Backing up Collections in Bridge CS5 and CS6

One of the best things Adobe did for Photoshop owners was to add the versatile Collections feature to Bridge beginning with Photoshop CS5. (Bridge is included when you buy Photoshop.) Collections came to Bridge from Lightroom (and Photoshop Elements, which calls them Albums). They are "virtual folders" that organize thumbnail images without needing to duplicate the actual file (and thus saving hard drive space).

Bridge CS6 showing a collection of images

However, unlike your actual images, collections in Bridge are stored with the program (application for you Mac owners), not with your pictures. This presents a problem in two situations:
  1. When you upgrade to a newer version of Photoshop & Bridge (i.e., from CS5 to CS6).
  2. If you need to reinstall Photoshop & Bridge, such as after purchasing a new computer or a hard drive failure. 
In both cases, you "lose" your collections. I've experienced both scenarios and was dismayed to discover that my backed up photos did not save my collections!

What can you do? The best thing is to create a copy of your collections and save them outside of Bridge, such as on the same hard drive where your photos live. That way the collections get backed up along with your pictures. (You ARE backing up your pictures, right??) And it's a relatively easy matter to copy these collections to the proper place for a new version of Bridge.

The tricky part is knowing where the collections live in the first place so you can make the backup copy. A little judicious searching on the Internet produced the answer to both questions. 

Bridge CS5 & CS6 Collections Locations

For Bridge CS6, use the same path but change "CS5" to "CS6".

  • Windows XP: C:Documents and Settings\user\Application Data\Adobe\Bridge CS5\Collections
  • Windows VIsta/7: C:\Users\"username"\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Bridge CS5\Collections
If you can't see the AppData (Application Data in XP) folder under your user name, do the following:
  1. Make sure you are logged in as Administrator.
  2. Open the Control Panel.
  3. Choose Folder Options.
  4. In the Folder Options window, click on the View tab.
  5. Under Hidden files and folders, choose "Show hidden files, folders and drives".
  6. Click the Apply button.
  7. Close the window.
Show hidden files option selected in Folder View Options for Windows

Location and Contents of Bridge CS5.1 Collections in Windows 7
  • user / Library / Application Support / Adobe / Bridge CS5 / Collections
Now that you've found the location where Bridge keeps your collections, you're ready to copy and save them to a backup location.
  1. Quit Bridge. 
  2. Copy the Collections folder (either from CS5 or CS6, depending on the version you are using). 
  3. Paste it in a new location that you back up regularly.
    I copied mine to my dedicated pictures drive.

Now you can uninstall or upgrade your copy of Photoshop & Bridge safely. When that is complete, locate your backup copy of the Collections folder. Open it and copy all the collections inside. Return to the proper location on your main hard drive (see above). Paste your collections into the Collections folder. When you next start Bridge, your collections will be there ready to use.

Windows users: After you have made a copy of your Bridge Collections folder, I recommend that you return to the Folder Options and turn off the feature to show hidden files and folders.

Hopefully, in the future Adobe will provide an automated way to transfer collections from previous versions of Bridge to new ones.