I just migrated from Wndows and imported all my pictures from my external hard drive into iPhoto. I have around 100GB of photos. I wanted to see if this is going to scale or if there is a way I should organize this (multiple libraries) to deal with the large amount of pics and videos? I basically have a few questions:

  1. How well does iPhoto scale with large libraries?
  2. What is the recommended action to take when an iPhoto library is getting very large: split the library, upgrade to a different app, etc.?

2 Answers 2


The weight of data (in gigs) doesn't really matter with iPhoto. That's just file storage. If you have a large HD with plenty of free space (30%+ and never less than 10%), it really doesn't matter.

iPhoto used to be rated for 250,000 items in the library, but in the most recent update it has the same format as Aperture, and that is effectively unlimited.

As to how well iPhoto scales: pretty well. I have a 40k plus library that opens in a couple of seconds. I've worked on Libraries in excess of 100k items and while longer to launch (one was almost a minute) it worked fine once open.

You can easily have multiple libraries:

Hold down Option while launching iPhoto, and from the resulting menu select Create Library. Bear in mind that only one can be opened/ searched/ accessed at a time. Again, unless you're getting very large indeed, I would avoid them.

Upgrading to Aperture is simple. Install it. Open the Library. Done.


Depending on how new/fast/powerful your Mac is, you may find it better to split libraries. At home I use iPhoto on a 4 year old Mac Mini (with 3GB of RAM) to store my photos. My library was 50GB, and was terribly slow to open or do anything.

I split the library (into 1 library per year) using iPhoto Library Manager, USD20, and it really speeded things up.

  • 1
    The stupid thing about splitting up the libraries is that you loose the nice functions in iphote like faces & places. In fact these powerful tools are killed when splitting up libraries
    – Jeroen
    Dec 30, 2018 at 8:15

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