To update or not to update Lightroom? - Digital Darkroom Academy

To update or not to update Lightroom?

On a regular basis, Adobe rolls out updates to the Adobe Lightroom app. The question is often, should I update Lightroom or should I wait? There is no right answer, there are only personal considerations to make.

First however, it is important to make the distinction between an update and an upgrade as they are very different.


Updates are newer versions within the same full version. The current Lightroom Classic CC started out at version 7.0 and has since received updates to version 7.3.1 (at present the most recent one). This latest update was a ‘double dot’ release and those double dots are mostly to fix bugs from the previous ‘single dot’ release.


Upgrades are a new full version of Lightroom. It started with Lightroom 1 in 2007 (after some beta versions) and has gone through all numbers until the current Lightroom Classic CC 7. Each upgrade means your main Lightroom catalog is upgraded too.  This is done by making a copy of your catalog and upgrading that one. The advice is to keep the original catalog for that older version of Lightroom too, ‘just in case’.

Lightroom will tell you every time you open a catalog that has not been upgraded for that version, that it needs to do so:

update Lightroom

Once the upgrade is done, the name of the new catalog (in this example the catalog is named Lightroom Catalog.lrcat) will become Lightroom Catalog-2.lrcat. The previews file is also upgraded to work with this new version of Lightroom. In the folder in Finder or Explorer you will now have 2 Lightroom catalogs, one for the older version and one for the new version of Lightroom. If you ever try to open a newer catalog in an older version of Lightroom, it will let you know that it is too new to be used in that version:

update Lightroom

Catalogs are not backwards (or downwards) compatible between full versions! That means if you upgrade your working catalog to the new version, any new images added to it and any work done on all of your images (keywording, development edits and such) is available only in that version of Lightroom.

Lightroom has separate icons for each full version of its app. I personally have 5 different Lightroom icons on my desktop (that only happens if you keep the older versions on your computer, as I have). If you have more versions of Lightroom icons too, make sure you know which one is the current one. Because one day you might open Lightroom and notice none of your recent images are in there. You probably just opened an older version of Lightroom by clicking on the wrong icon.

Update/Upgrade instantly or wait a while?

Some of us will update Lightroom and/or upgrade Lightroom instantly (usually referred to as the ‘early adopters’), some of us prefer to wait a while and see what happens and to follow how many issues show up after the update or upgrade.

There is no golden rule that will answer the question for you if you should do it instantly. However, there are a few things to keep in mind before you decide:

  1. If you have a lot of Lightroom work in the near future, it might be a good idea to hold off until you have finished that. Should any hiccups happen, you want to have enough time (and zero deadlines ahead) to solve it.
  2. Upgrades are far bigger changes then updates so keep that in mind when making your decision.
  3. Upgrades usually have higher minimum specs requirements for computers so make sure to check those against the specs of your computer (and if you use Photoshop too, the requirements will be even more). If it doesn’t meet the minimum specs upgrading should be avoided. And for a smoother working of Lightroom having more than the minimum is certainly a good idea.

How to update Lightroom

You can update Lightroom by going to the Creative Cloud icon and clicking on the update button (make sure Lightroom is closed when you do this):

update Lightroom

Lightroom will update and when it is finished you can open and use it again, the way you did before the update. There is plenty of information to be found about the updates and what has been added in new features, lens and camera support and bug fixes. For Lightroom Classic CC 7, you can find that info here: What’s New in Lightroom Classic CC 7?

If you know there is an update but your Creative Cloud app is not showing it (the button mentions Open and is white instead of the blue one that mentions Update), know that Adobe rolls out the update gradually to prevent an overload on the servers. What you can do to check (if you do want to do the update), is to click on the 3 dots at the top right and select Check for App Updates:

update Lightroom

Sorry you updated?

What if you update Lightroom and you regret it? You are having issues that will get fixed in the next update but you need to get back to working smoothly with Lightroom instantly? Adobe has made that very easy to do. Go to the Creative Cloud app, click on the little arrow to the right of the Open button and select Other versions:

update Lightroom

Then choose the version you want instead of the one you are using now. If that is the previous version, select the one at the top of the list and click the Install:

update Lightroom

It will uninstall the newer version and install the previous (the one you selected) version for you after making sure this is what you want to do:

update Lightroom

Going Back to Older Versions

If you upgraded and want to go back (for now) to your older version of lightroom, there are two option. If, like me, you still have that older version of Lightroom on your computer, all you need to do is choose Uninstall (see screenshot above) instead of Other Versions. If you do not have the older version, you need to choose Other Versions and then (in this example and screenshot) the CC 2016/ 6.0 version. It will install that on your computer. Next, you need to check and make sure you are at the latest version of lightroom (your Creative Cloud App will show you if there are any updates for that version of your Lightroom).

As mentioned above, catalogs are not backwards (or downwards) compatible between full Lightroom versions. So the Lightroom Classic CC 7 catalog cannot be opened by Lightroom 6 (or Lightroom CC 2015). This is the reason you should keep the original catalog of the older version. You can go back to using that one and you will have everything in it that you had before you upgraded. The only issue is if you did any work on (new or old) images in the upgraded catalog, it won’t be in your old catalog (there are workarounds for this though).




Learn how to use Lightroom to get organized, create amazing photos and cut your editing time in half.

Check Preferences

Updates have been known to reset some Preferences at times. So, it’s always a good practice to go into your preferences and check to make sure they are still set the way you want them. You can go to Preferences from the menu bar, Edit > Preferences (PC) & Lightroom > Preferences (Mac).

Final thoughts

When Adobe rolls out a new update or a whole new upgrade, consider if you want to do it instantly or if you want to wait and see what happens. The process of updating (and upgrading) is not very difficult as the Creative Cloud App requires you to only click that blue button. And if you did update Lightroom, it is also fairly easy to revert to your previous version should you want to do that.

Kitty Van Gemert

Kitty van Gemert is a passionate photographer who edits almost exclusively in LR. She has been sharing her knowledge about Lightroom for many years helping others. To get a better understanding of how Lightroom works and also helping people with troubleshooting their Lightroom issues. Her focus when helping out is always to ensure empowerment for the user so that their understanding of Lightroom and their confidence in using it grows. For a look at some of her images, check out her Flickr page

View all posts

The Ultimate Quick Start Guide for Lightroom

In this free guide, I will take you through the basics of Lightroom to so you feel more confident.

Subscribe to Our YouTube Channel

Recent Posts



 A mini-course that teaches you a step-by-step system that you can use to take your photos from boring to amazing in no time.



Learn how to use Lightroom to get organized, create amazing photos and cut your editing time in half!