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Ask Max: Copying pics from multiple machines

Asked on 11/07/2014:

Over the years I have downloaded pictures and videos of my kids and family on all of these devices and they are spread out across four computers. I would like to combine all the pics/videos from iPhoto on one computer and also back them up to a cloud based service so if my house burned down or my computer was stolen Id have a back up to the backup.


When using multiple machines, the photo libraries start to diverge. Backing up these photographs gets more difficult and can cause duplicates or missed images. You’ll need to go through a three step process to consolidate photos and videos into a single library. Currently, your images are in the "Pictures" folder labeled “iPhoto Library" (Home Folder > Pictures Folder > iPhoto Library). Deep inside of the iPhoto library file are folders labeled “Originals.” These are files that are unaltered and just as they came in from the camera/device. These are the ones you will want to combine with the libaries on other devices. Once you have all of those originals in a single library, you’ll need to back those up to an external drive.  

Of course, Apple no longer supports iPhoto since the emergences of the Photos app, but the process is similar in the Photos library.

There are cloud-based services for photographs, but they tend to be of somewhat limited space (4GB for dropbox, 5GB for iCloud, 15GB for Google Drive, etc) so you may find your library is just too large to move safely to a cloud service. However, you can purchase more space on iCloud. A list of pricing for multiple countries can be found via this link

iCloud also now has Family Sharing in addition to their Photo Streams. In Family Sharing, you're not actually syncing the entirity of your photo library to family members' computers, but your loved ones are able to view them in a single location. 

In addition to these methods, I'd recommend having your photos in at least two separate places (home computer and an external drive), if not three (computer, Ext HD, and iCloud/Dropbox/Google Drive). Hardware sometimes fails. You don't want to lose a decade (or more) of memories if it does. Having them in two or three places makes those precious memories safer.

If you haven't already, please set up Time Machine to back up not only your pictures but your entire computer. Once set up, it will back up your entire system every hour, so you won't have to worry about losing everything. Call one of our Mac Experts to get an external HD, like this one from LaCie

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