Photos App uploading Referenced File unexpectedly


macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 30, 2006
I want to use iCloud Photo Library with my Apple ecosystem. The problem is that I have hundreds of thousands of photos in my Mac that will take hundreds of GB of iCloud storage if I were to upload everything to iCloud Photo Library.

So I found the following guides:
  1. Macworld
  2. Macmost
This is what I did. I created a new photolibrary file and make it as the System Photo Library. This will enable the iCloud Photo Library with this photolibrary file.

Using a Referenced File setting described in the Macworld guide, I imported all my files. I proceed to choose and Consolidate the photos I want it to be uploaded to iCloud Photo Library (see Macmost guide at 3:43), the Photos for Mac then copied the original photos to its library and their status are no longer referenced -> this behavior is expected.

However, what happened next is that all my photos (referenced or consolidated) are all uploaded to iCloud Photo Library.

The only way to remove those photos which I don't want them in the iCloud Photo Library is to delete it in on your other devices.
Maybe the example below will make my explanation better.
  1. Set the Photos preferences to follow Macworld (enable Referenced File)
  2. Import 5 photos with names: a.jpg; b.jpg; c.jpg; d.jpg; e.jpg
  3. Choose files to upload to iCloud Photo Library, for example, file a.jpg and b.jpg by doing Consolidation
I should expect to have 2 photos in my iCloud Photo Library which is a.jpg and b.jpg. However, what happened is that, even with the Reference File setting, Photos for Mac uploaded all the 5 photos to the iCloud Photo Library. If I delete all the 5 files from or iOS devices, all 5 photos are moved to the Recently Deleted album in my iOS devices.

But in Photos for Mac, only file a.jpg and b.jpg moved to the Recently Deleted folder which is expected since they are already consolidated. If I recover file a.jpg and b.jpg from the Recently Deleted folder in Photos for Mac, those 2 files also disappear from the Recently Deleted folder in my iOS devices. Only the 3 referenced photos, which are c.jpg, d.jpg, and e.jpg, left in the iOS Recently Deleted folder.

This means that file a.jpg and b.jpg are behaving as expected since they are already consolidated to the iCloud Photo Library. However, the rest of 3 files are "rouge" files that are not supposed to be uploaded to iCloud Photo Library but got uploaded nonetheless.

I can then proceed to delete the rest of the file from my iOS devices, and everything will be in order again.
The most frustrating thing is that this unexpected behavior will repeat itself again the next time I import a new folder and
I need to redo all the steps above, but with an increasing number of files that need to be deleted from iOS devices, restored from Mac, and forever delete it again from iOS devices.

I cannot imagine if I already hit tens of thousands of photos files....

Can anyone explain what really happened? Ever encounter something like this before, and how can I solve this issue once and for all?

Thank you.
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.