iCloud Photos: importing photos from external drive
June 15, 2016 8:29 AM   Subscribe

I have an external drive with 100GB of photos that I'd like to upload to iCloud Photos. How can I do this?

My Mac's hard drive only has about 20GB free, so I can't import them into my main library for synching. Do I need to move my main library to the external drive, add the photos, synch, and then somehow move the main library back to my Mac's hard drive?

Or is there a way to just upload the photos from the external drive directly to iCloud Photos?
posted by krunk to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Two disclaimers: I haven't tried this myself, and if it does work it could be labor intensive.

Have you tried the web interface? Sign in at icloud.com, click the Photos icon and at the top towards the right there's an option to upload. The obvious problem is that 100GB of photos is probably a shit tonne of individual files, and either the client browser, the web interface or both will probably choke if you try to select too many at a time. Best of luck.
posted by IronyParachute at 2:03 PM on June 15, 2016

Best answer: When I did this with over 100GB of photos, I did it on a Mac that had a newly empty internal hard drive (thanks to a corrupted RAID). An internal HD does seem to be the only scenario Apple really tests. :-/ That said, it seems you may be able to relocate your "System Photo Library" onto the external drive, add the photos to it there, and wait while they're uploaded. NB: I left mine running and did other things, and I know it took hours, but I don't know how many hours. Also NB: you probably want this external library to be set to "Download Originals to this Mac" so in uploading it doesn't blow away the actual original files (I strive for three copies of every original, because external hard drives are cheap; your backup plan may vary, but please don't rely on The Cloud for your only backup).

Note that when you change your "System Photo Library" iCloud Photos will be turned off, so you'll have to go to the iCloud pane in System Preferences to turn it back on in order to kick off The Great Uploading.

Once that's done I'd create a new, empty library on the internal HD. Then I'd change its iCloud settings to "Optimize Local Storage" instead of "Download Originals to this Mac." Then make that the new "System Photo Library" and turn iCloud Photos back on, again.

After that, you should periodically switch to the external library, let it download all the new Originals since the last sync, and switch back. In my case the Mac mini that had the RAID problem is the local master at home, and all the laptops and the TV mini are optimized clients. So, do you have a spare Mac? Can you swing an upgrade of your internal HD?
posted by fedward at 9:02 AM on June 16, 2016

Response by poster: Fedward: thanks, I was afraid I'd have to move it over to the external drive. Unfortunately my computer is a MacBook Pro, which is only connected to my external drive during work hours (albeit on a very fast internet connection, which might decrease sync time). The internal HD is also not upgradeable. I might just have to leave my MBP at work for a week or however long it takes to sync.

Once I've done a proper Backblaze backup of my Mac I'll give this a whirl.

posted by krunk at 12:52 PM on June 17, 2016

I have 75/75 FIOS and my total upload time could be measured in hours, not days, if that helps. Also you can pause and resume the upload at will, so it's not all bad.
posted by fedward at 1:04 PM on June 17, 2016

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