Syncing libraries (iPhoto, etc.) between two Macs using External HD?
June 27, 2014 8:50 AM   Subscribe

I am thinking of buying an external HD to store my iPhoto, iTunes, Lightroom, and possibly iMovie libraries so I can switch between my iMac and Macbook Air. Will this work? Thoughts, tips, caveats?

So I have huge libraries (iTunes, iPhoto, Lightroom, and iMovie) that won't fit on my Macbook Air's puny 128 GB SSD. I'd like to be able to work with my libraries on my Macbook Air. If I buy a 2GB USB3 HD, move my libraries to it, and point my Macs to it, will I be able to effortlessly switch between my Macbook Air and iMac? Can I expect any hiccups, annoyances, caveats?
posted by entropicamericana to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You can do this but I would not suggest it as a solution. You need the right tool for the job and an Air is not made for storage, hooking up an external HD will work but it will be slow and now if you are using it for both your macs you have a single point of failure that could cause you to lose everything. You could use two HDs and cross save everything.

If I were doing this right now I would make a subset of the libraries I wanted to be mobile and put them on the cloud. I have two macs and an iphone and they are all synched with combination of icloud and gdrive then one has an external HD with a time machine back-up that I zip up and send off-site once a month. It's all automatic except for the monthly which I like to do by hand so I can keep an eye on it. (I have every file I've created since 1995.)
posted by sunslice at 11:04 AM on June 27, 2014

I would probably designate the iMac as having the master libraries for each of these, and setting up subsets to sync to the MBA.

In iTunes, you could use Home Sharing to sync files that you want between the two. For iPhoto, there's a program called SyncPhotos that would let you sync over a "best of" collection (I haven't used it, but I have used Arq by the same developer). Dunno about Lightroom or iMovie (and I just saw this, which is incredibly annoying: "SyncPhotos copies Events, but it does not copy titles, Albums or other metadata, due to AppleScript limitations.")

More generally, there's Bittorrent Sync. By itself, this will not help with iTunes or iPhoto because those programs use library files that would need to be updated every time new media files got added. You would need scripts that auto-added newly synced media files to the library files.

Even for a single machine, you can set up multiple iPhoto libraries, iTunes libraries, etc, and launch the program by double-clicking the library file (or option-double-clicking the app icon). In theory, you could use this approach, but in practice, it would be incredibly annoying and fiddly to keep everything in sync.
posted by adamrice at 11:18 AM on June 27, 2014

sunslice: If the cloud were an option, I would do that, but it's not. I am talking
close to 1TB of data, and the cloud is going to be much slower than USB3 HD.

adamrice: That's fine, but the whole point of this is I want changes made in the field on a MBA to be visible when using the iMac. If anything, the external would be master. And yeah, SyncPhotos not copying anything actually, y'know, useful kind of rules it out.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:54 PM on June 27, 2014

Within those constraints, yes, using an external should Just Work.

Obviously if anyone has access to the computer you're not using when you've got the external drive with you, they might wind up creating an empty library for iTunes or something like that, but that's not a huge inconvenience.

And you'll need to remember to unmount the drive.

If you wanted to get fancy, get two drives; leave each connected to one of the machines and run Carbon Copy Cloner in the middle of the night. Just remember which direction you need to copy!
posted by adamrice at 4:22 PM on June 27, 2014

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