I want to try keeping my iMovie library on an external drive because I use both my Imac (at home) and my MBP (when traveling) to edit my videos. Ideally, I would like to use a SD card so that it doesn't draw power from my MBP, but it may be too slow? It will also free up hard drive space on both computers. But when searching about this, Apple's support page says it's possible but advises against it:

"You can store your library on an external storage device such as a USB drive, FireWire drive, or Thunderbolt drive formatted as MacOS Extended (Journaled). Apple doesn’t recommend storing iMovie libraries on external storage devices like SD cards and USB flash drives, or drives shared on a network."

Does anyone know why this is so? I want to make sure it's not damaging in anyway.

  • SD cards, although generally fast and use far less power than other devices, are more susceptible to physical (dust, bending) and electronic (static) damage.
    – IconDaemon
    Aug 6, 2019 at 12:53

4 Answers 4


"Apple doesn’t recommend storing iMovie libraries on external storage devices like SD cards and USB flash drives, or drives shared on a network."

'cause the quality of external flash cards are poor. I have like eight flash drives bought in the last eight years and two of them have failed. External cards use a double layer of circuits where as internal SSDs use one.

Library of Congress has a question and answer email facility. I sent them a line about flash drives. I found out that:

LoC does not have data on the reliability of usb memory sticks. LoC recommends the use of rotating magnetic media for long term digital storage.

Here is what Library of Congress says about long term storage photos. I assume that vids would be the same.

This is controversial around these parts, but I recommend you get your photos out of the Apple ecosystem and store them as one photo per file on multiple external storage devices. For long term storage, don't rely on usb memory sticks nor external ssd drives. LoC does not have data on the reliability of usb memory sticks. Apple seems to be saying do not store photos on external ssd drives. One device should be off site. Using a cloud service is fine. Remember a lot of cloud services are sync services. That is should the file be deleted on the local device, the photo will be deleted in the cloud. For this reason, I never install the cloud service software on my computer. I use only file upload. For those who complain, my assessment is that the apple Eco-system doesn't match Library of Congress's requirements for digital archiving.

informative video: http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/multimedia/videos/personalarchiving-photos.html

printed version http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/personalarchiving/photos.html

General information on digital preservation: http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/personalarchiving/


  • Apple also include network volumes on its list, which could be any storage device whatsoever. So I suggest it's the fact that the connection can be broken, rather than a comment on the durability of certain storage types. Also, you recommend using multiple external drives, but you don't recommend using external SSDs? Having backups is a separate (though essential) issue from the choice of media for 'source' files.
    – benwiggy
    Aug 7, 2019 at 8:19

I just lost around 2hrs of iMovie work due to having my Library on an SD card. All of a sudden, iMovie reported that it will close the library because it cannot access it. iMovie quit, and the library was Zero KB. Nothing worked. This is the second time this happens with a different card. So I guess Apple was right.


Apple's advice does allow the use of external drives, but not SD cards or USB flash drives, presumably because these devices are not reliable for long-term, regular usage. They're fine to transfer files from one place to another, or for an additional copy.

I've never heard of any reason against storing photos, movies, and music on 'standard' external volumes, except for confusing the applications if the drive gets removed while in use, or if it is not there at launch. That might be why Apple doesn't recommend network drives.

I use an external USB drive for my media, as my internal storage is not expensive large enough, and have not had any problems.

As with Apple, I'd recommend you use a 'proper' USB drive. Whichever storage you choose, you will need to have a backup.

  • 3
    So long as it’s not your only copy. SD/Flash is notoriously flaky.
    – Tetsujin
    Aug 6, 2019 at 13:04
  • @Tetsujin Of course. Backups should be taken as read, one would hope. (My external is a 'proper' SSD and is backed up to a mirrored RAID, and other copies.)
    – benwiggy
    Aug 7, 2019 at 8:23

An iMovie library holds all the media and data used to make movies in iMovie. If your iMovie library is large and you want to free up storage space on your Mac, you can move your iMovie library to an external drive.

  • The OP's question was why some types of external storage aren't recommended. This Answer doesn't answer the question, so I've downvoted it. Aug 6, 2019 at 16:21

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