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Move your photos library to save space on your Mac

This article shows you how to move your photos library to another drive to save space on your Mac.

Prepare the external drive

You can save your library to an external storage device, e.g. E.g. a USB or Thunderbolt drive formatted as APFS or Mac OS Extended (Journaled). You cannot move a library to a drive that is used for Time Machine backups.

To avoid data loss, storing photo libraries on external storage devices such as SD cards, USB flash drives, or drives shared on a network is not recommended by Apple.

Move your photos library to an external storage device

  1. Quit the Photos app.
  2. In the Finder, go to the external drive where you want to save your library.
  3. Look for your library in another Finder window. The default location is Users> [username]> Pictures and is named Photos Library.
  4. Drag the library to its new location on the external drive. If you get an error message, select the external drive icon in the Finder, then choose File> Get Info. If the information under "Share & Access Rights" isn't visible, click the triangle, then make sure the "Ignore owner on this volume" check box is selected. If it doesn't, unlock it by clicking the lock click. Enter an administrator's name and password, then select the check box. *
  5. After moving it, double-click the Photos library in its new location to open it.
  6. If you use the iCloud Photo Library, set that library as the system photo library.

Delete the original library to save space

After you've opened the library in its new location and made sure that it works as expected, you can delete the library from its original location.

In the Finder, open the Pictures folder (or whatever folder you copied your library from) and move the Photos library to the Trash. Then choose Finder> Empty Trash to delete the library and free up space.

Open another photo library

If you have more than one library, here's how to open another library:

  1. Quit the Photos app.
  2. Hold down the Option key while you open the Photos app.
  3. Select the library you want to open, then click Select Library.

The Photos app will use this library until you open another one.

additional Information

If there is a problem with your library permissions, you may be able to use the Photos Library Repair Tool to fix it.

* If the volume is not formatted as APFS, Mac OS Extended (Journaled), or was used for Time Machine backups but was not erased, this check box will either not appear or will not be available for selection after unlocking. Erase this drive and reformat it to make this option available.

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