I was using Lightroom last week and was using 'select all' to apply some develop settings to all the image files.

I clicked on another file in the timeline so I could delete it but in Lightroom it has a "secondary highlight". If you highlight all the files, apply settings to them and then click on a single file it shows the single file in focus, but the other still highlighted in a slightly lighter colour.

That given, I thought I was selecting just one file to delete from disk but didn't notice all of them were still highlighted. I deleted them all from disk.

I went to the recycle bin and restored them in the hope that it would bring them back. They did not show in the Lightroom library and shortly after something caused them to completely disappear from disk and I had to begin the whole editing process again.

Is there any way I can easily restore images if they are accidentally deleted from disk?

I'm not looking for ways to restore files. I need to know of there's a way to undo a mass delete from disk whilst also restoring the Lightroom edits.

  • 9
    Pull them out of your backup. You do have a backup, right? Sep 4, 2014 at 11:05
  • 1
    I backup the catalogue whenever I close Lightroom but because that was all done within the same session that never happened. I also backup to the cloud automatically but it takes some time for all those RAW files from a session to go up. The thing is at first I did get the files back from the recycle bin but could not see them along with the edited changes in LR/
    – connersz
    Sep 4, 2014 at 11:09
  • If this was all in one session, then go back to the camera and upload the raw files again. Sep 4, 2014 at 12:13
  • @OlinLathrop Yes, like I said that's what I had to do in the end but after deleting so many and then editing the rest LR won't associate your changes with a new import.
    – connersz
    Sep 4, 2014 at 13:07
  • If the files are gone from disk there's not much you can do beyond re-importing (if you have the cards) or pulling them off backups. And if you aren't doing backups, well, you now have motivation to start. If you do have copies of the images, you can use the right-click synchronize to get Lightroom to recognize and reimport them within the disk directories.
    – chuqui
    Jan 4, 2015 at 20:09

7 Answers 7


I don't think there's a way to do this. Whether you delete the files from the disk or not, if you delete them in the Lightroom catalog, you've deleted the edits from the database. Restoring the database might work, if you'd backed it up, but as you say, since this was all in the same session between backups, there's nothing to back up from.

As a sidenote, the Lightroom catalog .lrcat file is simply a SQLite database. Make a copy, rename it with a .SQLite suffix, and using the GUI of your choice, you can go to town and look at all the data directly.

  • If that is the case, perhaps the asker is lucky and lightroom doesn't have auto commit and can then do a rollback....at this point though, the user has probably closed lightroom.
    – SailorCire
    Mar 19, 2015 at 13:44

Unfortunately, there is no way to recover the Lightroom edits if you accidentally delete. if you backed up the Lightroom catalog prior to deletion, then it's possible, but without a catalog backup there is nothing you can do. Here's hoping adobe fixes this in LR6!


This might be technically possible, and maybe someone has a plug-in to do it. But it would have to be a very smart plug-in. For example, some export plug-ins can let you map a "foreign" image on a remote store with a local image. The process is hard to automate, and requires a human to make most decisions.

In this case we want to map a "new" imported image with some "old" (possibly restored from backup) catalogue/database information. The problem is that once you remove an image reference from the catalogue, the metadata associated with that reference is also marked for purge.

So, if you have a pre-purged copy of this data and if you knew the schema really well then you might be able to, by hand, hook up a newly imported image to these old metadata.

Idea: some of the metadata, such as the semi-unique (but eventually recycled) in-camera filename, datestamp, etc. could be used to match up a file with something similar in the catalogue. This could be used to scan an on-disk collection and match it with similar entries in the catalogue, with some hand-waving heuristics.

This would be a very custom plug-in, though, which I have never heard of. If anyone has done it, it might be Friedl.

  • I was just wondering if there was a sort of 'undo' for delete from disk. Because it is very easy to make the mistake.
    – connersz
    Sep 5, 2014 at 8:13
  • I think an immediate undo of either types of deletions should maintain the link.
    – user31502
    Sep 5, 2014 at 16:00

since lightroom offers no undelete option, i'm pretty sure it deletes all traces of a picture from its catalog when it deletes the image file.
if you have activated writing to xmp files, however, and are able to recover those too, they'll yield your metadata on reimport of the pictures.


I have consulted this thread twice already because this has happened a couple of times to me--and I've yelled a good number of curse words when it does. This feature of LR5 is maddening because I use the bulk select to do some tagging, then off I go to edit and the click on one photo to review does not disable the selected group.

The last time this happened to me, I did restore the images, but I had to start editing all over. However, this time, I kept at trying to find a way, and by accident, I did. I think. I'm not about to replicate it to verify. AFTER I did a restore files on my hard drive, I then couldn't figure out which ones I restored because they were all RAW and Windows would not view. So I used "open with" and searched for LR, which changed the "windows tiles" to LR tiles. At that moment, the LR catalogue showed them again (AND THE EDITS). I hope I have described it appropriately. I'm busy right now exporting all the edited ones into Jpegs so I have my work saved (at the least the editing).

I know how frustrating this experience was for you. I have a mini heart attack each time (now twice). Hope this helps. I'm not too good at explaining technical things, so anyone commenting back, keep any snarkiness to a minimum. :)


No worries, I just deleted a group of four images!!!!

  1. Go to the recycle bin and restore them. (They will be the uppermost recent entries in the list in Windows Explorer.)

  2. Go to Lightroom and Import from the hard drive where you keep your
    images. (Mine are on a 3 TB external drive in a folder called 'Lightroom ', subfolder '2016', sub-subfolder '01 JAN').

  3. Voila! Now you just have to re-edit. :-)


I'm on A Mac. Some of the deleted images will show in my trash folder, but many will not. If they are showing in the trash folder, I drag them to the proper folder and re-import.

Just another example why Aperture is a better program in many ways. I switched to Lightroom in anticipation of Apple no longer supporting Aperture. In Aperture, I have recovered files easily from both Aperture trash and system trash, if it got that far.

Adobe, take note!!

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