How To Upgrade To Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5

June 28, 2013 | | Comments 34

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About the Author: David Marx teaches digital photography workshops and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom training classes. David is an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop Lightroom and in Adobe Photoshop. David has lead workshops and seminars for the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, the American Society of Media Photographers, FirstLight Photography Workshops, and he teaches annually at the world-famous Blackberry Farm Resort. For more information on his Photoshop Lightroom training seminars and digital photography field workshops please visit You can also follow daily updates and see new images from David on Google+.

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  1. Jerry says:

    Hi David- This may be the wrong string this question, but here goes anyway. When I open up LR5, I a question bx opens, asking if I want to update my catalog. this seems to happen often and I wonder if it is necessary for me do do that or can I use the last catalog I opened last time? It takes a while to create a new one. Thanks in advance- JK

  2. Gene Brown says:

    I’ve been using the free Lightroom 30-day trial and I am going to buy the program in a box at B&H. Should I just install it over the trial or delete the trial first after backing up catalogs?
    Gene, USA

  3. Robert NB says:

    The LR 5.2 plugin manager does not “see” the mentioned plugins, but in the development module the existing presets are shown and seem to work …
    Best regards,
    Robert, Austria

  4. Robert says:

    I’ve just upgraded LR 4 > LR5, trial version. Unfortunately LR 5 does not recognize some .lrtemplate plugins, e. g. Matt’s “Big Sky” presets for LR 4 or the TLR Velvia presets. The program asks for .lrplugin. Do you have any solution for this problem?
    Robert, Austria

  5. Gary says:

    I am currently using lr4 on my PC. I have ordered a new iMac. Should I buy the lr5 upgrade or a new one. Do I upgrade on the PF or start new on the iMac. What is the best way?
    Thanks. Gary

  6. Sabine says:

    Hello David,
    I like to upgrade my LR4 to LR5 but what about my external
    Plug-ins Niksoftware? Do i have to reinstalled Niksoftware or not.
    It was already a probleme to installed it in lightroom so i don’t want do loose my plug-ins ;-) . The same probleme with Photoshop and my plug-in Niksoftware . I also want to upgrade from cs5 to cs6.
    Can you help me? Thank you. Sabine

  7. Ron M says:

    I have Lightroom 3.6 and want to go to lightroom5. Do I have to upgrade to lightroom 4 then install 5 or can I just install lightroom5? Thanks

  8. Bill Brown says:

    I know this sounds stupid but I have LR 3.6 installed and have just purchased the 5.0 version of Lightroom. I can’t find the original disk I installed with but wanted to see if I can use the serial number listed in System Info to install Lightroom 5. I only ask this because when I compare the serial number on my Photoshop CS6 disk with the serial number in CS6’s system info they do not match.

    Please advise.

    • David Marx says:

      Dear Bill Brown,

      You are not going to find your old Lightroom 3 serial number that way. If you registered your copy of Lightroom 3 though then it should be easy to find your old serial number by logging into your Adobe account.

      David Marx

  9. Ted Mueller says:

    After upgrading to LR5 can I delete the LR4 application to save hard drive space?

    • David Marx says:

      Dear Ted Mueller,

      After upgrading from one version of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to another you can indeed uninstall the older application. You can but I personally don’t bother with this step. I don’t bother because the space savings is minimal and if you accidentally remove something like your Lightroom preferences file or your presets then the uninstall was counterproductive.

      My advice: upgrade and make sure everything is working. If its working make a robust Professional-Grade Backup. After the backup delete your older Lightroom Catalog but leave the older application alone.

      David Marx

  10. Kevin Klasman says:


    Does upgrading from LR 4.x to 5 require that images be online? I have 10s of 1000s of images on a raid device that isn’t currently mounted.


    • David Marx says:

      Dear Kevin Klasman,

      When upgrading from one version of Lightroom to another the Catalog must be online. It would be better if your raid device were also mounted but it is not required. The upgrade changes the Catalog (the .lrcat file) only and has no effect on your images.

      David Marx

  11. Barby Buss says:

    In setting up my LR4 Catalog, I can’t remember whether I consistently Added or Copied my photos. I would like my Catalog to be uniformly constructed, so I am reluctant to just up-grade it in LR5 without first “cleaning it up”. To this end I am tempted to create a new Catalog in LR5 and delete my LR4 Catalog. (I will transfer my LR4 Catalog to an external hard drive before I do this.)
    Your thoughts/advice?

    • David Marx says:

      Dear Barby Buss,

      Your questions are hard to answer because there is no easy solution here. One option is to build an entirely new Lightroom Catalog and then re-import everything. When you import this time you could tell Lightroom to move your images into folders that are all consistently named; ie. Year-Month-Day. Building a new Catalog and importing everything is easy and it solves the inconsistency of folder names problem.

      But danger! This option potentially does you far more harm then good. This advice is a huge disaster if you have not saved all of your metadata down to the file level. See Lighroom Preference Menu Tutorial. Even if you have saved all of your metadata then it is still potentially a disaster if you are using a lot of features which are stored only at the Catalog level. Features like Pick / Reject flags, Virtual Copies, and Collections will all be lost if you start a fresh Catalog.

      So my advice is to go with caution. Upgrade your existing Catalog and back everything up. Don’t worry about your existing folder names. Just leave them alone. Build a better system moving forward but let the old mess be. Don’t worry about the folder names because folders are no longer a useful tool for image organization and efficient search. Instead focus your time on what matters which is searchable metadata.

      David Marx

  12. Reg says:

    Hi David,

    Apologies for such a basic question – will one copy purchased from say Amazon install on 2 machines – I have a laptop and a desktop?

    As always many thanks for your wonderful help.



    • David Marx says:

      Dear Reg,

      Your Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software license entitles you to use it on two computers. Doesn’t matter where you made the purchase. A valid software license is a valid license so go ahead and install on the desktop and the laptop.

      David Marx

      • Reg Gray says:


        Many thanks as always and I do appreciate your helpful advice. You’ve been away so hope you had a successful trip and you’ve got some cracking images.

        Best regards,


  13. Mike says:

    Hi David

    If I elect to pass on the upgrade to LR5 (currently using LR4) and decide to upgrade in the future to LR6, if and when it is released, will I be able to upgrade at that time?

    • David Marx says:

      Dear Mike,

      I do not work for Adobe so I cannot give you an official answer. But I can say that currently you can upgrade from any version (one – four) to Lightroom five with no penalties. I don’t see any reason why they would change this kindly policy if and when a Lightroom 6 is released. That said, the hardware and the operating system requirements do continue to rise. If and when a Lightroom 6 appears you may need to update the computer hardware first but I don’t think that you will need to install Lightroom 5 to make that leap when the time comes.

      David Marx

  14. JoAnn says:

    I have recently used the LR5 trial and as a student would like to purchase the software. I would like to know if I must purchase LR5 first, or can I simply begin with the LR5 Upgrade?
    Thank you

    • David Marx says:

      Dear JoAnn,

      If you have a valid serial number for a previous version of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom then you can purchase the upgrade to Lightroom 5. If you lack a valid serial number from an older version then you need to purchase the full version of the Lightroom software.

      David Marx

  15. Robert says:

    Hi David:
    You mentioned that you had a separate tutorial for how to configure the preferences in LR5. I can’t seem to locate that tutorial.

    What are the new preferences in LR5 that we should be aware of?


    • David Marx says:

      Dear Robert,

      Oh you caught me here. I have been meaning to get a new tutorial out on the Lightroom 5 preference menus but it has not happened yet. Apologies but little has changed from Lightroom 4. (See

      When I do finally get that tutorial finished the only minor change that I will talk about is increasing the Standard Preview size in the Catalog Settings menu. Almost all computer monitors these days have a larger resolution than the Adobe default setting of 1440. For those using 30″ monitors, or Retina Displays, the 2800 setting is the key to getting the quality you paid for out of your images in Lightroom when viewed at their standard size. Minor, but meaningful, for someone who say just spent $2000 for the nicest new MacBook Pro.

      Best regards,

      David Marx

  16. Reg Gray says:

    Dear David,

    I am about to upgrade my entire system and I would appreciate very much your advice and help.

    I have a laptop and a desktop both running windows XP. Both have LR 3.4 installed. I am purchasing a new desktop with WN 7 and will also upgrade the laptop to WN7. I have a purchased DVD LR 4 which has never been installed – because of XP.

    My LR catalogs are always backed up to an external drive and copied onto a 2nd external drive. Will I need to install LR 4 onto both machines before I can purchase an upgrade or should I just purchase the latest LR 5 and install on both machines once WN 7 is installed. Which route will be easier? If outright purchase will one copy go onto 2 machines?

    Once I have your advice on these general questions I hope you will help me with the actual exercise. I have read your tutorial on How To Upgrade To Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 and it does look pretty complicated. I want to have all the information and understand the process before I start.

    As always your help and advice is just brilliant.


    • David Marx says:

      Dear Reg Gray,

      I hope that the upgrade to Lightroom 5 will be painless. Painless because all you need to do is install Lightroom 5 and then key in your new (Lightroom 5 serial number) plus your old Lightroom 3 serial. You need the old Lightroom 3 serial number to prove that your Lightroom 5 is indeed an upgrade but you do not need to install any legacy version of the software on the new computer. Adobe does not force you to install the old software just the serial number.

      Don’t forget to make a backup before you start but I think you have little to fear here!

      David Marx

  17. Jerry says:

    Hi David, I believe I have updated to LR5 correctly. I still have some organizational things I have to work out and more questions will follow, but for now, I see I have several “versions” of my LR catalog inside my Pictures Folder. For example I have “Jerry’s Lightroom Ca.Lrcat” and Jerry’s Lightroom CAtalog Previews.Lrcat” – But I also have others with a -2 and -3 hyphenated versions. I think this happened when I initially set up LR , and thought the settings did not take and have multiple versions. Can I get rid of the “copys” and use just the un hyphenated catalog which I actually renamed today?

    • Janine says:

      Hi Jerry,

      I’ve been following David’s posts on Lightroom upgrades for couple years now and I have a tip based on having gone through this. If I’m not mistaken, David is off presenting a workshop right now, so I hope this might be helpful until he’s able to get back to you.

      Are you sure that your -2 and -3 versions are copies of your current catalog and previews? Or are they old catalogs from earlier versions of Lightroom?

      I upgraded from Lightroom 3 to 4 and then from 4 to 5. At each upgrade I discovered Lightroom does not erase your old catalog; it converts it to the new version, but it saves the old version also.

      So if what you really have are Lightroom catalogs and preview files from older versions, I recommend backing them up somewhere else and saving them. I save my older versions in case my current computer bites the dust and I ever need to revert back to temporarily using an older version of Lightroom on my old computer.

      However, If they really are duplicate copies of your current catalog, I would imagine David is going to recommend that you can get rid of them. The key is, and I’ll recommend this because my friend just went through this, you have to figure out which of the versions is really the most recent. In my friend’s case, it turned out that one of the “duplicates” he deleted was actually his most current and up-to-catalog. He ended up losing all the metadata for edits that he done the on his most recent photos.

      So check them all super carefully to see which one really is the most up-to-date and current and then get rid of the others, if they are indeed duplicates. Better still, save back up copies of them somewhere else just to be super safe before you delete them.


    • David Marx says:

      Dear Jerry,

      First, many thanks to Janine for jumping in here and giving great advice. (Janine Fugere runs a great site too. Check her advice out at
      But the answer is you can delete anything you want as long as you don’t delete anything that you actually need. I know that is incredibly vague but until you can tell me details like how big is the -2 or -3 catalog, when was that catalog last modified, how many images does it contain, are those your most recent / important images etc. vague is all I can do.

      In the end what you must have is a .lrcat file that is compatible with the Lightroom 5 format and Previews folder / database with the same name. If you also have a backup folder and a Lightroom Settings folder keep those too. If the copies are junk then they can go. If the copies are mission critical then they better stay.

      My advice: back everything up and then delete them one by one. if nothing bad happens then you are fine. If something bad happens then reverse course. Again the best advice I can give without any of the technical details about these extra files.

      David Marx

  18. […] upgraded from an older version of Lightroom before, I highly recommend you view this tutorial, How to Upgrade to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5, by David Marx of, before you […]

  19. Janine says:

    David, As you know, I already did successfully uograde my LR4 to LR5. However, the friend I am visiting in Boquete, Panama is about to upgrade and I’m having him follow your tutorial to do his upgrade. He was thrilled to see it (he does better with visual step by step instructions than just me verbally telling him). So thanks!

    One challenge is I’m not certain if Ron ever upgraded his LR3 catalog into LR4 – I think he has actually been running both versions depending on where he processed any given photo. I suspect we’ll do two upgrades, first lrcat 3 into LR4, then lrcat 4 into LR5. A bit of a project but well worth the work, especially since I’m getting a free three week vacation in Boquete. It is sometimes VERY good to talk to strangers in airports. ;-) Janine

  20. Thanks for the tutorial. As someone who downloaded the trial, what confuses me is that it appears you have to download LR5 upgrade (from LR4) all over again when all I really need is to buy a serial number for full activation. Am I missing something? And why is upgrade download available only from Adobe – perhaps its a security problem.

    • David Marx says:

      Dear James Robins,

      I am not sure that I understand the confusion here. Every time that you launch the Free Trial there is an option to buy. Clicking that button will take you to Adobe’s website where you can complete your purchase but you do not need to download anything. All you need is a serial number that you can key in on the next startup. Alternatively you could purchase the software as download by visiting Adobe or Amazon complete your purchase, get your serial number, but never bother downloading the installer again. Hope this helps.

      David Marx

  21. Jerry Knaster says:

    Well, I’m glad I waited for this short tutorial before upgrading. As always David, thank you.