How to Access the iOS Photo Stream from Mac OS X Finder

May 18, 2012 - 31 Comments

Access iOS Photo Stream from Mac OS X Finder

Photo Stream is an excellent iCloud feature that automatically syncs all pictures taken on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch to one anothers Photo libraries, and it will even sync with Mac OS X through the iPhoto app. Not everyone uses iPhoto to manage pictures though, and if you just want quick access to those pictures from the Mac Finder you can use a neat trick to access the entire iOS Photo Stream directly from the Mac desktop.

In order for this to work, you will need the the minimum system requirements;

  • Mac OS X 10.7.2 or later on the Mac, with iCloud configured
  • iOS 5 or later on all iOS devices, with iCloud configured
  • Photo Stream must be enabled on all iOS devices involved, and must be enabled on the Mac

If you don’t have iCloud set up and Photo Stream turned on, do that before proceeding.

Accessing the iOS Photo Stream from Mac OS X Finder

  1. From anywhere on the Mac OS X desktop, hit Command+Shift+G to bring up Go To Folder and enter the following path:
  2. ~/Library/Application Support/iLifeAssetManagement/assets/sub/
    Go to the IOS Photo Stream Folder in OS X

  3. In the upper right corner of the Finder window, search for “Image” and select “Kind: Image” from the pull down menu
  4. Save image search

  5. Now click the “Save” button to save this search, name it something like “Photo Stream” and check “Add To Sidebar” to keep the item in the sidebar

Now anytime you click “Photo Stream” in an Mac OS X Finder window, you will get instant access to all images from the iOS Photo Stream from your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or all of the above.

For quick access to photos, this is easier and faster than transferring them all from iOS to the computer because it’s practically instantaneous and automatic, and it’s simpler than using the past tip for an AppleScript to save all images from Photo Stream because there is very little potential for error.

Once you have this set up you’ll likely find yourself using it very often, it’s so useful that hopefully the upcoming release of Mac OS X Mountain Lion will include a similar featured enabled by default.

This is a variation on a great tip that was posted a while back by IconMaster to get to iOS screenshots from Mac OS X, but by specifying any images in the search you can access all the Photo Stream images rather than only screen captures. If you do want to see only screen shots searching for file type “PNG” will achieve that.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Ben says:

    I don’t have to drop down menu to select ‘Kind’. I don’t have any kind of drop down menu in the search bar – just the magnifying glass icon.
    Anyone know how to get this?

  2. blake says:

    To Ben: in the search, type “image”. As you type you will see a dropdown dialog showing “Filenames” and “Kind”. Under Kinds I have image, jpg, png. Select “image”. Proceed to step 3

  3. Mike says:

    When I start typing in the search field it reverts to searching my entire user directory instead of the path listed above. How do I fix this??


    • Randy says:

      Make sure you are in the proper folder before using the search, then click the “sub” tab at the top in the “Search:” group

  4. Rita says:

    I don’t have a recent version of iPhoto. Is there a way to get around this to enjoy the benefits of photo stream on my computer. I use Adobe image applications so I access my images from “Bridge” or “Finder”.

  5. Tom says:

    good thing! as far as I have found out iPhoto needs to be open for this. otherwise the images are not updated in Finder. am I wrong with this? because then it’s unusable.

  6. pietro says:

    dont type Image but just “I” than put the kind image

  7. Tinmania says:

    I only see images since the last time I had iPhoto import PhotoStream. If that is the case this tip is not really useful. Plus I see no way to sort by date. My images, coming from several iOS devices, are not in the correct date order.

  8. E Bond Francisco says:

    I’ve tried this. When I click Photostream from the sidebar, I get every image from everywhere – photostream, email attachment images, etc. Yikes! What did I miss?

    • P says:

      Make sure you set search in the current folder by clicking the appropriate “sub” tab in the window

      ~/Library/Application Support/iLifeAssetManagement/assets/sub/

  9. cokecoke says:

    Finder cannot find this path(~/Library/Application Support/iLifeAssetManagement/assets/sub/) when I input it. – My OS X is latest version…

    Anyone has the same situation and know what the problem is?

    • Make sure that you have Photo Stream active in System Preferences> iCloud (first option under Internet & Wireless)
      There must be a check mark next to Photo Stream in order to work.

  10. cokecoke says:

    I already did it. But that path(~/Library/ …../sub/) is not found in Finder.
    How can I do it??

  11. andrew says:


  12. yo says:

    From iPhoto9.3, I can’t spotlight search new image files in iLifeAssetManagement/assets/sub/.
    But new image files exist in this directory!

  13. frenchy_k says:

    Thanks, that’s great.

  14. Leo says:

    Brilliant. This works perfectly. Thank you.

  15. Andrei says:

    While I can browse the Photo Stream images manually in “sub”, none of the search options actually find them. Not Kind:Image, not Kind:JPEG Image, not Name:.JPG. Any idea why?

  16. nekonari says:

    This is an awesome tip. Nice one! Thanks :)

  17. Frederik says:

    Mine are not in order after date. How do I do that?

  18. pras says:

    thanks for the tip but come on apple wtf is this? you mean to say icloud couldn’t set this up? I thought mac was supposed to be easy. Boo

  19. […] that once you have Photo Streams enabled, you can also access them in OS X Mountain Lion through Finder, iPhoto, and even as a screen saver. Photo Streams are also available as a screen saver on Apple […]

  20. Daffodil says:

    Go folder does not find address as above , why would this be ? Please help

  21. Paul Guba says:

    This only works if you have iLife. Basically the photostream feature is a waste for me. I am not going to upgrade iphoto when I own Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Windows users can download a control panel for access but Apple users need to buy software. Thanks Apple.

  22. […] you don’t want to use iPhoto for this purpose or for general photo management, you can also use the Photo Stream Finder access hack and then either hard link that directory to another, or copy the pictures into a folder yourself […]

  23. Todd says:

    I’ve tried everything above. I am not getting any results when I put in the search criteria = image and select “Sub”. If I leave it on the entire MAC it finds all the images.

  24. […] automatically copied to something like iPhoto on the Mac, and you do not use the trick to gain direct access to Photo Stream from the Finder. This means you do not use iCloud’s Photo Stream on the Mac at all, this needs to be made […]

  25. Suggymoto says:

    What happens if I delete a photo from this folder? Does it delete off all my sync’d devices or just my Mac?

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