Migrate iPhoto to Photos app

Now that OS X Yosemite has been officially released, it’s time to think about migrating your old iPhoto library to the new Photos app. Migrating over is extremely easy, as there are multiple ways to do so. In this post, we highlight one of the easiest and most straightforward ways to migrate an iPhoto Library over to a new Photos app install.

Moving iPhoto library to Photos app

Step 1: Curate your iPhoto library and delete any duplicate files and update any meta data you wish to update

Step 2: Close both the Photos app and iPhoto

Step 3: Open ~/Pictures and you should see at least two photo libraries: one for the new—Photos Library— and one for the old—iPhoto Library

Step 4: Double click on Photos Library and it should launch the new Photos app. Verify that the Photos app is empty, which it should be on a new installation of OS X Yosemite 10.10.3

Step 5: If the Photos Library is empty as confirmed in Step 3, delete the Photos Library database from ~/Pictures. We do this to avoid having multiple libraries for the Photos app, and to prevent weird names like “Photo Library 2”

Step 6: Launch the Photos app, and it should state that Photos cannot find the System Photos Library. That’s okay, because we just deleted it

Step 7: Click Open Other…

Step 8: Select the iPhoto Library and click Choose Library

Step 9: Wait while all of your data and photos from iPhoto are imported into the new Photos app

Note: You can still open iPhoto, but keep in mind that any changes you make in iPhoto from this point forward will not appear in the Photos app, as they are two separate libraries. You can actually delete the old iPhoto Library once you’ve verified that everything was successfully migrated.

Also note that iPhoto has been removed from the Mac App Store, so before you uninstall it, be sure that you are 100% finished with it. I’m probably going to keep it around for a little while longer and delete it some time down the line.

What do you think about the new Photos app? Have you moved your iPhoto library over yet?

  • Marcus

    RIP iPhoto, January 7, 2002 – March 19, 2015
    Long live Photos.

    Awesome tutorial Jeff!

  • Marcus

    I noticed that my “Photos Library” (28.98 GB) is slightly smaller than my “iPhoto Library” (32.23 GB). Does anyone know why this is? Is this true for anyone else?

    • Dontwannaknow

      I experienced the same thing. Then I delete iPhone library. And all my photos are still in Photos app. Basically, it just duplicates things. To gain some space, I did so but not equivalent amount of SSD space was recovered. Don’t know where those photos hidden though. But after clean install and restore from Time Machine, I got all space back while all photos still there in Photos app.

    • sh1ny

      That’s because not all the information from iPhoto is being imported. Photos creates hardlinks during the initial import process, avoiding the need of copying files. When you delete your old iPhoto/Aperture library, you actually delete all iPhoto/Aperture-specific files plus one of two filesystem entries for each of your photo files. Remaining ones are what Photos library consists of after importing.

      Besides, the new Photos app uses a different approach at storing information. Basically, when you make an edit, a new thumbnail is generated, but it’s still an “original”. Photos even generates modified versions of photos on the fly when you export them.

      The same applies for iCloud Photo Library — only increments are being synced.

      • Marcus

        This is a good answer. So you’re saying that since Photos works differently than iPhoto, not as much storage is used. Right?

      • sh1ny

        In theory, Photos should use about the same amount of storage as iPhoto does.
        However, considering Photos comes with iCloud Photo Library, you can save local storage by turning it on and selecting “Optimize Mac Storage” option. This uploads all the contents of your primary media library to your iCloud and then will minimize your local photo library size by deleting full-resolution originals when free space is low. Your Favorites album, as well as the most recent photos, have a higher priority and are more likely to be preserved.
        Obviously, iCloud Photo Library consumes your iCloud Drive storage.

      • Marcus

        Yeah I already know all about that. I have my Photos Library optimized for my iPhone, but not for my Mac. Maybe duplicate photos or videos were removed when I migrated from iPhoto to Photos. That’s why my Photos Library takes up less space than my iPhoto Library.

  • Keyan Fayaz

    What if I have more than 1 library? I have roughly 7-8 libraries combined with iPhoto and Apreture…

    • Skoven

      Perhaps the “import” function in Photos will merge your libraries into one?
      If you want to keep them separated, im sure you can just update them respectively, by holding “alt” key when opening Photos, and let Photos convert the iPhoto/Aperture library to a Photos library.

      • Tim Liu

        Photo’s “import” function cannot import entire Aperture library, I tried that…

        And yes you can always use “alt-click” on the Photo app to open different Photo library.

  • Tommy Gumbs

    Sweet, great write up.

  • Lordrootman

    well I’ve photos on iphotos library how can i import them to photo library

    • Dontwannaknow

      When you first open Photos, don’t you get notification to import photos from iPhoto? From my experience, I just open Photos app and click import (not sure what it exactly was), then all photos were copied to Photos. Note that it COPIED not moved.

      • Preben Faarkrog Hansen

        Same here

      • Tim Liu

        This is not working for me as I use an external hard drive with Aperture Library instead of iPhoto Library.

  • jphansen

    Has anyone figured out how to edit photos in Photoshop if needed? The only way I see right now is to export the image and edit and than reimport.. That sux..

  • Skoven

    Here’s a “trick” if you want to use multiple libraries (or don’t want to delete the one you are using in order to switch to another)…
    Hold “alt” key when starting Photos… you will then get the screen where you can select or create a new library (screenshot).

  • Tim

    And ofcourse it goes well with anyone except me. Photos app imports 33 of my over 2000 photos and now if I click the iPhoto library to import it, it says it’s already migrated.. Yay for change.

  • Inna Ushakova

    Thanks!

  • Thank you for this detailed article. Just tried it successfully after searching for help for the past hour.

  • jesse

    so when i will connect my iphone i would not able to put pictures in without icloud ? i hope not

  • brandnewdaydesigns

    I’ve imported everything into the new Photos app from iPhoto, but when I go to preferences I’m not able to select any iCloud options. A pop-up says ‘iCloud features are available in System Library Folder. Has anyone else experienced this problem? If I delete my old iPhoto will that make my new Photos the System Library Folder therefore allowing me to select iCloud options?

  • Yoni

    I migrated my library to the new Photos app – but now I have TWO libraries. “iPhoto Library” and “Photos Library.photoslibrary”. Am I supposed to delete the original library? ( I can’t keep both… not enough storage). Am I supposed to delete the old iPhoto application?

    I am kinda annoyed that it duplicated the library rather than converting the library – on one computer, that is okay i have enough space, on another (my wife’s) there is no way that I have enough room for both libraries..

  • Marcus

    So iPod Photo Cache was just duplicate photos in a separate location? Good thing all of that wasted space was removed. Thanks for the response!

    • Dave Ruske

      I suppose the cache contained reduced images for synching with the iPad/Pod/Phone… and I’d been synching thousands of photos with my iPad. So yeah, I had about 17 GB of cached images in there, and got a little bonus by migrating to Photos.

  • Jacqueline Levy

    Hi everyone. Thank you for the great info. I updated to Yosemite 10.10 today and now can’t import pictures. It seems like all of my pics appear on both iPhoto and Photos, but I am having functionality issues. There is no “import” button available. I did see one earlier in the day, BUT it said importing for over an hour and did absolutely nothing. Can anyone suggest a remedy for this?

    THANK YOU, Jacky

  • Abynorml

    Death to photos, its garbage, it doesn’t show all my photos, and its not needed, bad software, I didn’t want a beta test

  • holly

    What about when you updated not knowing it will delete iPhoto and ALL your pictures?!?! What the hell!? Is there anything I can do now to get iPhoto or at least my pictures back?

    • Roy Farzanmehr

      Hi,
      Has anyone figured out how to drag and drop photo folders which has for instance the name of the location you have taken picture from into photos app and have it as an album automatically like in iPhoto.
      As with iPhoto the feature was very helpful for photos without geotag data you just simply drop in the folder that contained for instance photos of NYC and that was what you get in iPhoto album.
      Any help is greatly appreciated as this issue is driving me nuts.
      At this stage the only solution I have come up with is to manually create albums and drag and drop the photos into them!!

  • Roy Farzanmehr

    Drag and Drop folder doesn’t create album in Photos like iPhoto.

    Hi,

    Has anyone figured out how to drag and drop photo folders, which has for instance the name of the location you have taken picture from, into photos app and have it as an album automatically like in iPhoto.

    As with iPhoto the feature was very helpful for photos without geotag data you just simply drop in the folder that contained for instance photos of NYC and was named “Photos From NYC 2014” and that was what you get in iPhoto album.

    Any help is greatly appreciated as this issue is driving me nuts.

    At this stage the only solution I have come up with is to manually create albums and drag and drop the photos into them!!

    Thanks

    Mac mini (Late 2014), OS X Yosemite (10.10.3)

  • Here is another way to transfer Photos & Pictures from Mac/iTunes to your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Find it from my Profile!

  • jb

    i followed these instructions but when i went to chose the old iPhoto library it was ghosted and i couldn’t select it. suggestions?

  • JacksonTrunck

    I have an aperture library that has already been migrated into photos. Mac died. Couldn’t back up the data. Got new mac. I still have that library in a back up and now attempted to open it with photos again. And I can’t because “library has already been migrated. Open it in aperture.” The problem is aperture can’t be installed on the new mac as installation fails, it says “aperture isn’t compatible.” What do I do?

  • Adam

    I had to update hard drive (failed) in my iMac before Yosemite OS X update…i would’ve in same boat as another commenter above had I not made backup. But all I did was connect the external w backup and find my iPhoto library package file in pictures, then right click to “show package contents”…copied the “masters” folder (nothing else) to my desktop. I didn’t have any dupes in previous library so didn’t see need to fix metadata or search for dupes. opened Yosemite photos app and selected file/import and library identical. don’t see any duplicate or pic count discrepancy. Masters file is same gb (4.26)….however The package file is 6.08GB..Is other app data almost 2gb? Wasnt expecting that much of a difference but Im hoping thats ok…someone please let me know if this is off… deleting the masters folder from desktop..Always have the backup

  • Ishtiaq Hussain

    Didn’t work , mac el capitan does not allow to choose iphoto im stuck since this new upgrade

  • PicBackMan

    What if you have multiple libraries and you would like to create one centralized library? Are we allowed to merge multiple libraries into one?