iPhoto's Pictures Forever Lost – Help!

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by daveMac89, Jan 29, 2011.

  1. daveMac89, Jan 29, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2011

    daveMac89 macrumors newbie

    Jan 29, 2011
    Hello to all,
    I am afraid that I have quite a sad and seemingly hopeless story to share with you, upon this cold and dreary Winter's day.

    My story begins some time ago, when I sold my 20" iMac and upgraded to a brand new 21". You might ask what sadness could be associated with such a splendid upgrade? I will share this and more with you, dear reader, but you must be patient. Well, before I sold my 20", I backed up my entire computer using none other than Apple's very own Time Machine. However, this is where I failed, and this is where my story takes a sad and bitter turn. With my 20" sold and gone, I purchased a 21" from the local classifieds. Oh, what a beautiful machine! I eagerly migrated everything over from my backup, and for awhile, it seemed I was in technological bliss. Everything was there, my music, my movies, my applications, my photos...huh?...what's this???

    One day my wife was looking through some photos in iPhoto and she met the infamous exclamation point. For those who have never encountered this villain, it shows up when your cached thumbnails fail to link back to the actual pictures. I had met this adversary before, and had defeated him. This time however, his villainous plot was far darker than I could have imagined. When my wife showed me, I thought I would be her knight and shining armor and banish the dark exclamation point forever. I opened up the contents of the iPhoto library, and to my shock and dismay, many (actually most), of the originals were gone. I searched for invisible (hidden) files, but still they were missing. How could this be? It seems that Time Machine is the true villain and the exclamation point is only one of its henchmen.

    I have searched the web for hours, nay even days for help. I have searched my computer to its very frameworks, all to no avail. They are gone...forever. In desperation I called the technical support of my favorite company—yes, I called Apple. Off the record, I was told that Time Machine cannot be trusted for such important things. I was further advised that in the future I actually need to manually copy over my important files, such as movies, music, documents, and yes, photos. It seems shameful that a program who's entire purpose is to safeguard your precious data, cannot successfully complete its reason for being. I have long abandoned this failure of a program, and I am now quite happy with Carbon Copy Cloner. But this does not bring back my precious photos. These are irreplaceable. They are those precious times with my wife, my two precious children, and my relatives. I have been told that this is hopeless, that all is lost. Yet, I will not give up. I have come to terms with the fact that the full quality pictures are lost, but I hold out hope that I would be able to somehow get the pictures back, (even if they be lower quality), through the cached thumbnails.

    I have tried taking screenshots, but they are so low quality (only 72dpi). I had seen people use a very high resolution digital camera and take photos of printed pictures, instead of scanning them in, so I thought this might work. The pictures are just too blurry when I take them of the screen, using a 8MegaPixel Sony camera. I have truly reached the end of my capabilities.

    I send this plea out to all who have a heart, that they will try to help me come up with a viable solution. My wife gets tears in her eyes every time we talk of them possibly never coming back. You will be my hero, and hers, if you can come up with some way of using those cached files. I am very willing to listen to suggestions. PLEASE HELP ME.
  2. peterdevries macrumors 68040


    Feb 22, 2008
    Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Sorry to hear of your troubles. What you are probably looking at are not the actual photos, but the thumbnails of the photos that have been generated by iPhoto. These are just scaled down versions of your photos that lack the native resolution. Taking pictures of your screen with a camera or making screenshots will not get you the original quality.

    Here is a way to fix your problems if the photos are still somewhere in your libary:

    In your pictures folder is the iPhoto library. Can you take a look at the size of the library (it looks like one file)? If it is still quite large, than there is a reasonable chance that your photos are still in there somewhere.

    I suggest you make a backup copy of the library to an external drive. After that you can do the following:

    *Quit iPhoto (if it is open)
    *Navigate to the library in your pictures folder
    *press CMD and option and click on the library

    iPhoto now opens the library, but you first get the option to do a few checks and rebuilding steps.

    Just check all options and wait for the process to end (can take a long time if there are many photos. Upon finishing iPhoto will open like normal with all photos and thumbnails reconnected and sorted. If the photos are still in your library that is. IF your photos are still there, than this is the way to fix it.

    Another quick way to check whether your photos are in the library at all is the following:

    *Go to the library
    *Right click on the library and select "show package contents"
    *Navigate to "master"
    *navigate down through the folders and see the photos

    Good luck and report back how it went! I hope you will find your photos.
  3. roadbloc macrumors G3


    Aug 24, 2009
    tl;dr version: Time Machine failed to copy photo library correctly and I've sold my old Mac.
  4. James Craner macrumors 68000

    James Craner

    Sep 13, 2002
    Bristol, UK
    Time machine is an incremental backup system. It backs up your data every hour (unless you choose otherwise). So hopefully Time Machine has backed up most if not all of your photo's. Hopefully trying to rebuild the library suggested below has done the trick. iPhoto has it's own time machine window. Open iPhoto and then click the time machine button. Time machine then looks at just your iPhoto data. Hopefully Time machine will then show your photo's and then try and restore 1 photo. Check that works then go ahead and restore the rest. If you don't see any photo's try going stepping though the historical time machine backup windows until you do see some photo's and restore from that point.

    Other thought that did go through my head is did you move your iPhoto library to another location? Like an external disk?

    Hope you find your photo's
  5. normwood macrumors 6502a


    Sep 12, 2008
    In a house...duh!
    I appreciate you sharing your story but would greatly appreciate it if you would become familiar with the "return" or "enter" key that your keyboard most likely came equipped with.

    Sea of Words

    Sorry for playing grammar police on this early Sunday morning.

  6. McGiord macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2003
    Dark Castle
    And what about your comma key?
  7. Fishrrman macrumors Pentium


    Feb 20, 2009
    To the original poster:
    Next time, please put away the flowery bluster, write in plain English, and learn to use paragraphs.

    Here's but one more example of why ordinary users should NEVER use Time Machine to "back up" their data.

    Because -- someday, at a moment when they find they need it most -- they may discover that data (supposedly backed up so easily by TM) to be..... inaccessible, or not there at all.

    The fallacy of Time Machine (insofar as the "end-user" is concerned) is that it purports to make backup so "easy", right down to the simple on/off switch. Well, easy it seems, at least to actually make a "backup" to another drive, just hook up the drive, and away you go.

    The problem is when the user tries to get the data BACK FROM the "backup", and suddenly discovers the backup files to be inaccessible or incomplete. Then what?

    With a "duping" program like CarbonCopyCloner, doing the actual backup takes more thought and effort. But -- once done -- getting one's data back from a cloned drive is amazingly easy. You can even boot from the clone if needed.

    Again, to the original poster:
    Where is your "Time Machine backup"? Where does it now reside?

    If it's still intact, the original data _might_ be inside. I've never used TM, refuse to even touch it, but there are others here who might know how to open a TM archive and "get into" it.

    That said, you have almost learned your lesson.

    That lesson is, the only way you truly learn the importance of backing up is to first have a crisis in which you lose treasured data. I learned that way, too.

    But you may not have fully learned that lesson yet.
    How MANY "backup" drives do you maintain today?
    If it's only one, that's not enough.

    You need AT LEAST TWO backups of "irreplaceable" data. One should be near the computer. The other should be some distance from it -- preferably in another building. If you don't have another building, buy a cheap fire-resistant AND waterproof storage box, put it in your basement, and keep a backup drive in it.

    A suggestion for the future:
    Get a USB/SATA "docking station" like this:
    Then, get at least TWO "bare" drives. I recommend Seagate drives from a good source like newegg.com.
    Finally, use CCC to clone the contents of your main drive to each backup. Put one of the backups in a secure location in another building (safe deposit box, office, or the waterproof storage box in the basement).

    Another suggestion:
    Don't rely on iPhoto alone as a repository for your pictures. Create and maintain a separate storage area for your unmodified photos. Yes, still import them into iPhoto if that's your program of choice. But keep a dupe of the pics elsewhere.
  8. peterdevries macrumors 68040


    Feb 22, 2008
    Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Well done guys. Someone has a real problem and the only thing you seem te be able to do is play grammar Nazi or arrogant nerd.

    How about giving him an answer to his question in addition to pointing out his faults? Sheesh. :rolleyes:
  9. daveMac89 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 29, 2011
    To all the "helpful" posters out there who would like me to rewrite my story/question, I apologize for the grammatical errors.

    As for trying to repair the library, I am afraid the files are truly gone. I realize that all I am seeing is the cached thumbnails. As I before stated, I have exhausted any efforts to try and get the originals back.

    I wish that I had the original Time Machine backup, but I was foolish, and when I saw that the computer seemed intact, I started using it for additional backups. It was some time after migrating that I realized that many of my pictures never came over.
  10. James Craner macrumors 68000

    James Craner

    Sep 13, 2002
    Bristol, UK

    I am not sure how long you have been using time machine since you bought you new Mac, but you should be able to go back to a point in time before the restoration. Even if you ran out of space and time machine has started to remove old files, it is likely that some of the original iphoto files are there. Unless of course you wiped your time machine backup and started afresh.

    I presume you have tried opening iPhoto and then running time machine to just see the iphoto backups ?
  11. daveMac89 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 29, 2011
    I wiped the drive and started again.
  12. James Craner macrumors 68000

    James Craner

    Sep 13, 2002
    Bristol, UK

    I did some searching for you and this program claims it can recover files from iphoto's thumbnail datafile. I have no idea if it works, but thought you might be interested.


    Good Luck
  13. daveMac89 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 29, 2011
    Thank you for the suggestion. I checked it out. It works ok, but the cached thumbnails are so small it isn't really worth it to use the program.

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