iPhoto has lost 40 years of valuable pictures! We are devastated. I have bought recovery software, re-built everything, searched and wept. If anyone knows how to get the photos back, even the small ones from thumbnails, I would really appreciate it.

I have opened the iPhoto package and copied it to a new folder on the desktop. It is 1.5 TB in size and contained a huge amount of files. That makes me think there is something hidden which I can't access or see. I am so peeved!
If I try to 'export' nothing seems to happen. Is that because there are no original or modified files, or because it won't export thumbs only?

Looking at the content of the iPhoto Library I see

clarkbedroom:~ LandJClark$ cd ~/Pictures/iPhoto\ Library; du -sm *
 15 AlbumData.xml
 0 Attachments
 0 Auto Import
 76 Backup
 56 Before Restore
 1 Contents
 1 Data
 1 Data.noindex
 434 Database
 1 Info.plist
 1 Library.data
 1 Library.iPhoto
 1 Library6.iPhoto
 1019 Masters
 33 Previews
 10 ProjectCache
 1 ProjectDBVersion.plist
 2 Projects.db
 2 ThemeCache
 1804 Thumbnails
 1 com.apple.iPhoto.plist
 1 iLifeShared
 1 iPhoto Selection
 1 iPhoto.ipspot
 1 iPhotoAux.db
 1 iPhotoLock.data
 1 iPhotoMain.db
 1 iPod Photo Cache
clarkbedroom:iPhoto Library LandJClark$
  • 3
    What exactly makes you think you have lost the pictures? Do they just not show up in iPhoto anymore?
    – nohillside
    Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 11:53
  • 2
    What patrix says... And also maybe a good time to start a periodic back-up. Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 14:15
  • Ouch - I hate being in your situation. It's going to be hard for someone to know how to help you troubleshoot this. Have a look at our help page and I'll try to link to a general answer that covers data recovery.
    – bmike
    Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 17:21
  • Can you please do the package inspection thing again and look at the contents of Masters (see above)? Your picture files are in there somewhere, probably ordered by year.
    – nohillside
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 11:56

1 Answer 1


If the iPhoto Library file/folder is 1.5 TB in size, chances are good that your pictures still are somewhere.

First thing to do now is to copy the whole file to another location/disk so you won't loose it even if something goes wrong while trying to recover the pictures. Then restart iPhoto with Command and Option to get the recovery option screen on startup:

enter image description here

Start with the first option and see whether it solves the issue. If it doesn't, retry with the next one. See Rebuilding the iPhoto library for details.

If this doesn't work, you can also have a look at the contents of the iPhoto Library file/folder by inspecting the package content in Finder. The photos should be in iPhoto Library/Masters.

  • Thanks all.i have rebuilt the iPhoto library etc. I have copied the whole iPhoto library to another location, just in case. The originals, modified and masters folders are empty.
    – Len Clark
    Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 21:37
  • Sorry, hit the wrong iPad button. Comment com
    – Len Clark
    Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 21:37
  • Grrrr. Comment continues.
    – Len Clark
    Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 21:38
  • I have now bought a very good restore program. It has interrogated both external drives and the iMac trash. I have 300 000 images to sort through now. I see that the are some of my originals there, a few thumb sizes ones and LOTS of other stuff. I always put my docs to external drive, and have an identical two tb drive for time machine. The external doc drive failed, so I backed up from time machine. EVERYTHING EXCEPT one folder was h
    – Len Clark
    Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 21:41
  • I think I will get half back of the 22 000 images again. From now on I can't trust time machine. The last few backups were corrupted. I have it in a ventilated box outside the house, connected through AirPort Extreme. Sorry about the partial comments, I keep hitting ENTER for some reason. I will let you know if the dat recovery program works to get them all. So far it seems incredibly thorough, but that also makes it slow.
    – Len Clark
    Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 21:44

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