Photoshop Elements Catalog File – The Critical Link

Are you backing up your pictures and your Photoshop Elements Catalog? Are you using the PSE Backup command, or some other software program to this? Some of my students, especially those that are new to PSE are doing little to protect their images from either a hard disk crash or some kind of virus. Both can strike without warning. If you have never experienced either one of these catastrophes, you will.

I personally use the PSE Backup command to do my backups. This command not only backs up all of my pictures, audio files, and videos, but also the Catalog file that is the heart of PSE’s Organizer. The number of pictures in my catalog is rapidly approaching 23,000. There are a lot of memories contained in those photos. My ability to find any given picture within 1-2 minutes using the Categories, Sub-Categories, and Tags I have assigned them over the years is critical to me. It’s the Catalog file that contains all of this information about my pictures, including the link as to where a given image is stored on my computer.

I have been using the built-in Backup command since it became available in PSE 3. It has worked well for me, and on more than one occasion, its companion command Restore prevented an inconvenience from becoming a disaster. This command can also be used when moving your pictures and Catalog to a new computer. I wrote a couple of articles here about a year ago discussing the Backup and Restore commands. Click here.

Many of my students are backing up their pictures and other data using dedicated backup software that may run automatically. In general, this is a very good approach. However, when I ask them if they are backing up their Catalog file with their chosen program, they normally can’t tell me. The Catalog file is absolutely essential if you ever have to recover your pictures and get the Organizer working properly again. This file holds the pointers to the physical location of your pictures, all of the category, sub-category, and tag assignments, as well as all of the other information you or PSE has generated about your pictures.

Most of us, don’t even know where this file is stored. However, it is easy to find this out right from within the program. From the Organizer’s Menu, click on Help > System Info. A screen like the figure below will be displayed. You can print it or copy it to a document. As you can see, it contains a lot of useful information in addition to the location of the Catalog file.

PSE 7 Sys Info From Organizer 

The Catalog file is not a large file. It does not contain your pictures, just the critical information about them. In my case, my Catalog file is only 89 Mb. This is for my catalog that contains almost 23,000 images and takes about 115 Gb of storage space to back up.

So what does all this mean to you? Well, if you are not doing any backups now, you should do one immediately using the built-in Backup Command in PSE. If you are already backing up your computer with other software, verify that the Catalog file is included. If it is not add it to the list of folders/files being backed up, or at least routinely back it separately.

One final suggestion, if you are having trouble with your computer and have it repaired by technician, make sure they are aware of this important file. I have helped several people get PSE running properly again, after they had their PC worked on. Although all of their pictures were recovered, PSE could not find them, because the Catalog file itself was not properly restored.

Until next time,


53 thoughts on “Photoshop Elements Catalog File – The Critical Link

  1. I have tried to run a backup on my PSE 6 catalog in order to move it to a new computer. It will not work. I keep getting an error with an error message that means nothing to me. I have tried a repair on the installation of the old computer (XPHome sp2), gone through and made sure tht everything was connectioned and anything else I culd find in the forums to no avail. Is there something different I should be doing.?

    Any help appreciated.


  2. Bailey,

    I assume you also ran the Repair Catalog command under File > Catalog. Even if the analysis comes back saying no errors found, go ahead and run it anyway.

    What does the error message say when you try the backup command? If it has an error number, what is that? Are you trying to backup to an external hard drive or CD/DVD?


  3. Hi Don

    Thanks for a very interesting article. I have a question I hope you can help me with.

    I am using a dedicated backup program to back up all important data on my computer (including my images). Therefore I am not interested in using the build in backup function in Elements.

    Will the following method work: Backup the catalog file and the images (using my own backup program), format my computer, install the latest version of Elements, copy the catalog file to the Adobe catalog folder under My Documents and copy the images to the same location on the computer again.
    Will that work and will all the tags, collections-tags etc. work?
    Do I need to use the command “Write tags and properties info to photo” before the backup to make it work, or is this not necessary?




    • Martin,

      I “believe” the backup/restore process as you describe it will work. I do not think you want to or need to do the command to write the tags to the image files. As you probably know there are disadvantages to do this, as discussed in several forums.

      That being said, what I would do is make a small test catalog, add some tags, slide shows etc and try it.



  4. Photoshop Elements Organizer 8 is crashing on my catalog. I had it create a new catalog, but have to import 1000s of files into the catalog. The new catalog seems to know my tags but I have to reattach all the files. Every so often it crashes again on the new catalog, but so far I can recover it. Is there anything being done about this problem to anyone’s knowledge. It is making it nearly unusable to manage my photos, but it does things that I’m not aware any other software does. I may spend hours reconnecting files only to find that the software won’t run again. I’ve tried repairing the original catalog to no avail. I uninstalled and reinstalled the software to no avail.


    • David,

      You are certainly having more than your share of problems with PSE 8 and your catalog. PSE 8 is not perfect; no software is. However, in the several years that I have been using PSE, I have never experienced anything like you have described. Did you upgrade from an earlier version of PSE?

      It is hard to tell what might be happening without more details. For example, are your pictures stored on an external drive or on your C drive?

      Reading between the lines on what you describe, it sounds like you may have violated one or more of what I call the Cardinal Rules of working with PSE’s Organizer. That is, you must never, delete, remove, or rename any photos that you have in your catalog, unless you do it using the commands built into PSE.

      Also, remember the Catalog is analogous to the card catalog in a public library before the days of computers. It does not contain the books, but only has information about the books (photos) contained on the book shelves (folders) in the library. I have had students come close to deleting all of their pictures in the My Pictures folder once they GET them into the Catalog thinking that now that they are in the Catalog, they no longer need the pictures in the My Pictures folder. NOT TRUE! The pictures continue to reside only in the My Pictures folder – nowhere else. Delete then, and the pictures are gone. Remember, the Catalog only contains Previews of the images.

      I apologize if I have repeating things you already know, but the way the Organizer works not fully understood nor obvious for new users.

      I am interested in hearing more specifics about your problems.



  5. My files are on the C Drive. I’ve not renamed, moved, deleted photos in the catalog except through PSE. I’ve been counting on the fact that PSE actually updates the data in the images rather than simply in its database. That way all my captions, tags, etc are available to someone else if I give them a copy of the image. I’ve been using PSE8 for quite awhile after updating from PSE 5 which was crashing on me. It has been working well for more than a year, but then started crashing periodically and now won’t run more than a minute without crashing. I’ve turned off the analyzer to see if that would help. I’ve uninstalled/reinstalled the software and build a new catalog and restored an older backed up catalog and after I add some pictures to it, it crashes. The only thing I can’t tell is if some other software I’ve installed may be messing up PSE 8, including MS security updates. I’m running Vista Home Premium 64.

    At this point, until I can see a path forward, PSE 8 has become unusable.


  6. You say it is forbidden to modify files outside of PSE. However, we were finding that PSE was leaving modified files in the folder with a different name instead of renaming them back to the original name. They had TMP in the file name. I was only able to fix those by hand outside of PSE. This is a known problem in PSE, but the cause isn’t fully understood. I suppose this could create a problem in PSE, but this is another indication of it doing “damage” to my images. Not pleasant.


    • David,

      Fortunately for me, I have never seen anything like what you describe here in the all of the years I have used PSE. I have been using PSE since Version 1 and the Organizer since PSE 3. Actually my first Catalog was generated with Photoshop Album that preceded PSE 3. My current Catalog has about 26K pictures, so I have a lot at stake in PSE working properly. I have not heard about the problem you have described.

      Based on your experience with PSE, I suspect you have already reviewed John R. Ellis’ FAQ on PSE in the Adobe User’s Forum. As you probably know, he is a frequent contributor there, and even has a program that can help get the Catalog database back in shape if it gets corrupted. I would post the the details of your problem there, possibly even requesting John to reply.

      I’m sorry I can’t help you more. I hope I never experience your problem. Good luck finding a solution.


  7. This is good info, but with higher and higher pixel density traditional backups are getting difficult to do. I use a NAS with RAID1 to store all photos. Nightly my sync software transfers all new photos and edits to another RAID1 NAS. So I feel pretty confident about the safety of my pictures, but I also want to protect the hours I have invested in tagging. Is there a way to backup ONLY the small catalog?


    • Tom,

      I’m not so sure that I agree with backups being hard to do. Assuming the backup is to an external hard drive, it just takes a few clicks. It does take a long time for large catalogs, however. And you need to do it. It does not happen automatically.

      You can find the location of the Catalog itself by clicking on Help > System Info from the Organizer. I’m sure professionals generally take your approach, but then professionals probably don’t even use Photoshop Elements. 🙂


  8. I have recently moved my pictures from an XP PC using the PSE 6 back up command successfully. I routinely backed them up to a DVD successfully. I purchase PSE 8 for a new Vostro 220 PC, and loaded the pictures in, apparently successfully. Subsequently I have added a few pictures. I tried to backup the full catalog unsuccessfully. The backup command told me correctly that I would require 2 DVD’s. It wrote the first one but shortly after I clicked verify it ‘detected” a write error and said to see if DVD is clean or update driver. I did all of this and can successfully use the move/copy command and write other files to this disk.


    • Jack,

      It has been quite a while since I have backed up my pictures to DVDs using the Backup command. I do remmber a time or two when burning a CD from within PSE an error was found during the verify stage. And yet, the CD seemed to be perfectly fine. I normally just repeated the command and the second time through things worked fine. My conclusion is that PSE is very conservative in its error checking. Even with today’s powerful multi-tasking computers, I believe certain programs may interrupt the flow of data to the CD/DVD. So, if I get an error from anyCD/DVD burning program, before I try it again, I first turn off my real-time vurus protection program.

      One final thought, in my opinion you are probably getting to the point where it make sense to backup to an external hard drive, especially if your problem happens again at some point.

      Thanks for the comment!



  9. Pingback: Retinking and Evolving My Digital Workflow – Pt. 2 « Don's Digital Photo Corner

  10. Don: I don’t understand the Catalog feature in Photoshop Elements 8. My catalog is quite large, like 4 gigs in size. Does the catalog contain all of the pictures or just the meta information?

    Also, I purchased a new computer about 6 months ago and transferred my media files and then installed Elements 8. I always upload from my camera and create subfolders for pictures.

    Recently, I started backing up to an online service and noticed that it was backing up photos contained in My documents, and there were 8,000 pictures there. I am trying to determine if these pictures are just duplicates of what is in my picture subfolders, and if the pictures are showing up in my catalog. I moved all of them out to a folder called Moved Pictures, but I can’t figure out why I’ve got 8,000 in this directory, which is about twice as many as in my subfolders.


    • Hi Ted,

      To answer your questions accurately and completely, is beyond what can be done here. However, regarding your question in your first paragraph. the Catalog contains information about each picture including a pointer to its physical location in your computer, and a thumbnail or preview of the picture. But it does not contain the actual image.

      I don’t think your Catalog is 4 Gb. Here is why. I have about 27K pictures in my catalog. It is only 120 Mb in size. Its cache size (thumbnails) is 670 Mb. You can check yours in the Organizer by clicking on Help > System Info. A pure guess on my part is that whereever you got 4 Gb, it is how much space your images are using.

      In your second paragraph, you state you copied your media files to your new computer. How did you get the the catalog there? Or is that when you began using Elements?

      I have no idea what is going on with your backing up to an online service. Are you backing up the images and your catalog? If you are not, if your computer crashes, your images will be OK, but you will have lost all of your tags etc. That is why I use PSE 8’s backup/restore command. Everytthing you need to restore the catalog and the image fiules is backed up. How many images are in your catalog – shown in the lower left hand corner?

      Ted, did you take the Organizing class? If you did, you can review your handouts to get a better idea how to work with the Organizer. If you have never taken the course, it is absolutely essential that you do in my biased opinion.

      I believe I can help get squared away with using the Organizer, but I need to physically see what is going on. I do make house calls. Email if you would like to pursue this.



  11. I use a backup drive (ClickFree) with its own backup software. It has backed up my pictures, but pretty sure I need to setup backing up my Catalog. I navigated to my catalog location and saw a number of folders and files at that location. Question is: Do I need to backup all the components or just the *pse8db file?


    • Hi Hector,

      First, let me state that I have never used a general backup program to backup the Catalog and the pictures, so my comments are based what I understand, NOT what I have actually done.

      You are right, the Catalog was probably not backed up, only your pictures. The simple answer to you question is, I would back up the entire folder where you found the actual catalog file. That folder (and certainly) the catalog file itself is required to link the the tags, Albums etc to your pictures.

      Also, I don’t know how you intend to restore the catalog and your pictures. But if the folder structure and path to your pictures is not exactly the same, the restored catalog will not be be able to find your pictures to assign the proper tags etc.

      It is for this reason that I always use the built-in Backup Command and its complementary command Restore. I’ve used these two commands routinely over many years now, and they have not failed me.

      It’s a little hard to be more specific here. Email me with more details re. what you did, and I might be able to be more help.


  12. Anyone know if it’s possible to change the default location of the catalog? Had a look around but can’t find a way.

    Reason for doing this is I keep all my files under one default folder that’s automatically backed up over night, would like the catalog to be in there.


  13. Don,

    When I loaded PSE 10, I converted my Catalog PSE 8 to PSE 10 catalog. The folder called pse10db is found under C:programdata\adobe\elements organizer\catalogs\PSE 8 catalog. When I start to run the backup for the first time, the location shown is PSE 8 cata. Will the program know to grab the PSE10db or do I need to direct it to that file? I also assume the back up locaation can be under this same pse 8 cata folder, or should it be somewhere else on my hard drive? The current catalog connections are both to my C: drive and an external drive. All files are connected.

    After all this is done, I plan to move the catalog to Lightroom 4 catalog.




    • Denny,
      From what you say, after the conversion, PSE 10 is working properly with all of your files connected etc. It sounds like like some of your photos are on an external drive and some are on the C Drive. Using the PSE 10 Backup command will work properly. PSE 10 knows what database file to use. You do not have to redirect it. Just make sure you do your backup to a different external drive than the one you are using to store part of of your photo collection on.

      I have not converted my PSE 10 Catalog to LR 4, so I don’t know the workflow for that, but I assume you do.


      • Don,

        Many thanks for your quick response. —“back up to a different external drive than—” ???????

        I had planned to back up to some folder on my C: (internal) drive. Is that problem too? Is it just okay to back up to C:My Pictures/back up folder? Or should it be to the Program data folder?



      • Denny,

        Under normal circumstances you would not want to back up to an internal drive, especially the C Drive. If you got a virus or your C Drive crashed, then you would lose your backup. But it sounds like you are making the backup as part of your migration process to LR 4, and your need for the backup you are making for your PSE 10 Catalog is only needed for a short period of time until your migration to LR 4 is complete.

        Personally, I would still do it to an external drive. However, that being said, I would make a special folder on your C Drive to hold your new Catalog file and cache, assuming your C Drive has plenty of room for that. This super folder you make also has to hold all of the images that are in your PSE 10 Catalog, but are physically stored on your external drive.

        Although it’s a bit late now for you, my eBook covers the Backup/Restore commands of PSE in more detail than here. Below is the link to where the eBook is described.


      • Don,

        I do wish I had know about your ebook before now, since it might well have helped me avoid some issues I now face. I have no problem with purchasing the ebook if you think it can help me with this future course of action.

        You said I needed to place the super folder on my C drive, but that “This super folder you make also has to hold all of the images that are in your PSE 10 Catalog, but are physically stored on your external drive. ” I really don’t think that is realistic for me since the external drive contains 129 GB of image files (I have another 153 gb of images on the C drive–which by the way is backed up on Carbonite.). If I read you correctly, I would have to put the 129 GB’s on the C drive as well. there is plenty of room, but these are old files I do not access (but are connected to the PSE catalog) much at all. The images on the external drive are backed up on another external drive. FYI, there are 21,000 images captured in Organizer.

        I had hoped to put the PSE 10 catalog backup on my C: drive in My docs so that it would be also backed up by Carbonite. The catalog is about 115 MB. I am not sure why this would be a problem as long as I know where the back up is stored and use that location with incremental back ups. Carbonite doesn’t back up the program data location, or at least I haven’t figured out how to do that.

        One more twist, I may not conver the PSE 10 catalog to LR 4, but start anew with current images in LR 4. Therefore the catalog will stay intact.

        My apologies for being so dense, but this has really bugged me to determine the right course of action.



      • Denny,

        It appears that you have everything backed in one way or another. I don’t see any problems in what you are trying to do. If your C Drive crashes and/or the external drive where your pictures are stored crashes, you have the pictures on either Carbonite or the second external hard drive as their backup. The Catalog file itself is where you you mentioned earlier in the thread. As I understand it, you would simply copy (backup) this file to a place on your C drive that Carbonite routinely backs up. That you would have to do manually as I see it. As I understand it, you can not get Carbonite to backup the locatiion where your Catalog file is stored.

        As an alternative, why don’t you move the Catalog file to the My Docs folder. You must do this with the Elements command File > Catalog > Move command. Once it is moved there it will be backed up by Carbonite.

        I think what I’ve mentioned above would work. But I have used this approach myself. To me its far simpler to use the built-in Backup/Restore commands of PSE. It has worked well for me. My prime Catalog has about 33,000 photos/videos. They are mostly on a second internal hard drive. I do a full backup to a USB 3.0 drive. It takes somewhere between 2-3 hours and is about 310 Gb in size. I have been using PSE for over 10 years, upgrading annually, buying new computers along the way. I’ve also had a couple of times whre I needed to Restore all of the files and the catalog due to a hardware problem. That is why I have chosen to use the PSE commands. They have worked well for me and I believe it is easier for my students to implement.


      • Don,

        I can’t thank you enough for perservering through my questions and now it looks like there is a workable answer for my issues.

        The caution to use Elements to move the catalog is really great.

        Thanks again,



  14. Don

    I may have missed advice in the stream above, but I’ve just moved my 500Gb of images (all catalogued in Elements 9) to a larger external HDD (it took around 16 hours to do that).

    Is there an easy way to ‘point’ or move the Elements Catalog to the new drive? I seem to remember moving a catalog from an old to a new PC some time ago, but can’t recall the required steps.

    Thanks for any advice


    • Charles, I assume you mean by “move the Elements Catalog to the new drive”, you mean now that your pictures are on the new drive, Elements can not find them. As you probably know, PSE has a Reconnect command found under the File menu. I do not have a lot of experience using this command, especially to reconnect such a large number of photos, that I expect number in the tens of thousands. There are a couple of tricks that can speed up the process, but it still requires a lot of manual effort to re-connect large numbers of images. I generally routinely use it to verify that I have not done something to cause any images to become disconnected.

      Have you posted your question on the Adobe Photoshop Elements forum? There are some very knowledgeable people there. And frankly your problem is not unique. Many PSE users make this mistake. As you now realize, if you were working in a book library you essentially, rearranged all of the book shelves, but did not update the card catalog – olden days analogy here. Now someone going to the card catalog to find a book proceeds to the listed shelf, but the book is not there.

      I believe I’ve read forum posts that refer to renaming drive letters as a way to reconnect the image location in the Catalog, but I’ve never tried that approach.

      As you know from reading my posts, I routinely use the Back-up/Restore commands to do similar things. If you copied the images to the new drive, rather than literally moved them, your Catalog should still be functional and all of your images connected. Then assuming your new drive is large enough, you could use the Back-up/Restore process and all of your Tags etc will be intact.

      I’m sorry I can’t be more help here, but hopefully the experts on the forum will provide some good answers for you. If you don’t mind, I would really like for you to report back and let us know how you ended up solving your problem, because I think you will be able to.

      Good luck.



      • Don – thanks for your rapid and detailed response.

        I will post my question in the APE forum.

        I still have all my images on the original drive and haven’t deleted them, so I’ll try Back-up/Restore to the new drive and see if that works, too.

        Actually, I don’t see what I’ve done as a ‘mistake’. I simply ran out of space on a drive, so purchased a larger one and copied all the photo assets to the new one. It doesn’t seem to be above a smart software developers’ ability or insight to predict that would be a common occurrence for users of their product and they should really have made it easier to ‘re-point’ their product to the new content location. Not rocket science, really.

        I’ll certainly let you know how I get on.



      • Well, it’s not really a mistake maybe. That is just how databases work. The Catalog itself is a separate file if you will. It only contains thumbnails/previews of the images, and then pointers to the full resolution images themselves. So, if you do not update the Catalog pointers, then it cannot find the new location of the images. Adobe’s Lightroom program works in a very similar manner as the Organizer.

        By the way, there is another approach you may find useful, assuming your current Catalog is still finding your images Ok and is working properly in other ways.You could simply begin adding new images to your new drive. PSE would know the path to the images from both drives. I’ve never taken this approach, but it should work fine. Both external drives would need to be connected when using PSE.



  15. Don

    I finally got this sorted.

    1. Copied my entire Image file structure to a new 2tb external drive
    2. Edited the rfm.3.cache file in the /Catalogs directory to point to the new drive
    3. Ran ‘reconnect all’ a couple of times
    4. Manually reconnected a few images that Elements couldn’t find

    It was a long and painful process to find a way that would work with my file structure, but once there the process was reasonably speedy.



      • Elements loads the rfm.3.cache file and looks at the drive/directories first when doing a ‘reconnect’. I edited the rfm.3.cache file in Notepad text editor, removed all pointers to the old drive (in fact, removed everything) and replaced it with the drive/path location of the new drive/files.
        e.g. P:/Photographs

        As simple as that!


      • Yes, that was simple. But gaining the understanding to know that was the file you wanted to change and how it needed to be changed was the hard part I suspect. By the way, what version of PSE are you using? And good job by the way, and thanks for updating us!


  16. I lost my catalog after reformatting my computer. I did not back up the catalog. I thought everything was attached to the photos. We bought and ran recovery software. The software found the catalog file but it will not let me replace it in photoshop elements nor will the repair work. Is there some trick to fix this? All I did was replace the catalog file by deleting and the replacing the catalog with the one the software found in the program data file.


    • Jen,
      I’m sorry to hear about your problem. Let me ask a couple of questions, ok? What version of PSE are you using?

      Are your pictures still visible and are they in the same folders as they were before you “reformatted” your computer?

      Did you use the File>Catalog> Open command after you replaced the existing database file? I assume you are referring to the catalog.pseXXdb file, where XX is theversion of PSE you have.

      What exactly did you do and what message did PSE display when you tried replacing the existing database file with the one you recovered?

      Based on what you said, I assume you re-installed the same version of PSE you had started with, right?

      Also, I assume you copied all of your pictures somewhere prior to reformatting your C drive – I assume that is what you meant by reformatting your computer.

      And finally, I just want to verify again that usng Windows Explorer (accessed through My Computer), you can navigate to the full resolution original photo files, right?

      About how many pictures were in your Catalog?

      I’m sorry for all of the questions and offering no help so far.


      • Don,
        To answer your questions. The version pse is 8.0. The pictures are now all visible in PSE but I uploaded them after I realized I lost my catalog file. I did this by going to search for picture command in PSE. The pictures are all in the original storage location as they were previously.

        When trying to recover my catalog, I went into windows explorer and I manually replaced the existing catalog file in the my catalogs folder with the one recovered by the file recovery software. I then tried to open elements organizer. It then told me that “the catalog could not be opened, it is either corrupt, or the version is out of date and cannot be updated”. I then clicked on ok and then tried to hit the repair button, which it then told me that the catalog file could not be repaired.
        I also tried the File>Catalog> Open command in elements organizer to open the new catalog file and this gave me the same exact error message and same results.

        Yes, the file I replaced was the catalog.pse80db file you were referring to. The recovery software found the file on the old partition of hard drive that was formatted over, and the modified date and file size of that catalog file seemed normal to me. ( modified right before the format, And 39 mb in size)

        We used a western digital external hard drive to do the backup of our pictures before doing the reformat of the hard drive. The western digital backup software did the backup of the files automatically, and it seemed as if it recovered the files back to the hard drive after it was formatted automatically back to the same location on the hard drive.

        I have over 11,000 pics in my catalog. I can definitely navigate to the full resolution original picture files in windows explorer. I am certain that the files are there.

        Thanks so much for the help.



      • Hi Jen,

        Thanks for filling in some of the details. I personally do not have the direct solution to your problem. You have tried most of the usual solutions. However, you are lucky in one respect. You are using PSE 8. For several years a very knowledgeable expert on the Organizer, John R. Ellis, was a frequent contributor to the Adobe Photoshop Elements Forum. He wrote and maintained a detailed FAQ on the program. He even wrote and provided a free a tool that could be used to fix many problems that can occur when using Organizer. I believe he has since moved on to Light Room, and PSE 8 is the last version that is compatible with his tool. Fortunately, you can still download program and the FAQ.

        You can access the latest update to his FAQ at
        His Catalog Repair Tool, PSEDBTOOL, is available at

        Also there are real experts on the the various forums that cover Photoshop Elements. I suggest you post your problem and details on one of these forums. Two that I have found very helpful are and

        I’m sorry I cannot provide more specific help, but hopefully from one of the forums or the FAQ, you will find the solution and fix. Please report back here on how you ultimately solved your problem, so that others will benefit from your experience.

        By the way, I’m sure I do not have to remind you about the importance of back-ups, including the Catalog file itself. I have used the built-in Backup/Restore commands of PSE for the past ten years, and it they have served me well. They also come in handy when I upgrade my computer or move the photos to a new location.

        Good luck, and I hope to hear you have solved your problem very soon.



  17. Hi Don,

    Since you use the backup command regularly, I wonder if you could share a few more details. I would like to do a FULL backup maybe once a month or so, but in between those backups, do INCREMENTAL backups. The incremental backups are supposed to just save the most recent changes. So ideally, I would save the FULL backup to a DVD or external hard drive, but put my incremental backups on a USB thumb drive, just for convenience, since I’m using a laptop and don’t always have the external hard drive available. While this approach seems like it “should” work, a backup is only as good as the ability to restore from it. Do you have any experience using the Incremental backup option with Elements?



    • I normally do full back-ups, so my experience is somewhat limited using incremental back-ups. I am not sure I understand your reason for putting your incremnental back-ups on a flash drive. But that being said, here is what I understand to be how the incremental back-ups are used during restore.

      If I am not mistaken when you start an incremental back-up, PSE asks you to input the location of the last full back-up you do. It then backs up everything that has been done since that last back-up. If I’m not mistaken, the next incremental back-up you do against that same full back-up the questions/process is identical. That is, the second back-up again goes back to the last full back-up and writes just the changes since it was made. Thus, if you then do a Restore, you only use the last (most recent incremental back-up) and the last Full Back-up. That first incremental back-up is not needed. During Restore you navigate to your last incremental back-up. The program automatically links that incremental back-up to th Full Back-up that it was referenced to.

      I hope this helps somewhat.


      • It helps immensely, thank you for the thoughtful and detailed reply. The flaw in my thinking was that the incremental looked for changes since the previous incremental. I didn’t realize each incremental backup was looking for changes since the last FULL backup. So that being the case, I can see why using a flash drive doesn’t really buy me anything, since each incremental backup would still require me to mount my external drive or DVD that contained the full backup. (That’s the step I was hoping to avoid for convenience sake.)

        Here’s one other thing that I do that you or your students may find useful. I take advantage of PSE’s ability to store “offline” images, especially ones that I don’t think I’ll ever need again, but don’t want to permanently delete. I have PSE 10 running on Win7 and this process works for me:

        Select the images in the Organizer that you want to store offline and then use the “Copy/Move to Removeable Drive…” command in the File Menu. I limit this to what fits on a DVD or Flash Drive and then run the command. When the command moves these files to the removeable drive, it tells you how to label that DVD or external flash drive and stores that label in the Organizer. It then lets you delete those actual image files from your computer’s hard drive. (That’s a scary thing, I know, so I always do a full PSE backup before I run the Copy/Move command.)

        The advantage is that your Organizer still retains a thumbnail and all the tags you had with that image. You don’t need to have the external drive connected to run PSE; you can view and search these offline images in the Organizer and even edit the tags just like any photo. The only difference is that a red and white icon will appear in the upper left corner of the image as a reminder that the actual full image file is stored offline. If you ever decide to use that image again, PSE will prompt you to connect the removeable drive or DVD where the image resides. For example, if you want to perform an edit on it, it will say to “insert drive 2012-12-08.” When you insert that drive or DVD, the red and white icon disappears and you now have access to the full image again. When you’re done and disconnect the removeable drive, the red and white icon reappears in the Organizer and you are back to just dealing with thumbnails.

        Since I started this approach, my full catalog backups are WAY smaller, since it is only backing up the thumbnails, tags, and EXIF data associated with each image, and not the image themselves. And of course my local hard-drive isn’t full of those RAW or JPG image files that I will probably never use again. Using this offline approach has not let me down yet.

        Anyway, I thought I would pass it on, as Adobe doesn’t always explain what these commands do and I found this one to be very helpful when my catalog was getting to big for my hard drive. I wish I was in your area as I would definitely sign up for one of your courses. You have a wealth of knowledge and a talent for explaining things clearly.

        Best regards,


      • Hi Rob,

        Since it is critical that you get a good back-up and that you have the right files in place when youdo the Resstore command, you want to make sure everything is done properly. In my previous comment, I wrote what my understanding of how things work is. I would do teo things, if you are going to use incremental back-ups. I would create a new small catalog with a special set of renamed photos, and actually test the Back-up/Restore process.

        Secondly, after verifying that things work as I stated – and fully expect they will, I would do a Full Back-up periodically, maybe after doing two or three incremental back-ups.

        Regarding moving photos off-line that you do not use very often is something I do teach, and do in a modest way. In earlier versions, say PSE 6 and PSE 6 era, there were some major problems with this approach. Back then, PSE could not handle or find the files if the drive letter switch. Also, CDs or DVDs were often not recognized. I got bit by both of these bugs back then. I did not lose any images, but I did have to spend a great deal of time recovering and rebuilding the Catalog. That probably explains why I do not make greater use of this feature. Today, with more recent versions of PSE, these problems are behind us.

        Thank you for your comments. I really enjoy hearing how others maintain their Catalogs.

        By the way, since you are a big user of the Organizer, you may be interested in the eBok I wrote that is totally devote to using the Organizer. It is written using PSE 10. It is available from Amazon for both the Kindle and iPad. You can find out more about it by pasting the URL below ito your browser.


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