How To Safely Move Your iPhoto Library to Another Hard Drive (Video Tutorial)

iPhoto Library Folder and iconSometimes your scanned or digital camera’s photo collection is just so massive it takes over your entire hard drive. Maybe even to the point where now it’s completely full!

If you don’t want to replace your current hard drive with a larger one, moving your photo collection to an emptier secondary hard drive is always another option.

A Real World Example

The other day, I overheard two friends of mine discussing how one of them wanted to move her iPhoto collection off her packed Macbook Pro laptop. They were looking for the solution in the most obvious place, the iPhoto “Preferences” menu option. But they couldn’t seem to find an option to point her collection’s storage location to her external hard drive.

It took me a moment, but thankfully I was able to remember on the spot this seldom needed secret trick. (There was a little pressure on me)

Because Apple wanted to make iPhoto so easy for someone to use, it only makes sense they also want to protect their users from doing anything that would accidentally ruin their collection. And one quick way to do that would be for you to make iPhoto lose the connection with the correct library and database and not know how to fix it.

Thankfully Apple lets us change which photo library loads and where we store it, they just didn’t go out of their way to make sure we would know how to do it!

My Very First Video Tutorial

So it occurred to me this is a situation a lot of iPhoto users will probably face at one time or another and would therefore be a perfect topic for my very first video tutorial on this website.

Oh, by the way, this technique will also work if you just want to move your library to a new folder location on your current drive.

Now go easy on me here! I haven’t recorded my voice (on purpose) in a long time. And it certainly wasn’t as easy as I had hoped! (I’m man enough to admit serious editing was involved)

(Problems playing video? Click here)


For anyone who is unable to watch or listen, I have provided [CC] captions in the video as well as a full text transcript below.

Additionally, if you have an extra moment, I would love to hear what you thought of my first video tutorial down in the comments below. You can give me the bad as well as the good of course!

Thank you so much!


Transcription of Video::

Whether it’s all of our scanned or digital camera photos, or our huge collection of movies we seem to be downloading, it seems like we’re all running out of hard disc space.

Hey, it’s Curtis, from Scan Your Entire Life, and if you use iPhoto for Mac, I would like to show you how to fix this problem.

By default, iPhoto likes to store all of your photos in a single file called the iPhoto Library.  This is actually a good thing for most people.  It makes it easier; more of a hands-off approach to managing all of your photos.

So what we’re going to be doing to free up hard disc space, is actually moving this iPhoto Library file to a separate hard drive.

It’s very important that you have a backup copy of your iPhoto Library file, before you do what I am about to show you. Your photos are irreplaceable so please make a backup.

So the first thing we need to do is make sure we close out iPhoto. I’m going to close out that window (Command-Q) or you can go to the iPhoto menu option and hit “Quit iPhoto.”

Next, we need to find our iPhoto library, and for most people, you will find that on your hard drive, and in your user home folder. And then I will click here on my pictures folder. And you will see right here at the bottom is my iPhoto Library.  It looks like a single file but it’s actually a folder. And if you look over here, you will see that my iPhoto Library is 1.33 gigabytes, which is actually really small. You might find that your iPhoto Library is 20, 30, 40, 60 gigabytes – and that’s why your hard drive is so full.

So even though my iPhoto library is really small, and you can see I have 205 gigabytes free on my hard drive, we’re going to pretend like my hard drive is actually empty, and we’re going to move this iPhoto Library to an external hard drive.

Especially for laptop users, I wouldn’t really recommend having your iPhoto Library on an external hard drive for a very long time. It’s a good temporary solution but your best decision really is to replace your small hard drive with a larger one, and then use your external hard drive as a backup.  Because what this means is, anytime you load up iPhoto, you’re gonna have to make sure your external hard drive is plugged in. But, for certain circumstances, this might be the best solution for you right now.

And it’s simply a matter of going over to your iPhoto Library, left clicking, and dragging the iPhoto Library over to your external hard drive.

Because my test library is so small, it’s only going to take a couple minutes for it to finish copying.  But don’t be surprised if yours takes 20 minutes, 30, 40 – even an hour to copy depending on how large it is.

[“Ding” sound effect]

It’s important to note right now that we have 2 copies of our iPhoto Library. One is right here in the pictures folder, and another is in our external hard drive. If I move this down you can see both copies – here and right here.  This is important because we don’t want to delete the original version before we have tested out the new version to make sure everything is working correctly.

So what I am going to do is go up to my pictures folder here, I’m gonna single click here where it says iPhoto Library – so that it’s highlighted with all blue. I’m going to right cursor over, and add word “old” to the end of the filename.  And I’ll show you in a second why that’s important.

So what we wanna do now is boot into iPhoto, but we want to tell it to load from the new iPhoto Library and not from the one we just labeled “old.” And the way you do that, is you hold down the option key, keep it held down, and them move down to your dock, and click on iPhoto. And now a window will pop up and say, “What photo library do you want iPhoto to use?” And because we labeled the old iPhoto Library “old,” it’s a lot easier now to find the new one by clicking on the one that is obviously not labeled “old.”

And for users with the latest iPhoto, you’ll be able to see a path description here on the bottom that will help validate that we have selected the correct external hard drive.

So now we click on choose. And now iPhoto will launch using the newest iPhoto Library.

And now we can quit out of iPhoto. I’m going to hit (Command-Q).

So now it’s safe to delete the old iPhoto library. So I’m going to right-click on it, and then select “Move to Trash.”

[Sound effect paper hitting trash can]

Now if you are paranoid like me, maybe not Jack Nicholson in “As Good As It Gets” kind of paranoid, but just a good healthy case of paranoia, you will load up iPhoto one more time just to make sure everything is there and loads fine. I mean, I am just saying, this is your entire photo collection here!

Everything seems good. Let’s empty that trash!

[Sound effect paper being wadded up]

So I hope you found this to be useful. Enjoy scanning the rest of your life! Cheers!


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Cool. Looks great and very easy to follow. I can't wait to see more.


Helpful video thanks! I am just using an external for backup of photos. I have just backed up my original photo library, but when I take more photos and backup agsin will it copy all the photos again or just add the new ones?


Just came across your site and found the information I’m looking for. Thank you very much and look forward to watching your next tut.



Thanks for the awesome tutorial. This is exactly what I needed to do presented in a very easy to understand and visually organized way (and I’ve seen a lot of crappy tutorials)! Oh, and by the way, your voice was great– a real natural! I look forward to more tutorials!

Stanley Demsey

How do you do the initial back up operation that you advise doing?

Alun Churcher

I have a problem.
I moved my iPhoto Library to a Hard drive a short time back. But now that HD is becoming full. So I bought a new HD. now my problem is that it wont allow me to copy my library for the Old HD to the new. It comes up with the destination contains the same with the same name blah blah and does not recognise upper and lower case keys.
Can you HELP Please. As I dont want to lose all the Albums etc that I have made and connected to various sites for posting.

If can sort this for me I will declare you a god


Jo Porter

Great video!! Thx


Hi Curtis,
Thanks for the clear and easy to follow tutorial. I have successfully transferred my iPhoto library to my external hard drive. However, when I review my photos in the external hard drive all the captions I wrote with the photos have disappeared. Is there a way to retrieve them or have them transferred to the EHD?
Thanks, Gerald


I’ve discovered what my problem is. I am embarrassed to say that I checked the formatting on my EHD to discover that I had not formatted it for a Mac. I realize that if I now re-format it that I will lose all the data, so I am considering whether that concerns me as I believe I still have all my original data on my computer.
But it does explain why the captions were not transferred. I did some additional research on the data transfer topic and re-read this tutorial and comments. Lesson learned.


Hi Curtis
I am a moron. I got a external hard drive and thought I knew what I was doing. I really wished I watched your tutorial before I did what I did. I don’t want to go any further until I have talked to you. So here goes (God, I hope Curtis gets this)

I decided to go into my user then pictures then iphoto library folder. I decided to copy the contents of the ‘originals’ folder by multi selecting all the folders then dragging and dropping onto my external hard drive. I had 68GB so it took close to an hour and a half. Then I went and did the same thing with my ‘modified’ folder (I copied the contents of this folder, which by the way was organised in folder named acording to year, 2002, 2004, 2005 etc) then dragged and dropped this onto my external HD. This was a smaller size (around 18?GB so took less time, but still a long time). Now I can see the thumbnails in iphoto but when I click to make the photo bigger I have an exclaimtion mark and I can’t view the folder. It is important to note that I am running tiger 10.4.11 on my imac and an old version of iphoto too (not sure how to find that out, but think I saw it somewhere saying it was iphoto6?).
After watching your tutorial, I realised I should have copied the whole iphoto library folder, so I did that – I copied it and dropped in on my external HD then replaced the 2004, 2005 2006 folders back into their right folder (‘Originals’ or ‘Modified’). There is one more thing to note. I renamed each ‘year’ folder under the ‘modified’ folder before I dragged and dropped onto the External HD as I knew it would have told me that a folder with that name already exsisted. So I right mouse clicked on the ‘modified’ folders and changed the name by clicking the arrow key and adding “-modified” to the folder name so I would remember which folders were from the ‘modified’ folder. It was after I did this that I dragged and dropped them onto the external HD.
When I placed them (the ‘modified’ folders that I had renamed) back into the modified folder on the external HD under the new iphoto library folder I had copied over, I carefully removed the suffix I had added “- modified” so they were now just named ‘2002’ etc like before.

I tried to hold the command key while launching iphoto so I could tell the computer to look in the new place, but it wouldn’t….i think my operation system to too old…..that is the whole reason for my file transfer onto External HD, so I can update operating system then update itunes then I can finally plug in my new iphone into the latest itunes and fix the problems the iphone is having. sigh!


I didn’t say….HELP! What should I do next to set up iphoto to find the photos??? I couldn’t back up the last 6 months (which is the birth of my third child photos) as every time I try – there is a disk error. So I really want to sort this right….


Hi Curtis
Thanks for getting back to me.
Like I said, I am a moron, and while reading your reply to my post I began physically sick. ONce I transferred teh photos onto the external HD, I checked they were there and I could view them, then dump the ones off my computer into the trash, and emptied the trash. (I hate to think what you are thinking right now!). However, I may have come up with a good idea. I tested it. I could go into iphoto and click ‘file’ ‘import to library’ and select all the photos from my external HD. I did one folder and they came through fine. I thought I would just check with you beofre I tell it to do that to all the photos. The only problem I can think of is that it may not hold the original ‘date’ information of when I took the photo.

The whole reason I am doing this is that my computer has got SOOOOOO slow. It is 5 years old however, but I don’t have the money to upgrade. It only has 2GB of Ram and I can’t put any more in. I thought if I got all my photos and video onto an external HD, the computer would not be so sluggish. Also, I have a new iphone and it has a ‘picture’ on the screen telling me to plug it into itunes as I haven’t done that yet. However my itunes is so old, it didn’t work. But I can’t update itunes until I update my OS (that’s what itunes told me). Also, getting the ex-HD was a good way of backing up my photos another way. I have them all on CD also. (man that took ages!) What is your recommendation for another way to back them up?

So, unless you tell me not to, I think I will start the import of photos back into iphoto, from the ex-HD. Then I will copy them back to the ex-HD using the method shown in your youtube tutorial.

I have a 2TB ex-HD so I think there is room on there for the Time MAchine. I will do that also. – is that free or do I have to pay?

I think I will do the clean install of Lion. YEs, I am going from Tiger to Lion. HOw do I run Time MAchine first.

Sorry – so many questions…..
you are truely a LEGEND and I am so so so thankful for your help.



I was at the Apple Store meeting with the Mac Genius and he told me how to create a new library but not how to look and see the old one! I panicked when I couldn’t find it. Luckily people like you have the answers on line. Your presentation was professional, educational and precise. Thank you so much!


Hi Curtis

I wish life wasn’t so busy and I had this sorted already! I have 3 children under 5 and have just started a new business venture!
I have reread your message a few times.

You were right in assuming I copied the folders over to exHD and then deleted them off my computer (but not the exHD) iphoto and emptied the trash. That is why I used the moron label for myself.

I REALLY want to have them off my computer so that my computer will respond better for not having to store all that data and should be quicker (like it used to be) to do all that I ask of it….searching internet, editing documents and working with Freehand.
This is what I will do: unless you tell me otherwise

I will:
1. Update my OS and
2. upgrade to newer iphoto. I will do that now and not worry about importing photos back from exHD until i have the new iphoto.
3. Update itunes, when all updated I will
4. get photos back into the new iphoto by IMPORTING them, not COPYING them and I will only import the originals and will leave the modified folder sitting on exHD untouched. then i will
5. do a complete iphoto library folder transfer like you showed in the tutorial and then will rename it IPHOTO LIBRARY – OLD and tell iphoto (using the command key) to look on the exHD from now on for photos
6. I will make sure I also change the name of the folder from the first go I had at all this (just so you know I did make a copy of ‘iphoto library’ and dropped in on the ex HD and i put the 2005 2006 etc folders back into the right folder ‘originals’ and did the same with the ‘modified’ pictures (I carefully deleted the “- modified” label I had added so I could differentiate the folders first) and although this looks right and I may have done it right I will just leave on the exHD and will rename it after I have imported all the photos from the originals folder into the new iphoto app) So I will rename this iphoto library folder “iphoto folder OLD & POSSIBLY SCREWED UP.

The place that photos are stored now will be the exHD, so I’ll just have to make sure my exHD is plugged in so I can access them? Am I then able to clear iphoto library folder that is stored on my computer? I also have the photos backed up on CDs (except the last 6 months – but I will work on backing up those again though another means – but in the mean time, they will be on my exHD twice!

I never really give details when importing photos…..thus the 2006 2007 labels. I will definitely fill in that field before I do an import from my camera from now on as I can see the worth in it.

7. I will download TIME MACHINE and get that going

Is there a way I can find out where all my memory is allocated so if there is an unusually large bit being used somewhere I can free some up? The stink thing with this mac is apparently so old and limited that I can’t upgrade to more than 2GB of Ram. Is there anything else I can do to clean up my mac? (when i used to use PC’s (EEK!) there was a thing called ‘defraging’ that would improve the machine I think). What is Daisydisk like. is it worth it, or are there better ones? Are they safe to use?

So I guess I am doing option B. The ‘BAD’ won’t really affect me as I didn’t do much organising, although I did do colour correcting etc…..but too bad!

In answer to your question, I’m not sure what I was doing wrong – but possibly wasn’t holding down teh command key for ages….I have tried it now (but not followed through) so it does work. Thanks and sorry.

Am I doing the right thing or should I do the import in current iphoto and do the backup following your tutorial then do everything else listed above?

I don’t have much time to do this all, but am prioritizing it. I wish I could pay you to do it for me!

Thanks for your help

Paul Roberts

I can’t thank you enough for this. It was perfect and the best tutorial I found. THANKS. Great job.


Hello Curtis, I enjoyed your tutorial and have a couple questions that I was hoping you could help with.

1. Rather than move my entire iPhoto Library to an external hard drive, how do you select and backup individual photos and then delete them from your computers hard drive? Does anything get lost in the transfer?

2. How do you do the same thing with videos stored in iPhoto?

My objectives are to make individual backups onto separate external hard drives before deleting the photos and video clips stored in iPhoto thereby freeing up space on my computer.

Thank you for your help. Jay


Hi Curtis, I am hoping you can help. I am so irritated with iPhoto and I want to stop using it altogether. It has corrupted lots of my photos and like an idiot, I didn’t have them backed up.

In any case, I have recently purchased an external hard drive and have transferred my photos over. Both the iPhoto library as well as the photos in folders, so as to be able to open as jpegs, without using iPhoto. However, here is my dilemma…

I like that my photos show the photo info (date taken is most important to me) as I have many photos of my son and family and I like having a point of reference. But when I transferred them to my hard drive, they don’t show the original photo info. Instead they show some other info such as when they were imported to iPhoto or something.

It is important to note that the photo info DOES show up when I click on “show photo info” in iPhoto. But I want to stay away from iPhoto altogether, whilst keeping the original photo info. Is this possible? Do you know how I can get this done? I really hope you can help.

P.S. I have a 2 TB Seagate external hard drive, if that makes a difference.

I hope this wasn’t confusing. Basically, I just would like the original date that my photos were taken to be visible in my new hard drive, having nothing to do with the iPhoto program. smile

Thanks so much in advance.



Hi Curtis,
GREAT tutorial. The look is perfect and just the right amount of detail and explanation.

Since you seem like such an expert on iPhoto, I do have a few follow up questions. I don’t think I saw them mentioned in the previous comments.

I’ve had my iMac for several years and have just been basically “dumping” all of my photos onto iPhoto all that time, so that now I have about 40 GB of photos. I do have them somewhat organized into folders.

My question is this:
1) I wanted to sync my iPhoto library to my Dropbox account for added security (they are also on a WD hard drive). However, they save to Dropbox by year and not by Event. So, if I ever needed to retrieve my photos, I’d have to redo all of the organization. Is there a better way to do this?

I’m probably not wording this very well and I appreciate your time. Please feel free to respond as if you are addressing someone ignorant of technology. smile

Thank you!


Thank you so much for this tutorial!!! So easy to follow, fantastic video (your voice is great!). I searched several other websites which were far less clear until I found yours. Thanks for helping me go from 6GB of free space to 60GB.

Very best.


Hello Curtis,
I did everything that you recommended in your video to transfer my iphoto to a WD EHD. When I attempt to open iphoto on my MACBOOK it is no longer there as per the warning that appears–this is what I want, right? When I click on the WD EHD icon and open iphoto all appears to be normal. However, when I scroll through the photos at first I see them and then one by one they disappear. I am afraid to scroll too far down as I am scared I will loose all my photos. Please, help!!! (My WD EHD is configured to MAC OS Extended (Journaled).


I really enjoy the simplicity of your tutorial, however I’m having a problem that I’m hoping you can help me with. I follow all of your instructions, but am confused about when you hold down the “option” button and somehow get to the screen where iPhoto let’s you choose which library to load from. Well, for some reason I can never access that screen. I’m not sure if it’s due to different versions (I actually just updated my iMac (early 08 model) to Mac OS X 10.6.3 today), but this is what it will say to me when I hold down the “option” button and open iPhoto from the dock:

“iPhoto needs a photo library to continue. You may choose an existing iPhoto library or create a new one”, then gives the option to create library or choose library. If I “choose a library”, I go into my external hard drive, click on the iPhoto library, which it accesses, however none of my photos show up. If I “choose a library” and then click on “iPhoto Library- old” (which I now have on my desktop), it will access all of the photos that I’ve always had.

I’ve actually drug my iPhoto library to be copied onto my external hard drive 3 times at this point, and finally today after updating to 10.6.3, when I get into my hard drive, I can actually find an “iPhoto library” icon. It was not showing up before I updated my operating system. However, I’m still not sure whether any of the times I’ve tried to copy my iPhoto library onto the external hard drive has actually worked. One thing that is a red flag to me is that when I simply place the “iPhoto library- old” in the trash, and I try to go into my external hard drive to access the iPhoto library within it, it will tell me “Your iPhoto library was not found. Do you want to find your iPhoto library? iPhoto can’t continue without a photo library. Make sure the disk containing your iPhoto Library is connected.” So, after this happened to me the first time, I panicked, and immediately pulled the “iPhoto Library- old” album back out of the trash and safely onto my desktop. I then wanted to test whether pulling the library out of the trash helped, so attempted to access the “iPhoto Library” within my external hard drive once again, and it worked this time. The photos were there. Everything was great.

My questions is: given all of the information that I’ve given you, what do you suggest that I do? I am not tech savvy to say the least, and have fallen behind on my apple iMac knowledge as I’ve been forced to use a work PC for the past 2 years. I’m finally trying to repair all of the neglect my iMac has endured over the past couple years, so removing the almost 20gigs of photos that I have on iPhoto will most definitely help. I just need to make sure they’re safely residing in my external hard drive when I do this.


Kunal Kalra

You did a splendid job. The tutorial was easy and helpful.

I have a question for you. After I delete my old iPhoto library (from Mac)

– The new photos (I will sync in future) will automatically be saved in new iPhoto library (external – time machine)

– or it will create new iPhoto library on mac ?

Please leave me the reply on mail , I appreciate your efforts.

Kunal Kalra

Its me again…I need to know something in general.

I am trying to backup my Macbook Air iPhoto library to Time Capsule 3TB. The transfer time for 20.56 GB is 23 hours and increasing. On top of that, the transfer rate is really slow ( 146mb in 20mins).

I tried system restart and copied again
It is connected with 5GHz wireless network

Is there something I am missing out or not doing correctly

Kunal Kalra

I can copy the inside iPhoto library data (15Gb) in 14mins of time. Then why not the iPhoto library. Please suggest solution

Kunal Kalra

Curtis … Are you on holiday !!!



To develop patience, you need someone who willfully hurts you. Such people give us real opportunities to practice tolerance. They test our inner strength in a way that even our guru cannot. Basically, patience protects us from being discouraged. 

Maybe, just maybe, Curtis actually has a life outside of the link.

Kunal Kalra

I agree to you buddy. But on all above post author has replied quickly. Anyways I will wait and not spam the blog further smile

Kate Newman

I’m trying to do exactly what the video is about but I keep getting the message something like’ cannot complete task, there is a corrupt file’. How do I even begin to find out what the file is? My pictures are taking up 59GB and my start up disk if full so I’m desperate.

Thank you


Hi Curtis,

Thank you for your reply. Yes that was the message I was receiving. I was able to sort it out after a lot of Google searching.

When I was in pictures I right clicked on iphoto library. Then I went into show package contents. In there I was able to find original and modified files. I one by one draged and dropped each original files into the hard drive until I came across the message. I was then able to locate the corrupt file and remove it from the iphoto library and then I went back and started to transfer the whole iphoto library again and it worked!! yay!!

I hope this helps if anyone else comes across this issue. 

Thanks again.



Hi Curtis,

I’ve just gotten a brand new Macbook Pro, and you were so helpful the first time, I thought I’d come back to get some more directions. Months ago I successfully transferred my photos to an external hard drive with the help of your excellent tutorial, but now that I have a computer with a lot more space, I’d like to put my pictures back on my computer permanently so that I don’t have to use the external hard drive anytime I want to look through my photos. Any tips you can offer? Apologies if this question has already been addressed!

Thanks so much,

Sarah Carroll

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I thought I had lost my iPhoto collection until my hard drive was recovered. When I went to open the iPhoto library, it came up blank. No photos, until I found your video and did the option open trick to search for the iPhoto library. It worked!! Thank you so much. I’m downloading them now and stuffing them. Thank you!!!!


I found this just this morning and I just wanted to say thanks for a great, easy to follow tutorial. It was very informative without being too technical. Heck, my husband was able to follow along wink Thanks again!


I followed you instructions, no problem there, but when I tryed to delete the 23,000+ photos from the trash it would delete them.



I have a G slim external hard drvie and already have all my stuff backed up on it but i want to make sure it will open correctly before deleting all my files, I have 29,000 pictures so they need to be organized!

I started halfway through your video as I already have the files copied. When I look in finder I can see my iphoto library file in the g slim, but it doesnt come up as an option for an iphoto folder (when i hold option and then open iphoto).

When i try to open the folder right from the g slim it gives me this message

The iPhoto Library is a Time Machine backup, and so cannot be used as the main library. Relaunch iPhoto with key held down to choose another library.

But then doesnt show up as an option.



Rebecca Sutcliffe

Hi Curtis

I found your video tutorial as my MacBook Pro Iphoto Library wont accept anymore photos!!!! Ive checked and my iphoto library is 132GB! yep thats right. Ive followed your steps and its telling me it is likely to take 2 DAYS to copy!!! hmmm should I be worried or is that pretty normal considering the size of the library?

Like one of your past bloggers we have a daughter and take thousands of photos of her and videos so I am not surprised its that large but I am also really worried I might lose them.

I back up using Time Machine and have done this, plus I have iCloud and most of the photos are on the stream but the ones from my Canon camera aren’t.

any tips on what i should do? can I make it copy quicker? or do I have to be patient… I am worried the laptop may go in to timesaving mode, will that affect it?

Thanks so much

Beck (a worried mum!)


Hi Curtis
thanks so much for your speedy reply
OK so first of all it lied! as its all finished copying, so that was 3hrs not 2 DAYS Thank goodness!!
The trash is now taking awhile to delete though ha ha!!

another question, so i have my iphoto on my external hard drive, a new one has appeared in my pictures folder called iPhoto Library.photolibrary with todays date. when I open iphoto without the external hard drive attached it says welcome to iPhoto…. so can i start a new iphoto library and download the photos it wouldnt let me last time?

i think you are right it was the space on the macbook pros hard drive that wouldnt let me download any more photos not the iPhoto app itself.

cheers Beck


Hi Curtis, I want to say thank you for this tutorial. It does make sense of something that can be a bit unwieldy! I appreciate the professionalism and easy-to-follow steps in your video. I sure hope you make more – you’re a natural smile

I do have a question. And although I scanned previous comments and responses, I didn’t see it addressed specifically. I’d like to move PART of my laptop’s iphoto library and merge it with my desktop’s existing iphoto library. Basically, my laptop is maxed out on space and my desktop was upgraded and still has over 400GB of space. I would eventually like to upgrade storage on my laptop too, but don’t have cash now and need a temporary fix.

I thought by moving most of my 160GB (not a typo) iphoto library to the other computer I could keep the laptop one intact, with only the past couple of years worth of photos.

However, the only way I see to do this seems cumbersome–moving individual folders from both the originals and the modified files. Is there a simpler way I’m not seeing? Oh, and I do have a 320 GB external drive to transfer with. I also use Carbonite to back up and *should* have a full backup of my library right now.

Thanks for any help or direction you can point me!!


I should add…. just to complicate matters, I have loaded duplicates to both computers on several occasions, as a method for backing up. When I merge them, I’m sure that will cause some issues….


Curtis, I successfully followed your instructions and transitioned my entire iphoto library 260 GB to a Seagate Slim external hardware drive which I use as my iphoto library for all new downloads too. It’s been working great. Then I was working on it last night and all of the sudden iphoto reports that “Your iphoto library is damaged or unreadable and cannot be opened. Please restore from a back-up”. I’ve already deleted all the photos from the computer and while I have many of them backed up on CrashPlan, they hadn’t all successfully backed up yet. When I tried opening the library on a different mac, it said I needed to update the library to a new version of iphoto which I didn’t do because that just seemed too risky to do when I’m already have problems. Any help or advice would be appreciated!! On finder, it still reports that the size of the drive is 260GB so I’m hopeful everything is still there and recoverable in some way. Any advice you can offer would be appreciated.


Hi Curtis,
Just wondering if you can help me. Why is it that the photo’s I have copied to my external hard drive, do not have the original information, eg time and date of photo, it only shows me the date that the photo was modified? Hope I’m making sense as I am not very computer savvy.
Thanks, Yvonne


Hi Curtis.
You are a genius! There is SO much information to absorb. I will definitely take your advice on board and also the ones you gave to Jay and Crystal in March 2012, because I too am experiencing the same problem as they were. Please give me a day or two to check it out and I will contact you if I have or haven’t succeeded in rectifying this frustrating problem.


Hi Curtis it’s me again! Now I have religiously complied to all your suggestions and tried and tested them but to no avail. It just appears that I have a missing link when I export my photos from iPhoto to my external hard drive.
When I import my photos from my digital camera to iphoto all the information is there the date and time when the photo was created and when it was modified but then, when I export them to the external hard drive the created date is the same as the modified date so I have no record of when the photo was taken, and this is very important to me. I also open preview to view it but again no details.
I’m not sure if its because I have a bit of a dinosaur Mac it’s version 10.5.8. I also tried to download iPhoto Library Management but I need to upgrade to the next version. Do you think this might be the problem, that is I have an older version?
I may just have to go with the other option and adjust the time and date manually.
I really need to transfer my photos as I am running out of disk space. Your suggestions are quite valuable and appreciated.
Thank you, Yvonne


Hi Curtis,

I mainly wanted to export my photos in an external hard drive because I am running out of room, and in years down the track and when my memory isn’t as sharp as what is now, I would like to view and reminisce my life as it was.

Also when I show my grand children (not any time soon mind you) a particular photo I would like to inform them of the time and date when the photo was taken.

Now in saying all that, I fiddled around and discovered that when I import the photos from my external hard drive back to iphoto the created date and time magically appears again! So I didn’t lose ANY information at all, what a relief!

I hope I didn’t waste too much of your valuable time. I can’t thank you enough because I HAVE learnt a lot along the way.

Cheers, till my next problem arises,



Hi Curtis

Thanks for all the really useful information on here – I’m glad it has been such a success for you (if the huge number of comments and questions on here are anything to go by!) from the tentative start with your first video what must feel like a long time ago now! I’m hoping you won’t mind helping me out with a query of my own on this topic. I should probably start by saying I am not any sort of IT expert at all.

My iPhoto library is around 86GB in size. I’ve been running Time Machine for quite some time on a Western Digital MyBook but for some time now that has been having to remove older back ups to make room for newer ones. I’m not overly concerned about that from a photo point of view because I don’t tend to delete photos ever anyway but I felt it was time to get a second EHD to use solely to back up photos and have now got a 1TB Transcend portable EHD.

Photos stored in my iPhoto library come from photos I’ve taken on my iPhone and photos I’ve taken on my camera and imported by plugging the SD card in and importing to iPhoto. In case it is relevant below, I should add the only way I know to get photos off my iPhone is to connect the iPhone to the Mac and import them using iPhoto. I’m happy with not having another method though.

Today I thought I’d copy some photos across from iPhoto to the Transcend EHD. Not considering deleting from iPhoto on the local computer storage at this stage so no worries about losing photos (yet!).

The first way I did this was by having iPhoto open and a separate Finder window open for the Transcend EHD, then dragging photos from iPhoto across to the finder window and dropping them. This seems to work fine (images show as .jpg even though I didn’t do the formal “export”) but, even when I have the “date created” field showing, the date it shows is today’s date, not the date the image was actually taken (created) – information I can see in iPhoto.

So having read through the posts on here, I tried a second method to copy some photos across – this time selecting the photos in iPhoto, choosing file>export (selecting all of the options even though I haven’t added any captions or renamed photos or anything like that) and then saving them onto the Transcend EHD. Again, same problem occurs – the date created is displaying today’s date.

There are two things I haven’t tried so far that I’m wondering about:

1. I haven’t formatted the Transcend EHD in any way prior to copying anything on to it. I have seen a few posts above about formatting the EHD for a mac. Would this solve the problem? If so, can you point me in the direction of a few instructions on how to do this at all please?! Formatting something is outside my comfort zone/experience.

2. I suppose I could copy the iPhoto library across in its entirety rather than moving bunches of photos like I’ve done so far. Presumably if I do this, I will certainly need to format the EHD first. Will I then be able to see the date photos were actually created? If yes, is that limited to only if I view them via the iPhoto application on the computer?

I suspect the second option will be the best short term solution for me in terms of creating a further back up of the photos (subject to the viewing date created thing) but my longer term aim is to remove the current photos from the iPhoto library entirely and then continue to use iPhoto for new photos taken (ultimately I want to free up computer hard drive space being taken up).

I’ve read (and think I understand!) the suggested option of essentially keeping the iPhoto library entirely on an EHD and never on the computer (which would free up hard drive space) and that you can do this and back up this external library still using Time Machine but that option doesn’t really appeal to me as I don’t want to always have to have the EHD with the iPhoto library around every time I want to add photos to iPhoto and I don’t want to end up confused about what is on where and accidentally lose some photos.

I am confident I can work with either of the 2 methods I’ve tried already to keep a suitable back up on my EHD of photos I take but that brings me back to the issue about how can I view the date they were actually created once they are on the EHD?

I would preferably like to store the photos in a way that means I am not limited to using iPhoto to look at them (and get information about the date on which they were taken) at a future date. Like someone in a previous post on here, all I really want to be able to do is view the images and the date on which they were taken (but without being limited to using iPhoto do so).

Any help and suggestions you can give me will be much appreciated.

Thanks in advance for your time – it is so kind of people like you to share their knowledge like this for the benefit of others.


bobbymartin or toni dixon martin either name is used!!
bobbymartin or toni dixon martin either name is used!!

Hi Curtis,You are the only one that has EVER explained things so well,thank you so much in explaining words with all details of which I understand very well,,, the way your voice sounded great!!! thanks and have a great day!!!


Thank you so much for this video!


Hello and thank you for this video.

You’re suggestion seems simple enough, but I haven’t tried it yet. The trouble I’m having is in retaining RAW during transfer. We have an older Mac running leopard (yes I know) that has so far been just fine, it’s just that it’s full now and I’m trying to free up some space. I have an external drive 1tb that I’m using as a time machine but I’ve also purchased a second external drive. It’s a WD my passport for mac 2tb. I’ve been trying to drag and drop from I-photo to the HD and noticed that my RAW photos from I-photo have been re-labeled as JPEGs in the HD. Not just re-labeled but downsized by easily 20mb.

As I already have photo files backed up to this drive I’m a little hesitant to move my entire library over if it’s just going to convert to jpeg. How can I ensure that all the data will be transferred in original form?

Thanks in advance


Thank you so much for the simplistic yet complete tutorial on how to do something that seems basic in theory but can be challenging to Mac newbies like myself. My huge picture file is currently transferring as I write this. I have only one question. Will the external drive recognize that most of the pics are duplicates and not copy them? This is my second time transferring photos to this drive (first was a walk through with WD tech support). Basically I just want it to “add the new photos” and not duplicate the old. Is that possible or do I have to wipe the external drive every time and begin again? That seems time consuming but so far I have not gotten a pop up message asking if I want to overwrite the old (same) photos or not. Does that make sense?


thank you… good explanation.. try that soon..


Why don’t you recommend storing your photos at the hard drive? My mac is full, and I would like to just have them there, and not on my computer. Great video btw smile


Great video! Here are my questions:

I bought a 4TB Seagate HD that should be able to “wirelessly” store and partition.

Every year, I back up my iphoto library to a small external HD. So I have multiple HD’s with the folder “iphotolibrary” on them.

Can these be “merged” and placed on the 4TB drive and then wirelessly accessed at all times (plugged in or not) using iPhoto? Some of the threads discussing re-naming files differently scared me! That’s probably 200,000 photos.

My goal is to categorize my “life” of libraries in one place without storing it all on 1 computer. So, if a special person passes away for instance, I can use iPhoto’s Faces feature and look for 10 years worth of photos to find that person for a keepsake album.

I want to do the same for music.

I would like to use the 4TB wireless drive as opposed to a cloud service so it remains only in the home.

Is this possible?


Thank you for your answer!


thank you so much this is awesome, and your voice is great.

James McEwan

MY BTO iMac has an SSD disk and a second 1TB HD.
When my startup disk became full, I couldn’t figure out how to copy my Aperture/iPhoto library over the 2nd disk without the confusion of TWO libraries on two drives.

Your video tutorial makes it all seem so easy!

Would the same procedure apply if I wanted to move my Time Machine Backups folder over to the 2nd HD?



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