How to Retrieve Photos off an External Hard Drive

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by lisapink07, Sep 3, 2009.

  1. lisapink07 macrumors newbie

    Sep 3, 2009
    I am a new mac user with a used Macbook. I believe it is from 2007, but has been upgraded several times.

    I got this Macbook from my boyfriend. He moved overseas for a religious mission. I am not able to call him, only send letters. I am having an issue with the laptop and need help asap.

    Before he left, he cleared EVERYTHING off his Macbook onto an external hard drive to give me more space. The only problem is, he cleared too much off! We had a year's worth of pictures of us that were stored only on his laptop. Now I don't have a single copy of those photo's. I have access to his external hard drive, but I have no idea how to use it to retrieve those pictures.

    I believe all his pictures are stored on iPhoto. Please help. I really want those pictures off his hard drive, but I don't want to do anything to mess up the rest of the valuable information he has on the external hard drive.

    How do I get copies of the pictures off the hard drive and back onto the Macbook?
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    Plug in the drive and search for a folder called "Pictures" or something...
  3. devburke Guest

    Oct 16, 2008
    If you plug the hard drive into your computer, you can browse the folders and everything just like they were on your computer. As to where the pictures are, that depends where he put them.

    If he had them in iPhoto, they’ll all be contained in one file, called iPhoto Library. Again, I don’t know where exactly he put the file, but before he moved it onto the external hard drive it was probably in ~/Pictures.

    Screen shot 2009-09-03 at 10.09.37 PM.png

    You could try searching the drive with Spotlight for it. Make sure in the filter bar you’re searching the external HD, and not the laptop’s.

    Screen shot 2009-09-03 at 10.15.47 PM.png

    (Although if you have the same issues I appear to be, it won’t show up in your results for some reason :( )

    From experimenting as I wrote this, I could get iPhoto or iTunes library files to show up in Spotlight for some reason. Weird. Hopefully you won’t have that issue. :rolleyes: If you do, maybe you can find it manually? Or with the method below. If you do find the file, just copy it back to your computer, and you should probably put it in ~/Pictures. Then double click the file and iPhoto should load that library.

    If the files are not in an iPhoto Library file (or if they are and Spotlight’s just screwing you), you can try just Spotlighting for images on the HD.

    Screen shot 2009-09-03 at 10.23.53 PM.png

    Drag them into iPhoto and you should be good!

    Good luck!
  4. lisapink07 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 3, 2009
    Thanks! That helps a lot. Once I found the files, would I simply copy them (like, command + c) and then paste them into whatever file I wanted? Sounds like an obvious question, but I seriously cannot screw up his hard drive or he'll kill me.

    And actually... How do you connect the hard drive to the computer? (I don't have the hard drive with me, so I'm not sure if he just has a cord or something.)
  5. devburke Guest

    Oct 16, 2008
    Oh just an update, I figured out why iPhoto Library wasn’t showing up in Spotlight. By default, “hidden” files and system files don’t show up. It didn’t occur to me that this would be classified as a system file! To include those in your search, start a search and click the little + sign

    Screen shot 2009-09-03 at 11.02.05 PM.png

    Then click the dropdown box that says “Kind” and select “Other…”, then type in “sy” and the only option left should be “System files”. Double-click that and it’ll bring you back to your search. Then click the box that says “aren’t included” and change it to “are included”. Then you should be able to find “iPhoto Library”.

    But yeah, if you can find this file, you can just copy and paste it into your Pictures folder. It might take awhile to copy, because it’s actually a folder disguised as a file, and it contains all the photos. But the good news is all the albums and everything your boyfriend had will be preserved.

    If there is no iPhoto Library file and you’re bringing the pictures back manually (which probably won’t be the case), you should be able to just open up iPhoto and drag them into the main iPhoto window (but first go to iPhoto’s preferences, click the Advanced tab, and make sure the box marked “Copy items to iPhoto Library” is checked, this will make sure iPhoto copies all the pictures to your computer when you drag them in). This won’t preserve albums or anything your boyfriend had made, but at least you’ll have the pictures.

    As for connecting the drive to the computer in the first place, it should just plug right in with a cord. Probably USB, maybe FireWire or even ethernet. The only effective difference for you between these is which hole you plug it into, but that’ll be easy enough to figure out.
  6. lisapink07 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 3, 2009

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