I have a MacBook Air and just updated to macOS Sierra, which automatically installed the "Photos" app to replace my old "iPhotos" app. As I scrolled through the "Photos" app sidebar I checked to see that all of my photos were there in the "Photos" folder (at the top of the sidebar). Then I scrolled down to the "Recently deleted" folder and to my horror saw a huge number of my images shown under the advisory that these photos would be permanently deleted in 28 days! They are photos that I didn't delete from iPhotos or Photos, and I don't want them deleted. I looked again at the "Photos" folder and saw that those same photos — the ones destined for deletion in 28 days — were also showing up in the "Photos" folders. I don't need two copies of them but I am wondering if they are safe if I see them in the "Photos" folder?

Now I did keep copies of my images both in my old iPhotos app and in another photo app (called My Pictures), and I did recently delete a large number of them from my "My Pictures" file to get more disk space, but I didn't delete the duplicates of those same photos from my iPhoto files. Is it possible that the photos I now see as listed for deletion (under Recently Deleted) are those duplicate photos I deleted from my My Pictures folder?


When you "delete" an image in Photos, what really happens is that the photo gets moved to the Recently Deleted folder, and only after 30 days is it then actually deleted. Photos in the Recently Deleted folder do not show up in other areas of the Photos app, so if the only images there are also showing up in the "Photos" section, they must be duplicates that you deleted.

If you want to delete photos now, you can either click "Delete All" in the top right corner, or select the photos you want to delete and the button will change to "Delete" and only remove those that you selected.

If there are photos there that are not duplicates that you want to delete, you can select those and click "Recover" in the top right, and they will be moved to "Photos".

  • Thanks so much. You were right that once I went ahead and deleted those condemned photos (yes, duplicates they were), the originals still remained in "Photos." Whew!
    – Faithfog
    Dec 4 '16 at 3:50

I have no idea what is going on with your copies of copies and deleted copies and so on. That is why apps that take away file handling from the user can become a nightmare if it gets into an unexpected state.

What I recommend you do is save your images out of the Photos database to somewhere safe so you can let its do its thing with no worries:

Go to the Pictures folder in your User folder. Right (or Control) click the "Photos Library.photoslibrary" file and choose "Show Package Contents..." You will see a folder named "Masters" which holds all the image files (AFAIK.)

Copy this folder somewhere safe. This will backup all the photos in the database (put it on an external drive and disconnect it if you want to be absolutlely sure.) Then the app can do whatever it wants, like delete everything, and you will not lose any images.

  • That is such good advice and I am now doing that, storing the duplicates on an external drive.
    – Faithfog
    Dec 4 '16 at 3:54

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