Create That Photo Collection You've Always Wanted

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.

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 way to get your library file loading correctly on its own again. That is your goal, to get your original library file working again without having to start over again with a new one. This step merely proves to you your photos still exist.


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 you have any additional questions after reading this, ask away in the comments below. I’ll do my best to answer them for you!

Ready to get serious?

Get my exclusive subscriber-only tutorials, updates, and "tips and tricks" you won't find anywhere else on this website:

"Your last newsletter was AWESOME and a big kick in the pants! I need to get what you said into my schedule! Thanks again!"

~ Nicole T.

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

  1. Gabriela says:

    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.”

  2. Tracey says:

    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.

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      That’s fantastic Tracey! I’m so happy to hear this!

      I know I can be a little wordy with my posts, but I do my best to explain things to the point where almost no one will finish up and confused. It really is important to me.

      So thank you for taking the time to let me know my “thoroughness” helped you get your photos back together again! Yay!

  3. Anna says:

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

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Anna. I’m so sorry to hear you are having problems. Scary I know. Me or anyone else in our community here can help you out with your situation, but we need more information to try and figure out what happened.

      Maybe let us know what you were doing the last time your iPhoto library worked that may have caused an issue, like Abdullah was able to do for me in this post. What happens when you follow the help in this post and switch to a different iPhoto library. Are you able to look around and find your old library file and then inside of there you still aren’t able to see your photos?

      It’s pretty uncommon to completely lose all of your photos unless a hard drive crashes, or you highlighted all of your photos inside of iPhoto and then hit Delete and agreed to move them all to the trash. Even then, I believe they would still be in the trash inside of iPhoto and then you would have to empty the trash just to delete them for good.

      So there is a good chance your photos are still there, we just need to figure out some information to go on. The best thing you could do is record a screencast of your computer — video of you showing us around your computer and what you are doing and seeing (and not seeing) to help you diagnose it. and are free websites that let you do this and then you could just post the link. If you don’t want to post in here, you could always send me the link in my contact form above.

      • Vanina says:

        Well, i got the same problem than Anna, and sure! i feel the pictures are still here somewhere but where!? Actually i was on the session of my husband who is from nederland ( so all his programms are in nederland AND i’m french! ) so when iPhoto asked me something, i didn’t understood anything and i answered something. (wow, it help! yeah.. ) so when i enter in iPhoto… wow the big flush of all the pictures from my husband from 5 years!!… SO! i didn’t panic because i’m budhist. but could be nice for my husband to recover his pictures… I could recognize my situation into the Abdullah case, but nothing in the folder “originals” or “masters” NO PICTURE AT ALL !! it’s an old version of i photo (iPhoto 8.1.2) , but i ereased pictures from my session and i found it back in the trash… so it’s the complete LIBRARY i lost… like if i lost the door to enter where the pictures are. Please, thanks to be here and giving your time over the planet to just help people with the informatic mysteries.

        • Mike says:

          Dear all and anyone.
          Whatever happened, you have chances of finding all your files. Its worth the shot. Ive done it. First download the trial and scan your machine, it might take all night, if you then find in the preview your pictures and the rest, its worth the. 60 dollars you will pay to buy the software. I would have even if it were more. BUT IT depends on the importance of the stuff you want to find.
          Its the program wondershare picture recovery, or wondershare data recovery. If it does find your stuff, please take a while to pass the info on to all the other miserable people on this forum, as i am doing to you now at 3 am.

          • Vanina says:

            Thanks Mike, i will let you know the success of the process, to you and all the lost people in iPhoto. Thanks you took time for it. And have a good sleep.

        • Curtis Bisel says:

          Hi Vanina. So if you are looking in your photo library and there isn’t anything in your “originals” or “masters” folder, then that means you are looking at an empty library. (Unless you selected all of your photos in iPhoto and deleted them yourself. In that case, they would be in the iPhoto trash of course)

          So, my suggestion would be for you to look in the OSX trash first and look for a large photo library file. iPhoto apparently puts iPhoto library files in there for some reason when a new library is created under certain circumstances.

          If you can’t find your library file in the trash, then I would use Spotlight (the magnifying glass at the top right of the menu bar at the top of your screen) to search for “iPhoto library.” If you are having problems finding it on your own, a program like Daisydisk sold in the Mac App store will show you where large files are on your hard drive. If your husband has 5 years of photos in your original library file folder, then it will show up as one of the largest files on your computer.

          Disk recovery software, like Mike is suggesting for you, will work but only if your old library file has been deleted from your hard drive. If it’s still lurking somewhere like the trash or in some other folder on your drive, then recovery software may not find it since it technically isn’t “deleted” or “erased.”

          Hope you get your library file back! Let me know if this helps you. If not maybe I can help you with other suggestions.

          • Ashley says:

            how do you find your osx trash can?

            I’ve just lost ton of pictures from my iPhoto library that I cannot find any where (lots of meaningful pictures from the past 3 years of both my children since birth). None of the above options have gotten me any where and I’m pretty distressed at this point

            • Curtis Bisel says:

              Ashley — oh no! Hopefully they are on your computer still.

              iPhoto has it’s own “trash” area that it temporarily deletes photos to before sending them to the OSX trash. The OSX trash, is the holding place your Mac operating system keeps files before it permanently deletes them from your hard drive.

              The easiest way to access the OSX trash is via the “dock” that is usually at the bottom (sometimes hidden until you move your mouse down to it). Once that dock appears with all of your applications that you use frequently, it’s the trash can looking icon typically at the far right of the dock.

              If you double click on the trash can icon, or right click and choose “open,” a finder window will pop-up with the contents of the trash. From within there, you can sort the columns of information by name or file size etc. to make it easier to find things if you have a lot in there.

              Just whatever you do, make your life easier and do NOT empty the trash until you’ve found your missing library file. Other than disk space, it doesn’t hurt to have things just sitting in the trash can.

              Also use Spotlight at top right of your screen in the menu bar — the magnifying glass. Search for “iPhoto library” and really look through those results.

              The problem with my “support” I am doing here is I don’t hear a lot of details back from people telling me if/how they eventually solved the problem. So, it’s hard for me to report back to people like yourself what has worked. I am definitely sensing a pattern of problems, but not always a guaranteed solution. Eventually, I will have this cracked for people if I ask enough questions from those who have come back and reported successes.

              Hope this helps Ashley. Let me know.

            • Rachel says:

              I have tried all the options above but nothing has worked, as with the above email, I have lost all the pictures of my son and all my work photos, I have been trying to sort it for two whole days, it has made me sick, Please, please help

              • Curtis Bisel says:

                Hi Rachel. Sorry you are having problems with your library. Can you tell me some information I can go on. What have you already tried from the suggestions I’ve given people in the comments here?

              • Rachel says:

                Thank you Curtis for your reply, ok here goes; I tried both of the suggestions, the problem was I was unable to even find things in the drop down menu, I have a mac, it is 8yrs old, I have looked through all my documents, all my photos, I’m not sure if this is anything to do with it but in
                Akamai (don’t know what it is but I must have installed it a few years ago! ) then go to its logs folder and then about the same amount of photos missing it says debug . log on 1 then about a list of 100 says debug.log…1124 (example)…sent, the no.s change down the list. Im next to my laptop all day so if you could help it would mean the back collapsed in jan2013 so I don’t even have the money to go to the sshops. I have been in hospital for the past 2 months thank you so much Rachel.

              • Curtis Bisel says:

                Two months in the hospital… that’s no fun at all! I was in for 14 days when I was much younger, and it felt like 2 months! So I think I can relate a fair amount. I’m sorry. I hope you have fun things to do while you are there to keep busy and motivated.

                Akamai is probably a folder left behind from a download manager that Adobe made (or makes) that helps multiple files download faster and probably all to one place. Does this sound about right? So, there’s a good chance this folder isn’t important at all unless there are some things you downloaded off the internet in there that you want to keep.

                I’m getting a little bit lost as to what you’ve tried and haven’t tried to help your library. You need to find the library file that all of your photos are in. And it’s either on your computer somewhere, or it was accidentally deleted. So let’s hope it’s not the latter. I assume you’ve looked in the OSX trash to see if iPhoto put it in there?

                If it’s not in the trash, the next best place to look is using Spotlight, Apple’s built in search tool. What version of OSX are you running (hit Apple icon at top left and then click “about this mac”). Is this what you meant by drop down menu that you couldn’t access?

                The thing is IF you can’t find your library file that is fairly large in file size with all of your photos in it, we need to be using spotlight or a program that scans your drive looking for large files in order to find it. This is really all I know to do.

                (I deleted your last comment because you posted your email address in it. I was afraid you didn’t mean to post that for everyone to access)

              • Rachel says:

                Hi Curtis,
                Thank you again, I have tried all of your other suggestions and I am still at a loss. When I was going into hospital I deleted some large files in trash (The bloody secure delete) I never checked why it took so long because I didn’t put them in there. Also I am sure I have seen the photo’s since!( To much medication!) I think I am going to have to try one of your latter suggestions, which is a restorer disc! In the hope that I can retrieve them that way. Thank you again, it is so nice to know that you were there to offer your advice as I felt like i was in trouble until I came across your website. I can paint any pics (I am a Murealist/painter but not very good on the computer) Rachel.

              • Curtis Bisel says:

                Rachel, oh no. I’m sorry to hear that you may have securely deleted some large files… and just maybe.. you lost photos. I know you don’t know for sure, but it sounds like you are confident this might be a strong possibility. And I don’t mean to pour salt on the wound, but I assume you would have mentioned a backup copy somewhere if that was a possibility right? Like a Time Machine backup etc?

                On a lighter note, do you own an iPad? hearing that you are a painter made me wonder if you have access to one and some painting apps. I know iPad’s are expensive, but if you did have one, how nice that would be to paint with while in the hospital. My favorite app is one called Paper by a company called fifty-three:

                I am certainly not a painter like yourself, but I do like to pretend I know what I am doing.

    • eperrier says:

      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.


  4. Bartley McGruff says:

    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!

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hey Bartley! I just came out of a concert at a local state fair near us last night, checked my smart phone, and there was your comment. That’s so cool to know I could help you in this way while I was enjoying a Pink Floyd cover band — gotta love the internet! And you both are welcome. So glad to hear it worked for ya!

  5. keith eubanks says:

    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

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hey Keith! Let’s try this first. This is the most likely. If you select a photo or a group of them, and hit “Command-L” (found under “Photos” main menu item at top), you will “hide” these photos. They are still in your collection, but they are not shown to you in the Event view. This is mainly used to hold onto bad, out of focus or improperly framed shots — ones you may not want to completely get rid of in case you happen to like preserving them just in case you need them later.

      All you have to do is go up to the “View” menu at the top and then click on “Hidden Photos” in the list and this will now toggle on showing all of the photos you previously marked as hidden.

      Hopefully, fingers crossed, you will see all your photos that are missing again! If so, they will all have an orange “X” at the top of the thumbnail preview images.

      Now, you may just want to reverse the process. Select one or all of them and then hit “Command-L” or “Hide Photos” from the Photos pulldown menu at the top and this will get rid of that orange X and tell iPhoto you no longer want these photos tagged as photos you want to be hidden.

      Try this, and please let me know if this works or doesn’t and we’ll go from there.


  6. Anna Rose says:

    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

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Anna. Yeah so when you update iPhoto to a newer version, it’s normal to see a message saying that iPhoto needs to update your library databases so that it will operate with the new “code” in the newest version. Often, this means your newly updated databases won’t work with older version of iPhoto that don’t know how to read this newer format.

      So, you say your photos are still intact. Does this mean they are fine now? Or they were fine before you started to update iPhoto to the newest version?

      If your computer was shut off before iPhoto finished updating the databases, then there could be a corruption in the databases now. (Was there a power failure and it went off in your house?) If you haven’t done anything since the computer was shut off, then you will probably need to test out the library file and see if it even loads now. If it does, you should look through it and make sure everything is there.

      If something is wrong, like it doesn’t load, or photos appear missing, then you may need to try and repair and possibly rebuild the library databases. It’s not that hard at all. You can learn how to do that following these instructions on the Apple website:

      And if this doesn’t work, if your library won’t load, then you may have to cut your losses and go back to the most recent backup you made — often people do this to their Time Machine drive. Which may not be too bad since Time Machine backs up every hour.

      Hope this helps!

  7. Caitlin says:

    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 !!!!

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Caitlin. From the information you gave me, it sounds to me like yes, you are in a very similar situation as Abdullah. You created a new library file, it booted into it, and it not looks and feels like when you first get a Mac — which comes with an empty library file. And you said you are trying to switch back to your original library file, and you are getting an error that the library file is an “unrecognized format.”

      I’ve done a little research, and I can’t seem to find any other threads of people getting this error opening up a library file. This error seems to be more synonymous with “importing” photos into iPhoto and it not being the correct image format. So, I suspect that maybe — and you will have to tell me if I am wrong — you are clicking on the wrong library file? Is it possible you aren’t selecting the correct library? (You can also switch libraries by going up to File and then selecting “Switch to Library”)

      If this is not the case, and you are for sure selecting the correctly library, then I would make sure your library is backed up, and then proceed with Apple’s instructions to repair the photo library file. The instructions are written out here on one of their posts:

      I would start with the top option of “Repair the iPhoto Library Database.” Then possibly the last one if that doesn’t work — to repair the iPhoto file permissions. Again, make sure you have a backup of the library file just in case. I wouldn’t be that worried that these steps will hurt your library fie, or iPhoto wouldn’t have built this menu into their application. But, better safe than sorry.

      • Caitlin says:

        Hi, thank you so much for helping!!
        I assume im clicking on the right library file as there are no other files to choose from… maybe im in the wrong place? so when i go to switch libraries, it only comes up with the library i accidentally created, so i click ‘other library’ and it comes up with the file that says is an unrecognised format, or the file that is the library i accidentally created.
        i tried all the options the Apples repair, but nothing worked.

        • Curtis Bisel says:

          Most people’s original iPhoto libraries are created in their user folders. So click on switch library, and then click on other (as you did) if you aren’t seeing your original library in the list, and then go to this location:

          [your mac hard drive] > Users > [your user account] > Pictures > iPhoto Library

          The default name for your iPhoto library is just ‘iPhoto Library.’ I’m not sure what you named your “new” library that you created, and where you saved it. But, try this location and name and see if this one loads.

          • Caitlin says:

            okay i did this and I clicked on my library and it still says it is an unrecognised format…

            • Curtis Bisel says:

              Hmm. Interesting. Do this for me. Go in the Finder and find that iPhoto library in your pictures folder, and single click on it and see what information it displays. Let me know if yours looks like this image that I am attaching. My Mac is clearly seeing this library as a “Photo library” and is displaying the photo of the pinkish flower. My library is small in filesize, but yours should be fairly big. What I am wondering is if it doesn’t recognize yours as a photo library file, maybe it will describe it there on the side as something else and that might be a clue.


              • Caitlin says:

                yep mine looks exactly like that and even says that the kind is a photo library. It says that it was created at 9.52 pm last night which was when my library disappeared… and im guessing that if this was my original library folder it would have been created a lot earlier than that ? the only other folder there is the new one which says was created 1 minute after the other one

              • Curtis Bisel says:

                Actually, that created date should be accurate. So if your library file in question was “created” just last night, then that seems to be the “new” one, or ANOTHER new one. You really need to be looking for one that was created some time ago and is of considerable size. (I assume you looked in the trash just to make sure it wasn’t put in there accidentally)

                What I would do next is go up to Spotlight (The magnifying glass icon at the top right of the menu bar) and type in “iPhoto library” and let it search your mac hard drive for all instances of this filename. Then see if multiple versions come up. If they do, you can click on “Show all in Finder” at the top of the list and it will open up a new Finder window with all of them in there. Then you can compare filesizes and see which and where the biggest one is — which should be your original one.

              • Caitlin says:

                oh and it also says the size is 1.7 MB which means theres pretty much nothing in it, yet i had a lot of photos

              • Caitlin says:

                mmm okay well good news, i found my photos! i had looked in the trash, but assumed that the folder i saw saying iphotos library was the copy that i accidentally made of the new library i created. in saying this, i clicked onto the iphotos library link in the trash to see the information and saw that it was bigger in size and made a couple of months ago… thank you so so so much for your help, and sorry if i wasted your time!!

              • Curtis Bisel says:

                Fantastic! Yay! So happy for you. You and I found your photos together, so my time wasn’t wasted at all Have a great weekend!

  8. Gary says:

    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.

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Gary. It is possible some of your photos were being stored as “referenced” images, and weren’t being stored inside of the library file? I wrote a post about how you can store your photos outside of the library file called — How to Get iPhoto to Store Your Photos Inside or Outside of the iPhoto Library (Managed vs. Referenced). I’m wondering if it’s possible you imported most of your photos as being “managed” and a few of them as “referenced” and now “several pics that you took last summer” aren’t showing because they were stored on your computer somewhere and you deleted or moved them, so iPhoto can’t find them.

      If what I just said makes no sense, then watch the short video I made that’s in that post I just referenced, and it should explain it really well for you. If you try and access photos that are “referenced” in iPhoto, and the photos are missing, iPhoto will put up a black blank image with an exclamation point in the middle letting you know they aren’t accessible. Is this what you are seeing where your photos should be?

  9. Kim says:

    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?

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Kim! You didn’t really give me very much information to go on to figure out what went wrong. But it’s very possible you are in a similar situation as the guy in this article.

      But, since you know where your library file is because you are looking around inside of the file contents, have you tried just double clicking on that very library file? I believe that should trigger iPhoto to load it up as the “default” application.

  10. Jennifer says:

    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!!

  11. Andrea says:

    thank you so much!!! you saved my lifeeeee :) :)

  12. Ashley H says:

    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??

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Ashley H!

      I don’t have too much information to go on there, but I assume what you are telling me is that you followed all of the instructions in this post, and when you go to File > Switch to Library or when you launch iPhoto holding down “option,” the window comes up and you are seeing 2 iPhoto libraries in the list. One of them should be the one with all of your pictures in it, and the other one should be the new library, probably with no photos in it. If you tried loading both of them and neither one has all of your photos in it, then that means that the iPhoto window isn’t listing your original library file in that list — maybe because it was moved or renamed.

      So I would suggest you go in to the Finder application and manually find the folder again with your photos. I know you found it before because you said you found your photos in the Masters folder. Go back to that folder and when you find the iPhoto library file — it’s probably many gigabytes in size, don’t show contents and go into it, but instead, double click on it. It should load in iPhoto and you should be good.

      Here’s a screenshot of what I think your pictures folder probably looks like from the little info you told me.

      Hope this helps!

      iPhoto photos missing disappear issue

  13. Jocelyn Broad says:

    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,


    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Jocelyn. Sorry you are having problems as well with your collection. It’s looking like I need to do a follow up post, or possibly a video, to fill in some of the extra information people are having when trying to apply my “1-size fits” all approach. Hopefully, I am helping most people with what I have so far though.

      It sounds to me like you need to solve your problem in the same manner as I suggest Ashley try in the comment on August 19th. If your iPhoto application isn’t coming up with a list of libraries to load in the “What library do you want iPhoto to use” window, than this basically means that iPhoto isn’t able to find the libraries that previously loaded in the past.

      This can happen, for example, if you store a library on an external drive, then boot your computer but forget to turn on this drive. iPhoto is looking for that drive, but it doesn’t see it, so it can’t add this library to the list because it knows it can’t give you access to it. It would be nice if it would list what WAS accessible before, but just say “Cant’ find” or something. But it doesn’t.

      So, you need to use Spotlight or some other means to manually go into your computer’s hard drive, and find your library file. Once you find it, all you have to do is double click on it, and it will be loaded up using iPhoto. Same process as if you have a document on your hard drive. If you double clicked on it, Microsoft Word or Apple’s Pages would load and that document would be brought up.

      You said you aren’t seeing the “big macintosh drive.” I assume you mean you don’t see the icons on your desktop that represent your hard drives in or attached to your computer. This is an option that I have set as “on”, but others have it off for whatever reason. The way to turn this on (or off) is to go into the application Finder. This is either in your dock, or you can get to it the application folder. Sometimes, just clicking on the desktop will call it up if it’s already running. I just clicked on my desktop, and now up next to he Apple symbol in the menu bar, I can see “Finder” is now the application in focus — or that I have access to the settings for. Then you click on File and then Preferences. In the “General” tab at the top, you want to put check marks next to any drives you want to be shown on the desktop (in this case check hard disks and external disks). Now you will see your hard disk icon on your desktop.

      So, either by going through the Finder application, or double clicking through that hard disk icon on your hard drive, will accomplish the same thing. But you want to go through your drive(s) to find your iPhoto library. You have misplaced it somehow. (We are assuming of course you haven’t deleted it at some point — and I know you don’t see it currently in the trash).

      It’s usually stored in your user folder in the “Pictures” folder. And most people never rename it, so it’s just called “iPhoto library” by default.

      Another option is to use “Spotlight” to search for your library. That’s the magnifying glass icon at the top right of your menu bar. Click that and type in “iPhoto library” and see if one or more of your libraries comes up. If more than ones comes up, you want to load the one that is the largest in file size, because chances are, this is the original one with all of your photos in it. If more than one has a decent file size, you will need to check each one to know which is which and how they are different. At this point, with iPhoto closed, consider renaming each library something that makes more sense to you like “iPhoto library – new” and “iPhoto library – old” or something.

      Hope this helps! Let me know how it goes.

      • Jocelyn Broad says:

        Hello! Thank you for your speedy reply, I am so grateful. You helped me to fine my computer drive-Macintosh I called it, and so I followed you steps regarding looking through there. However, when you said to go to my Users Folder, there is no Pictures folder, just my name with a ‘House Icon’, a file saying FileDetect with a ‘paper icon’ and then a filer saying Shared folder, but inside it just has a series of files leading to HP printing so and so. I then thought I should look around in all the Macintosh files to see, and the only ‘Pictures’ I could find were default ones such as back ground images that the MacBook comes with.. How’s that sound??

        Many thanks again for your prompt reply.

        • Curtis Bisel says:

          Hey Jocelyn. Great. Glad you are getting a little closer. Sounds to me like you found your user folder — the one with your name and a house icon — but you didn’t go inside of it. Depending on what “view” you are looking at in Finder, you either need to double click to go into a folder, such as you user folder. Or you need to just click on it and it will open up and show the folders inside in the view pane to the right. Once inside of your user folder, you will see a dozen or so folders, and one will be your pictures folder. Follow the same instructions to get inside your pictures folder.

          • Jocelyn Broad says:

            Oh wow, VERY stupid of me, I see what you were trying to say. Next thing though..My pictures file is completely empty…Now, what does this mean?

            • Curtis Bisel says:

              At this point, it either means 1) You deleted your entire photo library. I hope this is NOT the case, so let’s not assume it is. 2) You moved your iPhoto library at some point to a different location so it’s just no longer in your user setting’s picture folder.

              I would use Spotlight right now to search all over your computer and look for “iPhoto Library.” Use the instructions I gave you at the end of the comment yesterday. It will pull up anything with that name, but what you want are the items that come up with the bright pink/red flower in the icon — those are photo library files.

              • Jocelyn Broad says:

                Right, Nothing coming up. What would you say when I told you the last time I had them was when I had my hard drive in, and I cannot seem to find them anywhere on the hard rive either?

              • Curtis Bisel says:

                Jocelyn, do you mean the last time you saw them was when you had an external drive plugged in? If so, that would make sense why you weren’t seeing an iPhoto Library file come up in the list when you went to switch libraries if this drive wasn’t plugged in. (I believe the list only shows names of libraries it can find) Do you remember saving or moving your library file to this or any other external hard drive to begin with? If so, do you ever remember renaming the library file something else?

                iPhoto defaults to calling libraries created in iPhoto “iPhoto Library,” but you can go into Finder and rename it whatever you want. So please don’t think if you are searching for “iPhoto Library” in Spotlight, and nothing is coming up, that this means your library file isn’t there… IF you possibly renamed it something else and therefore it’s not looking for the right title.

                And if you really aren’t finding it, I would be manually clicking and double clicking through every folder on my computer to find it — not just relying on Spotlight. Spotlight is great, but if you can’t find your life of photos, I would be trying everything to find it right now.

                Software help: There are inexpensive pieces of software you can buy or download that will help you to see “space eating” or large files on your computer. These are invaluable for people with full hard drives that are looking to delete some items to free up some space. You could use one of them to easily locate your library file on any of your hard drives because photos eat up a ton of space if your library is a decent size, so it should pop up on the colorful graph pretty distinctively.

                I have never used it before, or know much about it, but the first one I came to in the App store was an app on sale for $2.99 called “Disk Inspector.” (link below) This seems to do what I have suggested. I might try one of these if I were you if you can’t locate your library file on your own.


                Can you think of any other place or drive it could be on? Do you possibly have it backed up to a Time Machine backup drive?

  14. Ana María says:

    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!

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Ana! Sorry as well to hear you are having problems with iPhoto. I have never had a corrupt database, but from what I’ve read, missing photos are a symptom.

      So, I’m sure you’ve read some of the comments from this post and what problems they’ve had. I would follow the instructions at the end like I gave Caitlin. Basically, you want to try and have iPhoto rebuild your library database.

      I would make sure your library is backed up, and then proceed with Apple’s instructions to repair the photo library file. The instructions are written out here on one of their posts:

      I would start with the top option of “Repair the iPhoto Library Database.” If that doesn’t work, select the others and try that. Again, make sure you have a backup of the library file just in case. I wouldn’t be that worried that these steps will hurt your library fie, or iPhoto wouldn’t have built this menu into their application, but, better safe than sorry.

  15. colombj says:


    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?

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Colombj, hey there. That’s one I haven’t heard of yet. I wonder if it was a “permissions” problem with all of the images and files inside of your library. Maybe because your library was being accessed remotely from the Time Capsule drive, some of the files’ permissions weren’t set to readable and writeable by “all”, and when you went to access it with your account on your new iMac, it wasn’t “allowed” to change those files and something then happened (as you’ve mentioned) to your library file.

      I’m sorry to say, I still haven’t had much experience with bad or “corrupt” iPhoto libraries. (Sometime when someone gets one, I would love to get a copy of it so I can keep it for testing — like the CDC does with diseases) I just know from what I’ve read that Apple has built into it’s application, a method to repair the library files when something bad happens to them.

      I would make sure your library is backed up (just in case), and then proceed with Apple’s instructions to repair the photo library file. The instructions are written out here on one of their posts:

      If this doesn’t work, another option is to use a third party piece of software that I seem to be referring a lot of people to. I still haven’t tested it myself yet, but others seem to have had good luck with it because it can rebuilt your library file from scratch instead of trying to repair the original one. It’s called iPhoto Library Manager – (free trial still I believe).

      I’m sorry. I hope some of this helps. I hope you get your collection back. Fingers crossed. Let me know.

  16. basanta says:

    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!!!!!!

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hey Basanta,

      Sorry you are having problems with iPhoto. I’m trying to follow what went wrong to help figure out how to help you.

      I am not so sure how deleting any kind of search history could cause any problems with your iPhoto application not loading. So you probably are safe there. I suppose it’s possible to search for “iPhoto” in the finder’s search field and then when the results came up, you deleted the application. Is that what you mean? But now you said the application works now right?

      What happens when you double click on your iPhoto library file? Does it load?

      Let’s start there and work our way through this.

  17. Deepal says:

    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!!

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Deepal!

      That’s SO great to hear! I’m very happy for you!! I’ve had a couple days recently of nothing but comments and emails from people who are having nothing but problems. It was starting to make me wonder if my website was helping ANYONE at all!!! Haha… So this was a wonderful piece of good news to end the day.

      Yeah, I believe that “Switch to Library” feature was added in iPhoto 9.3. So, glad you tried the other route and it worked out for you.

  18. Erica says:

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

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Erica! Sorry to hear you are having problems with your collection.

      I assume when you say you can’t find “it”, you are referring to your iPhoto library? If so, can you give us some more information to your problem, how it happened if you remember any of it, and what you’ve tried specifically so I know what we can suggest for you.

  19. Daniela says:

    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

    • Daniela says:

      Do you have any advice or is my case unsolvable?

      • Curtis Bisel says:

        Daniela – hi there! Thank you for your polite patience. I’ve been working 3-4 weeks in a row — mostly doubles — for my day job … so I haven’t had much time to help people recently here on SYEL. Makes me sad. But, I am going to catch up eventually and get back with everyone.

        I’m not familiar with the possibility of an iPhoto library (a type of folder full of photos and application data) just deleting itself just because a laptop’s battery ran out. So that would be news to me if it’s true. But, I have been hearing of some stories where it creates a new library for whatever reason and you then have to know how to get back into your old one.

        That’s great that you haven’t emptied the trash. Even though you said you don’t see it in there, I am happy to know you are being cautious in a time like this.

        You can have as many libraries full of photos as you would like. You can open one, and then close it and open another. So, it’s not strange that you are in a new iPhoto library file. What’s strange in your situation is that you haven’t been able to find your original one.

        The good news is that most people never rename their iPhoto library files. So in most cases, they are all called the same thing — the default name. So if you go up to Spotlight (magnifying glass icon) up in the menu bar in the top right and search for “iPhoto library,” it should search your entire computer and tell you all of the items it has found that contains those two words together like that. When I do it, under the subsection “Documents” in the results, a bunch of iPhoto libraries with the iPhoto icon to the left appears. If I mouse over each result there, a window appears to the left and tells me how large that file is.

        What you are looking for is an iPhoto library file that is big — if this is your original library file, it could be 30, 40, 80… 100 gigs or more in size (gb). If you were to then click on that result, it should load up iPhoto — the application — and then load THAT particular iPhoto library file. That could be your answer.

        If you’ve looked through other comments in this post that I’ve written to people, you’ve seen where I told people to look around in Finder in their user folder and then in the pictures folder (in their user folder) to find all of their iPhoto library files. This is the default location — but you could have moved it at some point in the past. Not likely.. but it’s possible. So, certainly give this is a shot too.

        Another option is to use a small piece of software that will create a visual map of your hard drive. For an example, if your hard drive is 200 gigs in size, and 50 gigs of it is being taken up by your iPhoto Library file (that is missing), the map will show you that 1/4th of it is being taken up by one single file that has photo in it. It’s like in informational graph or chart. There are tons of programs that do this. I think the one I recently told someone to look into was one that was on sale for $3 called “Disk Inspector” — I’ve never used this particular app, but it seems to do what I am suggesting. Another one that is popular but more expensive is called “Daisy Disk.”

        So using a program like this, you could look and see if somewhere on your hard drive, still exists a large chunk of space being used to store photos. You would do this if the above options didn’t work out for you. These programs are usually used to find things using a lot of space so you can then delete them and free up space. But, you can instead use this just to find out where a large chunk of photos is sitting.

        Let me know Daniela after you’ve tried the above and we can go from there.

      • Vallhain says:

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

        • Curtis Bisel says:

          Hi Vallhain. Have you tried using Spotlight to find it on your main computer or any external drive where it might be hiding? It’s often in the OSX trash, but others have found it in other places.

          If you can’t find it with Spotlight, have you tried a program like “Daisydisk” sold in the Mac App store that will give you a visual representation of what big files you have on your hard drive? A large iPhoto library will take up a lot of space and will therefore show up as a pretty big “block” in one of these programs.

  20. Darby says:

    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!

    • Darby says:

      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?

      • Curtis Bisel says:

        Darby, first.. glad to hear you found your photos! I know you don’t feel completely “out of the woods” yet, but at least you are close!

        The goal here is for you to set your old iPhoto library file back as your primary library file that is loaded when iPhoto is launched. This is the optimal situation. If iPhoto created a second iPhoto library file the other day (which is sounds like it did), you don’t want to start using it — it would be best to go back to the old one.

        So when you say I found “them,” do you mean you found an iPhoto library file, or do you mean in the trash was a ton of separate photo files like .jpg and .tiff files etc.?

        • Darby says:

          An iPhoto library file was in the trash. I moved it to my desktop and clicked on the image and all my old photos were there.

          • Curtis Bisel says:

            Great! I would now move it from the desktop and then put it back where you had it previously. If you aren’t sure where it was, they default to being in your user folder, and then in then “Pictures” folder.

  21. Catherine says:

    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!

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Catherine — YES .. DON’T empty the trash!!!!

      So you are seeing photos in the trash or you see your old iPhoto library sitting in the trash? I assume just your library file correct?

      I think your solution is easy, you are just missing a couple pieces of the puzzle to understand how iPhoto works. So iPhoto is an application that is stored in your application folder. That application accesses photo libraries which are glorified and protected folders. So inside this folder is not only all your precious photo masters, but also a lot of data the iPhoto application uses to identify things about each of your photos — lots of database information etc.

      So when iPhoto the application can’t find this folder, it doesn’t know how to do anything. It’s missing the main element that makes it do what it does. So all it knows how to do is start over and create a new iPhoto library which is what has happened to many of the people who need help here.

      It sounds to me like you found your old iPhoto library (folder) in the trash. Which is awesome if that’s the case! So, all that means YOU have to do is 1) get that thing OUT OF THE TRASH as soon as possible. 2) You now want to move it back to a place on your hard drive where it’s safe and you feel comfortable having it.

      Most people, 90% or more keep their iPhoto library file in the default location. It starts out in your personal user folder and then in the folder called “Pictures”. So go into the Finder application and then look for the folder with your name on it and double click into the folders until you are in your pictures folder. Then drag that iPhoto library carefully from the trash and then INTO this pictures folder.

      If all goes well, all you have to do is then double click on this iPhoto library that you just moved in there and it will load and all your pictures will then load using the iPhoto application.

      Note: If a new iPhoto library was created, it might have the same name as your old one — “iPhoto library.” So, if you get into your pictures folder and you see one already in there — the new one… you can rename it to something like “iPhoto library new.” That way, when you drop your old one in there, you won’t get that message that that filename already exists and would you like to replace it etc. For right now, don’t delete or replace anything. Keep ALL versions of libraries until you have gotten everything working back to usual again and you feel safe deleting what you no longer need etc.

      This should get you to where you need to be. If you still have problems, one thing that could be really helpful is to create a video screen recording for me and show me so you can show me what you are seeing that’s not working for you. It’s free and apparently pretty easy to do at and then you just need to post the link to the video in here or email it to me on my contact form.

      Hope this helps Catherine! Let me know.

      • Catherine says:

        Thanks so much for responding! You really are a savior.

        Unfortunately, it is NOT the iPhoto Library file that’s in the trash, it’s about 11,000 pictures. I still have the most recent 1,000 or so in the normal location (in the Library), but somehow almost all the other ones got put in the trash. I must have somehow done that accidentally?! Either way, it’s not the file, as you described. But as I said before, I can see the files in the Masters folder, so I know they still exist. I will try to make a screenr video to show you the library, trash, and Finder.

        Oh–I should add: the way I realized this problem, and one of the irritating things about it, is that I can’t access the files in the normal way I would if I were trying to send a file. For instance, if I’m trying to email someone a picture on gmail and the dialog box comes up where I would select the photo, I would normally go into Photos –> iPhoto Library –> the picture. But as it is, I can’t seem to use any of those photos, since when you’re selecting a photo file, it won’t allow you to go into the Masters folder and all that good stuff.

      • Catherine says:

        Hm, seems I need to install Java to use Screenr. I’ll have to save that for another day as I need to get going now. If you think you can help me based on the info I gave, that would be absolutely wonderful. If not, I will come back with a screenr video in a day or two.

        Thanks so much! Really–it’s so kind of you to help people like me with our silly problems.

  22. Kate says:

    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

  23. Katie says:

    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,

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Katie. Good to hear you see your images in the “masters” folder, but just be careful with whatever you do inside of the library file there while you are in Finder. You don’t want to do anything to corrupt the library file.

      I don’t have all of the information to help you, but just from a logical point of view, if you could copy those files out of the masters folder where you found them, and make copies of them (don’t move them) and put them in a folder.. say on your desktop. Then try and open those images up in Preview and see if they load. If they do, then they still “work” and you could then load iPhoto up, and do File>Import and try and import them that way. If you are still getting an error when importing, you could go back to Preview where they loaded, and try and “export” them out as new images. Then try and import those new images into iPhoto.

      This is not the optimal way to do this, but if you have just a few images, and you really just want to get this done, this might be a solution. But, I know the best thing would be to figure out why there aren’t showing up in iPhoto in their original location. I just don’t know what you did (if anything) that caused this to help you backtrack to a solution.

  24. Jules says:

    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! 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!!!

  25. Sofie says:

    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

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Sofie. This sounds scary for you! I’m sorry! I’m staying optimistic though that your library is still okay.. so let’s not lose complete hope yet.

      You said you “upgraded to iPhoto 9.5 and in doing so deleted the old iPhoto.” I am not sure what you mean by this. Do you mean you deleted the old iPhoto application, or do you mean you deleted your old iPhoto library file? These are two different things.

      By just upgrading your application, the operating system WILL in fact delete the old version of the application and put it in the trash (because you don’t need it anymore), but only unless something went horribly wrong (and is very very unlikely), your iPhoto library file (which is a separate folder stored in a completely different place that has your actual photos in it) should still be there intact — usually stored un your user folder and then in the pictures folder.

      I just upgraded to Mavericks 10.9 and iPhoto 9.5 as well this week. When I did so, and launched iPhoto 9.5 for the first time, it tried to load, like the previous version, the last iPhoto library file that I had open. But, because it’s an all new version of the application with a new way of saving information to the database, a message pops up and says: “The photo library needs to be upgraded to work with this version of iPhoto.” It does this conversion so that the library file will work with the new version of the iPhoto application.

      Do you remember doing this step?

      • Sofie says:

        Hi and thanks for replying.
        Yes I remember Reading the sentence you describe and I downloaded the upgrader. It’s extremely difficult to describe the problems but I Think the upgraded version moved all the pictures. If in fact I haven’t upgraded correctly is there any chance of me doing so now?

        I have found what I believe is most of my pics and videos (maybe my IPhoto library file?) in Finder-pictures-iPhoto-show content-modified. The Mac expert on the phone did not understand why the pics were hidden here but they are…
        I have now moved them folder by folder to my desktop and afterwards Info the IPhoto icon. I have to make the pitstop on my desktop before the can be put into IPhoto. But the videos are not shows in IPhoto and I suspect that it’s only someof my many (6500) pics and videos.
        Another interesting thing is that my paper bin says it contains more than 20000 items, but only displays a coupe of thousands. I tried to empty the bin, in the attempt to create more space (when uploading photos to IPhoto the computer tells me that it’s almost full) but when it began emptying it said 1 of 20317. I fear that all my pics and videos are in the bin- hidden somehow.
        Do you know why I can’t “Add” pics from my old version of IPhoto and into the new using the upgrader tool?

        I totally understand if this problem is too weird or just poorly described and thus impossible to solve…and the auto-correct is killing me

        Thanks so much

        • Curtis Bisel says:

          There technically isn’t an “upgrader” involved — at least not a standalone application that does so. The newest version of iPhoto, 9.5 available only to those now using Mavericks OSX 10.9, can’t load a photo library written in the “code” of the previous versions of iPhoto. So, if you want to load it in this new version, iPhoto converts your old library file (just a fancy folder with your photos and database information) into a new library file that is written in a way the new program can read and write to properly.

          Anomalies can happen, and I am not out to prove you are seeing things you aren’t. But, just from the way it should have happened, I can’t think of any way the photos were moved — at least not outside of the library file.

          But, what you are saying is that you are finding your photos in “Finder-pictures-iPhoto-show content-modified.” I believe this folder is where iPhoto stores new versions of your photos once they have been edited. Lets say you do color correction and cropping to an image, it often creates a whole new version of your photo and saves it in this “modified” folder. (If I am not mistaken) So now, inside of your iPhoto library file, it has several copies of your image(s) — thumbnail sized version for quick viewing in the browser view, your original master file, and a modified version (with al your edits).

          So what concerns me now —and its really hard for me to give advice and instructions since I can’t really see everything you’ve done and what it looks like on your end now— but it concerns me that you are grabbing files out of your library file from different places.. possibly some from the masters… some from modified.. (now you might have duplicates, one from each??) and then trying to re-import them into the same database (library file). I’ve really never touched anything in a library file because it’s written and stored in a way that iPhoto knows and tampering with it could cause a lot of problems.

          It could be kind of a “scary” road you are going down. I’ve never done it before, and I’m not sure of any complications you area going to run into.

          Now, IF you are merely COPYING photos out of iPhoto, and not MOVING the photos from the library, then it’s very possible you aren’t doing any “damage” inside there. So don’t let me completely alarm you. I am just trying to be cautious with you in my language.

          I’ve written to a few people in the comments here, the same instructions to follow to try and “rebuild” a corrupt database using the tools built into iPhoto. There are also instructions how to use a third party program called iPhoto Library Manager, which has a feature that reconstructs a new library file using your old one, but does so this way to “safely” try and fix it without possibly doing any more damage to your original library.

          I’m not sure what happened with your library file — if it even was corrupt. I don’t know for sure. But, if you have a backup you can revert back to before you ran into problems, or a backup right after you discovered there was a problem, I would certainly try and rebuild that library file before you started doing anything inside or removing things from the library file. I’m just worried for you that this may become a big mess if things don’t “go back together” like you hope they will.

          Out of curiosity, do you have a backed up version of your library? Was Time Machine running to a drive before you upgraded to 9.5?

          Also, just re-reading your comments, I am still a bit confused. It started out sounding like your original iPhoto library was missing, but then you found it because you found some of your photos in the “modified” folder inside of your library file. What I’ve been telling people here in the comments is if and when you DO find your library file, double click on it and it should then load in iPhoto (without having to find it in the [switch to library] list where you said you couldn’t see it).

          Did you try this after finding your library? Just double clicking on it to load it?

  26. Dane says:

    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????

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Dane. I can only speculate based on the information you have given me. But, here’s what it sounds like happened:

      Before you ran your Time Machine backup, you made a copy of your iPhoto library to your external hard drive. But, what it seems happened was instead of copying it, you moved it. Or you copied it, but then deleted (in some accidental way) the original copy. Then when you loaded iPhoto, it tried to find your original library file in your pictures folder and it wasn’t there. So, iPhoto created a new library file, with the same default name as the old one. Of course this new library is empty when it starts out, so this is why you are seeing nothing inside of it.

      When you launch iPhoto and you are seeing your photos perfectly, could this mean that you are now accessing your (backup) iPhoto library off your external drive? iPhoto needs a library file loaded to operate, so it’s accessing one somewhere with your photos. So, if it’s not accessing the one you moved to your external drive, then it’s accessing one somewhere else on your main hard drive.

      But, assuming that you are accessing your external drive one, and assuming that you haven’t added any new pictures to the “empty” new library file in your pictures folder, you want to move this new and empty library to the trash. If you added new pictures to it, they will of course be deleted. So, if you have added some in there, you will have to export them and then re-import them into your original library later. I would then take that same original library file that you put on your external drive and copy it back into your pictures folder. Copy it, don’t move it. Then you will have 2 copies of it.

      Use this video that I made to show you how to safely move library files if you aren’t sure:

      Then either double click on whichever library file you want to load when in Finder, or once in iPhoto, go to File > Switch to library to open a visual chooser of library files to switch from one to another.

      When you have a “backup” copy of a library file though, be very carefully you don’t add photos the backup and not the original, or it will be very confusing which you want to backup later. Most people are better off just having one library file and then making a backup of it in one or more (preferably) secure places.

  27. Jen Huddleston says:

    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.


    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Jen,

      Aw thank YOU so much! It’s easy for me sometimes to think posts like this aren’t doing a lot of good for people because — and understandably so — most people who comment are in the stage of needing help. And often I never hear back how my suggestions worked out for them. I can only hope it worked for them and they just aren’t afraid to ask for additional help.

      So please know how nice that was of you to think of me, and wanting to let me know I helped you out and in a way that made you feel more relaxed. That means a lot to me. It really does.

      And I’m so happy to hear you recovered your photos! That’s awesome!


  28. Jen Huddleston says:

    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’…!

  29. Jane says:

    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!

  30. Kate R says:

    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!

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Kate,

      I must say, this is one I’ve never heard of. But, then again, that doesn’t mean you should be worried. I’ve had situations where an external hard drive I’ve had plugged into my computer for a year or two now, all of a sudden caused my computer to “hang” when I booted it up. Once I unplugged the USB cord from the computer, then my Mac would boot up. I fixed it by remounting the drive using Disk Utility. Point is, computers are amazing when they work. And when they don’t, it doesn’t surprise me because they are so complicated to make them “easy” for us!

      It sounds to me like you just need to quit iPhoto (not just close it) and then restart your computer. Once the computer has rebooted, then launch iPhoto again. As simple and almost “annoying” of advices as that is, that should do the trick. It just sounds like a little temporary “bug.”

      If you are rolling your eyes at me (haha) because you’ve already tried this, then my next guess is to consider that something went wrong with an update on your computer — such as when OSX was doing a system update. Something may have gone wrong in the update process.

      Here’s a case where a guy had a similar problem as you and he discovered it was this very thing — an OSX update failed:

      He solved his problem by downloading a full version of the update and re-installing it.

      Let me know if you are still having problems after shutting down and rebooting.

  31. loredana says:

    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!

  32. cleacarchia says:

    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.

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Clea, (Or is it Cleacarchia)?

      Before we go any further, based on an experience I had with someone else in a somewhat similar experience as you, look inside the OSX trash and see if you see your iPhoto library file in there. Be careful NOT to empty your trash at any time until we get this figured out. If you have a lot of items in your trash, sort by file size by clicking on the “size” box at the top. It should sort by either smaller to larger sized files or the other way around. Click until largest sizes (GB) show up at the top. The top one very likely could be your library file if it’s in there.

      If if IS in there, carefully single click on it and then drag it out of the trash and for now, at least put it on your desktop. Eventually, you want to get it back to your pictures folder in your user folder.

      If it’s NOT in the trash, write me back and let me know. We will need to go through another step or two that I’ve written in the comments here to find/locate your original library file. That’s what iPhoto appears to have done — created a new one and moved your old one.

  33. Nada says:

    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

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Nada. Sorry to hear about your problems with iPhoto. Don’t assume the worst just yet. First off, have you read through a lot of the comments here under this post? I have helped a lot of people with a similar problem as yours with detailed instructions that might help you as well.

      The first thing you need to figure out is, is the iPhoto library file that you are looking at, a NEW one, or your original one. (iPhoto can have as many library files as you want, but it can only load one at a time) If it’s a new one, that was created by iPhoto for whatever reason, or by you, then when you are looking around in the masters or originals folders inside of the library file, you won’t see any pictures. One of the easiest ways of knowing which you are accessing is hitting command-I on your library file in the Finder app and it will show you an info window about the file. If you had lots of photos and videos in there, the file size will be huge.. like 50GB’s or more. If it says something small like 5MB’s, then that’s a new and probably empty library file.

      If you are dealing with a new library file, then you need to be looking on your hard drive for your old original library. Believe it or not, I’ve heard stories where people have found it in the trash. So look in the OSX trash and make sure it’s not there. If it IS there, drag it out and put it back in your Pictures folder or at least your desktop for now. Use Spotlight (magnifying glass icon in top right of menu bar) to find “iPhoto library” — unless you renamed it something else. Also use apps like Disk Inspector or DaisyDisk (possibly even a free one) to isolate files on your hard drive that are large. It can highlight a large chunk of space on your hard drive which would indicate it’s found videos and large photo collections.

      If you find your library file is large, I would try double clicking on it to manually load it up there from Finder. It’s possible iPhoto by default is just loading the wrong library file with you launch it from the application icon in the dock (it’s possibly loading an empty one) and double clicking on this will cause it to manually load the one you want. (iPhoto launches by default with the last library file you had loaded inside)

      If it still isn’t working/loading right, but it’s a large file and you are quite positive this IS your original library, then it’s possible your original library file is “corrupted” from the upgrade and needs to be repaired. You need to follow these steps:

      1) Backup your iPhoto library for safety just in case (2) depress and hold the option and command keys (3) launch iPhoto. (Don’t let go of those two keys until special window pops up) From window choose to repair your database. If you still have problems, repeat by choosing to rebuild the database from the list.

      Let me know.

      • Nada says:

        YESSSS !!!! It worked. Thank you so much . Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. You have no idea how happy I am right now. You are amazing thank you so much. You saved my life thank you thank you thank you .

        • Curtis Bisel says:

          Nada that is SO great to hear! Wahoo! I’m very happy for you.

          Can you tell me in detail the steps to what you did to get your library working again in iPhoto? I gave you several ideas to try and would love to know what worked in the end.

          Again — congrats!

          • Nada says:

            Umm I tried them all and then at the end when nothing really worked I did the last one that you put on there ; repair my data base . Thanks again

            • Curtis Bisel says:

              Perfect! Thanks for letting me know it was the repair database that did the trick. This will help me out recommending that to others who face the same situation you just went through. Glad you are another success story!

  34. Laura G says:

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

  35. 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.

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hey Anna. Are you saying when you load iPhoto now, none of your photos are showing up? That it’s completely empty?

      If so, I was helping someone the other day, and they were doing the same thing (importing photos from a phone when their computer battery died), and after messages back and forth trying to figure it out, he finally found his iPhoto library file in the OSX trash. So when he loaded iPhoto, iPhoto couldn’t find it, and just started another one — clean and empty of course. So all he had to do was replace this new empty one in with the original one that was in the trash and all was good.

      I would start there. If it’s not in the trash, and all of your photos are missing, then we are back to the help I give most people in here which is to search for your library file using spotlight or a program like “Disk Inspector” or “Daisydisk.”

      If you find your library file, and it’s not loading correctly, then it’s possible your original library file is “corrupted” somehow from when you importing the photos off your phone (possibly the cord came out during the process/battery died etc) and it needs to be repaired. You need to follow these steps:

      1) Backup your iPhoto library for safety just in case (2) depress and hold the option and command keys (3) launch iPhoto. (Don’t let go of those two keys until special window pops up) From window choose to repair your database. If you still have problems, repeat by choosing to rebuild the database from the list.

  36. Cindy says:

    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.

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Cindy. Try not to worry too much just yet. Let’s go back to some of the solutions. I learned with someone else that lost power with their laptop while using iPhoto, that their original iPhoto library file was put in the OSX trash. (I’m not sure why that is yet) So have you looked there?

      You say when you boot iPhoto all you see is the option menu. Do you mean the option menu to load a previous library or create another one?

      Your goal should be like others that I have helped and that is discover whether iPhoto created a second and new iPhoto library file (probably in your photos folder in your user settings). And if it did, and it’s empty (which new ones always start off empty), where is your old library. Sometimes it’s in the OSX trash. If you find it, drag it back to your photos folder or at LEAST to your desktop for now. And be careful NOT to empty your trash anytime in the near future until you get this whole thing resolved.

      When you are looking for your original library file, you hit command-I on the file in Finder and it will tell you how big the file is. You are looking for a library that’s several gigabytes in size. Maybe even 20 or more GB’s in size if you have 3000 photos and possibly videos.

      If you can’t find it just looking in obvious places, do a search in the Spotlight a the top right in the menu bar — the magnifying glass. Search for “iPhoto library” (unless you renamed you library file in the past manually — then search for what you called it)

      Let me know after trying these steps.

      • Cindy says:

        Thanks so much for your reply. My trash empties automatic and I asked help to show me how to stop that and it doesn’t bring any ideas. So afraid all is lost already. I have Time keeper and i can’t figure out how to open that either. Anytime I open the only iPhoto file I found there is nothing there. Nothing not even the options or choices. I have done the spotlight too and opens to an empty page. So confused. I have watched so many options and cures with no result.

        • Curtis Bisel says:


          Still, don’t lose hope completely. Telling me your “trash empties automatically” isn’t something I wanted to hear… but there’s no guarantee your library was in the trash. Just a hunch it might be. And the fact you think it’s possible you might have a backup of some sort on an external drive gives me more hope as well if we can’t retrieve it from your main drive.

          I know you might feel a bit helpless because you don’t know how to do all of this. But, there is always room for someone to step in and help someone when they are in need.

          (1) First, let’s discuss this whole trash emptying automatically thing. What’s that all about? I’ve never heard of this before. Do you mean if you delete something, a message will pop up and say “Would you like to securely delete this now?” .. or do you mean it goes to the trash for a little while.. and then after some “preset” amount of time… it will just empty it for you.

          I’m finding some information how you might turn it off, but it requires typing in “code” in the terminal program. So this does not seem like something you would have done to turn it on to begin with. Is there anything else you can tell me about this so I can figure out how to turn it off. Was it something you or someone set up — a program that does it for example?

          (2) You said in your last message that you have “Time Keeper” but you are having problems opening it. Is it possible you meant to say “Time Machine”? — the backup program built into OSX that runs in the background. Or is Time Keeper another application? (I know it’s a book by Mitch Albom — sorry I know that’s not helpful).

          If there’s a way, let’s try and figure this out step by step.

          • Cindy says:

            Yes I mean Time Machine. And I opened my trashed and tried everything and looked everywhere. I have not touched trash and some things are still in there. And no window pops up to ask if I want to delete trash. Just does it. I know I might not be very helpful, but I am not savvy on this stuff.
            Trying to hang in there.

            • Curtis Bisel says:

              Cindy, it seems to me like we have two options right now:

              We can either proceed with me helping you with more ways to find your library file on your hard drive — using a program like “Daisy Disk” or “Disk Inspector” available in the Mac App Store. These programs help people see where large files on their hard drives are. And this is assuming you’re confident you searched your computer well using Spotlight searching for it. And the other option is I could help you with instructions on how to recover your library file from a Time Machine backup on your external drive.

              Which method would you like to proceed with? Recovering from a TM backup isn’t too hard, but if you aren’t sure how good of a job you did looking for the library file, and if your TM backup isn’t recent — like months and months old and you’ve added photos since — then maybe you want more help looking for your original file first.

              • Cindy says:

                I have seen my pictures and they are still on my computer. But of course I got excite and immediately dragged the iPhoto file to my desk top. Big mistake. It proceeded to move each individual picture to my desk top. I have 9,553 pictures and when it got to 3,239 to go it stopped and froze my computer. Now my computer is so slow I would loose a snail race. How can I safely remove them off my desk top (without taking hours to do each) so I don’t loose them or are they still where I found them. I found then when I went into Facebook and tried to find a picture to post. I also found them when I tried to do something else, but that location is eluding me right now. Thanks so much for hanging in there with me as you see I have lots of treasures on the line.

              • Curtis Bisel says:

                Cindy — good! That’s a good sign. At least you are a little bit further along.

                Is there anything else you can tell me about what you did. First tell me, where did you find your Library file — was it in the trash?

                So let’s say it was. I can’t see how dragging that one file (which is really a folder) from the trash to the desktop would cause a bunch of photos to start copying separately.

                Regardless, if you now have a ton of photos on your desktop, you want to get them into a folder so they are at least safely stored in one place and is not junking up your desktop. The easiest way to do this is to open up the Finder application in your dock (smiley face one) and then click on desktop to the left. Click on the “list” button at the top (looks like 4 horizontal stacked lines) to get into list view. Then you can click on the column “Kind” if it’s available and this will sort all the files by what type of file they are — in this case all your photos will be grouped together.

                Single click on the first in the list and hold down shift and then click on the one at the bottom of the list. This will highlight all your photos. Now right or control click on the selected photos and choose “new folder from selected items. This will put all of your photos into a new folder on your desktop. You can move this folder somewhere else if you would like — and name it something that means something to you.

                In the meantime, we need to find out more about your library file you found so I can help you get it from wherever it is now to where it needs to go.

                Optional options that might help me with some more clues: You can even send me screen grabs or photos off your cell phone (email them to me from my contact page) so I can see what you are seeing. Or you can send me a screen video using the free screener web app —

              • Cindy says:

                Thank-you for hanging in there. I was able to get the pictures off my desk top as you instructed. Not really sure where they went, but it did make my computer faster. I can go to my Facebook page and select photos to post. It then takes me to a pop up with Favorites and Media and under media is photos I click that then iPhotos pops up at the top and loads my photos where I click on my iPhoto icon and they load. I then can post pictures and even videos to my wall. But if I try and drag to save a photo in iPhoto it will not accept it and the message comes up again that they are unavailable. I sure hope I find them soon. Also I’m afraid to upload photos from my camera (not even sure if I can).

              • Cindy says:

                Curtis I did it !!!!! I finally got my pictures back. I kept trying the rebuild everyday and it would not always come up with the options. Then when it did it would still say my pictures were lost. So finally I got brave and tried everyone of the different options. I would try only one each day and I would still get the lost message. Then I got to Rebuild the iPhoto library database from automatic back-up. YEAH IT WORKED !!!! Thanks so much for you help. I hope you can help others as well.

              • Curtis Bisel says:

                Congratulations Cindy!! Wahoooo! So glad to hear.

  37. 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…

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Great to hear Joaquín! Glad to hear I was able to help you to a solution!

      Just know that for most people, I don’t recommend them taking this step to just “Extract” the photos from an old iPhoto library and then re-import them into a new one. It’s possible of course, but for many people, just fixing the old one is the best solution. Even if you were to extract and re-import all of your photos safely and correctly, most people will be unhappy to find that a lot of their work they did in iPhoto is now missing.

      All of the editing they did to photos (cropping and color corrections etc), possibly all of the titles they typed in, caption information still remains in other folders in the old database. So as long as you can live without any/most of that work, and you are very careful to re-import all of the same photos etc., then this solution could be a great option for you.

      And yeah, I hear you on your frustration with Apple having that “child-proof” protection on your photos. It’s in the interest for most of their users though that might accidentally start doing things — moving and renaming them etc. — in Finder if they knew where the photos were. Just doing those things can totally mess up and corrupt a perfectly good library. So Apple decided by default have the setting so that all photos are protected inside the library file.

      However, that being said, I did write another post and edited a video how to do it (in this post) about how you can store all of your photos outside of the iPhoto library if you import them in a certain way. This is a more advanced method, but if you are interested, there are some benefits. The post is here:

      • Yes, I’m an engineer and power user and want full access so you tips on storage OUTSIDE the iPhoto library will be music to my ears. That will be my next step after finishing copying over my old files. Cheers!

  38. Simi S. says:

    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!

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Simi. Thank you for the compliments. I appreciate that. I really do care about people’s collections.

      But some problems are just tough to help people with. I’m not familiar with this message you received when adding a video to iPhoto. I can’t imagine why if you went up to File>Import and selected your video, or by dragging your video from a Finder window into iPhoto, would it ask you if you want to replace the entire iPhoto library file. Is it possible you clicked and dragged an iPhoto library file (an entire folder file) and tried to drag it into iPhoto? I’ve never even tried that, but that would make more sense that iPhoto would then ask you if you wanted to replace the existing one with another library file.

      The other thing I suggest to people looking for a library file folder is to use utility programs written to help you free up “large useless files” on your hard drive. They produce graphical representations of your hard drive and show you where all the big files are. In your case, you wouldn’t be doing this to delete them… but merely to find large files. Most people’s library files are huge so they stand out in the “maps” really easily. If you go into the Mac App store, two that come to mind are DaisyDisk and Disk Inspector. There might be some free ones out there too.

      A more obvious suggestion… did you check the trash just to see if OSX put your old library file in the trash when it “replaced it” with the other library file. Just a thought. Apple may have written that into the procedure just in case someone didn’t mean to do the replacement as a way of recovery.

      Nonetheless, if you did write over your original iPhoto library file, then the easiest way to recover it would be from a Time Machine backup. But, I am assuming if you are on to the state of data recovery, you may not have a working backup copy of your library file.

      What happened with the data recovery software — did you try running it yet? When you delete a file, the OS doesn’t remove the information from the hard drive immediately. It just tells itself that when the computer does need to write something to the drive next, this space is now available to write over. So, if you have come to a point where you know you have completely lost your library file, and you don’t have a backup, as long as the computer hasn’t needed that space and has written over it on your hard drive, then there’s a chance the data recovery software could work.

      Let me know if you find out any more information for me to work with. Good luck Simi. I’m sending positive thoughts your way.

  39. Sam Browne says:

    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! Many, many thanks!

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Sam, I’m so happy to hear you were able to recover some photos you thought you lost. Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I shared your comment with my wife last night as well. She was extremely happy for you as well.

      Even though I personally haven’t experienced a corrupt database, it’s possible your original library file is “corrupted” from the upgrade and just needs to be repaired. You need to follow these steps:

      1) Backup your iPhoto library for safety just in case (2) depress and hold the option and command keys (3) launch iPhoto. (Don’t let go of those two keys until special window pops up) From window choose to repair your database. If you still have problems, repeat by choosing to rebuild the database from the list.

      From helping others who have recently upgraded to the latest version of iPhoto, this has seemed to fix their problem when something went wrong during the upgrading of their iPhoto library files or the upgrading of the software. The instructions may have read to you as “scary”, but as long as you have a backup, I wouldn’t worry. And Apple makes the process simple with simple menus. It’s doing all the work — not you

      Now as far as merging — you know iPhoto is the little sister to Aperture — the BIG sister. Apple has recently made the feature set of both applications a bit closer to being equal, but there still are a ton of things you can do in Aperture that it seems Apple will never want you to do in iPhoto. They are keeping iPhoto for people with basic goals who don’t want or need all the fancy things.

      Merging is one of those things iPhoto still can’t do. If you were to buy Aperture (Currently $79 in the App Store), you could open up one iPhoto library (in Aperture) and then while in that one, you could import the other one — causing them to merge. This can only happen if you use versions of both that have come out recently and have been updated with the ability to load a library file in both applications. (You now can load a library from either program, in either program. You can go back and forth as you choose — it’s very slick).

      However, I am pretty sure this method may not help you with duplicates. If all the filenames of duplicates are the same, in Aperture you could view all your photos at one time, then sort by filename and show them in a single column of just the names. Then you could manually go in and delete duplicates when you find 2 or more with the same name. But, of course if you’ve done edits to some in iPhoto — cropping etc — you would want to make sure you deleted the version without the changes you want to keep. Duplicates are going to be messy no matter what! They are just tough all around.

      Another option, and one I still haven’t made the time to try out, is a third party program called iPhoto Library Manager. It was written to do basically what you want. There are options to merge two library files and to find duplicate files. There is a free demo period, but you may need to purchase it ($29.95 currently) in order to unlock everything. (Not sure)

      Check out this software at:

      Hope some of this helps you Sam. Thanks again for sharing.

      • Sam Browne says:

        Thanks Curtis! Great answer to my question. It looks like iPhoto Library Manager might be the answer so I’ll look into it asap. thank you also for telling me that you shared my question with your wife. That is really quite special. I’m so grateful for having the photo memories of Graham, my husband. It would have been so frustrating to have lost them forever.
        Blessings to you and your family and heartfelt thanks for your wisdom.

        • Curtis Bisel says:

          Sam, all great to hear!

          Consider just trying to “repair” and then “rebuild” (if repair doesn’t work) your library file from the instructions I typed out for your. It’s really easy and it could be a simple fix for you. I’ve been helping Carl Haber (a little below this comment) with a very similar issue and he hasn’t had luck with the repair & rebuild. But, others who I’ve worked with have had success.

          And then if that doesn’t work, then iPhoto Library Manager seems to be the safe, and easiest next step to try.

          Please let me know how things work out for you and if I can offer more suggestions.


  40. LIly says:

    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

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Lily. I understand your panic. It’s hard for me to hear from so many people who experience problems like this because often times, it’s not too hard to fix if you know what you are doing and you can actually access someone’s computer. But, without having all of the information, in order how it happened, it’s hard for me to diagnose what went wrong and how to fix it.

      So let’s move forward with your offer to provide me a little bit more detail. Here are the questions that are coming to my mind after reading through your comment a few times:

      1) Was iPhoto opened when you got these messages of an error and to recover? (I’m trying to figure out if iPhoto gave you these messages or were the messages actually coming from the operating system saying some other application or part of the OS was having an error and needed to recover)
      2) Did you lose every photo in your iPhoto library, or just the last 3 years? (It would be important to know if you are not seeing ALL of your photos, or just not some of them)
      3) Have you looked in the OSX trash to see if there is a library file sitting in there. If there are lots of files in there, sort by file size and the largest should float to the top or bottom to make it easy to find the (typically) large iPhoto library files. (I suggest this because I’m finding out from some people that went things go wrong with laptops and the batteries dying, the iPhoto library sometimes is found in the trash — I’m not sure why yet) If you do find it in the trash, at least drag it to your desktop to get it out of there. Eventually it should go back into your pictures folder, but if iPhoto created a second library file, then dragging in there now might replace that one which is either good or bad depending on if you added anything to it since this problem occurred.

      Whatever you do, don’t empty the OSX trash at all right now until we figure out your problem.

  41. Carl Haber says:

    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

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hey Carl. Sorry to hear you are having problems with iPhoto — but so glad to hear you see your photos are still there in a library you’ve found! That’s more than half the battle there is seems.

      I still haven’t been able to reproduce a corrupted library on my end. If I ever do, I’m going to contain it and treat it like a virus that I can experiment on like the CDC. (And understandably, I doubt I can find someone who would be willing to send me a copy of their 50+gb corrupt library full of years worth of private personal photos) In the meantime, I only have access to the information I get back from people who have corrupt libraries and have tried things. Often I don’t hear back from people, so I am not sure what worked for them in the end.

      I will say, with the problem where the library worked fine, and then someone updated the iPhoto application and something went wrong with the second step of that process where the new iPhoto then updates the library file, rebuilding &/or repairing is what I am hearing back from people that seems to work.

      Thank you for the nice detailed message btw! I can follow along quite well with what you went through and that helps me a lot to know what to suggest for you. You said you tried the option of “rebuilding,” but did you also try the other option of repairing? It might end up being a process where you do several of the options and one or a combination of them is what fixes it in the end.

      Specifically though, the repair option is supposed to “add photos that are stored in the library but missing from the database.” So if you haven’t tried this option, definitely run this this. And make sure you are running it on the correct library. It’s possible if you have more than one, to run the procedures on a new and empty library but assume it’s running on your old “full” library.

      Let me know if this doesn’t work and I can see what else we can try.

      • Carl Haber says:

        Thanks Curtis, tried to repair and it was definitely different than before in that no doubt we were on the wrong library and this time not, it took some time and then finished, but ultimately there were no new (old) photos showing up in events or photos. So I closed it reopened it and confirmed that nothing new had shown up. So I closed it and reopened it again with command and option and got the menu again and this time tried the option to redo the thumbnails. It is taking its time now, which is a hopeful sign, but I will report back when it’s done (it’s taking a while) to see if anything new shows up. Thanks again.

      • Carl Haber says:

        hi again. rebuilding the thumbnails took half hour or so, but ultimately nothing changed. So I closed it and reopened it again with command and option and chose rebuild database. It has begun and something is happening, something that appears to be a slow process, slower than the others. Let’s hope this does the trick. Will let you know, thanks again. Obviously last time I tried rebuild I was on the wrong library. And thumbnails wasn’t the solution so we are going to the last possible thing on this menu that might do something. We’ll see.

      • Carl Haber says:

        ok though the blue bar to track the process of the rebuild never appeared, it didn’t take long ultimately. It showed rebuilding folders, faces and events but then nothing new showed up. It still seems to begin in 2011, though the photos started much earlier, and are there in the masters folders and originals folders. So we are back to square one, and unable to see the photos on iPhoto. Time for a new suggestion if you have one. Thanks.

        • Curtis Bisel says:

          Oh Carl, that’s disappointing. I had faith that was probably going to fix it for you.

          Forgive me for even asking, but I assume that since you have gotten this far with a fix, you don’t have a backup of your library before the upgrade — correct? Because, if you had one with Time Machine for example, that would of course be my next suggestion. I only ask because some people I’ve talked with are mystified and intimidated by Time Machine and would try almost anything before “stepping into it” to try and recover a backup.

          Without a backup, my next suggestion is to try a third party piece of software — and really the only one out there of its kind as far as I can tell. “iPhoto Library Manager” by Fatcat software is an application that does many things including the ability to merge 2 library files. But in particular, it offers “Rebuilding Corrupt Libraries.” I still haven’t been able to try this process, since I don’t have a corrupt library file to try it on (yet).

          What I really like about Brian Webster’s approach is that his application doesn’t just try and fix your current “damaged” library, it instead (more safely) creates a completely new library file and pulls in all the photos and data it needs from your “damaged” one:

          “Sometimes, an iPhoto library will become corrupted, with missing photos, mysterious iPhoto hangs, or outright crashes. With iPhoto Library Manager, you can rebuild a new library based on your current library, starting with a fresh database free of corruption. You can even scavenge photos from the library that iPhoto may have lost track of.”

          If you’re curious: If this solution doesn’t work, it’s possible you would have to start doing manual attempts to pull out those photos from the master folder and then re-import them into your library file. I wouldn’t prefer you do this method unless you absolutely had to. If for no other reason, you would lose any work/data that you did to the photos — captions, edits, organization etc. You would basically be starting over with them. So let’s hope (fingers cross) the iPLM application works for you.

          Thanks for the followup Carl. Please let me know how things work out for you.


          • Curtis Bisel says:

            Carl, for you and anyone else reading this who wants a cheat sheet of steps on how to quickly do the “Rebuilding” in iPhoto Library Manager:

            1) Download iPhoto Library Manager and load it.
            2) Click “Add Library” and select your original library file that you want to try and fix in the window that comes up.
            3) Your library should now show up in the left hand side of the application. Click on this library and then go up to the menu at the top and click “Library” and then “Rebuild Library.”
            4) You will then be given a new window that is asking you where you want to save this new library file. (Because iPLM doesn’t try and fix your original library — it rebuilds a new one using your old one — it needs to know where you want to store this new library file). If you can give it a name, call it “iPhoto-new” or something to differentiate it from your old library.
            5) Click “Create” and let it go to work.

            • Carl Haber says:

              Will definitely look into this. We have Time Machine backups, the problem is the computer that had the photos is practically full, and the photos from April (before the issue happened) are something like 90 gigs, more than the space on the computer, and the reality is that the photos are on the computer as is. There is no way we would risk deleting them at this stage to make room, so the idea of grabbing them from the Time Machine can’t work on this computer, and can only be considered if we buy another computer (something we aren’t about to do, given that the one in question is not old at all, and has all the photos on it – just this stupid new Iphoto system has created this mess. Anyway, we’ll check the download you suggest in the coming days when we have a few hours to chew nails and try it.
              Thanks again, you’re a pal.

  42. 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.

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Oh Victoria, I’ve had such a stressful and taxing time with my work this week that your compliment of me was just what I needed to hear. Thank you.

      Computer… water damage… Yikes. Not the best way to start this out is it?

      This situation seems to be occurring for several people. I’ve update a couple library files to iPhoto 9.5 (First version compatible with OS 10.9 Mavericks) and didn’t have a problem. But, there seems to be a hopefully small group of people that are experiencing some kind of corruption when 9.5 tries to update the current library file from the previous version to be compatible with how 9.5 operates.

      I just spent some time reading up on how Apple’s tech team is handling the support threads with this situation, and it seems to be fairly close to all the suggestions I have given here in all of these comments. The only real difference seems to be with extremely severe cases where no hope was really left, they suggested the application SubrosaSoft FileSalvage to try and recover “deleted files from a drive or volume.”

      1) So my first suggestion Victoria would have been to ask you if you had a backup of your library file before iPhoto 9.5 tried to update it. Which, sadly it seems you had a couple of them, but are now all possibly (probably?) all converted to this 9.5 updated and “corrupted” state. If you think it’s possible you haven’t updated both of your backups, you could try double clicking on both of the iPhoto library files and seeing if either one loads and gives you that message that reads something like “this library file needs to be updated to work in 9.5.” If you get that, then CANCEL out of it and then you know that is a version of your library before it was updated.

      Hmm.. this message about Time Machine is puzzling me though. I have tried searching for help about it but am not coming up with anyone else running into this message. One thing you could try is temporarily turning Time Machine off while trying the iPhoto rebuilding. Click on the Time Machine icon up in the menu and then Preferences and then turn it off — it will grey out at the top.

      The other thing that came to mind is that maybe you were trying to rebuild an iPhoto library file stored as a backup inside of the time machine backup — is this possible? If it’s a Time Machine backup, you have to restore the library file first and save it somewhere before you can load it or so anything else with it.

      If you don’t have a backup that still exist before 9.5 tried to update it, I would keep trying the “option+command” while loading iPhoto to get into the “iPhoto Library First Aid” procedure and try and a) Rebuild thumbnails b) repair database c) rebuild database — in that order. If you can ever get into this panel, do each one of these in this order and then try and see if it worked. If not, try b) and then try it.. if not c) and try it. Apple seems to think just rebuilding thumbnails will fix it (maybe for many people).

      2) If the above still doesn’t work, your next safest step is to try and create a new library file and rebuild it using your old one. And the best way I’ve read to do this is using a third-party program, and really the only one out there of its kind as far as I can tell. “iPhoto Library Manager” by Fatcat software is an application that does many things including the ability to merge 2 library files. But in particular, it offers “Rebuilding Corrupt Libraries.” I still haven’t been able to try this process, since I don’t have a corrupt library file to try it on (yet).

      What I really like about Brian Webster’s approach is that his application doesn’t just try and fix your current “damaged” library, it instead (more safely) creates a completely new library file and pulls in all the photos and data it needs from your “damaged” one:

      “Sometimes, an iPhoto library will become corrupted, with missing photos, mysterious iPhoto hangs, or outright crashes. With iPhoto Library Manager, you can rebuild a new library based on your current library, starting with a fresh database free of corruption. You can even scavenge photos from the library that iPhoto may have lost track of.”

      Step-by-step instructions:

      1) Download iPhoto Library Manager and load it.
      2) Click “Add Library” and select your original library file that you want to try and fix in the window that comes up.
      3) Your library should now show up in the left hand side of the application. Click on this library and then go up to the menu at the top and click “Library” and then “Rebuild Library.”
      4) You will then be given a new window that is asking you where you want to save this new library file. (Because iPLM doesn’t try and fix your original library — it rebuilds a new one using your old one — it needs to know where you want to store this new library file.
      5) Click “Create” and let it go to work.

      3) If you’re curious: If this solution doesn’t work, it’s possible you would have to start doing manual attempts to pull out those photos from the master folder and then re-import them into your library file. I wouldn’t prefer you do this method unless you absolutely had to. If for no other reason, you would lose any work/data that you did to the photos — captions, edits, organization etc. You would basically be starting over with them. So let’s hope (fingers cross) the iPLM application works for you.

      Victoria, I know there is a lot here for you to digest. I’m sorry if it seems overwhelming. I don’t know why this “corruption” is happening to some people and not others. I wish Apple would come forward and explain what could be causing it so we can put out better warnings to people. In the meantime, this handful of suggestions seems to the be best chances to restoring your life of photos.

      Please let me know how things work out for you. I can offer more suggestions for you.


      • A couple of efforts at rebuilding the thumbnails and the whole kit and caboodle came back. Mysterious workings.
        The Time Machine thing continues to be baffling, but didn’t affect thumbnail rebuilding. So that’s nice.
        As for the length of your post, I can’t say how happy it made me. Your thoroughness is deeply appreciated.

        • Curtis Bisel says:

          Victoria, so are you saying what I think you are saying and your entire collection is good now — back online — you’re seeing all of your photos and all is great in the world now?

  43. Jenny says:

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

  44. Kathy says:

    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…??

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Kathy.

      I’m not aware of a limit in iPhoto. I’ve read support threads on in their support pages that say you can have thousands and thousands of photos in iPhoto. So, especially with a low number like 6,222 photos, I wouldn’t be worried about hitting any kind of limit.

      The “Last 12 Months” is basically a smart folder that automatically collects “pointers” to the last 12 months worth of photos imported into iPhoto. So you say you aren’t seeing recent imports in this smart folder. What if you just go to the event view. Are you seeing recent events being added as a new event?

      If not, without any more information, I would then start to wonder about more unusual but logical reasons for this problem. Such as, is it possible you’ve loaded up a backup copy of your iPhoto library accidentally and you’ve done some recent importing of images to it instead of your main iPhoto library?

      I would also try importing photos from another camera or smartphone. If you are having problems importing photos from a point and shoot camera, I would then connect like an iPhone and see if those photos import and save correctly to rule out a problem with your other camera — such as the camera card, connector, etc.

      Let me know if any of this helps and if not, maybe some additional information you can think of will help give me some clues what’s happening.


      • Kathy says:

        Thank you Curtis!! whew!
        Yes, they are in the Events library!!! yay– but how do I get them into the regular iphoto — and more importantly, how did they get there in the first place, without my putting them there? So sorry, but my iphoto knowledge is very limited…

        • Curtis Bisel says:

          Kathy, Great to hear you found them!

          So hear’s how iPhoto works. When you import photos into iPhoto, by default it copies them into the iPhoto library folder on your computer. This way iPhoto has it’s own copy of each of your photos to protect. They are stored in folders called Events — but you can move each photo to any even you would like. And as you import them, it tries to guess how you might like your event folders by putting each day’s worth of photos for example in their own event folder.

          iPhoto also gives you some helpful tools you can use to find photos more quickly when you have a huge library of photos. One of those is the that “Last 12 Months” icon you can click on in the left panel of iPhoto and the purpose of that is just to quickly call up a quick list or thumbnail view of all of the photos from all of your event folders that you’ve imported into iPhoto in the last 12 months. So if you click on any of those photos, or edit any of those photos in the “Last 12 Months” folder, you are actually directly affecting or loading the photos that are stored in the event folders where they live.

          Same with albums and smart albums you create in iPhoto. Your photos aren’t actually stored in them, they are just containers full of selects that you make but then reference and pull up photos that are actually living in your event folders.

          So the thing to take away from this is that you want to think of the “Events” as the “houses” where your photos live. Everything else are just tools to access and manipulate the photos in each of the events.

          Hope this helps Kathy!

          • Kathy says:

            HI Curtis,
            Thank you so much for your advice! I am always learning..!
            Although the events folder does have the photos, I don’t know why new imports have suddenly started saving to only the events folder, not also in Photos, as it had been for years. I checked preferences and do not see a way to have them go into Photos, too, as I would prefer they do. I did notice that a message pops up (at the top of the iphoto window) and disappears too quickly to read what it says, when I click on import all… (It’s not the “delete photos off camera card message). My other thought, which I don’t really think has anything to do with anything, but what do I know? is: We have been using the same little camera card for about 4 years. Could that have anything to do with this issue? Also, perhaps the newest iphoto update contained a change that from that update on, all imported photos wil reside in Events folder only??

            • Curtis Bisel says:

              Kathy, yeah that stumps me as well. I did a little searching around online and didn’t seem to find any answers for you. This problem you describe hasn’t happen to me before.

              One thing you could try, something that I’ve heard works to fix other odd things that show up like this, is to let iPhoto do a little self-maintenance. What you would be doing is letting iPhoto “repair” and or “rebuild” the library database and library.

              Apple writes about this process: “iPhoto includes a feature that allows you to rebuild the currently selected iPhoto library. Sometimes rebuilding the library may resolve issues such as the library appearing to be unreadable, missing photos, or other issues related to reading the iPhoto library structure.”

              Be sure to make a backup of your library before doing so. Since this is a process written into iPhoto, the chances of something going wrong are slim. But, you want to take precautions just in case — safe is better than sorry.

              Here are the instructions written out by Apple:

              It’s a simple procedure of loading iPhoto a certain way, clicking a box and then letting it run the process. I would try the “repair” process first, and then the “rebuild” next if that doesn’t work.

              Since you said you’ve been using your library file for years, it seems possible maybe something has just gotten a little “off” in your library that could need a little fixing. If you give this a try, let me know how it goes.

              Hope this helps Kathy!

  45. Twankorn says:

    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!

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Twankorn,

      Just from what you’ve told me, it sounds like you are looking inside of a “new” iPhoto library file and not your old one. (Also make sure there aren’t any images in a folder called “originals” — I believe it’s older versions of iPhoto used the originals folder and then later editions became the masters folder)

      So if iPhoto created a new and empty iPhoto library file and you are looking in it right now, you need to follow the instructions I’ve given others here in the comments to find their original iPhoto library file. Sometimes I’ve learning people are finding it in the OSX trash. So be sure to look there first.

      Then also use Spotlight to so searches throughout your entire hard drive for “iPhoto library.” If that doesn’t work, look into programs like Daisydisk (Mac App store) that scans through your computer and looks for large files and shows you graphical representations of them so you can isolate where they are.

      Hope this helps!

    • 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!

  46. Jaclyn P. says:

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

  47. Bill says:

    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.

  48. Jacey says:

    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!

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hey Jacey. Sorry to hear you are missing all those photos. Let’s see if we can figure this out.

      You said you searched your photo library and never found them. In most cases, people I help seem to find recent imports in a new and usually unlabeled “Event” folder up in the “Events” at the top. (Even if they don’t show up in the “Last 12 months” or “Last imports” or “photos” smart folders iPhoto gives you. This is because iPhoto places the original imports in Event folders — this is where they live.

      This is similar to a situation someone else had recently and I wrote out an explanation how iPhoto works for her. You can check out the thread here:

      To help you find the event faster, one thing you could try is to actually sort the events by Date. Click on “Events” at the top left to select it. Then click “View>Sort Events” and then have both “Date” and “Descending” selected in that list. Your latest imports should hopefully be in the first event at the top now.

      Let me know if this helps Jacey

  49. Olivia says:

    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!!!!

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Oh Olivia … that made my day! I’m over the moon that my post was able to help you out so much. And wow.. and 13 years of photos lost. That is just so wonderful to hear!


  50. janet says:

    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

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Janet. Yikes.. this does sound like a stressful situation. I’m sorry to hear.

      If this were me, I would try several things. You didn’t say how large your library file is, but if it’s not too big, one option you could try is to copy your library file to one of your external drives. Don’t move it, but actually make a copy of it so that this is a duplicate. Then sign out of your OSX account and sign in using your husband’s account. Then with the external drive attached, double click on this library file and it should hopefully load up without any problems. That is, if you are correct and there is something corrupt with your user account.

      If you still have problems, and you are sure rebuilding the library doesn’t work, then I would also try one of the other options that’s in that menu. When you old down option and command when loading iPhoto, you have the option to “repair permissions”, “rebuild thumbnails”, “repair database” and “rebuild database.” The thumbnails is probably not your problem, but I would be sure to try the other three to make sure those repairs don’t fix your problem with that library file.

      I don’t recommend anyone go into a library file and extract photos from the folders manually unless this is your absolute last resort. In addition to likelihood that you may now grab all of them, you will also lose out on all of the work you’ve done to them inside of iPhoto up until this point. You will basically be starting over as if you just got iPhoto for the first time and are using it from day one.

      If all the above doesn’t work, you could try the third party program I recommend to a lot of people in here called the “iPhoto Library Manager.” It’s uses a different approach that the iPhoto repair options because it builds an entirely new iPhoto library file by copying the contents of your old one (duplicating them) into this new one. I’ve heard good things about this program, though I’ve never been able to try it with a corrupt library file because I so far have never gotten one of my own library files to be corrupt. (And no one has mailed me a drive with theirs on it to test with)

      So Janet, I would start at the top of these suggestions and work your way down. But, don’t “extract” from the masters or originals folders until you absolutely have no other option.

      Hope this helps! Let me know.

  51. Matilda says:

    Dear Curtis,
    You are a genius!

    “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.”

    I did as you suggested and there they were! Thank you thank you thank you!!!

    Happy New Year from Sweden,

  52. nnadal says:


    I am a lot like the people above and currently having a heart attack. I downloaded iphoto library manager to help me manage many iphoto libraries. After attempting to merge the libraries my most current pictures went missing. I attempted to restore my pictures from a backup but unfortunately the backup that had the pictures does not have a “library file” it has a metadata file as well as an album.xml and a bunch of other folders. I am extremely nervous that an entire year of pictures is just gone.

    Any help would be appreciated it.

    from a nervous wreck Nicole

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Nicole. I’m so sorry to hear about your possible photo loss. I would be having a heart attack too!

      I’m afraid I don’t really have enough information to really go on to help you with what happened with your merging. Especially since I still haven’t used iPhoto Library Manager much yet. But, maybe there is a chance to help you with your backup if nothing else.

      What did you use to make the backup of your photo collection? Try and tell me all about it. (You can even send me screenshots of your backup folder etc through my contact page at the top if you would like. That could make things easier). Did you use Time Machine, or did you do a straight copy of your iPhoto library to another drive etc?

      Let’s just try and start somewhere by giving me as much information as you can that I can help you sort through.

      Hang in there,

  53. Marie says:

    Hello Curtis,

    I have very much the same problem as Abdullah’s and after reading most of the posts I am confident that you can help me. I am at the point where the software is now asking “What photo library do you want iPhoto to use?” The only option is “iPhoto Library (default). There are not other libraries to choose from. What is my next step? I am have iPhoto v.9.2.3.

    Thanks, Marie

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Marie! I’m sorry to hear of your problems with iPhoto.

      If you are in that menu in iPhoto, and there is only one library file in the list, then this means iPhoto just isn’t seeing any more. The first place I would look is in the trash. I still am not all the reasons that would cause iPhoto to put an old library in the trash, but I’ve found from comments here from people, many have found them there. If you have a lot in your trash, sorting by the “file size” column helps because your library is probably very large and will either float to the top or bottom of that sort.

      If it’s not in the trash, then I would do like I’ve suggested to a lot of people here in the comments and that is to use the “spotlight” (magnifying glass) at the top right in the menu bar to search for “iPhoto library” across all drives — even external ones that you might have had plugged in at one time.

      Additionally, there are “disk space recovery” apps that you can pick up on the Mac App store like “Daisydisk” [$9.99] (some are even free) that will give you a graphical representation of the contents of your hard disk. Large allocations of space like with photo libraries will show up easily.

      Let me know how it goes Marie, and I can help you with some more ideas.

  54. Marie says:

    Whoops, forgot to click notify by email button with my comment.

  55. Connie Delcourt says:

    Thank you Curtis for posting this site. I am relieved that my photos may still be somewhere inside my computer! However, after holding down the option button and clicking on iPhoto I only can see one library choice. When I click on it, it turns out to be the “new” library. I still cannot find my old photos. Any ideas?
    I would sure appreciate any help you can give.

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Connie! Sorry to hear you are having problems with your collection. Yes, please don’t lose hope. There’s a good chance they ARE in fact still in your computer somewhere.

      If you are in that menu in iPhoto, and there is only one library file in the list, then this means iPhoto just isn’t seeing any more. The first place I would look is in the trash. I still am not sure of the reasons that would cause iPhoto to put an old library in the trash, but I’ve found from comments here from people, many have found them there. If you have a lot in your trash, sorting by the “file size” column helps because your library is probably very large and will either float to the top or bottom of that sort.

      If it’s not in the trash, then I would do like I’ve suggested to a lot of people here in the comments and that is to use the “spotlight” (magnifying glass) at the top right in the menu bar to search for “iPhoto library” across all drives — even external ones that you might have had plugged in at one time.

      Additionally, there are apps that you can pick up on the Mac App store like “Daisydisk” (some are even free) that will give you a graphical representation of the contents of your hard disk. Large allocations of space like with photo libraries will show up easily.

      Let me know how it goes Connie, and I can help you with more ideas.

      • Connie Delcourt says:

        Thank you again Curtis. I tried the whole thing and it appears that I must have done SOMETHING to get my photos gone. I am only finding One iPhoto library and it is the new one. Fortunately, I back up my photos on occasion in Dropbox. Something I haven’t done for about 6 months or so but will remember to do that more often now. lol
        Thank you again. I will let you know if I find them.

  56. Marie says:

    Thank you Curtis for your prompt response. However, I still need LOTS of help.

    First, which I probably should have done to begin with, let me explain as much as I can remember what I was doing before this all came down.

    A week of so before the holidays I had noticed that most of the “event” titles in iPhoto were gone. Only a few more recent ones were left. So I started to recreate events and re-organize the photos. After reading above how sensitive iPhoto is and sometimes it can’t find the files if they are moved around. Let me know if you think this maybe what happened?

    I was trying to organize the iPhoto files by moving the photo’s around within iPhoto and creating new event titles where needed so they would make more sense to me and be easier to find. In other words, sorting photos by families, genealogy vital records by family, etc, etc. Some of which I renamed in events but I did notice the dates would also follow when the photo was moved. I was almost done when I was shutting down for the evening, all of a sudden, at the top of the screen and very rapidly, it started “backing up” tons of files. When it finished my iPhoto was empty. I obviously did something wrong but can’t imagine what.

    Now, back to your instructions, where to I find iPhoto “trash” so I can check it to see if the iPhoto library is in there? Shouldn’t it be in the iPhoto menu? I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it.

    Also, after I go to Spotlight as you suggested, I type in iPhoto library, do I then just enter? I did this and nothing seems to be happening. It lists “show all” top hit: “iPhoto-library-finder scan” and web pages listed.

    Hopefully all this info will help.

    Thank yo so much, Marie

  57. Guilher says:

    Hallo Curtis,

    I’m having a similar problem with my iPhoto, but it is quite strange, because, i can se the preview of the photo but the software doesn’t find the original. Searching into the files i can see the whole structure of the master folder, but inside there is no .jpg file (But even so i can see the thumbnails at the iPhoto).

    Do you have some clue about what could have happened?

    Thanks in advanced.


  58. Marie says:

    Hi again Curtis,

    Still trying to find my photos and remembered seeing an iPhoto file with 29.71 GB somewhere.

    I finally found it in the pictures iPhoto Library and it contains a file, size 29.71 GB, created 5/19/12. This is when I bought my Mac so that must be the original download. I also right clicked on this same iPhoto to show Package Contents then clicked on Master File and there were the past two years, 2012 and 2013 containing photos. Those are the only two years I’ve had this computer so I’m hoping these are all my photos. I didn’t open all the picture folders. Now I’ve carefully backed out of everything. Didn’t want to push my luck and mess something up.

    If I keep remembering little tidbits I’ll pass them on. I’m beginning to feel a little better about all this. Hope this info helps.

    Thanks again, Marie

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Marie, Alright! This is sounding promising!

      So did you say you found the library file in your /pictures folder in your user settings? The folder structure would look something like this: hard drive > Users > Maria > Pictures. Is that where you found it? If so that’s great because that’s where it should have been all this time. That is the default location. But, if so, it’s a little strange that iPhoto couldn’t find this file to begin with when you were in that “switch to library” list.

      Regardless, here is what you need to do next:

      1) Make a backup of this 29.71gb file ASAP. Basically you are just making a copy of it. So you can drag and drop it into a folder on an external drive, or you can copy and paste the file. Just something to make an identical copy of it onto another drive so you are sure you have a backup. If you are unsure how to do what I just said, I made a video that walks you through moving your library step-by-step. Just don’t do the last step which is to delete the original copy. (This video shows you how to move your library which is the same thing as copying it except in your case you WANT to have 2 copies)

      2) Once you are sure you have a backup, you can double click on the 29.71gb library file on your main drive (the one you just found) and that should load up into iPhoto. You should see all your pictures (we hope) now. Fingers crossed!!!
      3) Quit out of iPhoto and then click on the iPhoto application icon in the dock at the bottom to load up iPhoto again. Your original library with all the pictures should be the default library now and SHOULD load up again. (without having to double click on the actual library file)
      4) If all this is working, then you could try and locate that other (new) iPhoto library file — the empty one — and put it in the OSX trashcan in your dock. Obviously be careful and put the empty one in there and NOT the new 29.71gb one. They might be named the exact same thing (iPhoto library) so you want to make sure you trash the right one.
      5) Don’t empty the trash until you are sure everything is backed up, and is working fine.

      Let me know how this goes! Hope to hear you are seeing your photos again.


      • Ashley says:

        I think that is where I messed up… I deleted a bunch of photos from finder and It must of been when I accidentally tossed my iPhoto Library, but after I trashed the stuff I emptied my trash can because it was a lot and I was preparing to save my photos to an external hard drive. It was until after when I went into iPhoto that things went wrong and I realized something not good had happened so I’m guessing that leaves me pretty much unable to retrieve my photos backs…..

        • Curtis Bisel says:

          “Unable to retrieve your photos” is assuming everything went as you fear. This assumes for sure that your library was in the trash, and that you emptied the trash afterwards. It’s still possible it’s elsewhere. Maybe it was moved accidentally to another folder, or drive even. Also, maybe you have a time machine backup or a backup you made manually at some point. That’s why I recommend doing lots of searching with spotlight and third party programs like “Daisydisk” (or one like it) that can give you a visual “map” of your hard drive can you isolate large files like this.

          If the worst is the case, then you could always look into disk recovery solutions. There are software programs (and companies if you have the money) that can analyze your hard drive and recover files that were “deleted” from you computer, but haven’t necessarily been written over yet with other information by the hard drive itself. I haven’t used one in some time, so I can’t even be confident in recommending one to you. But, that’s still a viable solution to recover at least some of your photos. It sounds better than accepting losing all of them. I’ve read some software you download will analyze for free, and if you see your library file etc… then you would pay to unlock the recovery process of the software.

  59. Jenny says:

    Hi Curtis!

    You are so wonderful to answer SO many questions from everyone… and I have one, too. Hopefully, I’m not repeating the same exact thing someone else said, but I couldn’t really find the answer after reading through all the questions. Let me explain what happened… Last night was my son’s birthday and I was getting all the photos uploaded into iPhoto. First I should say that I have a HUGE iPhoto Library – over 11,000 images!

    Anyway, I had been uploading photos from three different sources (phone, SD card, and CF card) and was trying to find a simpler way to organize them. My idea had been to rearrange them alphabetically, so I typed command/A, attempting to highlight all of the photos (in photo mode, not event mode). When nothing happened, I typed in command/D (which in my Photoshop mind, I was thinking “deselect”).

    Then, I got the spinning wheel of death and started fearing that I had told iPhoto to delete all my photos. I clicked the apple and told it to force quit because I literally couldn’t do anything. My computer had been running sort of slow, so I crossed my fingers and restarted the computer. Once I was back on, I loaded iPhoto and most of the photos I had spent the last few hours uploading weren’t there. My event folders are there with the titles I created but it says there are 0 photos in them – strange. I went through the steps you suggested for others to do: I found the originals in the masters folder (breathed a sigh of relief here), looked for another iPhoto library (I only had one to choose from), and checked to see if my photos were managed or referenced, but now I’m stuck.

    Also, a couple photos that were missing had suddenly showed back up in one of my folders, AND my iCloud seems to be uploading photos, but I’ve never set up my iCloud so I don’t know what’s going on there.

    I just need to get the photos that I already uploaded, to show up in iPhoto again. I assumed iPhoto saves as it goes, but why did it revert back? Can I just take the master images that I found and upload them into iPhoto again? I know you said we needed to be careful so I haven’t done anything yet. Just not sure what to do. I started to make a backup and the file was so large, it said it would take TWO DAYS to upload to my external flash drive – are you kidding me!?!? Anyway, please help. I am totally lost.

    ~ Jenny

    • Jenny says:

      Oh, also, clicking “hidden images” doesn’t do anything! Thought I’d throw that in there!

    • Jenny says:

      UPDATE: So, this is weird… Now, when I click on iCloud under “Shared,” some (or maybe all, I haven’t checked) of my photos are there, but it seems they uploaded to here all night. It’s strange because I haven’t set up iCloud nor did I tell it to put the photos there. Did I somehow move them there on accident? I’m thinking this is my problem.

    • Jenny says:

      OK, I found some photos in iCloud but definitely not all of them. In fact, I only found the ones taken with my iPhone. All the photos I uploaded from my SD and CF cards are still ONLY in the masters folder. Sorry for all the messages, just really not sure what to do!

      • Curtis Bisel says:

        Jenny — Hi there. Sounds like you are in a pickle huh?

        But don’t worry too much, since you can see your newly imported images in the Masters folder. Even though I have never personally dealt with your problem with one of my collections, it just sounds like you asked iPhoto to do a very tedious task and then stopped it right in the middle of it. And now, iPhoto has some things messed up that it can’t correct without some coaxing or manual fixes.

        If you look under the “Photos” pulldown menu option in iPhoto, you will see that command-d isn’t delete (thankfully for you ), but is “duplicate.” It’s actually duplicate across all/most Mac programs. So what happened was, you selected a ton of your photos and then told iPhoto to duplicate them. Because iPhoto is a non-destructive image manager, it probably wasn’t duplicating the file media for all of those photos. But, it was trying to create all new database information I presume for all of those images to let the program know you wanted duplicates of all of those images (even if there weren’t 2 files for each stored in your library). So when you force quitted the application, it never finished building all of that data up for the library — it hadn’t “updated it’s record keeping.”

        Whether you remember doing it or not, you probably signed up for iCloud at one time or another in the last year or so because you have an iPhone. iPhones ask to set up an iCloud account for backup reasons. There is this nifty thing called “photo stream” which uploads a copy of every photo you take on your iPhone to the iCloud (Apple’s servers). It stores 1000 photos. When you take the 1001′th photo, it moves the 1st one from memory. (You can access photo stream on your phone in the photos app — maybe you’ve seen them all in there before)

        The cool thing is that now when you are in programs like iPhoto, you can access all of those 1000 latest photos and import them that way — as opposed to importing them right from the iPhone wired/wirelessly. I personally still connect my iPhone and import them “manually,” but importing from Photo Stream is an option to get your photos off. (I don’t believe you can access videos yet — though I thought I heard they were adding that soon).

        So to fix your iPhoto problem, you need to try the procedure I’ve told lots of people here in the comments to try and that is the options in the “iPhoto Library First Aid” menu. Have you tried these options yet?

        If not, I would give this a shot next. It basically just involves making a backup of your entire library to another drive preferably (just in case! — you never know, better safe than sorry) And then you hold down option and command while clicking on the iPhoto application to launch it. A menu will come up and you want to choose each one of these items, maybe one at a time at first. I would start with “Repair Database” first because it seems to match your problem the most.

        Here are the instructions on Apple’s help page if you want additional reassurance:

        If you have tried all of these menu items a couple times each, and they still aren’t coming up, then you can either:

        1) Use iPhoto Library Manager by Fatcat Software. This could rebuild your entire library file and hopefully fix it. There is a free demo I believe.
        2) You could, as you suggested, rip your photos out of the masters folder and re-import them. I don’t recommend this though really, because it’s possible it will “confuse” iPhoto later, or if nothing else, it will create duplicate media. While in theory this should work just fine, it’s not the best option if better ones are available.

        Give the First Aid a try and let me know!

        Good luck Jenny!


        • Jenny says:

          Hey Curtis, great news! I was totally impatient and started scouring the web for a tutorial on how to clean up my library based on another one of your comments I read somewhere. So, I downloaded iPhoto Library Manager, created a new library, and then rebuilt it. That totally did the trick! I had to rename all my newly uploaded folders, but I’m OK with that. I knew I didn’t have to panic too much since the photos were in my masters folder, but I’m glad I didn’t resort to reimporting them from there – per your suggestion! Anyway, thanks SO much for your help not just for me but for so many others. You truly were a lifesaver!

          • Curtis Bisel says:

            Jenny, that IS great news! Congratulations! Also glad to hear iPhoto Library Manager worked for you. I don’t hear back from too many people after suggesting this software so I’m happy to hear you had a success with it.

            And you’re so welcome for the help. I really appreciate all the nice things you’ve said.

  60. Sariah says:

    I tried clicking to switch to another library over and over and it will not work at all, i really need my photos for a project and whenever i click the open button to use it, it won’t work.

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Sariah. That’s weird. I can’t say that’s ever happened to me. So when you are in the “Switch to Library” menu, select another library and then click on the “choose” button it won’t load this other library? If that’s the case, the next thing I would try is quitting out of iPhoto and going into Finder and then trying to load your other library file manually. Just double click on the library file and it (normally) will easily load up into iPhoto.

      See if that works for you.

  61. Jaber says:

    Hello. I need HELP!
    I can’t seem to find my photos from my hard-disk!
    I see the folder : i-photo but when i try to open it i get this message :The iPhoto library is a Time Machine backup, and so cannot be used as the main library. Reopen iPhoto with the Option key held down to choose another library.

    I tried right clicking the folder to go to SHOW PACKAGE CONTENT and i don’t see the original folder of the photos.

    I recently used my hard disk twice to save through time machine-i think i just deleted everything i had from before and replaced it..did i??—HELP! did i lose all my photos??? xx


    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Jaber, sorry to hear you’re having problems. I hope I can help you out.

      It doesn’t sound like for sure you have lost all your photos. But, just reading through what you wrote, with the little bit of information I have to go on, it sounds like:

      1) iPhoto can’t find your original iPhoto library file, OR you aren’t IN iPhoto, and are just trying to launch an Time Machine backed up iPhoto library from the desktop (Finder) level.
      2) It’s possible if you are launching iPhoto in the normal way, and it can’t find your original photo library, that you did in fact delete it at some point and that’s why it can’t find it. (Not 100%, just a possibility here)
      3) Sounds like you have had Time Machine running at some point, so even if you DID delete your library file, it’s possible Time Machine backed it up so you could be “safe” here.

      First, I would look in the OSX trash can — that’s the one usually in your dock. Look to see if it’s in there. (sort by file size column if you can’t find it easily. This will make large files like your library sort to the top or bottom to make it easier. If you do find it, you want to drag it OUT of the trash and put it back where you originally had it. This is usually your (user>pictures) folder.

      If it’s not there, I would use spotlight (magnifying class icon) at top to search for your original library — usually called “iPhoto Library.” Look all over your computer’s drive and external drives to see if you can locate it. (A third-party program like “Dasiydisk” or “Disk Inspector” in the Mac App store can also help you find your original library file.)

      If you still can’t find it, then you might want to resort to your Time Machine backup file. This is the file you tried loading and it gave you the message that it can’t be used because it’s a Time Machine backup file. This is also the reason that right-clicking on the file didn’t bring up the “package contents” like it normally will. Your operating system is protecting this file from you doing any “harm” to it.

      The way Time Machine works is it basically copies all of your content and protects it inside of a special “folder” of sorts. It doesn’t want you to easily access this backed up information, otherwise you could mess up or DELETE this backup as well! So, in order to access your backed up files, you have to restore any file that you want to un-backup.

      RESTORING: The way to restore a file is to go into the Time Machine application. You will KNOW if you have entered into the Time Machine view because you might think you are on drugs or hullucinating on something. You find the file you want to bring out of this backup and then you click on “restore” at the bottom. Just be CAREFUL and restore the LATEST backed up version of your iPhoto library file. This is important if you have added photos recently and periodically. You want to make sure you restore all of your photos and work if at all possible.

      If you are having problems operating Time Machine, use the more detailed help here on Apple’s website:

      Once you restore this backed up copy of your library file, it SHOULD put it back in the original location where it was (and was backed up from) In that case, just re-launching iPhoto SHOULD also re-load this library file and you should be good! It should just load.

      Hope this helps Jaber. Let me know how it goes.

  62. Nicki says:

    Hi, I’m trying to look for my old Iphoto pictures but it seemed like I lost them all. I’ve already checked the Trash, tried switching the library, searched in the spotlight, downloaded daisydisk, etc and nothing. The Iphoto appears as if it was created in August 2013 and I’ve been using this mac for the past 3 years. Any suggestions on how to get my pictures back?

  63. Nicki says:

    I found an Iphoto Library of 11.8 gb stored randomly in one of my desktop folders, but i opened it and its still the same pictures I recently uploaded.

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Nicki. I’m reading over all that you’ve done so far, and assuming that you followed through correctly with all of these steps, it sounds to me like you no longer have an older library file on your computer or any of your drives. So Daisydisk didn’t show any large files on your drives? I ask because you said you just found an 11.8gb library in a desktop folder, so it concerns me that Daisydisk didn’t show that to you. If it didn’t find that one, then it’s possible it’s not showing you a larger one — the one you are looking for.

      And I’m a bit confused by a second library file that’s 11.8 gb’s with only recent photos. Have you always had 2 photo libraries? If not, it seems really strange that you would find a library file with only photos from August of last year on. Is it possible that’s when something went wrong and you or iPhoto created a new library file and any new photos you imported into it? But then that doesn’t make sense because when you loaded iPhoto in August or later, you would have seen that older photos were missing.

      Is there anything else that you can think of to tell me that might give me a clue what happened between Aug and now that might have made your photos go missing?

  64. Danny says:

    I hope you can help me out, i stumbled on this site. I was transfering photos from my iphone to aperture, and sudeenly it said it couldnt complete it, so i stopped it and disconnected the phone, all of a sudden all my photos on the phone were now black thumbnails and i touched on one and boom it deleted all my pics. I lost important photos and i dont have a clue how to get them or how to even check aperature, i had read about aperture online and used it only that one time. I tried this app called drfone to see if my deleted pics were on my phone but it showed only mu libraries and no deleted pics. Do you have any advise?

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Danny. Yikes. That’s scary for you I know. Let me first ask, do you have iCloud set up? Most people do now, and it basically is always backing up your last 1000 photos to Apple’s servers. So, in situations like this you can easily grab any recent photos and restore them that way when they are lost/deleted from your “Camera Roll” main storage area.

      On your iPhone, Click on the Photos App and then click on the “Albums” button on the bottom right. (I’m doing this in iOS7 so it might be different if you are on iOS6) Then click on “My Photo Stream” if you have it. If iCloud is setup for this, then you will see your last 1000 photos there that we could use to restore.

  65. Jo says:

    I have uploaded the photos from my iPhone to iPhoto, then deleted them accidentally. Worst I have emptied the trash. Any idea to recover them?

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Did you delete them from both your iPhone and iPhoto? If so, I would look in your photo app on your iPhone and then in albums. If you set up the free iCloud service you probably have Photostream set up that saves the last 1000 photos you took on Apple’s servers. You could recover them there.

      Also you said you emptied the trash, check the OSX trash to see if iPhoto put the iPhoto trash contents in it when you emptied it there.

      Aside from this, and routine backups you may have done connecting your phone to iTunes, and iPhoto running a backup inside of Time Machine, you may be looking at disk recovery software if you didn’t securely write over the contents of the trash. Then after that it would be recovery services working on data recovery from your iPhone storage memory or your hard drive on your computer.

      But Photostream is probably a good likelihood here since most people have set this up since it’s free. Check there first.

  66. Siobhan says:

    THANK YOU! I only had to scan your article and scroll through to find my solution. I had ‘lost’ all my photo files. I scanned your intro and could see how you got clues from the problem to what the solution might be and also got some insights into iPhoto. Once I saw I could easily understand your logic and you wrote clearly, I skipped to the solution section, tried the first thing and BINGO!! You write really well – even dummies can understand

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Siobhan, aw thank you! I really appreciate everything you said, and your time spent letting me know. I’m very happy I was able to help you find all of your photos again! Cheers!

  67. Marie Brochu says:

    Hi Curtis,

    I’m finally getting back to you. I’ve had a lot going on in life as well as with iPhoto as you will see.

    Since our last correspondence on January 9 & 10, I to update to Mavericks (Mac OS X 10.9.1) in order to back up iPhoto to iCloud. Then I had to update iPhoto to 9.5.1 so that would work with Mavericks. After all that I found out that iCloud won’t backup iPhoto’s photo library, only the iPhoto application itself, but that’s another issue. So then I re-formatted the external hard drive I have to work with Mac so I could back up the iPhoto Library. However, I’m still not able to view the content of the iPhoto Library when I double click it. It starts up iPhoto but doesn’t show any photos despite indicating there is 29.71 Gb in the library.

    I did find an iPhoto file showing a red flower instead of a file folder, made a copy and copied that to the external drive even though I couldn’t open the photos in iPhoto.

    I also downloaded the iPhoto Library Updater 1.1 and attempted to run that on the iPhoto Library file and it tells me that the file is already prepared for the current version of iPhoto. But still no photos show when I open it.

    Tried holding down the option and command keys while opening iPhoto, still no photos.

    I did Repair Permissions but didn’t Rebuild Thumbnails, Repair Database and Rebuild Database.

    Then I found photos for the two years I’ve had the computer, 2012 and 2013, in the Master file. I made copies of both 2012, 2013 file folders and saved them to the external drive.

    Because the photos wouldn’t open in iPhoto when I selected the flower icon I imported a copy of each year into the new version of iPhoto so now I can at least view them. I did this by making a copy of the folders in the Master file and dragged them to the iPhoto icon on my desk top.

    Now they show in iPhoto. There are 8618 photos with a lot of duplicates. I found that some of the editing I had done seems to be OK. However the event titles have been replaced by an eight digit number followed by a dash and a six digit number. I noticed the first number consists of the eight digit date, but I don’t know what the six digit number represents. Also some of the rearranging I had done is gone so I need to redo that but that’s OK because when I do this I would like to rename the events to correspond with the photos instead of the numbers. The date still shows in small writing in the event bar as it did before so that’s not a problem. There are titles or image numbers under the photos the same as they were before.

    My question is, do these numbers help iPhoto identify and keep track of the photos? If I rename the event titles should I type it in before the number instead of over it? I’m into genealogy and I would like to name the events by family names to be easily found. Then when I find new vital records or photos I could drag them to the corresponding event so all will be together by family names.

    An interesting note, when I first dragged the photos to iPhoto nothing showed in the menu’s Events. The next day the photos were there in Events. But there still is nothing showing in Albums, but the Album titles are still there.

    When I first contacted you everything in iPhoto was empty, Events, Photos, Albums & iPhoto Trash. Now I have photos in Events, Photos as well as the iPhoto trash which I suspect is the original file. I copied all the photos in the trash to a file folder on my desktop and made a copy of that. It has a little over 17,000 items in it. The reason I think it may be the original is that my original file contained a lot of blank spaces consisting of black square with a dotted line around it and an image number or name underneath. Many are the same as the photo next to it. I was going through these in the original file deleting the duplicates when all this went down. In the last few days I have made a list of many of the titles from the blank photos then checked the original external flash drive I had when I changed from the PC to the Mac and found that I have most if not all these “blank” files on a flash drive and they are visible.

    Now, if I remove this file from the trash and put it in iPhoto will this recreate the event titles? Before and if I do this is there a way get rid of all the duplicate empty photos first? I already have a lot of duplicates in the Photo file in iPhoto and this number will be increased if I put the trash photos in there. The Photo file in iPhoto contain 8618 photos which includes a lot of duplicates that eventually I want to delete.

    I realize this is very long and I hope it’s not to overwhelming. Thank you so much for your patience and
    for all your help.


  68. Kathy M. says:

    Hi Curtis,

    I too have lost my photos with the new iPhoto upgrade. I have tried searching the HD, Trash and Masters folder, but to no avail. The only iPhoto Library I find is the new one that was created when I opened the new version of iPhoto today. The switch library option shows no other libraries and the Masters folder is empty. Can you please help?

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Kathy. Hope we can get this figured out for you. From what you’ve told me, as you may have guessed, the next step is still to find your missing ‘original’ photo library file. Answer a couple things for me:

      Do you remember when you upgraded your library to the new version of iPhoto, did it complete without any visual problems to you? Or did it stop and give you any errors? Or did the computer lose power during the process etc? I’m just trying to determine if we can pinpoint any kind of problem that happened first that might have triggered OSX or iPhoto to switch out your ‘original’ library file and create a new one.

      You stated that you’ve tried searching the HD. Can you tell me what exactly you’ve tried so far? What I recommend to anyone in your situation is to look in the OSX trash first, then use the ‘Spotlight’ search field at the top right of the menu bar for “iPhoto Library” and then finally if nothing comes up still, to use a third-party drive inspecting program to scan any and all of your hard drives (externals to if they’ve been hooked up recently) to search for a large chunk of “photo data” on them. The program I’ve tried and know works is called “Disk Inspector” available on the App Store, or through the company’s website that gives you a free trial.

      I just had a guy write me to tell me he found his library file using “Disk Inspector.” He found it on an external drive. He remembered moving it to this location, but he probably didn’t double click on the library to load this library file into iPhoto. So when he launched iPhoto, it couldn’t find his original library file (or any library file for that matter) so it created a new one.

  69. costa says:

    Hi i realise this is about a specific topic but i was hoping someone could help.. i have deleted one of my albums in iPhoto. i would just like to know if it can be recalled? or is the album gone for the long hall.. just to clarify i had 11 albums and i deleted 1. any help would be greatly appreciated as you may always hear the album was significant.. thanks

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi costa,

      So, when you delete an album in iPhoto (not an event), it doesn’t delete the actual photo images. Those stay secure in your event folders. All deleting an album does is remove a “digital collection” of some of photos that you had grouped together in that album. So, worst case, you would just need to re-collect all of those photos and add them back to a new Album. Now, if what you are telling me is that it would be next to impossible for you to remember which photos you had added to that “virtual” album, so you probably can’t re-create it, then that is different of course.

      I just did a test in iPhoto for you, to simulate the steps you went through. I made an album and added 2 “virtual” copies of photos into it. I then deleted the album and it told me that the photos weren’t deleted, but the album itself was. Yes, exactly. So now the album is in the iPhoto trash on the left under the “recent” items. So first, I would ask you, have you looked in that Trash area to see if your album is there? My trash count says “0″ right now, but if I turn that triangle over, I can in fact see that the album is in there. It says “0″ for the trash because that is a count of photos in the trash, and since I technically haven’t deleted any photos, there isn’t any there to count.

      Now if I click on the iPhoto trash, right click and choose “empty trash”, then it warns me this move can’t be reversed. I clicked okay and now the iPhoto trash is completely empty. If I now look in the OSX trash in the dock at the bottom of my screen, it is empty as well. So, at this point, the album (data pointing to certain photos I had in that album) has been erased from my computer almost for good. The only way to get it back, that I am aware of, are data recovery programs.

      If you are to this point, a data recovery application might work, IF you haven’t been using your computer doing other things that may have told other applications to write information over that part of the hard drive where your album data was stored before. If, it’s been overwritten by new data by another application, a data recovery program will not be of any use.

      Let me know how this information helps you. Maybe it’s just in your iPhoto trash, or maybe you can just re-drag or re-add those photos from events back into a new album.


      • Costa says:

        Hi curtis apologies for the delay i just returned from over seas, This fixed my problem, I was able to locate and remake the album. Thank you for your help, it is much appreciated as a lot of the photos were irreplaceable. Thanks again


        • Curtis Bisel says:

          Excellent! You’re so welcome! So happy to hear it was in fact just some true albums you had to re-create and not actual photo masters that were deleted for good! Shew!

  70. Hannah Farley says:

    My iPhoto told me to choose a library from the list below but there weren’t any there so i created a new one and discovered that all my photos were gone! I don’t know how to fix it, can you help?

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Hannah,

      Sorry to hear you’re having problems with iPhoto. I know it’s scary. Try to be optimistic though. There’s probably still a very high chance your photos are are on your computer, it’s just that iPhoto isn’t set correctly right now to show them to you.

      Think of iPhoto libraries like documents in a word processing program like Apple’s Pages, or Microsoft’s Word. When you click on create a new document from the File menu at the top, it will open up a document file for you, but it will be completely empty — no words at all. iPhoto is the same way. Just like in Pages, you can create as many new documents (Libraries in iPhoto’s case) as you would like, but until you add something to them, they will always be empty. So this is why when you created a new library file, you didn’t see any of your photos in there.

      The problem you are having, is that something went “wrong” somewhere, and to remedy it, a new iPhoto library was created. When this new library was opened, there was nothing in it. It’s easy to then to jump to the worst fear and assume this means all of your photos are gone. The more likely scenario is just that your older library file, the one with all of your photos it in, was just moved somewhere, and iPhoto isn’t smart enough (yet) to find it. So, by default, since iPhoto has to open a library file just to launch, it created or loaded an empty one.


      First, I would look in the OSX trash can — that’s the one usually in your dock at the bottom. Look to see if it’s in there. (sort by file size column if you can’t find it easily. This will make large files like your library sort to the top or bottom to make it easier.) Surprisingly, many people I’ve talked to have found it there. If you do find it, you want to drag it OUT of the trash and put it back where you originally had it. This is usually your (user>pictures) folder.

      If it’s not there, and you’re SURE it’s not there, I would then move on to Spotlight (magnifying class icon) at top to search for your original library — usually called “iPhoto Library.” Look all over your computer’s drive and external drives to see if you can locate it. I find that after typing in “iPhoto Library”, then click on “Show all in Finder” works best. Now you can really get a good look at all of the results to find it. Like in the trash suggestions above, be sure to sort by file size to help bring the largest files to the top. Your library file is likely 20+ gigs so it’s going to be very hard to miss in a sorted column of file sizes.

      If you are still having problems locating your library file, you will need to then move on to a third-party program like “Daisydisk” or “Disk Inspector,” both of which are sold in the Mac App store. These two programs, and ones like them, scan any and all of your hard drives (externals to if they’ve been hooked up recently) to analyze the types of data that is taking up space on your hard drive. If it sees a large amount of space taken up with photo files, it will show you that area, like a colored “piece” on a map. You just have to hover your mouse over the area (if memory serves correct) and it will tell you where these photos are stored.

      Of the two, the program I’ve tried is “Disk Inspector” from the Mac App store. Though, if you go to the company’s website, you can download a free trial and use it to do 5 scans before you need to pay for it. I just had a guy write me to tell me he found his library file using “Disk Inspector.” He found it on an external drive. He remembered moving it to this location, but he probably didn’t double click on the library to load this library file into iPhoto. So when he launched iPhoto, it couldn’t find his original library file (or any library file for that matter) so it created a new one.

      When you find your library file, it’s a matter of moving it back to your /user/pictures folder (default location), or wherever you would like it, and then telling iPhoto to load this library file now instead of your empty one. You can either double click on your original library file you just moved to launch it, or load iPhoto and then go up to File > Switch to library and choose your original library from the list.

      Hope this helps you Hannah! If it’s still on your computer, you can find it. You will.

  71. Sara says:

    My photos have all turned into symbols with names like ‘muteOver’, ‘stop up’ or ‘volt’, in groups called ‘Resources’.
    I don’t know if this has been discussed; I couldn’t read all of the above comments. Can you please tell me how I can correct this problem? Thank you.

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hmmm Sara… I’m not familiar with that one. So inside of iPhoto, all of your photos now look like symbols, and your titles under what used to be the thumbnails or previews have been replaced with these strange names?

      If not, can you describe the problem in more detail — what still looks right, and what looks wrong and where exactly that is… what’s changed, and what you were doing when something went wrong etc.

  72. Julia says:

    I uploaded a bunch of pictures and was editing them when all of a sudden iphoto quit. When it reopened the photos i had just uploaded were not there anymore. I followed your instructions and found them in the masters folder but I can’t figure out how to restore them to my iphoto library. It keeps saying that it is an unreadable file and the photo is in my iPhoto library. Not sure what to do next. Thanks for any help!

    • Curtis Bisel says:

      Hi Julia. Were you actually “uploading” photos, as in sending them from your computer to some place on the internet, or were you actually “importing,” as in copying them from one location on your computer or from a camera (iPhone etc) into your iPhoto application?

      If you were actually importing, then it’s possible that there is just minor “corruption” in your iPhoto Library database because it didn’t finish creating the new database entries before the program suddenly quit. It’s possible the photos have been copied inside of the library file, but the database just doesn’t have all the “connections” written to those files yet — it isn’t aware that the photos are there yet, so you need to re-run a process that will make iPhoto look to see what it has and then write those connections to it.

      What I am about to tell you to try may sound scary, but in actuality, it’s not that big of a deal really. Apple is aware that this can happen — what happened to you — so it built in a tool to fix it. It’s just sort of hidden so that most people don’t see the option.

      What you will be doing is repairing and possibly rebuilding the library databases. It’s not that hard at all. You can learn how to do that following these instructions on the Apple website:

      Just follow these steps carefully, one at a time. And I would certainly not skip the one on making sure you have a backup copy of your library file before you proceed. Do I think there’s a likelihood that something will go wrong? No. Not at all. But, you don’t want to take ANY chances with your irreplaceable photo collection. So, please make one. It can be as simple as copying/pasting your library file from from your main computer drive to a folder on an external drive. Or it could be making sure Time Machine has run recently.

  73. Hello there! I was hoping someone can help me out. I had purchased a new computer, and I saved the file “iPhoto Library” on an external hard drive. On the new computer, I opened Import to Libary, and selected this file. It took a long time, but I could see all of my photos.

    So, thinking I was done. I deleted that file from my hard drive because I need more space. So when I went to open IPhoto, every photo was gone. I had a fresh page! I checked the maters photo and nothing is there. I tried switching libraries, but I only see one option.

    I don’t see the images anywhere. So, were they really imported? Are they on my computer somewhere? I just don’t see them! Can anyone help? Thanks.

Care to add your own comment?