I have a large iCloud photo library (60K + images). I want to keep my iCloud library as it is and make a copy of it onto an external drive (attached to my MacBook, running Big Sur). What is the easiest way to do this please?

  • Do you have all the pictures/photos already downloaded on your Mac?
    – nohillside
    Mar 7, 2021 at 14:27
  • No, they are only on iCloud, I think...
    – Dan
    Mar 7, 2021 at 15:56

1 Answer 1


Sure. Once your library is safely moved to the external, change the setting in Photos to download all images.

  1. Can i store and access iphotos library on external hard drive (and still have it backup to my cloud network)?
  2. https://support.apple.com/guide/photos/download-photos-to-your-mac-from-icloud-phtfa50fd1ec/mac
  3. Verify you’re backing up your Mac and the external drive
  4. Wait a week and then delete the old photos library from internal storage so you can free up that space and not have two libraries and metadata hanging around

Apple documents step 1 as well - https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201517

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