Any downsides to keeping Photos Library on an External Drive?

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by wannabelean, Apr 24, 2015.

  1. wannabelean, Apr 24, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015

    wannabelean macrumors 6502

    Mar 18, 2009
    I own a MBA mid 2013 128GB and every month its a struggle to manage space. HDD upgrades aren't possible for I'm considering moving my 75GB library to an external hard disk (HFS formatted) and opening it from the newly released Photos app. The ext hdd is usb 3.0. Will there be a performance hit? Will the moving be seamless? Presently I barely have 2 GB of space on my internal HDD.

    Thanks in advance for any help you are able to provide.
  2. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    When I was on Aperture (I have since moved on to Lightroom, thanks to apple abandoning it), I kept my libraries on an external drive no problem at all.

    I will offer one suggestion, make sure you backup that external drive.
  3. wannabelean thread starter macrumors 6502

    Mar 18, 2009
    Thanks for the tip! Much appreciated
  4. MCAsan macrumors 601


    Jul 9, 2012
    The wife and I each have libraries that simply would not fit on an internal 1TB SSD even if we wanted to do that. So all our libraries of documents, photos, movies...etc. sit on external Thunderbolt drives. They are included in Time Machine backups.

    We we do a photo shoot, we use LR to import the images to a fold on the internal SSD. There we cull and edit. We have enough space for several weeks of shooting on the SSD. We do backups on portable drives in the field. We we get home we use LR to move the new folders of images from the SSD to the external library drives. As soon as the move is completed, we tell Time Machine to do a backup.

    Even an iMac with a 3TB fusion drive can only store so much data internally, Sooner or later most folks will need external data storage for their laptops, iMacs, and MacMinis.

    If there are photos we want to share on the road, we create collections in LR. We export those images as jpg to file system folders. Then we tell iTunes to synch those folders to our iPads. So we don't need our MacBooks to show off past work.
  5. mrnorwegian macrumors member

    Apr 8, 2015
    I moved my 20 gb library to an external My Passport 1 tb USB3. It works great so far. Might be a little bit slower, but nothing i have noticed in everyday use really. Not sure what will happen when it grows though :)
  6. DFWHD macrumors regular

    Aug 6, 2011
    I only have a 500GB SSD in my rMBP so use the pictures folder for short term picture storage while traveling, then offload them to a small portable OWC USB 3 drive at home. I do keep my Photos library on the SSD so I always have the "good stuff" with me at all times (not all of my originals are in Photos). As others have stated, just be sure you back up the external drive. I use Time Machine as well as Crash Plan and it's worked out quite well. Crash plan has allowed me to grab a few originals from my external drive backup that are not in Photos while traveling if I need it.
  7. boston04and07 macrumors 65816


    May 13, 2008
    I am having the exact same problem with my MacBook Pro - running out of storage space, and the biggest space hog is my Photos library. I'm thinking about going with one of those semi-permanent SD drives (like a Nifty Minidrive or Transcend Jet Drive) and just keeping my Photos library on that. I'd back it up on my Time Capsule and all the photos would still be in the cloud anyway, so I was thinking that using external storage options for a Photos library wouldn't be the worst idea, unless speed was somehow severely impacted. OP, what did you end up doing?

    Everyone else, I'm interested to hear what you think about this. I'm currently at <5gb of free space on my laptop, and am getting kind of desperate for a solution...
  8. boston04and07 macrumors 65816


    May 13, 2008
    For what it's worth, I needed to do some temporary file moving in order to get a large file on my local SSD, so I temporarily moved my old Aperture library onto an external drive. My Photos library stayed where it was. I had every intention of moving the Aperture library back to my local SSD, since I was afraid I was going to mess something up, but...a few days went by, and I forgot about it, and my Photos library worked just fine. Including when the external drive was disconnected. Then again, I didn't try accessing all of my 16,000+ photos, so I very well may come to a point where the app isn't able to locate a photo in the database...but so far, so good.
  9. TitanTiger macrumors 6502

    Jun 8, 2009
    How would one go about moving their Photos library to an external drive? I'm confused because I know there is still the iPhoto library the Photos library references and all that. I want to free up that space on my internal disk.
  10. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    That is not how it works. The Photos library does not reference the iPhoto library. They both use hard links to reference the same files on the internal drive. Here is an article that explains how it works.

    So if you had say a 10GB iPhoto library then imported that into Photos and have a 10GB Photos library, those two libraries only use 10GB or so of disk space.

    But if you move the Photos library to an external drive, it will take 10GB of space in the external while the old iPhoto library still used 10GB on the internal. You would need to move the Photos library to the external then delete or move the iPhoto library off the drive to reclaim the 10GB on the internal.
  11. reubs macrumors 68000

    Jun 22, 2006
    I'm glad to see this here; I was wondering if I could keep my Photos database on an external drive. The problem I'm having, though, is I don't think I can put "Photos in the Cloud" by doing it this way. Is this correct?
  12. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    Some thoughts:

    There are a number of fast USB3 flashdrives now available. You could keep your photo library on one of these -- easily stored and very small footprint when attached. They are limited to around 128gb of storage, however. But that should hold your library.

    HOWEVER - I would not advise doing this unless you also keep a backup drive of your "photo drive". Flashdrives are too easily misplaced, and some don't have the longevity of a standard "hard drive". Having said that, I have flashdrives from a few years' back that still run fine. But you need a backup of ANY drive that has important files on it.

    Use either CarbonCopyCloner or SuperDuper to maintain the backup drive.
    Using either of the above tools is so trivial that there's no excuse NOT to do so.
  13. mrnorwegian macrumors member

    Apr 8, 2015
    You can still use Icloud Photo Library as long as the library is your designated system library.

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