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.

57 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!

    • Michelle G says:

      I have the same question! I also don’t have an “original” folder. I found most of them in the “master” folder but would love to see them by the albums I had. Any ideas? Thanks!

    • LAN says:

      This worked for me:
      – Close the Photos app.
      – Drag the library you wish to open into the Photos app icon in the dock.

  19. Alexandra says:

    OMG, I cried over weeks about the loss of more than 10 years worth of pictures, family life, travels and pro work to the garbage. I thought I would never find them again. I truly lived in mourning for weeks. So I really cannot thank enough whoever wrote this, much better than what all Apple pages and technicians had to say. As all of the above note, it was so easy to follow the advice, I also found my photos or at least most of them in the Masters File. I can now reconstruct my libraries in a better way, but the important thing is that the data IS THERE!!!! A zillion thanks!!

  20. Carbon Bridge says:

    This advice didn’t help me because I don’t have electric photos stored in this manner on iPhoto to begin with. What I really enjoyed here was reading the comments of people rising from the dead over previously lost images. Hurrah, re-file, backup somewhere, etc. And think of all the money you saved not buying film nor paying for chemical developing and instead, get to edit your own images and share by e at the touch of a button. I was sorry to see Eastman Kodak go bankrupt after 150 years. My newest electric small camera is a small, black Kodak model which is a bit SLOW in recording but performs excellent and the fantastic zoom lens is a German Schneider model. Excellent, top of the line lens glass. So I spent $200 more with Kodak for the camera before they folded. Electric photography is such a bonus all around and especially for the environment. Kudos to the inventors. I’m sure that there were many.

  21. Ken says:

    As so many others have already said, thank you! I have an external drive with backups from several years ago from my old Mac. I have been planning to bring it to Mac support to have them figure out how to get the old pictures out – but this is the answer. Thank you again!

  22. Laura Dennison says:

    I followed these wonderful instructions, but the date folders contained only items that had a .attr I couldn’t open them, no matter how I tried. Please help. What is .attr?

    • Amber says:

      when you hit “show package contents” on the icon, it should pop up with another handful of folders, i found it under the masters folder. i hit that and all the years popped up in individual files so i highlighted them all and dragged them right into the new photos location. I don’t know why they got rid of iPhoto. Extremely easy to use and kept everything organized.

  23. Amber says:

    I cant thank you enough, after the latest update I thought I had lost years worth of memories. The only difference I had was instead of it being under an “Originals” folder it was under a folder called “masters’. I just highlighted all the years and dragged them right into the new photos location. You are a life safer.

  24. Claire says:

    Honestly can’t thank you enough for this info!

  25. Anaeli says:

    Hello. The photo’s are not arranged in folders under the years and months they were taken. they are arranged in folders under 0-9 and then a-f. Is there any way i can see them by years?

  26. Lilly says:

    This was so helpful, thank you so much!
    Just in case this is helpful to anybody, mine wasn’t under “originals” but in “previews”!

  27. Thank you sooooo much. I thought they were gone forever!

  28. Vasco says:

    Thank you so much you saved 12 000 photos

  29. Robin says:

    So I started to get really excited that all was not lost…No file called originals, but I do have a “Masters.” Nothing there. Then someone mentioned a “Previews.” Got excited again, but alas… nothing there. There is nothing in any of these folders. Now what?

    • Dru says:

      For me, I have several time machine backups from 2016 and 2017–I did not have this Masters folder in every folder though. For the oldest folder (2016-04-033233), when I went to my Pictures folder it was blank. Do you also have multiple folders you could try looking through? Good luck :)

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