How to backup iCloud Photo Library

Discussion in 'Apple Music, Apple Pay, iCloud, Apple Services' started by Quasher, Feb 21, 2017.

  1. Quasher macrumors newbie

    May 21, 2011
    I am using iCloud photo library and have chosen to download originals to my MacBook Pro because I want to have local copies of all my photos.

    My SSD is almost full and I will most likely have to switch to optimising mac storage and storing originals only in iCloud. I would like to be able to still easily back up the whole library to an external drive. Is there any reasonable way to accomplish this for a 300GB library? I have a 1Gbps internet connection in my home so there's enough bandwidth.

    I don't want to have an external drive as my primary library location since I wouldn't be able to use photos without the drive attached.

    I assume that I'm not the only one with MacBook Pro and big photo library so I'd also like to hear about any alternative solutions that offer easy backups and ability to access the photos with all iOS devices.
  2. Mike Boreham, Feb 21, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2017

    Mike Boreham macrumors 65816

    Aug 10, 2006
    If I am understanding correctly, I don't think there is a way, without exporting the full size copies to an external (which is what I do monthly). When you export out of Photos, even if the mac is set to "optimised" you can export the full size file to the external, as it gets downloaded to do so.

    Either the full size originals are on your mac locally, or they are not (optimised only). If they are not, you can't back up your mac and have the full size on the backup.
  3. Mike Boreham macrumors 65816

    Aug 10, 2006
    Something else to consider is that a Samsung T3 external with a short 6" lead is highly portable external....very different proposition from a full size external. I have four of them and can take my whole digital life everywhere in a small shoulder bag.
  4. jetsam, Feb 22, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2017

    jetsam macrumors 6502

    Jul 28, 2015
    I'm not sure what your budget is. A somewhat pricey solution is a NAS box. I keep my photo library on a Synology DS212+. It's got two hard drive slots. I'm only using one, with a 3 TB drive. I believe I paid around $500 for the NAS box and the 3 TB drive a few years back. They're cheaper now. Amazon has the DS216+ (the current version of my NAS box) for $300.

    A Synology NAS box has full support for both Mac and Windows systems. There is a suite of Synology Apps for iPhone and iPad in the app store. You'd probably be especially interested in the DS photo app. The NAS box is attached to your home router, and (optionally) sleeps when not in use. You can do lots of other things with a NAS box besides store photos, of course. It's very useful if you want to share data among multiple people in a household.

    There are other brands of NAS boxes, too, such as Qnap. I chose Synology because it had the most user friendly Operating System, and lots of positive reviews. (Linux is the underlying OS.)
  5. Mike Boreham macrumors 65816

    Aug 10, 2006
    Question showing complete ignorance of NAS drives....

    If I put my Photos Library on an NAS drive located in my home, could I open the same Photos Library when visiting relatives 100 miles away?...which is what the OP wants I think. ( I might consider an NAS if it can do this, although my Samsung T3 drives work very well)
  6. jetsam macrumors 6502

    Jul 28, 2015
    Yes, you can. You can easily (and securely) access your NAS box over the Internet in a number of different ways.
    Here's a tutorial on the Synology site:

    (Sorry if this is more than you wanted to know.)
  7. Mike Boreham macrumors 65816

    Aug 10, 2006
    Thanks. I think I knew I could connect remotely (provided there is an internet connection, which isn't always the case for me) but wasn't sure if Apple support the iCloud System Photos Library being on an NAS.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 22, 2017 ---
    Not sure it it can be done from this thread, which is quote old so maybe something has changed?
    --- Post Merged, Feb 22, 2017 ---
    But this link implies it can.
  8. jetsam macrumors 6502

    Jul 28, 2015
    I'm afraid I don't know enough to answer your questions now <blush>.

    You might also want to visit the Synology user forums:
    to see advice, complaints, love and hate. (You know, kind of like here. ;) )
  9. iso667, Aug 6, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2017

    iso667 macrumors newbie

    Dec 10, 2016

    Did you finally find a solution?

    I am in your same situation and looking for a good solution. I have found the usual ones. Also found this link but it is a "non oficial" way of doing it :)

    Also another post from synology forums talking about ds photo, but nothing clear...

    --- Post Merged, Aug 6, 2017 ---
    A bit more information abou using synology ds photo and iCloud:

    It seems that you can back it up since version 4.12 of DS Photo or something like that.

    Ok, I have found it and configured. It has started uploading around 57k photos, I will come back later and tell you my experience :)

    Don't know what the Synology is going to do.

    I will try to clarify my setup a bit:

    - I have a MacBook Pro with 512GB SSD an iPhone (64GB) and an iPad (256GB).
    - I have like 322GB of pictures. Local copy with original files on the Mac and "optimized" library on iPhone and iPad.
    - I am running out of space on my Mac so I need to find a solution to "optimize" the library on my Mac but I still want to have a local copy of my original pictures.

    I have also a Synology DS-213+ at home that I was using as my local cloud, but last December I activated iCloud and I am moving everything there.

    I was "googling" about it and found this post and several others, started investigating and found that, with the app "DS Photo" from Synology, you can configure an "auto upload" feature to copy all the pictures from your iOS device to your NAS. It claims to support iCloud Photo Library also. So I don't know how it works, I suppose the iOS device is downloading a copy of the picture and uploading it to the NAS, but I am not sure for the moment.

    I have configured the feature and I will tell you the results.

    Also it will have some problems:

    - It will not support Live Photos, or will sync them as a picture+video.ç
    - I think it has also problems with photo boosts.
    - I don't know how the NAS is going to "sort" all the pictures, and if it is going to "copy" everything merged into the same folder.
    - I don't know if I am going to maintain every information on the picture, like geo-position, name, resolution, etc.
    - I don't know what is gonna happen with all of the other things from iCloud Photo Library, like "faces", "places", etc.
    - Because of "Apple limitations" on iOS, the app can not sync in background for photos. Synology has "solved" if using a geo-fence thing. It is kind of smart, but it would impose some limitations to background synchronization. You can read further but basically they have programmed a geo-fence activation so, when you enter your home area or your work area, the app "wakes up" and starts sync'ing, but it will work only for 3 to 10 minutes due to iOS running app on background limitation. I think you can solve this by turning on manually your iphone/ipad for a while when you are at home and waiting for DS Photo to end the synchronization.
    - Also, you need an iOS device, I didn't find any solution that can be run into a Mac.

    I think maybe we can lost all of these, but at least we can have a "local copy" of iCloud Photo Library while "optimizing" space on our MacBooks.

    I will tell you the results and my thoughts about them :)

    Best regards!

  10. iso667 macrumors newbie

    Dec 10, 2016
    Ok, I have done several tests and I have ended thinking that this is not a "mature" solution, at least not for the moment.

    Problems are:

    - DS Photo syncs everything from your iPhone/iPad to the Synology NAS (also it copies pictures from iCloud).
    - It doesn't make any comparison or check, so it can duplicate pictures.
    - It copies everything on the same folder, so you end with a folder with more than 50k files.
    - It doesn't work in two ways, I mean, if you edit/delete some pictures from your iCloud photo library, this picture still remains in the Synology NAS. So if some day you have to "restore" from the NAS, you will recover your already deleted pictures.
    - Same on the other way, if you delete anything from the NAS, it is not sync'ed to iPhone/iPad/iCloud.

    I think that for the moment, the only "good" solution if you want to use iCloud and have everything synchronized is to have a "desktop" Mac at home (iMac/Mini) with enough space to store all the original files and a Time Machine Backup of this Mac to the NAS.

    I am still thinking in buying a Mini with 2TB to use it as my Home Server and replace the Synology NAS / Apple TV with it.

    Have you found any other affordable and good solution? I would prefer to avoid buying a new Mac.

    Best regards!

  11. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Oct 14, 2005
    I agree (and that's how I've always done it), although my Mac is a MacBook Air w/ a 512GB SSD.
  12. iso667 macrumors newbie

    Dec 10, 2016
    Thanks for your answer aristobrat.

    I have also a MacBook Pro with 512GB SSD, but my Library is taking about 320GB nowadays and keep growing, so I will run out of space sooner or later.

    I am also using three different user accounts on the Mac for several purposes and this also takes some disk space, so I need a solution to "optimize storage" of my library, or to move it to another location. Portable SSD like Samsung T1/T3 is the best candidate, but I would like to avoid extra things to carry.

    For the moment, it seems to be my best choice. Buying an external SSD of 1TB an place the Library on it. I was my setup when I was using a MacBook Air with 128GB. I bought this Mac with 512GB with the idea of it could be enough, but I was wrong :) anyway 1TB was very expensive... but at this point I think if it would have been better to buy a Mac with 128/256GB and an extra external SSD/HDD to store the photo library.

    Best regards!

    --- Post Merged, Aug 15, 2017 ---
    I am thinking in another alternative...

    I have a 2TB external HDD that I use from time to time to store my edited video and not so important information.

    If I buy an Airport TimeCapsule of 3TB, I can connect this 2TB HDD to it and put my PhotoLibrary on the HDD.

    My question is, would it be possible to "unplug" the HDD from the Time Capsule and use it as a local HDD on the Mac when you are out of home?

    And the second one, do you think that the performance could be good with the HDD connected to the Time Capsule?

    Maybe it could be a way to go...


  13. Quasher thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 21, 2011
    Hi all, thanks for the replies.

    I still haven't found an adequate solution and have just tried to cope with the 500GB SSD by constantly moving all videos (shot with iPhone) out from the library and deleting bad shots. When the space finally runs out I think I'll end up buying either a new mac with large SSD or a Samsung T3 external SSD. External SSD is not ideal but the laptop is mostly docked at my desk anyway so it's not terrible either.

    Mac Mini for that purpose only seems like an "overkill" solution although it would definitely work. I'll rather save that money for the new MacBook Pro with larger SSD.

    I think it's really strange that even Apple suggests that local backups are important but doesn't provide any reasonable way to do this. From Apple:

    But we always recommend that you keep back up copies of your library. You can download your photos and videos from to your computer and store them as a separate library, transfer them to another computer with Image Capture or Photos, or store them on a separate drive.

    All bad solutions when there just should be a selection in Photos preferences:
    "Automatically back up originals to external drive X when it is connected to my Mac"

    I think you won't be happy with that solution after you have been used to working with internal SSD. I'd go with Samsung T3.
  14. iso667 macrumors newbie

    Dec 10, 2016
    Ok, thanks!

    I thought in buying a Samsung T3 (or T5, it has been recently launched!) and connect it to an Airport TimeCapsule.

    As yours, my MBP is most of the time connected to an external display on my desktop at home.

    Having the T3 connected to the time capsule will allow me to automatically download pictures from iCloud and do time machine without plugging anything to the mac.

    In the past, I had a MacBook Air with a SSD of 128GB and also a Samsung T1 of 1TB. I configured the time machine to automatically backup my T1 while plugged and my library was always on The T1 drive.

    Problem is that I was forgetting to plug the unit or unit plugging it from time to time, so if I had a problem I could have lost several pictures. I only plugged the drive when needed, not all the time. Because of this I was thinking in trying the airport way. But I also remember that the Tx drives from Samsung need an "especial" activation/driver at least for the first time, so don't know if this kind of drive will work as a network drive.

    And of course, you will have a bootleneck on the network, with 1Gbps speed, maximum rate will be 125MB/s. The Samsung unit is capable of more than 500MB/s.

    So my idea is:

    - working with pictures/imovie/others? Ssd directly plugged to the mac.
    - not working? Ssd plugged to the airport, downloading originals from the cloud and doing time machine copies.

    Do you think this scenario can work? Would it be necessary to open the photos app with the library referenced to the network for it to work? Would the mac use the library as system library either if it is directly plugged or reached through the network?

    I think this won't work as I expect :)

    Best regards!

  15. dgsgc macrumors member

    Oct 4, 2015
    I am in a near identical situation to you guys here, 320gb library nearly full on my 512 MacBook pro. I use iCloud photo library so i can view the pics on my apple tv but absolutely want to have a local backup of full res photos. I currently do that to a portable drive that stays offsite.

    It seems like the only option to free up the space on the MacBook and keep full size downloads officially(according to apple) is to have a drive permanently connected to my MacBook pro(with the library on) or run another mac(mini) with the library on in full size and then i can optimise my MacBook pro.

    Has anyone found a better solution? Money is no object within reason...

    Can i store my photos library on a time capsule?

    Can i buy a 512gb SD card and leave that plugged in with the library on?

    Any help greatly appreciated.
  16. dgsgc macrumors member

    Oct 4, 2015
    Anyone found a solution to this issue that doesn't involve running another mac or using external storage permanently connected.
  17. iso667 macrumors newbie

    Dec 10, 2016
    Hello dgsgc,

    I didn’t find a solution but this is what I’ve done:

    I use my MacBook at home and at the office to work everyday. I use two different screens, one Apple Thunderbolt Display at home and one LG 27UD88-W at the office.

    I have bought an external hard drive (lacie rugged 4TB Raid) for 200€ in a second hand store, it was brand new and very cheap.

    I have attached to my TB display the hard drive.

    On my Mac, I have three different users: one for free time, one to work and one more to study.

    On my main user, I have “optimized the storage” on my iCloud Photo Library and leave it as it is on the “images” folder.

    On my study user, I have copied the photo library to my external drive and set “download full res images to this Mac”. I also have set up time machine to copy the external drive.

    When I am “on the go” I have my normal user with more accessed pictures like my iPhone, iPad, and if I have internet, I can use all of them. If I need some pictures or want to do some work with them, I can always bring the HDD with me.

    Maybe not the best solution, you have to remember from time to time to open the photos app on the secondary user or at least login the user for the photos to sync. But it is the best solution I have found for my personal usage.

    I also have a NAS where I do backups of the HDD and the full Mac with time machine. It will work equally with a time capsule or something similar.

    Hope this helps, if I found a better way I’ll come and post again ;)

    Best regards!
  18. Winterfibre macrumors regular

    Nov 30, 2016
    I thought i would optimize my photos on my iphone and keep the originals in the cloud, that was after i found out i cannot download them from the cloud unless its one at a time.

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