I recently got my iMac's HDD replaced and when I restored my computer, every single Time Machine backup stretching back to last October contained the same size iPhoto library (+/- 100MB), which was current up to last February, even though the rest of my backups were intact.

Even stranger, before I had the HDD replaced, I copied the Master's folder in iPhoto's Library package to an external drive, and it was also incomplete, and in exactly the same way.

I managed to salvage some photos that were in Photostream by going into ~/Library/Application Support/iLifeAssetManagement/assets/sub in the Time Machine backup, but many are missing and all my videos are gone (because Photostream doesn't do videos.)

Is there anywhere else my photos could be hiding (an import cache, iPhoto trash folder)? Is there anything at all I could do? How do I notify Apple about this issue?

  • Is it possible that last February, your iPhoto Library moved to somewhere else, and the one you are looking at to be the iPhoto Library isn't actually the one iPhoto was referencing? Jan 26 '13 at 13:05
  • bassplayer7, that makes sense but where could it have moved to and why?
    – nathan
    Jan 26 '13 at 22:05
  • I don't know why it would move, but I do know it is possible. If you hold down ALT when you click to start iPhoto, the library management dialog comes up. If only you could have seen where that pointed to on your last HDD. Honestly, I don't know how you would even search for it. For some reason, OSX doesn't seem to like to find "iPhoto Library". I certainly would dig at least a little. Obviously iPhoto doesn't work without a library, so it seems like it would have to either be there - somewhere - or it would indicate a bug with Time Machine. Jan 27 '13 at 0:30
  • bassplayer7 you were absolutely correct. The real Library was on another partition of my old drive and what I thought I was using was actually a copy I made in February. I stopped backing up that partition a while ago and the backups for it are gone, but I'm trying to retrieve them with a disk recovery tool. Any tips for this? Otherwise, thank you very much! If you add an answer I'll accept it.
    – nathan
    Jan 27 '13 at 0:37
  • I do hope you find a way to recover that data. I just Googled it, and there seemed to be a lot of articles and downloads that could help in the process. Maybe something will work for you. Feel free to ping (@bassplayer7) me when you do find something. Jan 27 '13 at 2:52

This sounds like somehow your iPhoto Library has moved. If you hold down ALT when you click to start iPhoto, the library management dialog comes up. This will tell you where iPhoto is currently located. If you somehow had access to your old HDD, you could see where this was located.

Obviously iPhoto doesn't work without a library, so the library has to be somewhere. I would certainly dig a little to see if you could find it.

Unfortunately, I haven't worked with HDD recovery at all. I do know there are companies that do this. You could potentially send it it. I'll update or comment if I do find something.

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