I am quickly filling up my hard drive and would like to move my iPhoto library to an external drive. I understand that it must be on an HFS+ formatted drive to properly work. I would prefer to attach an HFS+ formatted drive to my TimeCapsule and use that drive via WiFi to store my iPhone library. But I see that there are issues with network dropouts. I would prefer to not have to schlep a drive out of the closet or upstairs every time I want to import photos.

So, my question what, if any, other options do I have if I want to get my photo library off my local storage and onto some sort of network option? I am open to switching away from iPhoto to Aperture or Lightroom if needed.


There are two main options which I would go for:

  • Put your library and contents on a network volume

    This is the option that I went for on my setup, mainly because I did not consider the second option at that point in time. This option works fine for me — even when the network drops (which is pretty rare): the data transfer pauses and continues when the network reconnects.

    This works fine for my relatively large Aperture library, but I see no reason for this not to work in iPhoto.

    ✓ Easy to set up, just copy your entire library to a network drive and ⌥-launch iPhoto
    ✓ Uses no space on your local machine
    ✗ Possibly susceptible to network dropouts causing problems

  • Put your library on your local machine and the contents on a network volume

    This alternative is probably better, but requires that you switch to Aperture. This way, you keep the library on your local machine but the media is stored on a network drive. This means that it uses very little space on your local machine but even if the network drops there is no chance of corruption/etc.

    ✓ Much less likely to have problems due to network dropouts
    ✓ Uses very little space on your local machine
    ✗ Does use some space on your local machine
    ✗ Harder to set up — not as simple as just copying your entire library

  • I was about to answer this question but the first • covers its well. Yes, there may be dropouts, but a dropout isn't life threating, iPhoto will let you know it can't save, you do what you need to do to restore the network and once it sees the network is back up it tries to save again.
    – traisjames
    Apr 16 '14 at 15:42

Apple now has a document covering how to do this on the recent macOS versions and iCloud settings.

I strongly recommend local storage over network storage based on years of experience these guidelines are generally true.

  1. Local storage is an order of magnitude faster than NAS
  2. Local storage is an order of magnitude more reliable than NAS
  3. Local storage is far easier to back up and understand and maintain
  4. Local storage tends to become cheaper faster and faster faster than network. (When new tech arrives, it’s easy to drop one new drive in, expensive to upgrade your entire NAS) buying speed on one drive is always faster than many drives.
  5. You spend more time futzing with Promise, Drobo, Synology software and Apple improves their iCloud sharing faster than the third parties do to support new OS, new features, etc...

There’s great use cases for network file share, but a large photo library isn’t it. Put your archived photo images in folder based storage where you please, but your photos library should be on local storage and not shared is my advice.

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