Dec 22


Recently I was trying to access some photo’s from my Mum’s iPhoto library on her time machine backup, but my computer doesn’t have iPhoto, it has Photos App. When I tried to open the iPhoto library with the newer Photos App, it wanted to upgrade the entire iPhoto library. Here’s how to access an individual photo from an old iPhoto library.

If you go to your home directory, there is a folder called ‘Pictures’ where Apple stores all your photos. If you have used iPhoto, then in the ‘Pictures’ folder there will be a file called ‘iPhoto Library’.  It appears as one file. Don’t do this, but if you were to click it then it would try to open in iPhoto, or Photos.  Instead, if you hold down the control key while you click, you will see an option called ‘Show Package Contents.’ Click on this.


Now you will see all kinds of files. Find the one called ‘Originals’ and click on it.


Now you will see a new folder with a lot of years. Click on a year, then a month, and you will see all the pictures from your iPhoto library from that month. You can then open the photos one by one, copy them, or do what you like with each picture.


The photo’s are arranged in folders under the years and months they were taken.

21 Responses to “How to access your old iPhoto library without iPhoto”

  1. Nicholas Honigschmidt says:

    This helped me restore my iPhoto Library after a upgrade that lost all connections with my original photos.

  2. Lee says:

    Thank you- Finally! a clear description of this. I have to say, Windows (and I am a Mac person) makes this MUCH easier.

    Thank you, Lee

  3. zahra says:

    I did all the steps but there is 0 items when i click show package content and i Know for sure I have many Pic in my IPhoto

  4. Nick says:

    There was no “show package contents” option when I pressed “control” while clicking “Library.iPhoto”. Please advise. Thanks.

  5. Cindy says:

    Ohmygod I think I love you! HaHa! I can’t thank you enough. I’m bouncing of my seat, I’m so happy I came across your advice! THANK YOU

  6. elaine says:

    OMG!!! Thank you !!!! Thank you !!!! Thank you!!! can’t say thank you enough!

  7. Joe Matthews says:

    Brilliant! Thank you!

    I thought I had lost all my 2011-2014 pics but there they are! :)

  8. Brian says:

    You are a genius. Thank you.

  9. Haakon F. Stenersen says:

    Hi. I have another setup when showing package. It seems most picture are stored in the “Master” folder, but I can not find all because of date problems who made all pictures from 2010 and 11 are stored as 2000, and not showing up in Master folder.

    • Benz says:

      thank you for this. I was able to get it back when I found all of them in the Master folder. 0 files in the Original folder though

  10. Mike McDevitt says:

    Awesome. I followed each step than dragged the “masters” folder to my desktop and all photos easy to open.

  11. carol says:

    thank you; thank you; a thousand times thank you!

  12. rainman says:

    Been a Mac man all my life.
    I can’t remember when Mac was this complicated.
    And I searched and struggled.

    Its just so not Steve.
    Goes against everything he stood for.

    Until I read this! Can’t thank you enough.
    Apple could have just publish this help.
    would’ve save a few billion heartaches.

    Bless you my friend!

  13. Norma says:

    Ha! I was going to put “bless you,” and I see the comment before me says that. Ditto. BLESS YOU! I have looked up this problem before, got in fights with my husband about it, and worried, worried, worried. Your solution was simple and effective, and now I’m moving all my photos. I don’t understand why this got so screwed up on Macs. Very disappointing. I’m still transferring, but it appears all my captions are lost (*cries*), but at least I can find them and copy them over. THANK YOU!

  14. Chris says:

    Thanks so very much. Had an external backup drive from our old Mac (2005-2010) and am now finally able to get the iPhoto pics uploading to Dropbox.

  15. Maria says:

    My Mac Air has been running out of space for a loooongg time now because of the iPhotos library! I never really took action until I saw this article. HUGE THANK YOU!

  16. Simon says:

    Thank you sooooooo much!!!
    This simple trick allowed us to retrieve our photos.
    Thanks for sharing

  17. Antoinette says:

    THANK YOU! At first I thought, oh, this will be a simple trip to the Apple Support link… but no… I had this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach when I thought my photos were lost forever. But then, this super easy to follow advice. Yay!

  18. Madeleine says:

    Is there any way to view these as they were organized by album instead of by date? Some albums I had contain photos from years apart. Thank you!

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