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Photos App stuck at "Curating Best Photos"

fox1401

macrumors regular
Original poster
Sep 8, 2015
160
49
Once you open the Photos App for the first time, it will start "Curating best photos, Analysing scenes, Detecting duplicates, Composing layout" (you could find the process bar at the bottom of years, months and days view). The process bar got stuck forever at approximately 90% (no actual percentage shown though).
I tried to repair the photo library by using "Option+Command" function, but the process still got stuck at 90% after the repair. Any thoughts or solutions?
 

fox1401

macrumors regular
Original poster
Sep 8, 2015
160
49
I just found out the reason and solution for this issue. It works on MacOS photos (I'm using Catalina public beta).
The reason behind this was Face recognition. Just manually match the people, stay on the "people" tab, leave it idle, then after the process finishes, the curation will also complete in a moment.
 
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honeycrisp

macrumors regular
Nov 28, 2007
226
8
Still having this issue. This is what my progress bar looks like after many hours of waiting:
Screen Shot 2019-11-19 at 12.05.48 PM.png
 
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macnvrbck

macrumors regular
Sep 18, 2005
188
5
I used to tell people that using a Mac vs Windows was like using a toaster.. it just WORKED. NOT ANY MORE.

Same issue with Photos in Catalina hanging after upgrading.

Seriously, Apple wants us to wait weeks? (80GB and around 25,000 photos.)
 
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hipnetic

macrumors 65816
Oct 5, 2010
1,179
484
So I just set up my wife's new MacBook Air yesterday and ran into this problem. I don't have a solution, but hopefully what I'm about to share might help us figure out what the cause/solution might be for some of us...

First of all, prior to setting up the new MBA I confirmed that my wife's old MBA had her Photos app set as follows:
- Preferences... / iCloud / iCloud Photos / Optimize Mac Storage

When I set up the new MBA and logged into her iCloud account during the initial setup wizard, I wanted to set it up new and not restore from an iCloud backup. Unless I overlooked it (?), Apple's setup wizard doesn't ask you if you want to use "Optimize Mac Storage" for Photos or anything else, for that matter. I suspect that this is a big part of the problem for some of us.

After running into the problem mentioned in the OP, I went into the Photos app's Preferences on the new MBA and saw that it was configured to "Download Originals to this Mac" instead of "Optimize Mac Storage." Ugh. I purposely switched her over to the latter on her old MBA because she only had 256 GB of storage and I wanted to go with 256 GB on the new MBA as well (FWIW, we rarely take our laptops out of our house and I upgraded our family iCloud storage to the 2 TB plan). So I switched that setting, but the Photos app seemed unfazed and was still attempting to sync up her photos, look for duplicates, etc.

I tried a couple of the recommendations mentioned here:

I didn't have much success, but eventually tried one of the recommendations which was to sign out of her iCloud account, reboot, and sign into iCloud again. Now, instead of seeing the animated activity at the bottom of the Photos app window (which mentioned "Curating" and "Detecting duplicates", etc.), I was now seeing a simple one-liner of text stating "Updating 6,271 items" with a clickable "Pause" link/button. The number of items was *SLOWLY* decreasing. So it looks like it's still doing something and Activity Monitor is showing a good portion of the CPU usage doing something Photos-related.

What's more, clicking on the Apple icon in the upper left, then "About This Mac" and then clicking on the "Storage" tab, I was seeing a very large chunk (I think over 50 GB) allocated to "Other" and I suspect that a lot of it was actually Photos-related. It was basically telling me that I had about 172 GB free (of 250.69 GB). After typing up much of this post, I went back in to look at that and it's now showing 26.96 GB allocated to Photos and 19.38 GB allocated to Other.

One of the thoughts I had as I started to write this reply was whether I should log out of iCloud again, delete the Photos.Library.photoslibrary file (currently showing a size of 50.52 GB and growing), and then try logging into iCloud again, but I'm worried that might delete photos in iCloud and/or otherwise screw things up in some way.

So, I'm annoyed that this brand-new MBA is using up more storage on photos than it should be (with "Optimize Mac Storage" enabled) and I'm annoyed that it's likely transmitting a large amount of data over Wi-Fi, through the internet, and to iCloud, largely unnecessarily. When I started writing this post, the Photos app's status was showing "Updating 6,261 items" and is now showing 6,085 items. So, again, I'd like to kill this darn processing, clear out the local Photos library (without deleting anything in iCloud), and get it going again with it hopefully being smart enough to know that it should just be caching a small amount of photos locally.

Just to further clarify...my wife's old MBA's Storage info is showing under 11 GB of Storage used for Photos and this new MBA was set up new (so no photos were present on the hard drive at the start) but is showing ~27 GB of Storage used for Photos.

At this point, I've clicked the "Pause" button and will do some more Googling and check back in on this thread later, in case anyone has any ideas.
 
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ignatius345

macrumors 68040
Aug 20, 2015
3,151
4,188
Now, instead of seeing the animated activity at the bottom of the Photos app window (which mentioned "Curating" and "Detecting duplicates", etc.), I was now seeing a simple one-liner of text stating "Updating 6,271 items" with a clickable "Pause" link/button. The number of items was *SLOWLY* decreasing. So it looks like it's still doing something and Activity Monitor is showing a good portion of the CPU usage doing something Photos-related.

It's doing its thing. In my experience it can take a while (days, even). Leave the Mac on and plugged in, and leave Photos running in the background.

So, I'm annoyed that this brand-new MBA is using up more storage on photos than it should be (with "Optimize Mac Storage" enabled) and I'm annoyed that it's likely transmitting a large amount of data over Wi-Fi, through the internet, and to iCloud, largely unnecessarily. When I started writing this post, the Photos app's status was showing "Updating 6,261 items" and is now showing 6,085 items. So, again, I'd like to kill this darn processing, clear out the local Photos library (without deleting anything in iCloud), and get it going again with it hopefully being smart enough to know that it should just be caching a small amount of photos locally.

My advice is to put it into the background and stop monitoring it, watched pots never boiling and all that. It's going to compare all your photos with what's on your hard drive and there's nothing you can do about it but wait. If you "clear out" the local library it'll just shrug and start the entire process over again.
 
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hipnetic

macrumors 65816
Oct 5, 2010
1,179
484
It's doing its thing. In my experience it can take a while (days, even). Leave the Mac on and plugged in, and leave Photos running in the background.
But I have no photos on my local hard drive, so what is it "Uploading"? It should only be downloading thumbnails, and that shouldn't have taken more than an hour, if that.
 
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Madmic23

macrumors 6502a
Apr 21, 2004
741
650
This is one of the annoying things about Apple Photos. It scans for faces on each device. It's annoying and doesn't make any sense. When I started using iCloud Photo library, my iMac scanned my entire library. So did my iPad Pro. When I got my new iPhone last summer, it scanned my entire library. Now my new Mac Mini is scanning the entire library.

It's the one thing that I like better about Google Photos. Just send all the photos up to the cloud and let a much faster, more powerful computer analyze the photos, and then just use my own devices to view the photos.

However, I like having the full resolution original version of all of my photos stored locally, so I use both services and then complain about both of their issues when I get annoyed.
 
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hipnetic

macrumors 65816
Oct 5, 2010
1,179
484
This is one of the annoying things about Apple Photos. It scans for faces on each device. It's annoying and doesn't make any sense. When I started using iCloud Photo library, my iMac scanned my entire library. So did my iPad Pro. When I got my new iPhone last summer, it scanned my entire library. Now my new Mac Mini is scanning the entire library.
Yeah, I think you've nailed it. After my last post I did more Googling and I thought I had found a workaround/solution, which I was going to write up here, but I don't think I'll bother writing up what I found/tried, as it seems like my wife's MBA is back to where it was before with it doing the Curating/Detecting/etc. dance again.

It's the one thing that I like better about Google Photos. Just send all the photos up to the cloud and let a much faster, more powerful computer analyze the photos, and then just use my own devices to view the photos.

However, I like having the full resolution original version of all of my photos stored locally, so I use both services and then complain about both of their issues when I get annoyed.
Yeah, I also use both, and I'm honestly contemplating giving up on iCloud Photos altogether, dropping my 2TB iCloud plan back down again (and saving some money) and just going with Google Photos completely. But I'll probably hold off on making that decision.
 
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hipnetic

macrumors 65816
Oct 5, 2010
1,179
484
I also just came across this article, which is interesting (as are the comments at the bottom of it):

It basically suggests switching to "Download Originals to this Mac" first as it will ultimately be a lot faster, and then (once it's done doing it's smart-scanning) switch over to "Optimize Mac Storage." I don't really like that idea, though, as it will use up a large chunk of my SSD, which will result in the SSD getting fragmented more, which will hurt performance somewhat.

Basically, it sounds like a pretty big software defect that's been around since, at least, 2017.
 
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hipnetic

macrumors 65816
Oct 5, 2010
1,179
484
OK, so I think I had left the MBA plugged in overnight with the Photos app running but minimized (in case that matters at all) and this morning I opened it up and at the bottom of the Photos app it now states "Curation Complete." So now I'm wondering if the "fix" I tried yesterday might have actually done something useful, since I've seen reports from some people of this process taking days/weeks/months. So, just in case what I did actually *was* significant, I figured I'd go ahead and document it, in case it helps anyone else.

First, let me note that this is intended for someone who wants to use iCloud with the "Optimize Mac Storage" setting, to minimize how much disk space is used for local photo storage/caching. And it's likely only applicable to someone where the first time you launched Photos that "Optimize Mac Storage" setting had *not* been checked, so it had already started the process of downloading a lot of perfect copies of your photos from iCloud. If that describes you, and you've got a new MacBook that seems to be taking forever to finish downloading thumbnails and scan faces, then maybe this will be helpful. No guarantees.

If you are sure, that all of your originals are already up in iCloud, you can try to force the optimization as follows:

1) In the Photos app menu, select "Preferences..." then select the "iCloud' tab, and make sure you have it configured to iCloud Photos / Optimize Mac Storage.
2) In the main Photos window (at the very bottom), click the "Pause" link. It will tell you that it's pausing the operation until tonight.
3) Quit the Photos app.
4) In Finder, select Pictures from the left sidebar and you'll see the Photos.Library.photoslibrary file. Check to see how large it is (depending on how long you've allowed the Photos app to try to sync things, it could be fairly large already...mine was about 37 GB).
5) Optional but recommended: Back up that Photos.Library.photoslibrary file somewhere. I had a Samsung T5 external SSD drive (500GB). It took me about 6 mins to copy my file over. This step shouldn't be necessary, because if all goes well, you'll delete this file later, but it's just a safety precaution in case you remember later that you actually did have some local photos that never got backed up to iCloud and have to revert back to using this file. After backing up the file to your external storage (if that's where you put it), eject the drive, so that the Photos app doesn't see this file later and want to use it.
6) Delete the original Photos.Library.photoslibrary file from your MacBook.
7) While holding down the options key ⌥ launch the Photos app again. On startup, select the option to create a new library. In case you run into this...in my case, because I still had my Samsung T5 connected, it found that file automatically and was giving me the option to point to it, which is not what I wanted to do. So I then ejected the Samsung T5 from Finder and that option disappeared.
8) Because you had clicked "Pause" in step #2, it isn't going to start doing anything again until tonight, but you should be able to get it going again immediately by going into Preferences.../iCloud, unchecking the "iCloud Photos" checkbox and then checking it again.

At this point you should see at the bottom of the main window of Photos the animation/messages which indicate that it's Curating/Detecting/etc. Minimize the Photos app, leave your MacBook plugged in, close the lid, and wait. Or continue using the MacBook if you want, but keep Photos minimized.

If anyone else tries this and it resolves your situation, please post back. As I stated, I can't really say for sure if everything would have resolved itself in a day had I not followed these steps and left it to just "do its thing" in the first place.
 
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ignatius345

macrumors 68040
Aug 20, 2015
3,151
4,188
But I have no photos on my local hard drive, so what is it "Uploading"? It should only be downloading thumbnails, and that shouldn't have taken more than an hour, if that.
I think it's analyzing everything for faces and objects (yes, you can search by object). Once everything's all synced I have found it all tends to work quite well across multiple iCloud-synced devices, and without Google dipping its scary hands into everything.

Again, either leave it alone and let it finish or, I guess, keep futzing with it and trying to "fix" it. Good luck.
 
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hawkeye_a

macrumors 68000
Jun 27, 2016
1,637
4,378
It's been running for two days, after restarting multiple times. I'm really getting sick and tired of all this half-baked-smart-stuff, be it analyzing pictures, or caching icons, or any other automatic background task that's assumed to make things better.
 
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CrasherOne

macrumors newbie
Jun 21, 2020
1
1
Why let this stuff stress you out? It’s happening in the background using minimal resources (which is why it’s taking so long).

Just use your Mac. Check back in a week or so and it will be done.
 
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seven__11

macrumors newbie
Aug 17, 2018
4
0
Don't know if it has been mentioned before but check "Activity Monitor". Check if the "photoanalysisd" is using a high percentage of CPU. My Photos is going through the Curating Best Photos.. etc. process. I suspect this is because I recently added some scanned photos. Progress bar seems to be about 90% across. (128K photos in 1.7 TB)
 
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