Rob Geeks

How to Safely Move Your iPhoto Library to Another Hard Drive?

By default, images taken with iPhoto application are stored in a single file called iPhoto Library. At times, iPhoto Library collection is just so massive that it takes over your entire hard drive. Due to this, Apple users may find it difficult to access photos from such a large Library collection. In such instances, moving this iPhoto Library collection to a separate hard drive is always a good option.

To move iPhoto Library, you need to perform two-step – first, you need to physically copy or move the image library to the new location and then you have to point to that new location from iPhoto application. Here is how to safely move your iPhoto Library file to another hard drive

Step 1: Move/copy the iPhoto Library to external hard drive

  • Quit iPhoto application
  • Navigate to the location of your iPhoto Library package and find iPhoto Library file
  • Left-click iPhoto Library and drag it over to the desired location on a new hard drive or volume

Step 2: Specify new library location in the iPhoto app

  • Launch iPhoto application and immediately hold down the Option key
  • Under the Library Selection window, find the new iPhoto Library path in the list or click Other Library icon to manually select the new location by clicking Choose button

After following the above steps, the iPhoto will use the library file that you have specified in the new hard drive. So whenever you launch iPhoto on your Mac, it will automatically pull its files from the photo library on your external drive.

A word of warning…

Remember if you don’t have the external hard drive connected to your Mac machine then you won’t be able to access the images within iPhoto.

However, some Apple users may have difficulty when copying your iPhoto files from an external hard drive. At times, you may even encounter the following error message:

“The operation can’t be completed because the item’ iPhoto Library’ is in use”.

In order to fix error unable to copy or move your iPhoto library, you need to manually target the file in which iPhoto is saving its new picture library. Here is the procedure:

  • Open the Terminal on Mac OS X
  • Type sudo lsof | grep /Volumes/Seagate\ 3TB and hit Enter key

Note: Here “/Volumes/Seagate\ 3TB” is a path to the external hard drive.

This is one of the easiest methods to navigate to your external hard drive and do any moving or copying operation that you need to do.


Moving your picture collection to a secondary hard drive is a great choice when you don’t want to replace your current HDD with a larger one. But in future, if you want your iPhoto Library file back on your Mac HDD, all you have to do is follow both Step 1 and Step 2 as explained above again with one exception. You need to drag the Library from your external hard drive to your Mac Pictures folder and point the library to iPhoto app going to your Mac and not to your another hard drive.