it to. Here’s how:

Step One. Start by going under the Lightroom menu (PC: Edit menu) and choosing Catalog Settings (as shown here).

Step Two. When the Catalog Settings dialog appears, click on the General tab up top (shown highlighted here), and in the center of this dialog is a Backup section, and a Back Up Catalog pop-up menu. Click-and-hold on that pop-up menu and a list of options for having Lightroom automatically back up your current catalog will appear. Here you choose how often you want that to be, but I recommend that you choose Once a Day, Upon Starting Lightroom. That way, it backs up each time you use Lightroom, so if for some reason the catalog database becomes corrupt, you’d only lose a maximum of one day’s editing.

Step Three. The next time you launch Lightroom, a reminder dialog will appear reminding you to back up your catalog database. Click the Backup button (as shown here), and it does its thing (it doesn’t take long at all, so don’t be tempted to click Backup Tomorrow or Skip Now. Those are sucker bets). Once it’s done, it launches Lightroom and doesn’t bother you again until the next day (at the earliest). By default, these catalog backups are stored in separate subfolders inside the folder, which lives inside your Lightroom folder, which, by default, resides in your Pictures folder. However, I recommend clicking the Choose button and putting your backups on a totally separate hard drive, because having both your working catalog and the backup copies on the same hard drive is just way too risky. This way, if your computer’s hard drive crashes, you have a safe backup copy on that separate hard drive to get you back up and running (if you don’t save them to a separate hard drive and your hard drive crashes, you lose both your catalog and your backups at the same time).

Step Four. So now that you’ve got a backup of your catalog, what happens if your catalog gets corrupted or your computer crashes? How do you restore your catalog? First you launch Lightroom, then you go under the File menu and choose Open Catalog. In the Open dialog, navigate to your Backups folder (wherever you chose to save it in Step Three), and you’ll see all your backups listed in folders by date and 24-hour time. Click on the folder for the date you want, then inside, click on the LRCAT file (that’s your backup), click the Open button, and you’re back in business.

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