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Reclaiming Hard Drive Space from Lightroom

You may be using a lot more hard drive space with Lightroom than you need to be.  There are three major opportunity areas:  catalog backups, 1:1 previews, and deleting rejects.

Catalog Backups

My Lightroom catalog is about 500 MB.  (To see how large yours is, go to Edit>Catalog Settings on the PC, or Lightroom>Catalog Settings on the Mac.  The size is listed on the General tab.)  If I do a catalog backup once a week, that is 26 GB of catalog copies that I am adding to my hard drive every year.  If I do a backup every day, that is 182 GB per year!    It is important, therefore, to go in and clean out old backups.  I like to keep a few backups in case my catalog already had corruption issues during my most recent backups.  I keep one a day for a week, one a week for a month and  one a month for a year.

If you are not sure where your backup catalogs are, next time Lightroom prompts you to back up your catalog, note in the dialog where they are going.  In Finder or Windows Explorer, navigate to this folder.  You will see a folder for each date — delete these date folders.

1:1 Previews

Lightroom creates and saves 3 jpeg copies of each of your images in a preview folder (or file)  in the main catalog folder:  a thumbnail-size jpeg that you see in Grid view, a screen or standard size jpeg that you see in Loupe view, and a full-size 1:1 jpeg that is used when you zoom in on an image in the Library module.   The 1:1 previews in particular can take up many gigabytes of space on your hard drive, depending on how many images you have in your catalog.

You can have Lightroom throw away  the 1:1 previews a day, a week, or a month after they are generated.   Go to Edit>Catalog Settings on the PC or  Lightroom>Catalog Settings on the Mac, click on the File Handling tab, and in the Automatically Discard 1:1 Previews drop down, choose a length of time that covers how long it typically takes you to work through a shoot.

So what if there is no 1:1 preview available, and you zoom in on an image?  Lightroom simply creates a new one — you will see the message “Rendering Larger Preview” on the image as it does this.  Depending on your system, you will most likely find this quick and painless.

Deleting Rejects

When you delete images from within Lightroom, the dialog gives you two choices — Remove and Delete from Disk.  If you choose Remove, you won’t see your images in Lightroom, but they are still on your hard drive taking up space, in most cases unneccesarily.  I suggest that for many if not most of us,  Delete from Disk makes more sense — this removes them from Lightroom and deletes them from your hard drive.

2017-07-09T13:05:36+00:00April 12th, 2010|18 Comments


  1. Alfred Low April 12, 2010 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the tips – I’ll give them a go. Hanging out for a retail version of Lightroom 3.

  2. Samuel Lorette April 13, 2010 at 1:26 am - Reply

    Thanks. Simple ways to reclaim some disk space… and the bigger and bigger resolutions raw files need strategies to manage disk space.

    I like the tips about the automatic discarding 1:1 Previews!

  3. […] So what about the Lightroom-guided backups that you are prompted to do when Lightroom starts?  Contrary to popular belief, these are just backups of your catalog, and not your image files.   I do also use this prompt to  do an additional backup of my catalog  I put these backups on the same drive as my main catalog, in my Photo Library folder.  As a result, I have backups on my main drive, and backups of the backups on my backup drive.  I like the redundancy that this creates.  Occasionally I go in and delete many of these backups.  (See my post on deleting backups.) […]

  4. Lightroom performance a little slow? September 13, 2010 at 9:25 am - Reply

    […] your computer may be moving slower than usual, speed it up by reclaiming some hard drive space. Reclaiming Hard Drive Space Digital Daily Dose ————————— Real men shoot in Manual Mode! Sonny Cantu Photography | SCP facebook […]

  5. kadajawi September 14, 2010 at 9:34 am - Reply

    I always 7-Zip my backups. That way I get from about 700 MB to 30 MB. If I have to use the backup, I can always unzip it. Hopefully Lightroom will compress the backup file in the next version.

  6. Shutter Speed September 14, 2010 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    One of the causes of slowing down a computer is the size of the software has a big byte. To avoid this, you need to have a good & fast processor, big memory (2gb or more). Having an external hard drive (1tb or more) is also beneficial. Reme…mber to not install anything to your main C:/ drive except your operating system (OS). You can also do a partition to your hard drive to separate your OS. Install all software (Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, etc) in a separate hard drive or in another partition. By this way your PC will run normal and faster like a new.

  7. […] If you back up your catalog as often as I do mine, this will save you many gigabytes of hard drive space.  Next time you do a backup, in the backup prompt dialog box note where the backups are being stored. Outside of Lightroom, using Windows Explorer or Finder, go to this folder and delete most of the date folders. I like to keep a few spread out in time — a day ago, a week ago, a month ago, three months ago. The rest can go. If you are not backing up your catalog and your images, read this post on backing up everything.  Here also is a post that lists other ways to reclaim hard drive space from Lightroom. […]

  8. Mike Watson April 18, 2012 at 2:16 am - Reply

    I also zip up my catalog backups (and hopes LR will do it in the next release) I use a plugin to do this in the background. It uses a built-in compression utility which pulls my 800K cats down to 80K but the writer is hoping to add the ability to choose what compression package you use as winrar compresses even further.

    It also zips up LR configuration files.

    Disclaimer: No contact with the plugin other than as a user

  9. about to blow a gasket!!! September 23, 2012 at 11:49 pm - Reply

    […] and hard drive space disappearing Adobe Community: Photoshop CS5 decreases my hard drive space? Reclaiming Hard Drive Space | Laura Shoe's Lightroom and Photoshop Training, Tutorials and Tips You also might want to check out: CCleaner – PC Optimization and Cleaning – Free […]

  10. Christine Roosa (@biochemtine) October 19, 2012 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this. My computer is only 18 months old and already half full … mostly of photos. I already did a big purge now that I’m figuring out how to organize my photos better. This will be a big help in maximizing my hard drive space.

  11. Mark Treen May 5, 2013 at 5:46 pm - Reply


    That’s great. I added clearing weekly backups to a monthly workflow. I have weekly ones for clearing caches for PS, PR and AE.


  12. JL March 19, 2015 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    I deleted a number of images from Lightroom using the Delete from Disk button. Later I synchronized my Lightroom folders and all of my deleted images reappeared. I thought I deleted them from my hard disc. Can anyone explain this?

  13. Leon May 4, 2016 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much for this! Computer was running slow and LR catalog was sucking the life out of my computer and life.Got rid of all of these old backups.

  14. kimberlyimagery November 30, 2016 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    Thanks Laura, this is fantastic. In conjunction with Disk Inventory X giving a much better visual of my MacBook file storage, your advice opened my eyes to about 20 x LR backup catalogs of 2GB each that I have now deleted. Now to adjust my preferences regarding LR Preview. Cheers from Australia.

    • Laura Shoe December 5, 2016 at 4:56 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome, kimberlyimagery – I’m happy to hear it!

  15. blaine ellis March 3, 2017 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    I have imported over 25000 raw images into LR over the years . i would like to convert then to DNG is this possible ?

  16. Peter September 26, 2017 at 6:05 pm - Reply

    I am in big trouble, I performed a catalog backup and optimization last night, hadn’t been done in a very long time.
    Before this my top folder picture count was 25000.
    When I started Lightroom this morning the count had dropped by 600.
    Did I lose them? How do I get them back?
    They are not in the trash can. Oh, I’m on an i-Mac.
    Any help would be greatly apreciatted.

    • Laura Shoe October 2, 2017 at 4:32 pm - Reply

      It sounds like you’re possibly not in the same catalog, Peter. Look for your largest recent catalog, or revert to your most recent backup. These questions are best asked and answered in a forum, such as – I don’t check this often enough to be of most use, it doesn’t allow for sharing of screenshots, and other people won’t be able to find the conversation as easily as they could on a forum. In any case, I hope you resolved it!

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