5 Steps for Troubleshooting Photoshop Lightroom

Part of Photoshop Lightroom 2 For Dummies Cheat Sheet

The essential goal of troubleshooting (whether you’re using Photoshop Lightroom or any other software) is to find the exact location where a known good input results in a bad output. At that point, you’ve isolated the “bad” component and can then focus on fixing, replacing, or sometimes working around it.

Take the following steps to determine where things went wrong while using Photoshop Lightroom — and perhaps even solve the problem:

  1. Take a step back and triple-check that the settings you’re using are configured correctly for the task you’re trying to accomplish.

    Sometimes, people rely on what they think is happening instead of what is actually happening. They just can’t see what’s right there in front of them. Even if you’re sure you’ve configured Lightroom correctly, take a moment to double-check those settings one more time before moving to Step 2.

  2. Close and reopen Lightroom.

    Sometimes, turning Lightroom off and then back on is just the ticket. If Lightroom is still acting quirky, proceed to Step 3.

  3. Reboot your computer.

    The problems you see in Lightroom may be a symptom of a larger system issue. Rebooting gives every application a chance for a do-over, and it gives you a chance to get up and get more coffee. Start Lightroom back up and attempt to repeat the behavior. If the problem persists, move to Step 4.

  4. Replace the Lightroom preference file.

    Lightroom stores all your applicationwide preferences in a single file. If Lightroom or the computer shuts down unexpectedly (whether a system crash, an electrical storm, or someone tripped over the power cord), the preference file can become corrupted and cause all kinds of quirky problems (as most corrupted things tend to do).

    If you replace the preference file, Lightroom recreates a brand new one and reverts to its default settings. Doing this can cure all kinds of strange problems! The basic steps are the same (with some slight differences) for both Windows and Mac OS X operating systems, so here are the separated steps for Windows and Mac:

    On Windows:

    1. Choose Edit→Preferences, and then click through each tab and note your settings.

      This is so you can reconfigure them the same way later, if needed.

    2. Click the Preset tab and then click the Show Lightroom Presets Folder button.

      This launches a Windows Explorer window showing the Lightroom preset folder.

    3. In Lightroom, on the Preferences dialog box, click OK to close the dialog box and then close Lightroom.

    4. In Windows Explorer, double-click the Lightroom folder to open it and then double-click the Preferences folder to open it.

    5. Rename the Lightroom Preferences.agprefs file to Lightroom Preferencesagprefs.old.

      The purpose of this is to hide the old preference file from Lightroom and trick it into creating a brand new one. You could just delete the old one, but renaming it allows you to go back to it later if the preference file isn’t to blame.

    6. Restart Lightroom.

    If the problem goes away (great!), the old preference file was the cause. You can go back into the Preferences folder, delete the “old” one, and then reconfigure your new preference settings (Edit→Preferences) the way you had them before.

    If the problem continues (not so great!), the preference file wasn’t the cause, so you can delete the “new” preference file Lightroom created and then change the name of the “old” preference file back to Lightroom Preferences.agprefs. You can then move to Step 5.

    On a Mac:

    1. Choose Lightroom→Preferences, click through each tab, take note of your settings, click OK, and then close Lightroom.

    2. In Finder, go to the [User]LibraryPreferences folder.

    3. Drag the com.adobe.Lightroom.plist file to the trash and then restart Lightroom.

    If the problem goes away (great!), the old preference file was the cause. You can now reconfigure your new preference settings (Edit→Preferences) the way you had them before.

    If the problem continues (not so great!), the preference file wasn’t the cause, and you can move the com.adobe.Lightroom.plist file from the Trash to restore your original settings. Lightroom gives you the following warning: A Newer Item Named com.adobe.Lightroom.plist Already Exists in This Location. Do You Want to Replace It with the Older One You Are Moving? Click Replace. You can then move to Step 5.

  5. Choose File→New Catalog, enter a filename, and click Save.

    The problem may be in your catalog file, and you need to rule that out. Import some test images and attempt to recreate the problem. If everything works as it should, the problem was likely in your working catalog file. This is where those catalog backups can pay off.

    If the problem persists in the new catalog as well, you know your original catalog isn’t the problem. Choose File→Open Recent and then choose your real catalog file and delete the test catalog.