View Full Version : Backup iCloud photos?

10-19-2016, 06:01 PM
Not that I don't trust iCloud... Is there a way to backup iCloud photos to an external, removable hard drive? I don't have enuf room on my Macbook Air hard drive, so I'd so I'd like to back them up externally.

10-19-2016, 06:24 PM
Do you have a backup system in place? Like Time Machine or some type of system clone?

10-19-2016, 07:10 PM
Yes, I have Time Machine.

10-19-2016, 08:00 PM
Time Machine (https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201250) is a complete backup of all your files and folders. You have the iCloud backup and you have Time Machine, plus whatever is on each of your devices.

Unless you are talking about moving your Photos library onto another disk drive?

10-20-2016, 02:39 PM
I didn't realize that Time Machine backs up iCloud. If so, why can't I see any of my iCloud folders on Time Machine -- not just Photos, but Numbers, Pages, etc.? When I look at a Time Machine backup, iCloud shows an Applications folder, a Library folder, etc. Even looking thru them a little, I see nothing called iCloud, Photos, etc. Where are they?

10-20-2016, 03:22 PM

There is a slight misunderstanding.

Time Machine (TM) backs up all your folders, files, photos, settings; indeed everything that is on your Mac's Hard Disk Drive. If that includes an iCloud Drive Folder, then that is backed up. But TM does not back up (BU) what's stored on iCloud - well, it couldn't really.

What Bob (ferrarr) was saying is that you have your photos on your Mac's Hard Disk Drive, and on iCloud and on TM.

You asked about using an External Hard Drive (EHD) for your photos. This you can do as well as the methods already discussed. But be clear on this point - you cannot BU iCloud photos or anything else on iCloud to an EHD.

What I am talking about is a BU of those photos on your Mac's HDD. How you do this depends on how you manage your photos on your HDD.

You don't mention which OS you are running nor if you are using the iPhoto app or the newer Photos app.

If you are using iPhoto or Photos, the libraries associated with these can be found in Macintosh HD > Users > your name > Pictures. Here they will appear as iPhoto Library.photolibrary or Photos Library.photoslibrary according to which app you use.

Either Library can be copy/pasted to an EHD as another BU.

If your photos are not associated with iPhoto or Photos, but kept in a Folder or whatever on your Mac, then you would have to copy/paste these photos to your EHD.

I hope this clarifies things for you.

Please post back if you have further queries. We are here to help.


10-20-2016, 08:26 PM
OK, Ian. Thanks for your response. Time Machine only backs up my Mac HDD. Since I do not have enuf space on my Mac HDD to back up my iCloud photos there, we can forget about Time Machine. Also, as you say, I cannot back up iCloud Photos to an external hard drive. But I do periodically manually copy (as distinct from "back up") my iCloud Numbers and Pages folders to an EHD. Is that not possible in any way with Photos?

Assuming that the answer is "no", does Apple back up my iCloud?

Assuming that that answer is also "no", then there is only 1 copy of my photos on iCloud, right?

10-21-2016, 03:00 AM
Is that not possible in any way with Photos?

Yes you can back up your photos.

I mentioned two ways you could do this in my last post.

If you use iPhoto or Photos apps to store your pictures, then the libraries associated with either of these can be copied to an External Hard Drive (EHD).

If you don't use either of these, you can manually copy/paste your pictures to an EHD just as you would do with files or folders.

To help further: what OS do you run? Do you use the iPhoto or Photos app?

At the moment you have your pictures on the Mac & a copy in iCloud, as I understand you. It's quite easy to have a further copy on an EHD. In fact, if you are desperate for storage space on your Mac, you could even move your iPhoto or Photos library to an EHD and view them from there.

Lots of options. Answers to my questions might clarify things further.


10-21-2016, 12:56 PM
My OS is Yosemite 10.10.5, and I run Photos. But I say again, these photos do not exist on my Mac, and I do not have the space on my Mac to copy them.

10-21-2016, 01:14 PM
My OS is Yosemite 10.10.5, and I run Photos. But I say again, these photos do not exist on my Mac, and I do not have the space on my Mac to copy them.
OK, how do you know they are not on your Mac? Are you looking for a file? Do you have iCloud on and syncing Photos on your MBA? If it is in Photos, it is usually in the Photos Library file, which is in your Home > Pictures folder.

10-21-2016, 04:19 PM
I know that they are not on my Mac because I don't see them from the Photos tab of the Photos app on my Mac. I can see the photos from both my iPhone and my wife's iPhone and from the icloud.com website from Mac Safari. On my Mac Photos app, when I click Preferences > iCloud, the "iCloud Photo Library' box is checked, and the "Optimize Mac Storage" box is also checked. (As I said, I do not have enuf room on my Mac for all of the iCloud photos.

10-25-2016, 02:03 PM
So, judging by the silence, I seem to have fallen down a rabbit hole, whereby I have photos in iCloud that I cannot backup. It sounds like my only recourse is to buy a Mac with a bigger hard drive!?!?!

10-25-2016, 03:38 PM

The silence is no indictment on you. I think a lot of us are, perhaps, struggling to understand and/or find a solution.

I've been unable to contribute much over the last few days for personal health reasons, but in coming back to the Forums, I've thought a lot about your situation and I may have an explanation to which you have already alluded - the credit being yours.

You advise us that in Photos > Preferences > iCloud you have the following boxes checked:

1. iCloud Photo Library

2. Optimise Mac Storage - this latter one states that "Originals will also be stored on this Mac if you have enough storage space" - which clearly you don't; as you said yourself.

What about "My Photo Stream"? I presume it is unchecked?

Which means that you were right all along. Your pictures are safe, but unobtainable on your Mac unless you free up space - by moving a substantial amount of other stuff from your Mac to an EHD. Would that not be feasible rather than getting a new Mac??


10-25-2016, 06:11 PM
On my Mac Photos > Preferences > iCloud, "My Photo Stream" is also checked. Is that a problem?

I was being facetious about buying a new Mac, since I just bought one about a year ago. Of course, that was before I started using iCloud...

10-26-2016, 10:14 AM
On my Mac Photos > Preferences > iCloud, "My Photo Stream" is also checked. Is that a problem?

Not a problem; a different function (doesn't it get complicated?).

This assumes that you do not have iCloud Photo Library checked on your own or wife's iPhone or any other iDevice sharing your Apple ID. The idea is that taking a picture on any of these iDevices puts into My Photo Stream in all of the iDevices AND on your Mac.

The difference in behaviour is that the pictures "self-destruct" from the iDevices at around 30 days whilst remaining permanently on your Mac. If your Mac doesn't have space for these, you won't see My Photo Stream on your Mac.

If, on the other hand, your iDevices DO have iCloud Photo Library checked, then it does seem to work slightly differently.

To explain it all and to save my poor fingers, here are some links that tell it all: (1 and 3 are best)