So my computers been running really slowly the last couple of weeks, and been crashing down (or I have been forced to restart it alot)… I came across my iPhoto (11) library, which wasn't working. When i opened it, it said something caused iPhoto not to work properly and it gave me a command (Hold down option and command and press on iPhoto), which gave me 4 options. They were something like 1) Rebuild Thumbnails 2) Repair database 3)Rebuild database and i don't remember the 4th one. None of the first 3 were working, iPhoto just crashed. So i choose the one called "Rebuild database", and it started doing that. When that was done, all my iPhoto pictures were gone. And i think i had about over 10.000 photos from many years… so its pretty annoying and extremely depressing, if i can't recover them. I never have figured out how to use "Time Machine", so i haven't backed it up on that i think….Do i have any other options? Can i in some way take my Macbook Pro back in time a couple of days and get my pictures back? Would really help if you have an idea, or if you know that it's not possible, everything would help since I'm not the most technical girl when it comes Macbook Pro's and problems like this… :))

  • Lets hope not, lets hope the photos are still there just not visible in iphoto due to recreation of the library. Simple and quick check would be if you had 10000 photos that would be something like 100 Gig of space on your hard drive. So do you see your hard drive having now 100 Gig more space on it?
    – Ruskes
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 23:29

2 Answers 2


First: Nothing is lost. Yet. It is only hidden from plain view.

Next, the file and menu names below might not be correct. I am doing this from a German OS, and I did not want to reboot just for the filenames.

iPhoto keeps your photos in a subfolder, named "iPhoto Library" of the "Pictures" folder in the user directory. You need to control-click that folder (it actually looks like a file, but it is a folder, trust me!)

Then you will see a popup menu, and the third entry from the top ("show database" or something like that) is what you need. It will open the folder and display its content. One of the subfolders is called "Database", another is called "Masters". The Masters folder contains more subfolders, one each for each year of photos. Inside you will find subfolders for the months and inside again for the days. There you will find all your unchanged photos. If you rotated, cropped or modified them in any way, those photos are in the Database folder. I can only encourage you to explore them and copy all what you want to preserve to an external drive, so it can be added to iPhoto again.

But please fix the cause of the slowness and the crashes first! If your hard drive is dying, make a full copy and work on that to recover your photos.


You haven't really said how much time and/or money you want to spend to try to get the pictures back. If money is no object, stop using the computer right now and see a computer consultant.

Another approach, which might be more work than you want:

  • stop using the drive as soon as you can: stop using it as the startup disk, stop storing stuff on it
  • back it up using Disk Utility (rather than drag to another disk icon), using another computer if you can; then perhaps go back to using the drive as usual.
  • (not really part of recovery, but PLEASE TURN ON TIME MACHINE if you care about your pictures)
  • try other tools for recovering removed files. You might be able to find some recently deleted image files, which you could then import into iPhoto again.

For 'other tools', I don't have any particular preference or experience (that is, since I started using Time Machine years ago - did I mention you should TURN ON TIME MACHINE?). You could try DiskWarrior, TestDisk, or BSD-style tools.

Good luck.

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