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Suddenly, my Mac stopped synching my photos:

Not enough local storage, updating paused

I have tons of free space on iCloud, and optimize storage is turned on: Optimize storage There's no way that photos should take up 170 GB of space when there's only 250 GB in total of photos on iCloud: No space I have tried:

  • Turning this function on and off in Photos.app
  • Rebooting apps and the device
  • Using all available options in the 'manage storage' dialog
  • Turning off synching entirely: System Preferences > Internet Accounts > iCloud > Photos (uncheck) > Delete from my device

What else can I try to fix this bug?

Running the latest version of macOS.


Update: Super buggy. I tried turning off iCloud completely, and now get this — 170GB of undeletable "Other" photos stuck on my Mac: iCloud turned off I expected more paying for a premium MacBook Pro and $120 a year of iCloud synching. Do I need to take extreme measures and reinstall macOS completely?

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  • How much space do your photos (and videos) actually occupy on iCloud? You can check it also through icloud.com/settings.
    – Alper
    Commented May 16, 2020 at 2:24
  • Since 89GB are still available on you Mac, I would try filling your storage almost completely and use it like that for a day or two. That might trigger the photos "your mac is low on space" constraint and get rid of the full res photos on your Mac. Also make sure to run Photos in the background as well as have a reasonably fast wifi connection.
    – iOSapps.de
    Commented May 16, 2020 at 9:28
  • Try running something like OmniDiskSweeper to eee which files are taking up that much storage. Commented May 17, 2020 at 5:39
  • @youngpilot, thanks, I actually already did that. There's actually only 35GB available apparently now, but that amount keeps jumping around randomly. I think there's a major bug with these photos.
    – Baumr
    Commented May 25, 2020 at 19:59
  • @Alper, they take up like 250GB on iCloud
    – Baumr
    Commented May 25, 2020 at 20:00

3 Answers 3

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There’s no reason to take extreme measures.

  1. When was the last backup?
  2. Set up Time Machine if you have no backup, exclude system files, it only backs up live data and not snapshots.
  3. Make a new user account and give it admin.
  4. Turn off automatic log in and reboot.

Now you can use the new admin account to examine if pruning local snapshots clears all the data. If not, delete your old user account (it’s safely backed up) and repeat cleaning snapshots. Only then would I consider an erase install if the storage allocation doesn’t make sense.

To get control of iCloud, you can restore your user account from backup while the internet is disabled, then disable cloud sync and learn why full automatic didn’t give you the results you expected. Nothing seems fundamentally wrong other than perhaps not considering APFS snapshots and needing to gather some info on how much photo data is actually reported as being in the cloud.

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  • Thanks Mike, unfortunately I'm not at home for the next few weeks/months given the situation so can't do any usual backups. I have 2TB in iCloud that I'm using for document/desktop backups though.
    – Baumr
    Commented May 25, 2020 at 21:04
  • Oh no - let me see if I can find an interim solution. I’ve always seen Photos first download all the images - then thin them. I wonder if you have an edge case that’s not handled well. Hang in there - you should get the data back quickly or we can help with pruning local snapshots if they don’t fix themselves in a day.
    – bmike
    Commented May 26, 2020 at 1:26
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The only thing that worked here was:

  • turning off all synching and iCloud features,
  • deleting all Photos.app files from my hard drive,
  • and then starting with a fresh library.
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I've also struggled with this, having about 1TB of photos in my iCloud account and "only" 500GB of disk in my Mac. "Optimise Mac Storage" apparently only affects the initial sync - any full-size photos that Photos downloads are apparently never purged so eventually my disk gets filled up and it gives the "Not Enough Local Storage" error.

As a workaround I have been deleting my photos library and starting over after getting that message, but with the size of my library it takes quite some time to do the initial sync. I've found though that if I have a backup of a clean sync of my library (which is only about 10GB), I can start with that and have it go much faster.

The steps I've used for getting the clean sync backup:

  1. Delete the photos library (besides quitting Photos, it may be necessary to kill the "photoanalysisd" and "photolibraryd" processes to be allowed to do this)
  2. In Disk Utility, create a new volume with quota capped at 15GB (or a suitable size to what a bare clone of your library should be)
  3. Start Photos. When it shows the prompt for a photos library, create a new one on the volume created in step 2.
  4. Make the library the system library and enable iCloud sync
  5. Wait for the sync to complete. As the size of the volume is capped, Photos won't go crazy downloading extra stuff it doesn't need and I don't need to babysit it to catch it right when the iCloud sync finishes
  6. Copy the photos library to a backup location on my normal volume
  7. Delete and recreate the volume, this time with a larger quota cap (I usually set it to 100GB). As in step 1, besides quitting Photos, it may be necessary to kill the "photoanalysisd" and "photolibraryd" processes to be allowed to do this
  8. Copy the backed up photos library over to the new volume

At this point you can open Photos and everything should be working. It will start filling up the volume, eventually hitting the "Not Enough Local Storage" limit, at which point you basically just do steps 7 and 8 from above again to reset. iCloud will need to sync whatever has changed from the time of the backup to now, but that is likely much faster than doing a full reset (and you can always do the full set of steps above again to get a fresh backup).

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