For a home system, multiple computers and systems would like to access a shared photo dataset. I'm helping them to set up their new system, but I'm not experienced in administrating computers or networks, but I have general knowledge as I'm a programmer.

  • 3x old iMacs (I believe 2013 models)
  • 2x iPad
  • 4x iPhone
  • 1x Android phone
  • 1x Google Photos Cloud Storage

The new device is an iMac (2023, M3). I'm looking for a tool that would allow these things:

  1. Gather all photos in a single structure
  2. Merging them by date
  3. (Possibly) Remove duplicates

I know one can use the Migration Assistant to gather data from old Macs. But does this:

  • Merge photos from different sources?
  • Do I have control over where the photos will be stored on the new device?
  • Will the photos be stuck behind the individual user profiles?

Is there a software that already does this?

Should I write an Apple Automator script for this?

Is it even smart to gather all these pictures on the new Mac or should I consider a NAS that has this functionality? (I have limited knowledge of Synology Disks)

What are things I need to consider?

  • 2
    Interesting challenge, and probably not easy to get started and break the problem down into actionable items. How many photos are we talking about here, roughly, in terms of numbers (this will help with the Mac vs NAS decision)? Are the photos stored as is or are they in iPhoto on the Macs?
    – nohillside
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 10:20
  • 2
    Migration Assistant might help do move data from an old Mac to new, but in your situation it's probably not really useful (it can't merge). But there might be software dedicated for this.
    – nohillside
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 10:21
  • Probably thousands of the past ~15yrs... As none of them are proficient with computers or were teenager at the time they got the computers they are unorganized in random places...
    – Peter
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 14:34
  • 1
    I probably would import all of them manually into Photos in one user account on the new iMac, and then use the Duplicate checker within Photos and/or Gemini to at least reduce the number of dupes.
    – nohillside
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 16:02
  • You need to define exactly what you mean by sharing dataset; if you want only to have access to the original photos files or also to metadata inputted earlier in various possible ways. And if so, with which software, using the default Apple built-in Photo.app or something else.
    – Hugues
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 18:13

1 Answer 1


What you call a photo is actually :

  • an image file of a specific event which can take various formats and forms (Raw, jpeg, at various compression levels) and that can take different forms on different devices, meaning you deal with different computer files and different creation dates and possibly names.
  • some metadatas, either related to the act of taking the photo (focal, speed), usually inside the image file (see EXIF, sometimes IPTC), possibly added separately (GPS), or linked to a software (Albums, visages for example in Photos.app) and not in the file
  • possibly some editions made on the image (red eyes, lighting, spots, whatever) which are almost always software-dependant and not easily exportable

All merging processes are heavily dependant on what starting conditions you deal with. In your case, it's possible that all Apple related devices are using an Apple software (iPhoto, Aperture, Photos) where you can find some dedicated software that can do part of what you look for. See for example PowerPhotos.

You might need to separate Raw and jpeg duplicates. See for example RawHide

You might need to re-enter coordinates. See HoudahGeo

Regarding deduplication of non Apple-managed files, you might either work with the capabilities of the software you want to use with the end-structure, Photos.app is quite limited, or enter beforehand some information by editing the files itself, such as a mix of script programming and using third-party libraries such as exiftool. You might have a look at Peakto who can import a lot of different bases of different formats in one unique catalog.

On top of that, you'll have to think of how you want to access them in the future, and for what cost. 15 years can easily exceed 50 Gb and fall into the 3 €/month iCloud Apple plan per user, except if you're in a family plan.

As a consequence, depending on your requirements and level of exigence, you are either in a simple copy / paste situation or in a complex computer project that will take you weeks.

The first step you need to take is to look at what are the sources you deal with, what editions they have been trough, if you want or not to keep them and what is their level of duplication. Then, who will look at them and how.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .