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How Do I Move Photos Library To an External Drive?

Hi Gary, I am using an older Mac with “only” 80 gig hard drive. Operating system is 10.11.6. When the conversion from iPhoto happened, my pictures took over my computer and I now have less than 1 gig left. I preferred the old way of transfer using a physical connection to Image Capture to transfer to an external drive. Now with iCloud, I can’t do that. Neither can I download from the cloud anywhere but my hard drive (which doesn’t have room). I’m afraid of losing data but something must be done. Is there a solution? I realize that performance will be slower but I need the computer for other things as well. I’m really afraid to take ANY step until I’m certain I won’t delete data. I looked through your posts, questions and answers and I didn’t see this specifically addressed. If I’ve missed it, please feel free to direct me to that conversation. Many thanks.
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Cathy

Comments: 8 Responses to “How Do I Move Photos Library To an External Drive?”

    2 years ago

    The first thing you may want to do is to check to see if you still have your old iPhoto library. When you did your transition from iPhoto to Photos, it copies all of the pictures from your iPhoto library to your new Photos library, but it did not delete your iPhoto library. So it essentially doubled the amount of space on your drive used by your photos at that moment.
    See if the old iPhoto library is there in your Pictures folder. If it is, consider archiving it to an external drive and deleting the copy on your internal drive.

    iCloud Photo Library is actually designed to save space on your drive. It does this by storing all of your photos, the original full resolution versions, on Apple’s servers. It then stores copies of them locally too, so you can quickly access them for editing, sharing, etc. But it doesn’t have to store them locally. At least not the full resolution versions. It can, instead, store thumbnails of those that take up much less space. Then when you need to edit or share a photo, it grabs the real one from off the server.

    The setting for this in Photos, Preferences, iCloud. You can use “Download Originals to this Mac” or “Optimize Mac Storage.” The first option gives you everything. The second will save space by only keeping recently accessed photos around, and the rest as thumbnails.

    Now I don’t like using “Optimize” on a Mac, at least not your main Mac. I use it on my laptop, but my desktop is not set to Optimize. That means I have all my photos on my drive as well as in iCloud. That’s the right way to do it.

    But in your case you are stuck with a tiny hard drive and this problem, so you may want to consider it. What I would do in your situation, if you can’t get a newer Mac right now, would be to save an archive of your entire Photos library file to an external drive. As a backup. Then turn on “Optimize.”

    I wouldn’t go the route you suggest by storing the actual real library on an external drive. Well, maybe I would if this was a desktop, not a laptop? I don’t know which you have.

    Cathy
    2 years ago

    Great suggestion, thanks. It’s a desktop. I am currently copying the Photos Library to an external (will take all day) and so I’m pleased that that is already halfway done. The old IPhotos Library (in my case) is only 94 MB but I thought I’d copy it as well. I think that I will have to “optimize” since I do have a space restriction. Thanks a million. It’s a great save from you, once again.

    Law Thim Fook
    2 years ago

    Hi again Gary. I have a related question. I currently have all the photos in my Photos library on the iMac. I’ve also made a copy of the Photos library by copying the folder over to an external hard disk (EHD) and confirmed that the Photos library in the EHD can be read as an alternative library. So, if I were to add NEW photos to the internal hard disk on the iMac, is there anyway where I can copy/transfer ONLY the NEW photos to the EHD? TQVM.

    2 years ago

    Law: No, not easily. Your backup idea is a good one — it is always good to have more backups. But it is better to simply use Time Machine which will backup all of your files and also your Photos library. Time Machine will update its backup of your Photos library with new photos. I would recommend doing both. Have a Time Machine backup that runs normally (hourly) and then maybe once a month do a complete copy of your Photos library to another external drive too as a 2nd backup.

    Law Thim Fook
    2 years ago

    Thanks for your quick reply, Gary. FYI, I actually have both in place, ie Time Machine and another EHD for the Photos library. Another reason why I asked is in case the internal HD on the iMac is almost full, then it’ll be easier to use the EHD for Photos, without having to copy the WHOLE Photos library to the EHD all over again, and just delete the Photos library from the iMac.

    2 years ago

    Law: Keep in mind that if you are using iCloud Photo Library then your main library is your “System Library” and linked to iCloud. It isn’t as simple to switch that as just opening another library. If at all possible, I recommend keeping your system Photos library where it is and doing other things to clear space. Personally, I removed all videos from the library. They take up a huge amount of space and I’d rather my Photos library just be photos. I store videos in a folder with subfolders and good file names. But that is just my personal preference.

    JR
    2 years ago

    Continuing on Law’s question: I have over 1T in photos on an EHD. Too many for my 500G MacBook Pro. The Photos library on the EHD is the preferred library for Photos and the EHD must be connected when using Photos. I back up the Mac HD and EHD with Time Machine. How can I have a 2nd back-up of the Photos library, as Law is trying to do? It does not look like I can run a 2nd Time Machine drive to just back up the EHD. Must serious computer users and photographers want more than 1 back-up.

    2 years ago

    JR: I would buy another drive, and just copy the Photos library there once a week or month. Or, using a cloning tool like Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper to clone the photo library drive to another one.
    Another option is to do what I do: use an online backup service for everything for a second backup. 1TB is big, but it isn’t out of the question if you have a decent connection. It will probably take a few days to get it all up there, but from then on it is incremental.

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