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I have a friend who's hard drive died on their Mac Mini. I have removed the hard drive and placed it in external drive enclosure. I have a trick that may give me 5-10 good minutes with the drive before it spins it last spin, and I intend to use that time (if I can) to get a few files from the drive.

After talking with the friend, the most important data to them are photos that were stored in iPhotos in one of the profiles. Given that I will have at best only a few minutes with the drive, I want to know exactly where on the file system to look for this data.

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iPhoto Photos Location

iPhoto stores photos and meta-data in the user's home folder:

~/Pictures/iPhoto Library

Within this folder, the original photos are stored at:

~/Pictures/iPhoto Library/Masters

Bulk Copy with rsync

If the user name was friend, the rsync command to copy all the original photos to the local desktop would be:

rsync -ra '/Volumes/MacMini/Users/friend/Pictures/iPhoto Library/Masters' ~/Desktop

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Thanks. This definitely would have worked. Sadly, I was only able to buy about 20s of time with the drive... barely long enough to even recognize it's plugged in. No data this time :( –  Joel Coehoorn Mar 30 at 19:50
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