OS: MacOS 10.12.3 (16D32)

Hardware: MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2012)

I currently use Dropbox to sync, among other things, my Photos library on my laptop*. The Dropbox widget notifies me when files have been changed, and it is syncing those changes.

Frequently throughout the day (3-4 times, as far as I can tell), the Dropbox widget indicates that it is syncing a bunch of files that, I think, are part of the Photos library, like this:

Dropbox widget recently changed list

I think they have something to do with the database that the Photos app keeps to organize the library. This occurs despite not having the Photos app open, and not intentionally doing anything related to the Photos library!

Is there some kind of background process that is accessing or modifying my Photos library? I tried shutting off iCloud on my laptop, but it had no effect on the problem.

This is irritating, because neither my computer nor my internet connection is very fast, so it slows my work down.

Thanks for your help!

*Note: I am aware of the hazards of using Dropbox to sync a Photos library. I only access it on one computer.

1 Answer 1


This is the design of iCloud based photo library storage. There are several daemons that run in the background so you'll want to store your these files in a directory where dropbox doesn't perform any syncronizioaion.

If you need backup, you can script that and store just the periodic backups in dropbox.

You likely won't be able to change this behavior as Apple is all in with cloud syncing of data and even if you neutered the processes on this version of 10.12, the next security update or patch will likely re-enable this behavior.

If you really need to track down what's happening, you can open the command line (terminal.app) and use fs_usage to see in real time which processes access the files in question. With sudden app termination and power nap, you may find that the system will start processes to run periodically even when the app itself isn't launched. Similarly, when an app is launched, the process can and will be terminated when the system knows they have no work to do.

The analogy isn't perfect, but several years back, most apps were a manual transmission. Now most Apple apps are automatic transmission - you don't control their launch or exit in many cases - just whether the icon shows in the app switcher and dock.

  • Thanks for your reply. I attempted to turn off iCloud-based photo storage in Settings > iCloud, then unchecking the "iCloud drive" and "Photos" options. Is that not enough to prevent those daemons from running? I can't imagine what the daemons would be doing if I have turned of iCloud syncing. Thanks again.
    – Brionius
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 16:04
  • @Brionius Yes - that works for me - opting out of the iCloud Photo Library. The process that does the syncing used to be bird and brctl to examine it's status and configuration, but I haven't poked at that for several months under the hood.
    – bmike
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 20:03
  • Unfortunately, I've already disabled all the iCloud services, including the iCloud Photo Library, and the behavior I described continues :(
    – Brionius
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 2:10
  • Have you tried selective sync to skip these files, @Brionius ? superuser.com/questions/469776/…
    – bmike
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 19:23
  • I haven't, but only for the reason that if my computer died, I think the Photos library probably would be nonfunctional and very difficult to recover without those files - it would cease to be a useful backup :( Thanks again for the suggestions - I appreciate the help.
    – Brionius
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 23:27

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