How to Delete the Lightroom Catalog and Start Over

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

As a full-time photographer, you may find that you have many catalogs on your computer, some of which you no longer require. Knowing how to delete the Lightroom catalog and start over will help you avoid issues of no space and lagging on your computer.

How to Delete the Lightroom Catalog and Start Over

A Lightroom catalog is the best way to store and organize images. A corrupted catalog or a smaller disk size might be some of the reasons why you need to delete and start over again. Usually, a damaged catalog will cause issues with speed and cause a messy workflow.

An image of a person working on her laptop

For a clean and speedy workflow, it is advisable to delete the corrupted catalog, create a new one and start over. Additionally, if you already have a large number of photos you no longer need, it is advisable to delete the entire older catalog and photos and create a new one using the following steps:

Find the Catalog

The first step is to find the hard drive location of the catalog you want to delete. Navigate to the folder where you have stored the Lightroom catalog on your computer by opening Lightroom and then choosing the Edit menu if you are using your Windows PC or the Lightroom menu if using Mac. Select Catalog Settings from the drop-down menu.

Click on the General tab option from the dialog box that appears. Click the Show button on the general tab to open Finder on Mac or Explorer on your Windows PC. This will help you locate the catalog files and folder you want to delete from your hard drive.

Usually, the backup folder and the cache for smart previews will be located next to your catalog. That means you won’t need to go through your computer to find other files related to the catalog you are deleting.

Delete the Catalog Files

From your catalog folder, locate the files you no longer wish to keep. However, considering that Lightroom is a non-destructive software that ensures the original images remain untouched, you should first close it as it cannot allow you to delete the files if it is left open.

Hold down the Ctrl key if you are using a Windows computer or the Command key if it’s a Mac, and then click on the files you want to delete to highlight them. Alternatively, if you want to select all the files, hit Command + A if it’s a Mac or Ctrl + A if you use a PC.

With the files you want to delete selected, press the Delete key on your keyboard. Deleting these files helps to free up storage space on your laptop or computer.

Delete the Backup Catalog

You can locate the backup folder inside the folder that houses your catalog. As you continue working in Lightroom, it creates backups of everything catalog depending on the set frequency. Backing up is handy in case you accidentally get rid of an image from your catalog, as it helps you restore it easily.

However, since you want to delete the catalog and start over, it means even the backup is unnecessary. Keep in mind that the size of your catalog is equal to the size of your backup, and if backups build up, they will occupy too much of your disk space and cause a laggy performance on your computer.

That means deleting a catalog without deleting the backup files will not free up significant space or improve the computer performance. Delete the old catalog backups by pressing the Delete key on your keyboard to free up space.

An image of a woman teaching on how to delete lightroom catalog and start over

Delete the Previews

The catalog folder also contains the previews .lrdata files which Lightroom builds and uses in the Library module. If you delete all the previews .lrdata files in your Lightroom catalog, you essentially clean up, and others will appear when you re-open Lightroom.

Delete the Smart Previews

Smart previews are the editable, low-resolution preview format of your original RAW file. Usually, these are DNG images that contain all the data in your RAW image. However, they are smaller in size when compared to the usual RAW files from cameras.

If you have many RAW photos on your Lightroom catalog, the smart previews created by Lightroom will occupy much space on your hard drive. Therefore, you should delete the Smart Previews .lrdata files in your catalog’s folder to free up more space.

Create a New Catalog

Once you are through deleting the older catalog, open Lightroom again. You can create a new catalog by navigating to File and choosing New Catalog from the menu bar that pops up. The Create Folder with New Catalog dialog box will appear.

In the dialog box, type the name of the new catalog, specify the new folder’s location, and click on the Create button. Typically, the new catalog allows you to reorganize your photos and workflow afresh.

Although you can give the new catalog a similar name to the deleted one, it’s not advisable as there might be some files or backups of the old catalog in a different location or hard drive, which might lead to confusion. Close the dialog box and click on OK to confirm.

Configure the New Catalog

After creating the catalog, you can close Lightroom and then open it. Usually, your new catalog will appear in the recent catalog’s list. Before you add photos to the new catalog, it is advisable to configure everything so your workflow will be seamless and organized.

  1. Navigate to Lightroom, choose Catalog Settings, and then choose Backup from the General tab. Typically, this is where you will choose how frequently you want your new catalog backed up.
  2. If you are unfamiliar with Lightroom, it’s advisable to choose the Every time Lightroom exits option so Lightroom can backup at the exit. In case you haven’t edited your photos and you don’t want a backup, you can simply click No once the backup dialog box pops up when exiting Lightroom
  3. Still, in the Catalog Settings, go to the Metadata section and check the box for Automatically write changes into XMP. Typically, Lightroom creates a .XMP file that contains your edits next to the RAW file you are editing, making it an added backup besides the .LRCAT backup file
  4. Switch to the File Handling section and then set your preview preferences. Keep in mind that this depends on your computer specifications, so use a lower number if you are using a low-end computer
An image of a woman working outside

Import Images Into the New Catalog

Finally, your new catalog is set, and you can start using it by importing images. Click the Import button on the lower left side of the interface. If you are using the cloud-based Lightroom CC, click on the plus icon on the upper left-hand side of the interface.

Once the dialog box opens, locate the images from your computer hard drive and import them. You can also enable the Standard and Smart Previews option when importing the photos.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Restore a Deleted Lightroom Catalog?

It’s not possible to restore a deleted Lightroom catalog unless you have a backup of the catalog. For instance, if you accidentally delete the catalog and Lightroom is set to backup when it exits, you can restore to the previous Lightroom session.

Does Deleting a Lightroom Catalog Affect the Image Files?

Deleting a Lightroom catalog does not affect the original image files, as the catalog stores the edits, not the original files. That means you will lose your .XMP files that carry your edits and metadata information.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how to delete the Lightroom catalog and start over can help you get rid of old catalogs that you no longer use, free up space, and speed up Lightroom. You can delete the catalog by locating the catalog and backup files in your hard drive folder and deleting them.