Lightroom CC Deleted All Originals with Virtual Copies After Initial Cloud Sync

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  • Updated 6 months ago
  • (Edited)
I have been using Lightroom CC (desktop version of Lightroom in the cloud) since mid-2018. At that time, I had an existing library of about 15,000 photos, which has since grown to over 28,000, at about 300 GB. Because of internet bandwidth issues, I had always used Lightroom CC with cloud sync turned off.

Last week I decided to sync my Lightroom CC library with the cloud for the first time. After the initial sync finished I realized that many notable images were missing. After some sleuthing, I discovered that any file with one or more virtual copies associated with it was gone. This happened to both JPG and RAW files (in this case CR3 Canon files). To be clear, these files weren't just not synced, but entirely deleted from Lightroom and my local library as if they never existed.

Looking at a backup of my Lightroom library, it's clear that any file with a virtual copy in the database before the cloud sync was gone after the cloud sync. I have no idea why this has happened and why there was no warning or error message generated. This is clearly a very serious bug, and I will now have to spend time rolling back my Lightroom CC database to the earlier version to recover my images, especially since most of the images with virtual copies were ones that I spent a great deal of time editing.

I'm not sure if this has anything to do with Lightroom for iOS not supporting virtual copies (I have used Lightroom on my iPhone and iPad after syncing), but I'm providing that information here in the hopes of getting this problem fixed.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3.1
MacOS Catalina 10.15.2
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Adam Yarina

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Posted 6 months ago

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Antoine Hlmn

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I can't help you with your specific issue, but it's indeed very worrysome. Won't the quickest fix not be a time machine recovery of your catalog and images ?

Have you tried the helpdesk ?

I'm sure you'll get some kind of reply about LR cloudy being designed to be used with the cloud.
So here I am: if it's to be used without sync, why not use LR classic ? Classic has much more advanced features and gives you more control on where to store your files. The "only" drawback (sync features aside) is it's rather slow.
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Adam Yarina

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Hi Antoine,

Thanks for the tips; Time Machine is definitely my go-to for a restore :-) I'm not sure how I want to approach it; should I delete everything out of my Adobe cloud and then restore my old LR library from Time Machine? I could instead leave things as they are now and restore just the images that were deleted, but I'll still be missing all my edits, flags, titles/captions/, etc.

To answer your question about LR vs LR classic, I prefer LR CC because it's faster, has a nicer user interface, and most importantly, does all my organizing for me. I can just dump my images in and get down to reviewing and editing them, knowing that they're stored in a local database sorted by capture date in YYYY-MM-DD format. Until now, I guess :V

I also chose to use LR CC because, while I had used Lightroom Classic in the past (LR5 and LR6, specifically), I did not have much editing experience at the time and LR CC seemed like an easier place to start. It also seemed that, long-term, things were moving more towards LR CC and I wanted to get in on the ground floor. Finally, I wanted the option to sync things with the cloud in the future and have access to my library on mobile devices; aside from this show-stopping bug, I really like using Lightroom on my iPhone or iPad. Reviewing and editing images is a breeze and really well-done.
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Antoine Hlmn

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should I delete everything out of my Adobe cloud and then restore my old LR library from Time Machine? I could instead leave things as they are now and restore just the images that were deleted, but I'll still be missing all my edits, flags, titles/captions/, etc.
I you want to recover your edits, you'll want to recover both the library and the images. But that might mess up the synced images... It really depends on what was already in the cloud or not.
[Edit: the library might actually be in the cloud, in which case you might be f'd...]

because it's faster, has a nicer user interface, and most importantly, does all my organizing for me. I can just dump my images in and get down to reviewing and editing them, knowing that they're stored in a local database sorted by capture date in YYYY-MM-DD format. Until now, I guess :V
I've heard so, CC seems faster than classic ;-) Or to say it in another way: classic looks slower than anything else. And indeed, "cloudy" is the future, according to adobe. But you know classic has the ability to store the images in that yyy-mm-dd folder structure? That's how I manage my files too, wether imported on computer or on mobile.

I wanted the option to sync things with the cloud in the future and have access to my library on mobile devices; aside from this show-stopping bug, I really like using Lightroom on my iPhone or iPad. Reviewing and editing images is a breeze and really well-done.
You can have it with Classic but there are indeed limitations: sync is more a manual process rather than fully automatic as in CC. But that's a price I'm willing to pay to keep all my files safe and backed up on my hdd and not risking issues like you've encountered. There was another post from someone requiring a backup of his library... which there isn't, despite all the "cloud advantages"...



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Adam Yarina

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But you know classic has the ability to store the images in that yyy-mm-dd folder structure? That's how I manage my files too, wether imported on computer or on mobile.
That is good to know. Knowing what I know now, and being more experienced, I would definitely be open to using Lightroom Classic instead of LR CC. But I don't think I can convert my LR CC library to be compatible with Lightroom Classic, so that would mean starting over from scratch even if I can rescue all my images :V
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Antoine Hlmn

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I suppose so. Adobe has a one way migration process from classic to cloudy, but not the way around, to my knowledge.

That being said, it's obvious adobe wants cloudy to be the future, not classic, so it would also go against the future. They're keeping classic alive as long as shutting it down would kill their business, but I also feel the investment is kept to a minimum.

But even then, I'm -personnally- not willing to swith from classic to cloudy: too much too loose and not enough to win ;-) (In my personal case, although!)
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Victoria Bampton - Lightroom Queen, Champion

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Where did these virtual copies come from? None of the cloudy Lightroom apps support virtual copies. 
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Adam Yarina

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Hi Victoria,

They don't? I created them within Lightroom CC by right-clicking on my images and selecting create a virtual copy; in Lightroom 3.1I can still do this by right clicking and selecting Duplicate.

For what it's worth, if I create a duplicate of an image now, it doesn't seem to get deleted/disappeared like the images that had copies prior to syncing with the cloud. I wonder if there might be some issue with copies made in older versions of Lightroom CC? I've been using it since around June 2018 (probably Lightroom CC v1.4).
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A duplicate is not a virtual copy. It is a real copy. Only Lightroom Classic supports virtual copies.
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Adam Yarina

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I must not be using the correct terminology. Regardless, any file in my Lightroom CC library that had copies created within the Lightroom CC program were all deleted from my library after cloud sync, including the originals. This is the problem I am trying to address.
(Edited)
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Antoine Hlmn

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But that might be good news! If virtual copies don't exist and the copies being real, it means you could recover them from the backup. You could already do a quick check comparing the amount of images in an album and in that album's backup.

But you'll still have the issue of not having a catalog backup containing your edits... And the lack of online backup will probably be fatal for those images :(

The best would be to escalate to a real technician, because helpdesk is extremely bad :( I don't know if I'm allowed to refer them here, though ^^
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Victoria Bampton - Lightroom Queen, Champion

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If there's a time machine backup of the mcat library (stored inside the Pictures/Lightroom Library.lrlibrary file) from before it synced, they may be recoverable from there. I'd just hold fire on doing anything until Adobe NA are back in the office next week. I'll flag this thread for their return.
(Edited)
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Adam Yarina

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Thanks, Victoria! I'll be anxiously awaiting your (or their) follow-up :-)
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Rikk Flohr, Official Rep

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Adam,

There seems to be some confusion. Lightroom Desktop (currently version 3.1) has never had nor supported Virtual Copies.  When you refer to Lightroom CC and 'right-clicking and selecting 'Create Virtual Copy' that is a Lightroom Classic dialog and not available in Lightroom Desktop.  If you go to your Lightroom CC where you selected the virtual copy option and click Help>System Info... what is the installed version number? 

Unfortunately, I cannot follow your exact workflow and determine in which soft you were when you performed various operations. 

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Adam Yarina

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Hi Rikk,

Thank you for getting back to me. The problem I am having seems to be associated with copies of JPG or RAW files created within Lightroom CC. In version 3.1 of Lightroom CC, which I am currently using, I would accomplish this by right-clicking on a file and then selecting Duplicate. However, I seem to recall that in earlier versions of Lightroom CC (i.e., prior to version 3.1) this action was labeled something different, perhaps Copy or Make a Copy. I originally thought that these were virtual copies, since that was how Lightroom Classic CC handled them, but in earlier discussions in this thread it seems that these were real copies (i.e., duplicate files created within the Lightroom CC library file, where IMG_0001.CR3 would have a copy named IMG_0001-2.CR3, the next copy would be named IMG_0001-2-2.CR3, and so on).

The files that were deleted from my library seem to be any RAW or JPG files that had copies created within Lightroom CC prior to syncing with the cloud in version 3.1 (i.e., those where I right-clicked and selected Duplicate or whatever it was called in earlier versions of Lightroom CC). I've been using Lightroom CC since mid-2018 without syncing to the cloud, since my original photo library was very large and I did not have the internet speed necessary to sync. I believe I first started using Lightroom CC version 1.4, but I'm not 100% certain on this. I'm also currently on macOS 10.15.2 (Catalina), and have used the same Lightroom CC library on 10.14 (Mojave) and 10.13 (High Sierra).

Any JPG or RAW file that had copies created within Lightroom CC prior to syncing everything with the cloud in version 3.1 disappeared from my library in Lightroom CC and also disappeared from the YYYY-MM-DD folders within the Lightroom library file. Creating copies of image files in Lightroom CC 3.1 now does not reproduce this behavior; therefore I'm wondering if there is some kind of issue with pending changes or copies made in older versions of Lightroom CC that did not sync with the cloud before being updated to newer versions of Lightroom CC?

I hope this is helpful. Please let me know if I can provide any other information.
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Rikk Flohr, Official Rep

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Thanks for the additional information, Adam.  Given that we don't have reproducible steps and that you can no longer reproduce the issue, I am at a loss to explain what you have been seeing. At this point I have no other reports of this behavior.  It feels like there is a missing piece of the puzzle here. 

Just curious, did you check at lightroom.adobe.com and see if the missing files show up in the deleted folder?
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Not knowing the state of your current catalog and sync with the cloud. I would not recommend deleting the existing library and images. 

Rather, and I know it is tedious, I would restore image files from your Time Machine backups in bundles and then attempt to reintegrate them with your catalog by importing them. Lightroom should recognize duplicates and keep your accumulation of duplicates to a minimum. 
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Adam Yarina

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I’m concerned that, if I restore the individual images that are missing and reimport them back into my library as it currently exists, I will still not recover all of the edits I’ve made over the last year and a half. I would rather restore my library in its entirety, but I’m not sure how this would affect what’s currently synced in the cloud, especially if I restore an older Lightroom catalog file.
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Rikk Flohr, Official Rep

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Your concern is justified. Those edits will not be restored. 

However, if you have files that have been imported and edited after the restore point's date, those files/edits may also be at risk. 

The safest option would be to use the Adobe Downloader Tool to pull down an extra copy of what is on the cloud today to keep in reserve for possible restore of the entire catalog or individual files. This would need to be done prior to restoring from a TM backup. 

When in doubt back up everything. 
Take extra care to restore image files - edits can be redone but image files cannot be recreated. 
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Adam Yarina

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Thank you for the information. What would happen if I restored my older library, catalog file, images, etc, without first turning off cloud sync or clearing the current library out of the cloud?

I’m not concerned about images imported since the restore date, as I have separate copies of them. I’m more concerned about recovering my existing images and edits to the way they were prior to syncing with the cloud, and hoping that this data loss issue does not recur in future.
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Rikk Flohr, Official Rep

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I have not tested that procedure. I wouldn't recommend it either - unless you have iron-clad backups in place for recovery. Even then move with caution.