I updated to the new OS X last night and uploaded my 70gigs worth of photos to iCloud. I plan on doing a backup on my raid as well, just to be safe, but am I okay to delete all my photos that are stored locally on my computer?

  • You could always do a test by moving the Photo library to the trash and NOT emptying it. Then take some photos and see if they are accessible from your computer. One benefit of Photo on a computer is it can organize and edit your photos easier than on a phone. Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 17:03
  • @FlyingTrashcan, sure I get that, but with the new Photos app it's making that a uniform experience across platforms. I wish Apple would have made this more clear.
    – steveai
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 17:08
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    Local is always better and safer. A 1TB drive is $60. Normally the iCloud would work, but since it is not under your control ??
    – Ruskes
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 17:18
  • Call me a luddite, but I just don't get iCloud Photo at all - I have my photos here, tyvm, & also backed up to Time Machine & Backblaze.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 17:20
  • It's appealing to me because my wife is constantly asking me for photos I've taken that she can share on Instagram or whatever.. by having them all on the cloud she has access to all my photos, all the time. And I do with hers. And then we can share albums we've created with families when we want to show pictures of our kids. It's actually pretty cool.
    – steveai
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 17:24

2 Answers 2


Yes - if you trust Apple to never lose the photos, you can delete all your local copies.

Pay attention to which devices have full resolution images and which have "optimized" settings.

Also, I've been doing this for iTunes Match for some time. I have only lost a few dozen songs in two years of trusting the cloud. For that reason, I now set alarms every 6 months to download a local copy of all the songs from iCloud and back that up to an external HD. I'll be doing the same with my iCloud photo library to be sure I never lose all the photos.

I would add, that if the thought of losing a dozen photos or having to wait several weeks if your account should get messed up for engineering to work out the problem isn't your cup of tea, you might keep your originals on hard drives and in filesystems you know you have the tools to work with directly.

  • Do you mean that, if my local Photo app has backed up my photos to iCloud, then I can safely delete the photos from the local Photo app/my MacBook? I thought that once you delete a local photo the deletion is synced with iCloud, and, therefore, you delete the media from both locations. Can you clarify, please? Also, this answer is over a year old, some things might have changed.
    – Mohamad
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 13:17
  • @Mohamad The answer is still correct - perhaps I should edit in a warning - read all dialogs carefully when deleting. Make a backup just in case and then verify that the local photos are deleted. You can delete a photo and it will alert you that the delete will happen in the cloud. Don't do that. What you would do is delete the entire library on the drive and then set up a cloud download of lower size images.
    – bmike
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 16:08

I thought that Apple had solved the local storage problem and made it simpler, but they seem to have repeated some prior problems of iPhoto Libraries. First, it appears you can indeed delete all your new local Photo Library items. However, when you want to look at them in Photos on Mac again it will re-download them all again. Apple says (https://support.apple.com/kb/HT204264) that using Optimize Storage setting makes this all fine but if you have 10 years of photos, even in some optimized format I think they will take up tons of space. I just started loading a few months and my local "Optimized Storage" is 2.5 GB already.

Taking a look on the Finder, I see Apple is again creating some type of Packaged folder with all the library items and tons of metadata. This is the same thing they did that was problematic for iPhotos and caused lots of people to create multiple libraries through (hidden features to switch libraries, initially) and have to move libraries around between local and network storage to deal with space limitations.

Now, Apple seems to imply that the Optimized Storage feature is smart enough to 'manage' my local storage for me. However, I have no controls to tell it to limit its use to, say, 10 GB. We will all find out soon just how good it is at managing this.

  • 6 years later I'm new to the world of Mac and I'm facing the same kinds of infuriating issues. No way of capping the size of the local cache file. Plus it's one big file so you can't delete local data little by little. Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 23:10

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