Photos app for macOS seems to have known bugs. Examples: here, here, here, here. Some bugs like photos going into 'not responding' mode; photos app continually finding 'new items'; and photos not believing it has imported photos when it had, can be worked around by reattempting the import - by simply force quitting photos and restarting it, then clicking on 'Import all new items'.

The problem is, after importing said new items, the 'Import all new items' turns blue and clickable again. So photos app never seems satisfied that it has received all the imported items.

I will be deleting the drive of the device from which photos are being imported, so it is absolutely essential to be certain that all files have indeed been imported.


How can I know with certainty that all the photos on a device have been imported successfully to photos on macOS?

  • There are definitely more sophisticated ideas, but if you just select all imported items, check the count (i.e. how many) and compare to what the number should be, you can immeditately check if it forgot something. Also, why not make a second backup? As you mentioned, photos.app is buggy and software and OSes always can mess up or the drive can die.
    – X_841
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 13:14
  • @X_841 I will most definitely make a second copy, the problem is, to make a second copy I must first make a first copy (I'll be going iPhone -> MacBook -> external hard disk), so whatever makes it to the MacBook will find its way to a backup, but if there's any problems going from iPhone to MacBook, those photos will be lost forever.
    – stevec
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 13:16
  • @X_841 The counting idea is okay, but imperfect. For example, if photos is importing multiple copies of the same photos, but failed to get at least 1 copy of every photo, then I could erroneously conclude that I have all the photos simply because the total is the same. For example if the device has 25,000 photos, and the MacBook has 25,000 which are 24,000 uniques and 1,000 duplicates, then I could wrongly think I have a copy of every photo, when in fact I don't.
    – stevec
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 13:18
  • 1
    The question sounds like you want an automatic way, other than what Tetsjun answered, yet I fear, to be 100% sure, you'd need to manually check each and every photo. I totally understand your fears, the counting idea was also just a starting point, where you can quickly check if it failed, not if it worked.
    – X_841
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 13:24

4 Answers 4


Sidestep the issue - use Image Capture.

If you plug in any phone or SD card etc it will display the contents.
I set mine to delete on import. Import can be to a folder, or to Photos etc.

You can watch the list of photos go down as they are imported.

enter image description here

  • Wow. I wish I new about this 10 years ago! Better late than never I guess
    – stevec
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 13:21
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    I guess so ;)) Image Capture has always been the actual engine behind IPhoto/Photos importer, but without the bells & whistles. It just does the job. You can set it to be the default &/or auto-launch per 'camera' type too. I have it auto-launch for my camera cards, but manually for my phone, as I often am just charging the phone.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 13:23
  • I have noticed Image Capture is much slower than Photos. The answer under the linked question indicates it is because Image Capture keeps originals, but I think Photos did that too? For me, Image Capture seems to take 4-6 times as long as Photos to do the same thing (import images/videos). Do you know why this is? Can it be safely sped up?
    – stevec
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 15:21
  • 1
    Should have posted the comment right away: While this is an alternative to importing it from photos, I don't see how its faster for you to check if all images have been transferred. You still have to inspect if every photo has been copied to your Mac. You could simply import them to photos and then double check.
    – X_841
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 16:25
  • 2
    The problem with Live Photos is that they are stored as a standalone photo and a .mov file which contains the video that is being played when you long press the image in the photos app. Yet, AFAIK ImageCapture copies both image files and video files.
    – X_841
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 16:28

This isn't a complete answer, but I leave this information here because unreliable photo imports are a horrible problem to have, since they could result in data loss.

Here's what I did:

  • Click on 'Import All New Items' in Photos app
  • Once that process "completes" (it may not be complete), go back into your device using the pane on the left side of photos. You may see 'Import All New Items' is blue and clickable again, despite you already having clicked that

Here's what I did to solve:

  • Open finder, go to Pictures, then right click on Photos Library.photoslibrary (or whatever your Photos library is called), then select 'Show Package Contents'
  • the originals folder will contain the images/videos from your phone, unfortunately, it may be split into many smaller folders named 0, 1, 2, 3, .., 9, A, B etc.
  • right click on the bar in finder that says 'Name', 'Date Modified', 'Size' etc, and select 'Date Added'.
  • Now you have a way to know for sure whether a file was added or not (i.e. by ordering by Date Added, and visually checking if it was imported)
  • Go back into Photos, click on your device, under the 'New Items' section, select some files, click Import, then go back into finder and make sure they appeared (order by Date Added should make this fairly easy)

That's what I did. Very painful, but better than either i) losing some important photos/videos, or ii) checking 25,000 photos/videos manually, which would have been completely infeasible.


A year later I face exactly the same problem - I can't tell if all my iPhone photos imported successfully on to my MacBook Pro.

I could see that the number of of photos in 'Recent' Album on iPhone was about 55 photos more than the number imported on Photos App on Macbook. So 55 were missing!

Solution: on iPhone, go to 'For you', scroll to the bottom, and look for 'Shared with You'. Tap 'See all', scroll to the bottom and it will tell you how many photos are there. For me, there were 55, the exact number missing from the import. So I deemed those photos the ones missing (I could be wrong, and it could just be a coincidence that there were 55 missing from the import and 55 shared with me, but I think that's the reason).


You need to plug-in SD card so that it displays contents. Set yours to delete on Import (if required). You can do an import to photos, folder, etc

  • 1
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    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 9:58

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