Jeffrey’s “Extract Cached Image Previews” Lightroom Plugin

This “Preview Extraction” plugin for Lightroom allows you to extract JPG preview images from a Lightroom catalog's image cache. This might be of use if you have lost the original master images, or don't have them at hand.

This plugin works in Lightroom 6/CC (and older versions as far back as Lightroom 2 except Lightroom 3, which can not be supported for technical reasons).

The same download works for both Windows and Mac. See the box to the upper right for the download link (in orange) and installation instructions.

After installing, select the thumgnails for the images whose preview you want to extract, then invoke via File > Plugin Extras > Extract Preview Images.

I have no need for this myself, but I wrote it because I thought someone, somewhere, at some time, might find themselves in a pinch having lost their original image files, and might want to extract what they could from Lightroom's image cache.

I hope you never need this plugin.

Other Options

Marc Rochkind's has a still-available but unsupported LRViewer tool that might also be handy.


This plugin is free. I hope it helps.

(Gifts, if you want to send them, are appreciatively accepted here.)

Version History
( Update Log via RSS )

20150811.52 Wasn't handling the no-previews-available case well.
20150607.51 Fix a "gpsAltitude" error.

In the POODLE-vunerability dialog, display a raw URL of a page on my site that discusses the issue, so that folks can be independently sure that the dialog is indeed from me and not malware.


Upgraded to the embedded copy of ExifTool to version 9.76.


Now stuffs GPS data into extracted copies.

Now extracts Smart-Preview DNGs if they exist (Lr5+)

On some systems could fail to re-extract when applied to a set of photos twice in a row.

Gave the UI some general love.

20141019.46 Windows Only: Add a one-time check for the POODLE security vulnerability, and alert the user if it exists.
20140902.45 New build system
20140731.44 Registration fix for Lr5.6
20140728.43 Previous updates broke support on Lightroom 2
20140720.42 More Creative-Cloud support.

Fixed an issue with Creative-Cloud revalidation.


Lr5.5 and later Creative-Cloud installs can now revalidate themselves if needed.


Now supports Lr5.5+ Creative-Cloud Installs.

20140704.38 Sigh, introduced an error for some folks with the rebuild the other day.
20140630.37 Build-system update

Upgraded to the embedded copy of ExifTool to version 9.60.


Fixed a bug in the "smoother revalidation" stuff recently added.


Upgraded to the embedded copy of ExifTool to version 9.53.

Make the revalidation process smoother, especially for folks using Lr5.4 and later.


Metadata might not get re-injected into recovered images on Windows.


Upgraded to the embedded copy of ExifTool to version 9.46.


Update for OS X Mavricks.

Updated the Image::ExifTool library to version 9.39.

20130702.30 Some filenames were getting two dots before the filename extension.
20130613.29 Better support for plugin revalidation.
20130611.28 Yet another Lr5 update
20130524.27 Apparently, a recent change broke things on Lr2, which some folks apparently still use.
20130501.26 Update for Lr5
20130209.25 More build-system maintenance
20130206.24 Tweak for my registration system

Upgraded to the embedded copy of ExifTool to version 9.15.


Fixed a bug that showed up on Windows

Show scrollbar while extracting.

Upgraded to the embedded copy of ExifTool to version 9.09.

20121009.21 Added some debug logging.

With some behind-the-scenes help from Adobe, resurrected this plugin from the dead for Lr4. Still works in Lr2, but it does not (and can not, so please don't ask) work in Lr3.

If you want to recover previews from an Lr3 catalog, upgrade the catalog to Lr4 and in theory you can then use this plugin to extract the previews.

20100829.18 Made the revalidation process much simpler, doing away with the silly need for a revalidation file.
20100819.17 Discovered a bug in my plugin build system that caused horribly difficult-to-track-down errors in one plugin, so am pushing out rebuilt versions of all plugins just in case.
20100625.16 Yikes, shaking out some more build issues.
20100624.15 Discovered a nasty build bug; pushing a new version in case it affects this plugin.
20100316.14 Yikes, a typo broke some operations for some Windows users. Fixed.

Completely changed how the one-click upgrade applies the newly-downloaded zip file, in the hopes that it'll work for more people. Rather than unzipping over the old copy, it now unzips to a temporary folder, then moves the old folder out of the way and the new folder into place. Prior versions' folders are now maintained (with the version number in the folder) in case you want to revert a version; you may want to clear them out from time to time. Of course, it won't take affect until you try to upgrade after having upgraded to or beyond this version.

Wholesale changes that attempt to honor the user's locale settings for numeric display (e.g. Europeans writing 3,14156 for pi). I've probably missed some spots, so let me know if you find some.

20091022.12 This plugin does not work at all in Lightroom 3 Beta, so this update has it at least mention that if you try to load it there.
20091022.11 Note that this plugin doesn't work in LR3. Sorry! (UPDATE: it does now, in later versions)

Enhanced the one-click upgrade stuff quite a bit, now detecting ahead of time when it will fail because the plugin is installed where Lightroom can't write (if Lightroom can't write to it, it can't update itself). I also added a progress bar, and now download in smaller chunks to avoid 'out of memory' errors on the larger plugins. Do remember that this new functionality becomes available after you upgrade to or past this version, when you then upgrade with it.

20090521.9 Fixed a "loadstring" error some users got.
20090510.8 Added a link in the Plugin Manager to the plugin's update-log RSS feed.
20090510.7 Replaced the "Extract to" text with an edit field. Cleaned up the dialogs a bit. Added a link to Marc Rochkind's LRViewer application, because it can extract previews as well (and much more).
20090425.6 Tweaked how the plugin tries to update itself during the one-click upgrade process, to hopefully get things working for those few Windows users that have never had it work. Crossing fingers. We'll see.

Added scroll-one-line arrows to the top and bottom of the scrollbars, to allow fine-grained control of scrolling very long lists. (I've been programming for almost 30 years, but this is the first time I've ever built a graphical scrolling system from scratch, so I may be a bit slow on the uptake at times :-) )

Also, I'm sorry to report that the thumbnail orientation stuff added in the previous version doesn't actually work on Macs. Dunno why yet. Sorry.


Fixed a plugin crash if you tried to have it extract to a folder that doesn't exist. Also, if extraction can't be started (because you haven't told it where to extract to), it not actually tells you why it can't be started.

Discovered and worked around a LR bug that sometimes caused the "Size in Lightroom" to report a value with the width and height swapped.

Removed the plugin expiration. This kind of plugin will likely gather dust on someone's drive until one day they suddenly need it, so it'd suck if it didn't work then.

Upgrade the scrollbar stuff to something that actually looks and works like a real scrollbar.

The thumbnail is now displayed in portrait mode if the image in Lightroom is in portrait mode, landscape if in landscape. There's no way for the plugin to know whether the rotation is proper (that is, it may appear upside down, for example), but you can now click on the thumbnail to rotate it. In case you've flipped the image in Lightroom since the preview was made, you can right-click on the thumbnail to flip it horizontally. These flips and rotations are just in the display of the thumbnail; the extracted preview on disk remains as it was extracted.

20090129.3 Small housekeeping update for the new locales supported by Lightroom 2.3.
20090127.2 The "in Lightroom" size reported was pre-crop. It now reports the post-crop size, to better match up with preview-size expectations.
20090126.1 Initial public release.

The 30 most-recent comments (out of 61; see all), most recent last...

Thank you for this plugin!

Even though I have a backup, it does not include the latest 200 pictures. Now I at least have them as JPEGs. Will try to retrieve the remaining pictures from the CF Card.

I’m glad that at least I will have the pictures in JPEG format, even if I cannot retrieve anything from the CF Card.

— comment by Eugê on July 25th, 2012 at 1:02am JST (3 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

T H A N K Y O U S O O O O O O O O M U C H,

— comment by yan on October 26th, 2012 at 2:27am JST (3 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

I was using LR trial. I uploaded some images, and I accidentally deleted the images from my laptop. My question is, if I were to purchase LR will the images I uploaded during my trial be available once I enter my serial number?? I am hoping they are so I can use your plug in to retrieve my images :/ Please any information will be greatly appreciated!!

The cached previews might be available… they might be full size, or might be much smaller, or might not be there. No way to tell without looking. If Lightroom no longer works because you exceeded the 30-day trial, you’ll have to buy it in order to launch the plugin, but the plugin page lists other methods that might allow you to recover previews from outside Lightroom. —Jeffrey

— comment by Laura Gordillo on November 4th, 2012 at 5:20pm JST (3 years ago) comment permalink

I have the error ““An internal error has occurred. ?:2: attempt to call field ‘?’ (a nil value)”, which you said look a the second paragraph. I can’t find the answer, advise please. I really want this to work : )

Thank you very much

At the time, the 2nd paragraph said that the plugin could not work in Lr3. (That’s now the 3rd paragraph). If you’re in Lr4 and getting that error, please send a log. —Jeffrey

— comment by Pomme on January 3rd, 2013 at 6:50pm JST (2 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Hi champ I have just trashed and then clears trash of over 5000 photos and now have a tech working on recovering them for me which they are confident of doing but just on case can this plug in help me. The photos are in Lightroom just not accessible due to the original file missing. I haven’t slept or eaten for 2 days I’m in serious trouble if I can not resolve this problem and would love some advice. I’m using LR4 thanks for your time I’m in Australia mate

Sorry to hear about your accident. The plugin should recover the previews from Lightroom, if it had any (it likely did), but I would recommend not using the disk where the images were until you have exhausted all recovery techniques. If you haven’t done much with the disk, I expect you could recover them all with PhotoRec or the like (as I did once from a corrupt memory card). The plugin works with both Windows and OSX. —Jeffrey

— comment by Brenden on January 9th, 2013 at 12:52pm JST (2 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffrey, My external hard drive crashed and the dreaded ???? is now on every file when I access via Lightroom 4. I tried the plug-in but it directed me to an earlier version (3) and the files i’m hoping to re-generate (to any extent) were not created using that version therefore are not seen on the menu. I am hoping to retrieve any/all data via professional rescue from the crashed drive, but am hoping this will be another avenue to get files of reasonable quality. Did I do something wrong with the download?
I am in St Petersburg, Florida.

I don’t quite understand your message (“directed me to an earlier version”?), but if your catalog was created in Lr3, the plugin won’t work… unless, perhaps, you upgrade the catalog to Lr4, and then it might work. I don’t know. The problem with Lr3 is that the plugin has no way to connect cached files with Lightroom images, and the upgrade process may adjust things so that the plugin can work. Good luck! —Jeffrey

— comment by Karen on June 27th, 2013 at 2:44am JST (2 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

Hello Jeffrey,

This plugin is really great in retrieving most of the data from LR. I have a small problem though, the extracted images seem to stay in the wrong color space (sRVB) instead of AdobeRGB. Of course I checked “reinject metadata and colorspace” but it doesn’t seem to work, nor for colorspace nor for metadata (although the metadata is showing correctly in LR 4.4).

The other (small) issue is that the extraction will crash if video files are selected (this one I could workaround with the LR metadata filter).

Manu (Montreal, Canada)

It seems to be working for me in both respects, so I guess I’ll need more info (such as a log after a crash). —Jeffrey

— comment by Manu on July 2nd, 2013 at 4:41am JST (2 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

Wow after nearly 2 weeks trying to recover my lost files on backup drive and main mac i gave up and started to rebuild my mac. Luckily I still had the LR catalog files backed up (pure luck) and this tool has let me recover at least some JPG versions of many of my files!!!! Thanks Jeffrey for your wonderful work and tools 😀

Only one question (Isn’t there always? 😉 ) – even though I tell it to make large previews (1440X___) upon import some only extracted thumbnail image – any idea why that might be? why would LR have lost those previews?

Thanks again!!!
Cheers, Jason

The short answer is that I don’t know, but maybe they were invalidated by subsequent develop changes? —Jeffrey

— comment by Jason on November 1st, 2013 at 4:16pm JST (2 years ago) comment permalink

GAH! You have saved my life! Accidently deleted a folder containing undelivered client photos.

And this is why I wrote the plugin. Most people will never need it, but it’s got high meaning for folks that do. :-) —Jeffrey

— comment by K. on November 2nd, 2013 at 2:50am JST (2 years ago) comment permalink

Muchas Gracias, exelente plugin me ayudo mucho.

Thank you, excellent plugin helped me a lot.

— comment by Mauricio on November 29th, 2013 at 10:01pm JST (2 years ago) comment permalink

OH MY GOD! You must be sent from heaven! I accidently throw my external hard drive on the ground and all my photos of 1,5 year were gone forever!!!
With this tool I can at least get my jpg back!! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THAT!!! You can’t imagine how happy I am now!

— comment by Photographer on December 14th, 2013 at 10:06pm JST (1 year, 11 months ago) comment permalink


I can only get thumbnail previews! is there a way to get the full image? Another plugin perhaps or am I screwed? These are wedding photos and I desperately need the full image, this is making me bonkers. Been working on this since November. Your plugin however is amazing and quick :-)


Sadly, the plugin gives you everything there is to be had, so if you’re getting only thumbs, that’s almost certainly all there is. —Jeffrey

— comment by Jenny on January 8th, 2014 at 12:08am JST (1 year, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Ahhhhhhhhhh any clue why there is only thumbs on some images and not others? Is there a way to make them larger w/o ruining image quality? It’s 85% of this wedding album…..I’m in such deep water

It depends on what kind of previews were generated when the images were available. I doubt they can be made much bigger, but you can load it into Photoshop to try. If you still have access to the camera memory cards, perhaps try to recover from them. —Jeffrey

— comment by Jenny on January 8th, 2014 at 12:16am JST (1 year, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffrey, Thanks so much for this plug in! I had a hard drive fail last month and was unable to recover the images. Thankfully, I had backups of most of them, but was missing my grandson’s birthday party images. I had imported them into Lightroom as standard thumbnails and have been trying to find a way to print from the thumbnails (as I was the only one with pictures of that day). This worked perfectly! I am so thankful to have found it and have already passed you site info along to other friends! Blessings on you! Terry

— comment by Terry Arnold on February 5th, 2014 at 11:26pm JST (1 year, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Thank you so much. I am forever grateful to you for having made it possible to at least preserve some very precious memories based on lightroom previews. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! :)

— comment by Greatful on March 21st, 2014 at 9:58pm JST (1 year, 8 months ago) comment permalink

Thank you so much Jeffrey! I told my husband I might be in love with another man. Totally joking but thank you so much for saving my pictures, I can breathe again.

— comment by Kiersten on March 25th, 2014 at 7:10am JST (1 year, 8 months ago) comment permalink

Thanks Jeffrey – this saved my life. I lost 2y of personal photo history but fortunately still had good previews. Thanks again!

— comment by Markus on September 21st, 2014 at 8:42am JST (1 year, 2 months ago) comment permalink

Between your EXIF viewer and this plug-in… I can’t tell which I am more grateful for. Thank you, thank you.

— comment by Johnny on September 24th, 2014 at 1:44pm JST (1 year, 2 months ago) comment permalink

Thank you. Your script was easy to use and made my wife very happy to have the photos “back”.

Just a heads up, while you can get all the photos in various directories, all of my photos then went back into a single directory. I ended up duplicating my subdirectories and then running the script multiple times to copy each to the appropriate area.

Also note, you cannot get back video files with this. I’m not saying it was ever implied you could, I’m just letting people know to burst any optimism before it swells :-)

— comment by John on December 26th, 2014 at 10:06am JST (11 months ago) comment permalink

Hi, Jeffrey!

Please add option to extract previews with directory tree.

— comment by XYZ on January 19th, 2015 at 8:09am JST (10 months, 7 days ago) comment permalink

Hi, Jeffrey, first of all I would like to thank you for this plugin, then, I’ve got a problem, when I select some pictures to export the previews, and I run your plugin, a window come up with the plugin logo on the left and this message on the right: “Access to undefined global: gpsAltitude”

What can I do with that? It just extract the first preview of the selected pictures, but not the others because I assume it stop working after this message.

Thanks, Enrico.

Sorry for the delay… I’ve (finally) fixed this. —Jeffrey

— comment by Enrico on April 4th, 2015 at 3:17am JST (7 months, 22 days ago) comment permalink

Hi, the site for Rob Cole seems to no longer be active. Would you consider updating this to make it available for LR5/6/CC? Thanks

It should work fine… I’d just neglected to update the docs. —Jeffrey

— comment by Joe on June 7th, 2015 at 8:40am JST (5 months, 19 days ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffrey,
First of all, thanks for your great work !

I’m considering using this plugin for a fast way to export photos to a web gallery;
I’m just stuck on the lack of the IPTC ‘ObjectName’, which Lightroom (and others) use as ‘Image title’
Ok, I could use IPTC ‘Headline’ (which you export), but I have no easy way to retrospectively duplicate these entries…
A good idea would be to export the items currently present in the Lightroom metadata panel !
(or, still better, use a selected set of another excellent plugin named ‘JF Metadata Wrangler’, if inter-plugin communication is possible);
Additionally, the charset encoding of IPTC data is ISO-8859-1, whereas Exif data are UTF-8, which is a bit annoying as I live in France, where résumé looks better than rÈsumÈ (or r�sum�)… (but perhaps this is an exiftool issue ?) – at least I can recover this in my gallery, thanks to php mb_detect_encoding and utf8_encode functions.

This plugin is intended to help recover something from catastrophic data loss. —Jeffrey

— comment by Gifad on July 6th, 2015 at 7:54am JST (4 months, 20 days ago) comment permalink


— comment by Anna Gonzalez on July 22nd, 2015 at 10:43pm JST (4 months, 3 days ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffrey,

Thanks for you fantastic and generous work with this plug-in!
Unfortunately my situation doesn´t quite seem to match up with what this is designed for and I was wondering if you would have any suggestions?

I´m trying to recover (what ever I can) for images that I have deleted from within Lightroom 5 (hence the previews are no longer showing up). They are not backed up, and I haven´t been able to recover them from the original disk (which was encrypted) where they were stored using a disc scan or recovery etc.

So My last hope is that the preview information might still exist in the preview cache file because I do have a backup that I made of the Entire LR Catalogue Package, immediately after I´d closed lightroom, after deleting the pictures.
I´ve read that sometimes LR doesn´t actually clear the preview cache when you delete a photo from within the programme, but instead may hold onto that information in the preview cache until you
next open the catalouge (or at some other point?) when that information is finaly cleared out?

So my question is – is it possible to read that Preview Cache without restarting lightroom itself? or is there anyway to view those previews that don´t show up in Lightroom Catalouge but might still exist in the preview cache (before they are cleared)?

I´m running OS 10.10.2 and LR5.

Many thanks for your efforts (and apologies for the length of the question)
(Note: unfortunately – LRViewer doesn´t seem to Work with LR5 )

The best that I can suggest is this: Make another copy of the whole thing, then start Lightroom and let it sit for a while… hopefully it’ll clean up stuff. Don’t edit any pixels. Exit Lightroom, then compare the list of files in the preview to what was there before… if some files are now gone, they might be your previews. To check, make a new catalog with one image and create its preview, then delete the master image so that Lightroom can show only the preview. Exit Lightroom, then copy the preview file you identified earlier as potentially of interest… copy it over the preview file in the new catalog. Then start Lightroom and you should see the image that was there. Lots of work, but it’s one way to check. —Jeffrey

— comment by Dave on September 7th, 2015 at 12:42pm JST (2 months, 19 days ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffery I am in a bit of a jam. I uploaded my images to LR5 however, they did not finish creating preview before I removed the card. now the card has been rewritten and can no longer retrieve the images I need. I have to date downloaded your plug in but can’t seem to use it. when i go to file , another window opens. I am stuck there. also, if you know of any other way or place those images might be, please advise . i am desperate.. thank you

— comment by Debbie on September 17th, 2015 at 3:02am JST (2 months, 9 days ago) comment permalink

sorry, i was able to figure it out.. however, after the thumbnails are extracted. will they be of use after? or only of thumbnail size? please advise.

sorry never experienced this issue before

First, perhaps try to recover images from the card, even if you’ve shot with it since… see this post for how I’ve done it in the past. If you shot with it since and filled it to capacity then you’re out of luck, but otherwise you may find some in there. Second, upon import, Lightroom brings in the images much more quickly than it can build previews, so they should be in your library. Something else must have happened that you didn’t mention for them not to be there. Finally, the plugin extracts everything it can; if a thumbnail is all that’s there, well, it’s probably not going to be of much use, sorry. —Jeffrey

— comment by Debbie on September 17th, 2015 at 3:14am JST (2 months, 9 days ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffrey,

I had my photos saved on a 1TB external hard drive. The drive failed a few weeks ago. Sadly, it was the only place I had them backed up. A data recovery company was unable to recover ANY data. I found the script to extract previews from Lightroom. I installed this and extracted 2000+ images (it couldn’t extract 48). My question is this: almost every photo is terribly low quality. None are over 400 KB. Is there any way to recover high-quality jpgs of my photos. In researching, I have seen “1:1 Preview” as important. I knew nothing about this before this catastrophe happened, so prior to the drive crash, I had not had 1:1 preview enabled. “Minimal” was under the “file handling” dropbox. Is there ANYTHING I can do? I hope to hear from you as I am just desperate now.

Thank you so much in advance for any advice,

Unfortunately I can’t think of anything else, except maybe trying to recover a few images from your memory cards. The plugin would have extracted the biggest previews it could find. Sorry for your loss… it’s a bitter way to learn a lesson. )-: —Jeffrey

— comment by Dan C on September 20th, 2015 at 11:15am JST (2 months, 6 days ago) comment permalink

Thank you for your extraction plug-in…I do sports photography for a local high school and university, when my external WD passport with my RAW unprocessed photos fell off the counter to the wood floor…no more masters of the photos. Some, however, have the preview in Lightroom. When I use this extraction tool and another type, a very few of the previews come up with full-size jpg and most of them with a mini version…why does this happen, when all of the previews are 1:1 raito previews? Can I change anything to get a full-size jpg in the extraction? Thank you for your help!

The plugin does its best to extract what it can… if you’re not seeing full-sized JPGs, I suspect that the 1:1 previews are just not there. On the other hand, it could be a bug with the plugin, but the only way to tell would be for you to send the zipped up catalog and preview tree. If you can do that, I can take a look. The zip would be huge, but perhaps you can send via Dropbox, Copy, etc… —Jeffrey

— comment by loyalt on November 14th, 2015 at 5:19am JST (1 week, 5 days ago) comment permalink

I try to install your preview plugin in Lightroom 5.7 64bits windows and I get :
This plugin is defect and cannot be used ! (translation from french version)

For info I have tried LRViewer without success.

I see the pictures in LR but the location is empty. I have found a directory from cameraraw/cache with files like Cache0000000xxx.dat with the date I try to restore. Do you think it is possible to restore it ?


It should work fine in Lr5…. try downloading the plugin with a different browser, or unzipping with a different utility, I guess…. —Jeffrey

— comment by Polain Jean-Marie on November 17th, 2015 at 7:04am JST (1 week, 2 days ago) comment permalink
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