I'm helping a friend switch from Google Photos to Apple Photos so they can use the tagging features and have a more seamless experience across phone, ipad, and macbook. I am working on importing 200gb of photos into the Photos app (didn't realize there was a way on the icloud website to upload directly). Their hard drive is getting full, and I can't seem to find a setting that tells the Photos app to delete local copies and only download as needed, similar to how FileStream works with Google, or using the google photos app.

Is there no way to do this with iCloud and the Photos app? We both assumed they could continue having most items archived in cloud storage.

3 Answers 3


An easy way to get to this setting is: Apple Menu () -> About This Mac -> Storage Tab and click the "Manage…" button. The "Store in iCloud" option on the screen that pops up will provide a checkbox for photos: enter image description here

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If you're still noticing that there are a lot of photos taking up space, open Preferences within the Photos app, and on the iCloud tab, ensure "Optimize Mac Storage" is the selected option: enter image description here

  • These are already on, but as I import photos into Photos app it will delete older ones from the local HDD? I also ideally want a majority of the photos off the harddrive, so really only say the last 30 days of photos, not 100s of GB stored locally Oct 15, 2020 at 16:33

Goto Settings -> Apple ID and CHECK the "Optimize Mac Storage" option. This should force delete old pictures (they still exist in iCloud) to make space for new pictures.


If you are using APFS you can create an APFS volume on your machine splitting the hard drive in two different volumes creating a smaller one for photos.

"Disk Utility" -> Right click on your drive (Macintosh..) -> "Add APFS volume" (select a name and size).

If all of your photos are already uploaded to iCloud close Photos and delete the photo library folder and open photos. It will state that there is no library can you create the new one on your smaller volume.

Don't forget to keep iCloud Photos on and the "Optimize Mac Storage" selected.

  • Does this only work with APFS? And why do you need to create a new volume - can't it work with existing volumes after deleting the photo library?
    – sfxedit
    Jul 13, 2021 at 10:09
  • Probably but I just tested it with APFS so can’t state for a fact that it will with other file systems.
    – reistiago
    Jul 14, 2021 at 16:13

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