Lightroom, Windows 10 and “Unexpected error opening catalog”

If you are using Adobe Lightroom 5 and have recently upgraded to Windows 10 (as 25 million people did), you may have seen this dreaded message while opening Lightroom, saying it can’t open its catalogue due to an “unexpected error”.

Don’t worry about your catalogues, your data is safe, the issue appeared because apparently, Windows 10 changed access permissions of system-managed folders, such as Pictures and My Documents.


To fix this issue, you have two ways:

  1. you can run Lightroom as administrator (right-click the LR icon, click on “Run as Administrator”),
  2. or you can move your catalogue files from the system-managed folder to some other location on your disk.

The first solution temporarily elevates Lightroom permission to the administrator level, so it can access and modify its files even in system-managed folders, meaning you’ll need to run Lightroom as administrator each and every time; the second solution is permanent – catalogue files are moved to a different location which does not need elevated access rights. That’s the reason people having their catalogue in non-system locations never saw the message, in the first place.

I don’t own Lightroom 6, and I don’t know if this issue is present in newer versions, but according to quick googling, all versions older than 6 have the same problem. Also, this affects only the Windows versions of Lightroom, and apparently, only Windows 10 users.

If you plan to upgrade Windows, back up your catalogues. Also, back up your catalogues regardless of your plans of upgrading, the OS, or LR version you’re using.