I'm trying to help a friend and looking for the best solution. I have an external hard drive that was his time machine backup on his old mac, which he no longer has. I can mount this drive on Ubuntu and see the many backups and directories. What is the easiest way to recover the Photo Library without a mac? It appears they are spread all over the drive in different backup folders and I'm hoping there might be an easy way to get the photos without having to go into each backup directory.

1 Answer 1


You will need a Mac to make sense of the database and choices made. Also, sign into iCloud photos from a modern browser and check what data if any was synced to Apple servers.

See about borrowing or renting one from a library or friend in the community. It is very easy to install macOS on an external drive and migrate everything back to a live album and then export the best version of the photos and avoid all the thumbnails, optimized (full resolution is in iCloud) and other photos and videos.

Can you tell how much space is in the latest photos library folder and estimate the size of one full size photo based on which camera your friend used? We might be able to estimate time to import and the export for you in that case.

  • Thank you this helps a lot. I'll try to find a mac to get those photos exported.
    – phandolin
    Feb 11, 2022 at 0:18

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