How to Delete iPhoto Library, but Why You Probably Don’t Need to
Now that most Mac users have migrated their pictures from iPhoto to Photos app in Mac OS X, when you’re absolutely certain that all the pictures have come through successfully you may decide to delete the old iPhoto Library file on the Mac.
This is usually not necessary due to how Photos importation works with iPhoto Library files, but some users with unique situations decide to do it anyway, typically if they are self managing picture files outside of the original library containers, or if they want to keep things tidy and ditch all remnants of iPhoto.
Removing the iPhoto Library package can help to free up disk space in some situations (but not always, more on that in a moment) but before doing this you need to be absolutely 100% certain that your pictures, photos, and videos have successfully migrated over to the Photos app and stored in the new photos library, that you have a fresh backup made of your pictures, and that you actually need to delete the original iPhoto Library package.
Wait, is iPhoto Library really taking up space? Do I need to delete iPhoto Library?
This depends, but the answer is you probably do not need to delete the iPhoto Library and probably should not. An important consideration is that the iPhoto Library is not necessarily taking up disk space if you successfully imported it into Photos app, and in these situations the iPhoto Library would not need to be deleted if it is being shared with the newer Photos app. Apple explains this as follows from there support page on the topic:
“When you migrate a photo library from iPhoto or Aperture, the Photos app creates a new library structure but doesn’t duplicate your images. Instead, Photos saves disk space by creating links to the original and preview versions of your images.
When Finder reports the file size of your Photos library, it includes all your originals and previews. It may look like your remaining iPhoto or Aperture library is taking up twice the space on your hard drive, but it isn’t—your images exist only in one location, even though you may have more than one photo library.
After you migrate your iPhoto or Aperture library to Photos, you might feel tempted to delete your original iPhoto or Aperture library. Because the migrated library takes little additional space, you don’t need to delete the original library.
That last part is critical, in these type of migrations you don’t actually need to delete iPhoto Library because it’s not taking up any significant disk space. If this is clear as mud, then a simple way to think about it is that everything is simply hard linked, it is not a duplicate, thus when you use a disk space analyzer app and it points to the library as taking up space, it may not actually being using any additional storage.
If any of this sounds confusing it’s probably because it does not apply to you, and therefore you should not delete the iPhoto files.
Nonetheless there are some other situations involving manual photo and picture management that can benefit from removing the original iPhoto Library. Maybe you made a duplicate of the library before importing it, maybe you have the libraries on external drives rather than the internal disk, maybe you manually manage pictures in Finder after pulling them out of the original library package files, there are a variety of more complex circumstances where this is applicable. This does not apply to most users, however, and if you migrated an existing iPhoto library rather than a picture file folder, there is no benefit to deleting anything.
Back up before deleting the iPhoto Library – do not skip this
You need to back up the iPhoto Library package before attempting to remove it. If you do not backup the file and you remove it and then discover your pictures and photos have been deleted, you will not be able to get them back. Do this with Time Machine, or by manually copying it to an external hard drive yourself.
Do not skip backing up before deleting any photo libraries or files. You can setup Time Machine backups if you have not done so already, and start a backup manually and let it complete before going any further.
Deleting the iPhoto Library File
If you are certain this is what you want to do, then you’ll find deleting the iPhoto Library is really the same as removing any other file on a Mac.
Note that you’ll likely have at least two files in the Pictures folder “iPhoto Library.library” and “Photos Library.photosLibrary” – the former is from iPhoto app, the latter is for Photos app.
- Did you backup first? Good
- Quit iPhoto and Photos app if either app is open
- Open Finder on the Mac and go to your user home folder and then to “Pictures”
- Select the “iPhoto Library.library” file and move it to the Trash
- BE ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN YOU MADE A BACKUP OF THIS FILE and any resulting pictures, if you skip a backup and blow this, you will delete your pictures. Nobody wants that, so don’t skip the backup
- Empty the Trash as usual
You’ll want to visit the new Photos library after this to make sure all of your pictures are intact, or if you use manual file management, be sure the image files have maintained themselves now that you’ve removed the iPhoto Library package file. If you are missing anything, you’ll want to restore the iPhoto Library file you just deleted to get the images back.
As you can see this is a simple task but has potentially perilous consequences. Pictures are some of the most important digital items that users can hold on a Mac (or elsewhere) so it is imperative that you have backups made and understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.