Two nights ago I had a serious problem. I quit and backed up my Lightroom Classic catalog (as I always do) after around 2 hours of sorting photos (over the past 2 months I have compiled 66,000 images and put them into folders). When I tried to open Lightroom again (to make my second backup on an external hard drive), the catalog was gone. The Lightroom start window opened, but all I could see on the screen was my second catalog (that I had transferred from LR 6).
I am using LR 10.1. / MAC OS Catalina 10.15.7/ 2 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5/ 16 GB 3733 MHz LPDDR4X/ Intel Iris Plus Graphics 1536 MB (I might not find the right terms, sorry, I’m not a native speaker and my Lightroom menu is in a different language too).
I then tried several times to open one of my catalog backups, to no avail. After restarting my computer twice and many attempts to open one of the Lightroom backups, there were suddenly 3 LR icons (blue LRC Cat + Helper+Previews) on my desktop and the catalog opened, but it was still not visible in the Lightroom start window. In the catalog I found the folder structure, but completely empty boxes; all of the smart previews were gone! I tried to search photos, but that didn't work, despite opening and quitting the Lightroom Icon on my desktop several times.
Yesterday morning I opened LR again, the catalog was now displayed in the LR start window. I then searched for a photo again using the "Show in Finder" command. This time the box filled up, as did the other boxes from the subfolder very slowly. Then I tried more folders and very slowly one photo after another reappeared. To get 25.000 photos back to the screen took me three hours and I had to activate the process in every row of boxes by moving the curser slightly over the boxes, sometimes even by clicking into a box.
One day later now I´ m actually able to open a backup. All 66.000 photos are in the catalog, the structure of the folders is okay, the photos are showing up (still very slowly), almost all photos that I flagged black three days ago are in the folder (which is nice).
But all smart previews are gone.
The catalog that was created yesterday seems to be a new one. When I quit, Lightroom told me that the catalog (with now 25.000 photos) is located on the desktop (!) and that it will continue writing the xmp-data, when I´ ll open the catalog again (I never saw something like that before).
When I closed the backup catalog a minute ago this note did not appear.
Can anyone explain to me what’s going on? How can something like this happen? Why wasn’t I able to open the backups? The backup folders contain Lightroom Catalog/ Lightroom Catalog Helper/ Lightroom Catalog Previews. Can I connect the previews in any way with the catalog? How can I tell LR that the second last backup should be shown in the start window (and not the new catalog)?
Is it possible that at some point in the future the boxes will remain completely empty or the structure of my folders will disappear?
Thanks in advance for your help!
Thanks a lot for moving the post!!
Update: When I now try to open Lightroom, I can choose between all different catalog backups that I opened 3 hours ago. Now they are shown on the start page.
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Sounds like you are confusing smart previews and normal previews. What you see in the grid are normal previews.
It also sounds like you use a non-standard way of making catalog backups. Lightroom Classic has an option to make a catalog backup on quit, but that only creates a backup of the catalog file, not of the helper files and previews. This backup is compressed, and does not (and should not) appear in the dialog to select a catalog.
You say that your catalog backup does appear in the dialog to choose a catalog, and that there is a helper file and previews in the backup folder. That makes me believe that you use export as catalog. Exporting as catalog is not meant as a backup mechanism, and can easily lead to mistakes because you can export a selection of images rather than all images. That would be a matter of forgetting to uncheck one single checkbox...
Thank you very much for your answer!
Regarding previews: I thought that I see what I have, so that I see smart previews in the grid as long as I have generated smart previews (and not standard or 1:1).
I always make catalog backups on quit, as you suggest. I don’t use 'export as catalog.' They are indeed compressed. But when Lightroom would not open, I panicked, went to one of my backup folders and clicked on the compressed (zip) file; it opened and then showed a blue LR-icon and Helper.Irdata and Previews.Irdata. I clicked on the blue icon and the Lightroom catolog opened (first all three icons jumped on my desktop; I thought that´s not okay, put them into a folder in the Backup folder), I couldn´t see pictures, quit and then opened the next backup folder.
The Lightroom start page now shows all of the backup catalogs that I opened the other day. At the top you can see the one I am working with right now (see screenshot 1).
Can I just delete all the other catalogs that I opened before to clean up the start page?
My Lightroom folder now looks like this (see screenshot 2):
The red dot indicates the (backup) catalog, which is the one that I am working with at the moment. It appears to be fine. Yesterday I generated new smart previews (66.900 pics, 4.5 hours, 73.83 GB, with my MacBook Pro working hard). x
However, as you can see, there is another smart preview folder of 99 GB (!) in the first folder hierarchy. These might be the missing smart previews that I was looking for. In addition I also found a third preview folder of 25 GB in one of the older backups that I opened the other day. Can I delete these folders now? I would like to do so… (see screenshot 3).
In general: I am certain that I opened the backup in the wrong way. Can I continue working with the catalog that I got from the backup in this way, or do I have to do this in a completely different way in order to be safe?
Thanks a lot for your help!
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First of all, if you want to show screenshots then embed them in your post, don't attach them. Use this button:
Your screenshots suggest that you have unzipped and opened backup catalogs at some point. As I said before, a catalog backup only contains the catalog file, nothing else. The fact that your backup folder(s) contain other files as well, means that you have opened these catalogs at some point. The helper files are created when Lightroom opens the catalog. Of course I can't tell how much work you did in these backup catalogs, and so how much they may be out of sync with each other, but it does mean that the previews and smart previews are new files.
If you ever need to restore your catalog from a backup, then do not simply open an (unzipped) backup catalog, but replace the faulty catalog in the main catalog folder by an unzipped backup catalog. That way you will not lose previews and smart previews.
The fact that your main catalog does not open is due to the presence of the 'Lightroom Catalog.lrcat.lock' file (screenshot 3). This is a file that Lightroom creates to stop other apps from opening the catalog at the same time. Lightroom deletes that file when it quits, but if it does not quit correctly then the file can remain and stop Lightroom from opening the catalog the next time. Delete this file and then start Lightroom. You should now be able to open the main catalog.