Time Machine running on a MacBook Air

MM Answers: How to migrate your iCloud Photo Library to local storage or Google Photos?

Today is another tip from our column MM Answers!

Today’s question is:

How to migrate your iCloud Library to local storage or Google Photos?

If you don’t have enough space to store your photos, you’ve certainly joined some of the current cloud services, like Google Photos or the iCloud Photo Library.

There are online and offline options, all with pros, cons and specific needs – we will show you the best options available. Just to avoid confusion, the part of the “cloud” we talked about concerns servers maintained by some company, protected, encrypted and managed by a network connection.

You can access your stored files in the cloud through an application installed on your computer, iPad or iPhone / iPod touch, which often works almost “hidden” on your device. If you, for example, are without an internet connection, the next time your device connects, changes (photo sync) will be made and everything tends to continue to work well.

If your choice is to keep your photos on your computer only, a warning: make backups! Computers are defective and your photos, regardless of the brand of HDD or SSD, are not worth the risk of having precious moments lost forever. For those using Macs, there are two interesting options: Time Machine and / or a complete copy of the file called Fototeca (located in the Images folder).

Time Machine running on a MacBook Air

If you don’t know the Time Machine, it’s worth checking out these articles.

Tip: if you keep your photo library on an external drive, don’t just leave it there. * Always * have a backup!

If, like me, you decided to use a cloud service, sometimes we can decide to change providers (as I already did from Google Photos to the iCloud Photo Library). But let’s get to the question of the day, then.

Downloading your Photo Library

If you have a lot of photos / videos, you will need an external storage device to download your original Photo Library – remember that often the option you choose optimizes internal storage and keeps only a small version locally – for that, choose an external drive not too old, after all, to capture the moments again, just being friends with Marty McFly and with the help of Professor Doc Brown.

Quit Photos, connect your external disk that will receive the copy and drag the “Photo Library” file onto it. Depending on the size of your library and the speed of your external drive, the procedure may take a few good minutes (or even hours).

Photo library in Finder

The “Fototeca do Sistema” is your main photo library and the one synchronized with iCloud. As the main one, photos from Photo Sharing are downloaded directly to it and those from the iCloud Photo Library are presented, optimized normally.

If you only have a photo library, this is the System Photo Library. Otherwise, the first photo library you create or open in Photos will be the System Photo Library. If you have more than one library, you may need to designate a System Photo Library so that other apps can access the photos and videos you want to use.

  1. Open Photos in your new main library;
  2. Go in Photos »Preferences … and select the “General” tab;

    Photos for OS X preferences

  3. Click on the “Use as System Photo Library” button.

Once the location of the Library is defined, we will change the option of storing iCloud photos:

  1. Open Photos in your new main photo library;
  2. Go in Photos »Preferences … and select the “iCloud” tab;

    ICloud photos

  3. Select the “Transfer Originals to this Mac” checkbox.

Wait for your photos to download and, when finished, keep it in the defined location or choose the new location for your photos. If you have a lot of space on your Mac, you can work with the original files in your Photo Library. If there are no network problems and your space is reduced, without a doubt the best option is to optimize storage.

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