How to recover photos from Apple iPhotos or Photos (any version)

Apple iPhotos (or Photos) repair / recovery

The other day I came across a problem with a corrupt iPhotos database on a 2011 iMac. There were a few issues:

  1. Size of iPhotos – 525Gb (610Gb on disk)
  2. Size of internal harddisk – 1Tb
  3. Space left on local disk – 15Gb
  4. No Time Machine backup ever performed on the iMac
  5. Slow CPU and only 4Gb of RAM

Upon researching the corrupt iPhotos issue, I looked at Apple support articles, forums, news sites and all I could find was: hold Option + Command and click iPhotos icon in the dock, which in turn brings up recovery options. I tried all of them… for days… none of them fixed were able to import the missing photos.


  • Due to size of the database and not enough disk space the database failed to recover.
  • Slow iMac – had to leave recovery running overnight.

Recovery steps:

First, I performed a full Time Machine backup overnight to a customer supplied external USB harddisk.

Second, I bought a brand new 3Tb WD harddisk, cloned the original 1Tb disk onto it to increase space for database recovery. Attempted a recovery overnight – no luck.

Third, upgraded the OS X to El Capitan 10.11, ran Photos to try and migrate the iPhotos database to Photos. Left this process running overnight – no luck.


This solution will only recover your missing photos in JPG format. It will not recover album info or tags.

  1. Open Finder
    1. (Optional steps) On the menu at the top of the screen, click Finder, then Preferences (or press Command + ,)
    2. In Finder Preferences, tick Pictures
    3. Close Finder Preferences
    4. (back in Finder, under Favorites/Pictures) find iPhotos Library (or Photos Library, or whatever name your library is called)
  2. Right click on the library and select Show Package Contents
  3. You will be presented with a bunch of folders. The folder you are looking for is called Masters and all photos are in it in JPG format. Just copy the folder to another location.

That’s it !!! Recovered all the missing 70,000 photos for the customer.

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