I get the following error in Photos app on my Mac.

Missing File
Photos with unavailable original files cannot be opened.
The original photo “IMG_3076.JPG” is either offline or cannot be found. Click “Find Original” to reconnect.

This is what has happened, I assumed that since the photo is in the Photo Library I could delete the file from the hard drive. Apparently not. The reason I deleted the files was to avoid duplication and save disk space. When I right click and look at the info for the photo, I see that the size and dimensions of the image are same as the original file. So I am really not precious about the file being there.
So I have the following questions.

  1. How do I prevent Photo app from showing this error?
  2. Will I be able to export these files and edit them as normal?

Here is screenshot of Photos app preferences enter image description here

1 Answer 1


It depends whether the file was actually duplicated...

From Photos prefs

enter image description here

If you have that pref set, then the original becomes redundant once imported, as Photos now refers to its saved internal copy as the 'original'.

If unchecked, then the original remains where it was on your drive & if deleted can no longer be found by Photos [or indeed anything else, as it really no longer exists.]

If that option hasn't always been checked, then some files will still be externally referenced & need to be copied to the Library before they can be finally discarded from their original locations.

The way to achieve this will be to initially return all those files you discarded to the locations Photos expects them to be.

The you can use File Menu > Consolidate, which will copy all those external references into the Photos Library.

Once this is complete, then you can finally discard the external files safely.

  • but how does the photo show up if the file is missing? Photos is able to show me the image, i can see its size etc....
    – A j
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 10:23
  • It's in the database, likely with a thumbnail. tbh, I've never actually tried 'breaking' it just to see what happens.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 10:25
  • I have updated the question with the screenshot of my preferences and can confirm that the said option is selected. Now, how do I get rid of the error message?
    – A j
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 10:30
  • Check the File menu - is the option 'Show referenced file in Finder' available or greyed? I'm wondering if it does in fact think the original is still external. BTW, Pro tip for screen captures of windows, Cmd/shift/4 then tap spacebar & click the window you need. That captures the window itself & adds a nice drop-shadow.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 10:39
  • 3
    Is there someway to get a list of missing photos from the photo library?
    – A j
    Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 17:54

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