this is my first message here. The space on a friend's iMac 400GB hard drive is almost gone. I've seen there are three photo libraries, which take around 320GB. One is the migrated iPhoto library, which I think I can delete without problems, but then there are two Photos libraries, both around 108GB (Photos Library and Photos Library 2)

Are they both necessary? And really can I delete the migrated iPhoto library?

  • What system version is your friend running?
    – Natsfan
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 22:09

2 Answers 2


You need to be careful here…

The old iPhoto library doesn't take up any actual space on the drive. When it was first translated to the new Photos structure all that actually happened was that hard links were made. These are multiple pointers to the same file. Only when both pointers are removed, eg by deleting the same file from both the old & the new library, is the file itself actually deleted.

There's a further issue though, & I'm not sure how this is dealt with on OSes since High Sierra.
APFS can't use hard links.
I really don't know what this means for the two sets of data previously reliant on hard links. Perhaps they are now 'real' so deleting the old iPhoto library will actually free up space.

In either case, deleting the old iPhoto library should be safe. It has all already been migrated to the new structure.

For the other two, you need to be more circumspect.

Load up each & see what's actually in there. It's quite possible to have multiple valid libraries, each with its own content. At launch, hold the Opt ⌥ key & you will be presented with a dialog allowing you to choose which library to open.

There's no way I know of to merge the two, should it be desired; the only way I can think of would be to export from one to a new folder, then re-import to the other - then you could delete the now spare library & the intermediate folder.

I'd be very tempted, however, to make sure to have a good backup before you start… just in case.


I use a tool to help me remove duplicates and merge / split libraries. I can’t ever get my photos back if I delete them from my primary library, so unless you have an archive of them before you added them, consider the time you’ll save with a tool for this. It might not make sense, but worth considering / evaluating for free and a small time investment.

I have no stake in this company other than spending my money happily on quality software that gets upgrades all the time and excellent support.

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