All My Pictures in iPhoto Disappeared! How to Safely Get Them Back

graphic wall of missing images in iPhoto with new iPhoto library instructions


iPhoto is so good at protecting your precious photos, that in those very rare times when something actually does go wrong, it’s hard not to just freak out and think you really have lost all of your photos!


Luckily in situations like this, you are able to recall some clues that could make you realize your photos are actually still on your computer. It’s just that you can’t figure out how to get them to show up again in iPhoto.

This is exactly what happened to Abdullah who wrote me about his iPhoto collection:

Dear Curtis Bisel,

I have problem with iphoto.

I am using iphoto to store my pictures. One week ago the message comes up from iphoto and said something about I have to choose one of three choices. Unfortunately I did not recognized all the choices. I pressed one of them, and all my pictures disappear from iphoto, and the iphoto created new library.

Actually, I have tried to access to my old pictures but I could not. Somehow, I went to iphoto file than contents than thumbnails than the folders in years like folder name 2011, 2012, 2013, and each folder has one or two pictures, which is I have found all my old pictures there.

Now, I am very wary about my old pictures and I am looking to any help and way to restore them.

Thank you in advance.

Best Regards


Doing the Detective Work

Abdullah did a wonderful job of handling this stressful situation.

In a time like this, it’s very important that you try and stay calm, and try and visualize all of the steps you just went through that took your computer from working perfectly, to whatever state it’s in now.

All of these fairly detailed steps provided me with enough information that after reading his question, I was about 95% sure I knew what had happened.

Clue #1 — New Library Created

Abdullah mentioned he recalled that a message popped up in iPhoto and asked him to pick one of three choices. And he believes he chose the wrong one.

Apple keeps it simple, so there really aren’t that many windows that pop up in iPhoto. So that really narrows down what window he must have seen.

Additionally, he said some magic words that made me hear “bingo!” inside of my head —  “iPhoto created a new library.”


Let me take a second to point out that both iPhoto and Aperture work by accessing what Apple calls “photo library” files.

If it makes it easier to visualize, think of them like a big hall closet where you can safely and neatly store boxes (Events) full of photographs. The only thing is, in their current versions, both applications can only access one “closet” at a time. If you are looking inside of one “closet,” you can’t look at another at the same time.

iPhoto Photo Library file in a finder window
Here’s how your iPhoto Photo Library file will probably look in Finder. Note: by default, it’s usually stored in the “pictures” folder of your user account.


Clue #2 — Photo Library Contents Intact

Abdullah also told me that he was able to poke around in the “package contents” of the iPhoto “photo library” file. And after some time, he was able to find all of his photos inside.

Excellent! That’s relieves most of the tension from the situation because we now know:


  1. His iPhoto photo library file wasn’t deleted or overwritten.
  2. His master photos weren’t deleted or overwritten.


What Are the iPhoto Library Package Contents?

In case you are a bit confused by what Abdullah was talking about when he said he was still able to see all of his old photos in folders labeled by the years, let me briefly give you an idea.

iPhoto, by default, stores your master photo files deep within the “photo library” file. (Really it’s like a folder).


Have you heard how people with messy desks say it may look messy, but they could easily find anything on it if they wanted had to?

iPhoto feels the same way about its library file. It may look messy and confusing to you inside of there, but it’s very efficient for the software.

And if you were to step inside and delete — or even simply move something out of its original place, iPhoto may no longer be able to find anything — or work at all!

It’s delicate. It would be like setting a hat full of hamsters loose under a house of cards.

You laugh, but it’s true!


So, I am just giving you a friendly warning to be extremely careful if you dare go in there. What I mean is, if you don’t know what you are doing in there, it’s like not being a mechanic and taking a part out of an automobile engine. You will have to know how and where to put that part back, or you may have serious problems — like your engine won’t start again!

Apple puts a kind of “child-proof” like step in between you and the contents of your library file so that the majority of their users won’t accidentally go poking around in there.

Menu item to show package contents of iPhoto photo library
Right-click or control-click on your photo library file and select “Show Package Contents” from the list.
View of Photo Library folder contents inside of "show contents"
Your master photo files are stored in various numbered folders inside of the “masters” folder.


PLEASE KNOW:  I am not suggesting the solution for 99% of you is to manually go into your iPhoto library file, and into the contents folders, and manually extract your photos — should you find them. That would be an absolute last resort option for 1% of you that cannot find any other way to get your library file loading correctly on its own again. And that is your goal, to get your original library file working again without having to start over again with your found images by re-importing.

If you re-import them back into iPhoto, you will be starting over from the beginning with each one, and you most likely will lose ALL of your editing done to each one — captions, titles, color corrections, event organization etc.

This step of carefully investigating the package “contents” is just meant to prove to you your photos could still exist in your library file. 


For Abdullah, these clues that we just uncovered tells us that iPhoto apparently didn’t accidentally delete any photos. It’s just no longer showing his photos.

Which means our next question should be what could have happened that would cause this?

Here’s What Went Wrong in iPhoto

Whether he meant to or not, I was 95% sure Abdullah was holding down the “option” key on his keyboard when he clicked and loaded up the iPhoto application one day, or he clicked on “Switch to Library” under the “File” menu at the top of the application. 

When you do this, a “photo library” chooser window pops up and asks you to select one of three options. Abdullah said he didn’t recognize any of the choices, and in his case, he inadvertently pressed the wrong one.

iPhoto Photo Library chooser window in iPhoto'11 version 9
iPhoto “photo library” chooser. (iPhoto’11 v.9)
iPhoto "Choose Photo Library" window that asks you to "quit", "Create Library" or "Choose Library"
A similar but smaller window appears in older versions of iPhoto.

For the record, the correct button would have been the round red “x” button at the top left corner of the first window, or the “Quit” button from the second. This would have safely returned him back to the desktop, closing out the window, without any additional action being executed.

Instead, I believe what happened was he chose the button “Create New” / “Create Library.” iPhoto then constructed a whole new photo library (“closet”) for him to start storing a new collection of photographs in.


No harm done though! There’s certainly nothing wrong with creating a new library — even if you don’t plan on using it.

It’s just scary if you don’t know what you just did. Abdullah probably thought all of his photos in his “closet” were thrown out to the virtual curb for the garbage person to pick up because all he was seeing was an empty photo library!

Instead, iPhoto had just switched from his old photo library full or photos over to the new one that starts off completely empty until you import your first set of photos.

How a brand new and empty iPhoto "Photo Library" looks when it's first created. (iPhoto'11 v.9)
Here’s how a brand new and empty iPhoto “photo library” looks when it’s first created. You can imagine how scary that would be to someone used to seeing a window full of their life’s photos! (iPhoto’11 v.9)


The Solution: How to Safely Fix All This

The way to fix this is really quite simple. It’s just a matter of telling iPhoto that you would like to switch back to your original photo library file.

So, you basically want to redo the same step that got you in this situation in the first place. And you can do this in one of two ways.

1 Switch to Library
If you are using iPhoto v.9 or later, with iPhoto loaded and active, go up and click on “File” and then click on “Switch to Library” from the list that comes down.

"Switch to Library" file menu screenshot

2 [option] Launch iPhoto
If you are using an older version of iPhoto, or iPhoto isn’t already loaded, you can achieve the same results by pressing and holding down the “option” key while clicking and launching the iPhoto application.


After either of these methods, the “Library Chooser” window will pop up.

iPhoto Photo Library chooser window in iPhoto'11 version 9

The software now asks you, “Which photo library do you want iPhoto to use?”

Click on your original iPhoto photo library from the list of libraries that have already been created, and then click on the “Choose” button below.

That’s it!

iPhoto will briefly close and then relaunch with your original library file.


Additionally, it will now return as being the “default” iPhoto photo library. So with subsequent times loading iPhoto, your original library will continue to load.

If you would like to delete your new, empty and unneeded photo library, you are now free to.



If more than one library has the same name, the way to tell the difference between them is to click on each one, and note the library name and path where the file is stored that shows up below the list.

The library marked “(default)” is the library file that will load when you launch iPhoto the next time. So, if you have 2 libraries in the list called “iPhoto Library,” and the wrong one keeps loading, then it’s probably safe to say the one that isn’t marked “(default)” is more than likely your original library.


If your original library isn’t in the list, click the “Other Library” button at the bottom and go through the Finder application paths and look through your hard drive(s) and folders until you find your old library file.

Or, if you are on an older version of iPhoto that doesn’t show a list in the window, you will need to click on the “Choose Library” button and locate your original photo library file.

iPhoto "Choose Photo Library" window that asks you to "quit", "Create Library" or "Choose Library"



I’m not always right — my wife will attest to that. But, in this case, I’m happy to share this message I later received from Abdullah:


Dear Curtis,

I am really appreciated your help and your time to responding to me.

Thank you so much for your help. You cannot imagine how I am a happy now to see my old pictures again.


If after applying these techniques I used to help Abdullah, you are still having problems restoring your iPhoto library, I’ve created a couple resources pages with additional steps I would recommend you try. Check them out through the buttons in the box below.


I am building up additional resource pages to help you with your missing iPhoto photos if this post didn’t quite solve your specific problem.

Click the buttons below if the any of the following issues match your current situation:

Is iPhoto Not Opening Up Your Original Photo Library File With All of Your Photos? Are 100% of Your Images Still Missing?

Are You Sure All or Some of Your Photos Are Saved Inside Your iPhoto Library File, But Just Not Showing Up When You Launch the Photo Application?

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457 Comments on "All My Pictures in iPhoto Disappeared! How to Safely Get Them Back"

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Thank you. I was ready to cry while trying to restore my pics from Carbonite when I came accross your site. I found my pictures at the Masters folder. You literally saved my “entire life.”

Xilay Bio

There are 2 solutions for you to recover deleted photos from iPhone:
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2. If you’ve synced your iPhone with iTunes, you also can regain your deleted photos by extracting your iTunes backup file.

If you want to directly recover deleted photos from iPhone:
Step 1:Run the program and connect your iPhone
Step 2grinownload a plug-in separately for your iPhone 4 or iPhone 3GS
Step 3:Enter the device’s scanning mode and scan it
Step 4razzreview and recover deleted iPhone photos

If you want to recover photos from iTunes backup
Step 1: Choose iTunes backup and scan it
Step 2: Recover deleted iPhone pictures
When the scan is finished, all files in the backup file are displayed for you in well-organized categories.
The data extracted from the backup file contains those existing in the backup, and those deleted from your iPhone before you made the backup. You can use the button on the top to separate them: Only display the deleted items.



I mistakenly deleted all my pics from my iPhoto library HOWEVER I know that they are still there somewhere as my library file is still 68gb in size. I’ve checked the ‘trash’ folder in iPhoto and it’s completely empty yet the files are still somewhere on my computer, otherwise the Library size wouldn’t be so big. Because the trash folder is empty, I can’t recover my pics so I’m a bit lost. I’ve also checked Trash in Finder and it’s empty. Also, when I tried to recover the files from Time Machine, I don’t have enough space on my HDD so it’s clear that the files haven’t actually been deleted.

How do I get my pics back?




Thank you so much Curtis. I am so glad I stumbled across your site. And what a relief that your instructions were written so that I did not have to get a degree in computer science to understand your instructions. Photo’s are all together again.


I cant find my masters folder. What can I do to restore my Iphoto pictures. None of them are showing anywhere.


Curtis: I would be so grateful, if you can assist me. I am in the same situation as Anna.
I have an iPhone 5 and it was the first time that I was using for the first time to download pictures to my iMac.
The iMac asked right way if I want to create a new library, which I replied yes.
The pictures were downloaded and it continue to asked me I wanted to delete the pictures or keep them.
I like to keep my iPhone clean of pictures, so I replied delete.

Now my iPhoto only shows the pictures I downloaded today and the rest are all gone.
I have gone through the steps that you showed in this thread and it only shows the photo library that I created.
The master shows only the new library. Everything else is gone.
Did I erase the other library? It that is the case is there a way to get my picture back ? or am I completely ruined?

I would be so grateful to get your guidance.


Bartley McGruff

Hi Curtis! I wanted to add my own resounding ‘thank you!’ What a relief to come across such a well-written, humourous, and calming tutorial to walk my wife and I through what was turning into a very white-knuckle experience. My wife updated to the 9.2.3 version of iPhoto, and suddenly it seemed as though we’d reverted to her ‘old’ collection of photos. All our new folders were gone! But following your advice, we found that the upgrade had just switched us over to the old library. What a relief to have our precious pictures back. Thank you so much, and keep up the great work!

keith eubanks

I was trying to select a number of photos to share and while holding command key down did something so that not all of my pictures for an event (arranged by date) are shown. They are all still in the master file but not displaying. I tried the open new library but that didn’t work. I seem to have changed the pictures that were assigned to that event or library (from about 400 to 12). Any thoughts

Anna Rose

I am happy to find out that all my photos are still in tact, but i just updated the newest version of iPhoto and previously had a pretty old version, and my new iPhoto won’t read my library.
My computer shut off before all of the library was “updated” into some new format that I was warned is unreadable by an older version of iPhoto.
So, I don’t know if something happened and it still needs to be reformatted or what, but I’m super lost and don’t know how to get my photos back to a place where I can view and edit them!

-Anna Rose


Hi, i had a similar issue Abdullah, but when i go to switch librarys back to my old one it wont let me open it, and if i try to open the file normally from my finder, it says that the file is an unrecognised format…. my iphoto just randomly got rid of my photos and acted like i had just gotten my mac and needed to set it up. it came up with something and then i clicked create a new library (as i didnt know what was happening). please tell me i can get my photos back !!!!


Dear Curtis,

Thanks for you help. I am having the same issue for a album in iPhoto. I tired all 4 options with the option/command and am still missing my pictures. I cannot find them on the masters either. The strange thing is that they folders show up in iPhoto it even shows all of the dates and number of pics in both the Events and the Album. The pics are just missing for several pics that I took last summer. Any help would be appreciated.


help! I see my photos in the masters. I see the file size in iphoto library is 359 GB and I can’t seem to get iphoto to use the correct library? I’m trying to restore from Carbonite but it’s taking a long time…What do I do now?


Thank you so much for your help – thought I had lost all of my photos, I was also able to drag and drop into my new 4TB external hard drive so I know they are very safe now! Thank you again!! smile


thank you so much!!! you saved my lifeeeee smile smile smile

Ashley H

Hi! I read your article and the comments and I found my pictures in the Masters file. So i followed your directions to put the pictures back and nothing is happening. There is 2 options to click on for iphoto library and when i click them nothing loads. Am i missing a step??

Jocelyn Broad

Hello there, I have read all you advice and appreciate how thorough yet simple you put everything down. However, I still could not resolve the problem…

Whenever I open my iPhoto, similar to everyone else, it says What library do you want iPhoto to use..However, it gives me no option in the box allocated, where I have see on this post, should be lists of folders…

I have checked my trash and I cannot even find the big Macintosh drive…Whats going on?

Kind Regards,


Ana María

Please help me! Lots of my albums are gone from iphoto and others are still there but empty!
So desperate with this situation, don´t know what to do!



something weird happen when I had to use my new mac with os 10.8. my iphoto library is on my time capsule and when I opened it, he wanted me to upgrade the library. I clicked OK, it seems iphoto was blocked during the process and iphoto cannot access the files anymore. The files are still there (in the content, I saved all photos somewhere else.), but do not appear on iPhoto.

Any clue how to tell iphoto that it still has the photos?


hey there, after going through the comments and tips it seems you are the guy who can get me out of my trouble with iphoto. I happened to delete the finder>searh for contents then after that i realised i couldnt open either itunes or iphoto (so far) but somehow i got itunes back on track.

but regarding iphoto firstly it had disappeared then following your guidelines and don’t know how its back in application, but when i go thru masters the “numbers” are there no photos, but they are there in search for, and other thing my iphoto shows the loading “sign” the bars circling never stops. please help!!!!!!


Hi Curtis!

I was really worried that I lost all of my precious pictures. Thanks to you, I have found them.

I have version 9.1.5, but I don’t have the “Switch to Library” option under file. So, I used the other method you mentioned: “holding down the “option” key while clicking and launching the iPhoto application.” It worked! I am so happy!! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!


I still can’t find it. i looked everywhere on my computer and cant find it. help me please


Hey, first of all thank you so much for this helpful article! Unfortunately I can´t get further than the step where I have to switch from the “new” library to another/my old library!
When the window opens, where I can choose another library, I try to find another library, but I can´t find any other on my computer. It always just opens up my “new” library without my old photos! Also: In the “Masters” folder there are only the photos of my “new” library”, so all my old photos are nowhere to be found.
I have no idea how all this happened. All I remember is that one time my laptop died, when I had iphoto opened. Next time I opened iphoto it was a completely new and empty one. If a window opened asking me if I wanna create a new iphoto library, I´m not sure about that unfortunately – I can´t remember!
My old photos are also not in the trash can. I have not deleted any files in the trash can after this incident!
Do you think there is a chance that my photos are still on the computer? Do you have any idea what else I could try or how I could find them?

Thanks so much! Daniela


Do you have any advice or is my case unsolvable?


Im having the same troubles…have you found anything. To solve this?


Hello! So I took a screen shot of something, then dragged the file over to my iPhoto library. A screen popped up that said “Which Photo Library Do you Want To Use” I have never seen this screen before. I am almost certain I hit “Choose” and the only thing that was in the options is what I’m assuming was where all of my old photos were. Then, iPhoto launched and the only thing in it was the new picture, all my old photos were gone! I tried going to the master folder but the only thing that is in it is the new stuff, everything says “Modified Today 11:45am”. Please help, I don’t have any back up photos. Thank you!


I found them! They were in my trash and I have moved them to my desktop. Is there a safe way to re-add them to iPhoto or should I keep them as a separate file on the desktop?


Hi Curtis!
Thanks so much for your helpful article… it took me from tearful panic-mode to a calm but still troubled state.

My issue is that I somehow seem to have deleted almost all my (thousands of) photos from my iPhoto Library. I can still see them in the Trash (I didn’t empty the trash, thankfully), but I can’t move them back in iPhoto or access the files on iPhoto. However, thanks to you, I was able to see that they DO still exist in the Master folder. I tried importing the Master folders back into iPhoto, but since they still technically exist in iPhoto, it won’t let me, saying that “the files could not be imported. The file is in the iPhoto Library.”

I don’t know how to get them back into the library. Any advice?

Thank you so much!


Hello I am really scared because I have emptied my trash in the last 24 hours. But I was deleting what I thought were fonts and font files I had I don’t know why my iphoto would have been in the trash? I am soo nervous. I bought a font from my fonts and it was the wrong one so I was trying all sorts of things to download it and in my Font keeper it did say create a new library but I thought it meant to put fonts in. “MY fonts” sent me a new download and said delete all the other downloads so I thought that was all the stuff I was deleting. I have not secured the trash but I did empty it. I click on iPhoto and it just acts like it is waiting but I did see that message like it is brand new. HELP me!! I have no masters and I can not find them anywhere I do see a couple older libraries I made but they only have those older photos. I had around 48,000 photos please if you know anything to help me.
Thank you


Ok I Think I am seeing lots of them under images!!!! Please let them be ok


I am having similar sounding issues to Keith Eubanks in August, however I have tried the ‘hidden’ files suggestion and nothing is revealed. All the missing photos are in the Masters folder but it won’t let me drag them back into iPhoto. An error message reads “Unreadable Files: 1 The following file could not be imported. The file is in the iPhoto Library. (and it shows the file path). I have tried searching for the file in iphoto by name and date and it doesn’t show up….. it doesn’t appear to be there but the mac clearly thinks it is!

This same error is occurring on my iMac and the old iBook from where the iphoto album was copied, so I guess I copied it over with this error already in place, I just hadn’t noticed it until I was looking for a particular picture. So far as I’m aware the rest of the library is intact (although I have to admit it now makes me wonder!).

Any help gratefully appreciated,


AHHH! THANK YOU SO MUCH! I’ve been trying to recover my “lost” photos for almost a year now. I’ve read many “fix-it” strategies on other websites, but this is the first one that actually FOUND my photos! I had over 7,500 photos that I lost when iPhoto randomly prompted me to upgrade, and POOF they were all gone! sad And of course I had them backed up on an external hard drive, but I didn’t know I had to CHOOSE the iPhoto library that was saved on my external in order to open it! (Rookie mistake? haha) Thanks again!!!


Hi there. I’m in trouble! I have upgraded to Iphoto version 9.5 and in doing so deleted the old Iphoto and thus all my images (fotos and videos).
I have tried to follow your very detailed list of advices, but get stuck here:

“If your original library isn’t in the list, click the “Other Library” button at the bottom and go through the Finder application paths and look through your hard drive(s) and folders until you find your old library file.”

When I search the hard drive using the Finder or the spotlight application I cannot find any icon or file with the old Iphoto program on it. It’s completely wiped off my computer…
Can you help me?

Many thanks in advance,

Sofie from Denmark


HI there! I recently started a TIme Machine Back up of my machine, Prior to that, I copied my iphoto library to an external hard drive. I was looking in my finder and I noticed that my iphoto library is empty. I can see all my photos perfectly on my iphoto application, but nothing inside my iphoto library in the finder under pictures in users…
Did i do something that deleted them from there?
I was trying to do another backup with a new Seagate external to put in another location just in case. I drag my iphoto library into the new seagate but there’s nothing in there!
How can I get my pictures from the iphoto application to be copied to the iphoto library folder in:
users/my pictures/iphoto library????

Jen Huddleston

Hi Curtis-

I just wanted to say Thank You. Your site really helped me last night. Reading over the inquiries and your thoughtful responses gave me some insight into what was going on with my missing photos, and I was able to recover them. I almost closed this window without commenting at all, but I just wanted to say thanks and let you know that your presence online was calming and helpful. I really appreciate it.


Jen Huddleston

By the way, it’s not 4:49 am. I’m on the East Coast, 3 hours later, and I had a good night’s sleep last night, and breakfast, and currently the sunshine is beaming in. I’m not writing after having stayed up all night with iphoto problems! Just sayin’…!


Thank you so much! I imported my photos last night, and then couldn’t find them on iPhoto or my camera! You saved my life!

Kate R

Hi Curtis –

Thank you so much for this article – it is the most helpful I’ve found in my search to understand what is happening in iPhoto. My problem is a little different, I think, and I have a feeling you might tell me to follow the instructions to repair my library, but I wanted to ask before heading down that path. In iPhoto, I can see thumbnails of all my images; however, if I click on the image to enlarge or edit, the screen is black. The picture seems to “be there” because if I move the mouse over it, icons will pop up – like the flag in the corner or the box to label someone, etc. However, I can’t see anything. I’ve verified that my pictures are still in the Master’s file, following your instructions. I can view them full size in Preview. In the research I’ve done, I’ve noticed people stating they have the black screen with an exclamation point icon or other visible. I don’t have that – just black. I should also note that everything was working fine until I upgraded iPhoto on Sunday – maybe a coincidence or maybe it has something to do with it? Anyway, I’d love your thoughts on the possible issue if you have a moment – thank you for your time and for all your help!


So much Thank you for this post!!!! I can found some pictures! … I was downloaded, then the Iphoto crash! and my pictures disappear! now I know where there are!


Help! I really think I did lose all my photos. I was copying my photos into iphoto from my iphone and accidentally disconnected the cord that runs from the iphoto to the computer. Now no photos are showing in iphoto
s at all. I did what was suggested and looked in the masters file. There was nothing in there. I only had one other upload, but it is missing, and non of the photos I was uploading are there either. That is not too bad because I still have them on my phone, but the older library I don’t have anywhere else.


Sorry, well I did as is written up there and nothing happened. I clicked on the default library but it won’t do anything. I lost all my pictures when i updated my iPhoto to iPhoto 11’s 9.5 version. I recall clicking on something when I didn’t understand but I can’t remember what it was. I really need these pictures and videos because they are really important to me. I forgot to mention that whenever I open the masters folder and open up a year folder, the folders show by dates but there is nothing in the folders. Please help me because I’m freaking out. Thank you

Laura G

Thank you so much for this! I too had put photos into a second library without realising, thanks so much for your help!!

Anna Patience Mullek

Mine does not show the masters or the switch to library… I don’t remember doing anything that could cause this. The last time I used iPhoto was last week to upload photos from my phone.


I was editing in my iPhotos and did not realize the power cord was off. I was up and down while editing and didn’t see the warnings. All the sudden my computer shut down. I then turned it back on to return to iPhoto and a blank screen comes on with the option message. I have tried all of those and some that you have suggested here and still can not find my pictures. Crying now they are gone and that is over 3,000. I think I have them backed up in my external Seagate drive or Time machine but do not know how to open them. Please help so very sad.

Joaquín Muñoz

Finally, this is the EXACT information I was looking for. My old HD had to be replaced and my photos were NOT backed up. The new HD by default had a new iPhoto running and not poing to the old iPhoto library. All I’ve been looking for is this, the MASTERS folder. THANK YOU!!!! Right-click on the iPhoto Libary and “SHOW PACKAGE CONTENTS” is all you need to know. From there you find all the originals and you can copy them out–THANKS A MILLION!!!

P.S. F.U Apple for suppressing detection of these images and making them not come up in a “.jpg” image search of the hard drive. That alone makes me so mad at you I can’t even begin…

Simi S.

It’s nice to know there are people like you who offer accessible solutions to their computer issues, thank you!
I have been searching for my photo library for almost 2 hours to no avail! I added a video to my library and thought I was updating it. After I realized what I did, I could not see my photos. There was a box that offered me to “replace” an existing photo library, so I thought I was updating not replacing! I downloaded Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery to see if that worked. Still waiting. Please help!

Sam Browne

HI Curtis,
THANK YOU! I haven’t read all the comments so this may have already been covered but how can I get all the photos from 2 libraries called iPhoto Library into one without duplication? I’m so glad I’ve found 2009/10 photos which were all in albums that seemed to disappear when I upgraded to iPhoto’11. However, I think it just created a new Library and somehow didn’t include all the albums and lots of photos. I don’t fully understand it but at least you’ve helped incredibly as I’ve now got back ALL what I thought were lost photos. Let me know about the merging if you would then I’ll back the lot up as one Library.
Without wanting to be maudlin my husband passed away very suddenly last December and our kids and I were thinking we’d lost a couple of years of photo memories of him. Great news in a difficult time! smile Many, many thanks!


Hey so for the past day or two it said, detected error want to fix it and i said sure, but then at one point it said “needs to recover” and it died. i just charged my computer again and all my photos from the past 3 years are gone. completely. what do i do i am so sad!
If this didn’t make sense ill change it and add more detail, i am just panicking

Carl Haber

Hi. We have a different problem. For some reason when iPhoto updated and no doubt because we did something wrong, the library disappeared. When we managed to get it back it only had pictures starting in mid 2011 even though the pictures went back some years earlier. Then I tried doing what was suggested, opening iPhoto with command and option and clicking there to rebuild, but instead it just blanked everything. From your info I figured how to go back to the other library and it worked but only with the same limited amount of pictures. I saw that the iPhoto library was still showing 92 GB – and compared to April for instance, when the library was intact, it only had 84 Gigs, so the pictures are obviously still there. Thanks to you we found them in the Masters and originals, but for some reason iPhoto doesn’t show them. What can we do to get them to show up again? THANKS

Victoria Martinez

You’re a kind and helpful soul, Curtis.
I’m not sure if I missed a case similar to mine in the comments, but here’s hoping.
My computer was out of commission over the summer due to water damage (lord knows how that happened, but moving on) and I had all of my computer’s data moved over onto an external harddrive until I could get it fixed.
Once I got the computer back up and running, I copied my iPhoto Library again onto the external harddrive, so I effectively ahd three copies: the one on my computer, the one in a “Users” copy on my hard drive, and another saved independently on the hard drive.
When I updated my OS to Mavericks, iPhoto was no longer compatible, so I used the iPhoto Library Upgrader on the computer copy of my iPhoto. No photos after 2008 appear anymore, nor do they in the Masters file as described in this post.
Unfortunately, like an idiot I thought I’d just apply the upgrade to my external harddrive’s copy. Same problem. Apparently I did this to both versions on a couple of different days because now all versions are updated, all lack photos after 2008.
I have once tried the option+command open on the iPhoto icon in order to try to restore, but this also doesn’t work because my computer seems to think that Time Machine is working (“iPhoto Library” cannot be opened until Time Machine has finished.“iPhoto Library” cannot be opened until Time Machine has finished.). This is odd because Time Machine is most definitely not running.

Sorry about this.


Thank you so much for this article! It worked perfectly! I’m going to backup all my photos right now. Lesson learned. smile Thanks again!


Hi Curtis,
I have read through this post looking for an answer to my sudden issue… I haven’t lost all my photos, BUT, have found that the last few imports I have done from my camera card are not appearing in iphoto — It seems to have stopped adding photos to the photo library… The “last 12 months import” folder only shows up to the same photos as the photos library. I didn’t get any error messages like others reported. I do have about 6,222 photos in there, so I don’t know if I’ve reached a limit…??


Hello, i have tried all the suggestions above but nothing seems to be working. I’ve found the masters folder in the package contents but theres nothing in it! Please help!

Susan (@leekisz)

Recently my iPhone got corrupted with a virus, it froze on me and I was unable to retrieve anything on it. I was desperate to get recover my stuff on it. I used my husband’s computer to search for a solution online. I found Data Recovery for iPhone. All I can say is, it worked beautifully. I was able to get everything back. Thanks so much Data Recovery for iPhone for Mac!

Jaclyn P.

pure awesomeness!!!! Found my other library.Thanks so much!!!!!!!!!!


Hi Curtis, impressive site…you’ve helped a lot of people…maybe you can help me. I’ve read several of your suggestions and tried many of them, but the bottom line is that my daughter’s picture files seem to be missing from her Masters (and even Thumbnails) folders. Does that mean they are gone for good? Even if I can find low res proxies somewhere on the drive it would be better than nothing. I would send a screen grab of the iPhoto and Finder windows but can’t find a way to paste them here.

The corrupt iPhoto library in question was on my daughter’s laptop, which died (wouldn’t power up). I removed the laptop HD and connected it with an adaptor cable to my Mac mini. I performed an upgrade to her old iPhoto library so that it would open on my Mac, but when it opens, her album names etc. are intact, but the photos seem to be missing. I looked at her Masters folder from her laptop HD and it appears to be empty.


So i’m suffering from a problem a little similar to Abdullah’s. So to clear up some extra space on my phone tonight I decided to upload my photos to iPhoto, which I have done many times before. I uploaded the 1000+ photos and after it said “upload complete” the box asking whether i wanted to delete them or not came up, and i deleted them, as that was my goal. I unplugged my phone and went to the “last import” file and found it blank. No photos, no nothin. I continued to search my photo library, but still couldn’t find them. I tried quitting iPhoto and reopening it but still couldn’t find the photos. The 1000+ photos are now missing, neither on my computer or on my phone. I would love it if you could respond and maybe give me some options to try out!


you are an absolute lifesaver!!! I cannot thank you enough for posting this solution. I had ‘lost’ ALL of my photos dating back to 2001 until 15 seconds ago!! I have been searching everywhere (including more ‘iPhoto recovery software packages’ than you can imagine!!) for the last 3 years, basically I had given up finding them until today when I need to transfer my files to my new MacBook. Everything has been restored and you have saved me from losing the memories from the last 13 years … If I could hug you I would! THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!!!!


Dear Curtis …. ok ok phew, i think I can breathe again … months of living with a instant rainbow wheel of death when trying to access my iPhoto library and I haven’t dared do anything except search and search online for a solution… finally your blog gives me hope!. I’m pretty sure I have a corrupt user id (of course it has to be my admin user id), because if i log into my macbook as my husband or one of my kids user id’s i have no problems, but as soon as I log in as me, iPhoto gives me the swirly rainbow wheel of death. If I force quit it, then I can work ok .. but pretty much iPhoto is shot! Of course as soon as I try to charge my iPhone, iPhoto kicks in and I have to force quit it quick smart or down it goes again!

So my question is ….. now that I know my photos are safely in the masters folder in finder (I also would hug you if I could) how do i create a new iPhoto library when iPhoto keeps crashing. Apple genius advised me to rebuild it but nope, that’s no good it just keeps crashing. I haven’t been back to apple because I want to be absolutely sure my back up to time capsule is actually backing up those photos.

Please help, I’ve got 3 years of photos from living in India and I’ve got some of them on a desktop but well it’s all a jumble and this is my winter project, fix it, back it all up and breathe again and of course promise to never let this happen again (I DO have 2 external hard drives and it was all working fine but then well 3 international moves and no genius lessons available in Delhi ….. blah blah I won’t bore you how this just got so messy!).

Sooooo, I thought the easy thing would be to right click folders 2011, 2012 and 2013 and make a copy somehow (I have 2TB on a windows hard drive connected to my telly (which is the ultimate destination for all of my photos once I sort this out), saw that burn to disc was an option but then each of those folders requires minimum 30gb (which can’t possibly be right!). So now that I know i’ve reached my limitations can you please please please help me?

Cheers for now Janet


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