How Do I Restore Photos Library on Mac?

Apple created a standalone Photos app since macOS Yosemite, but many people are still unfamiliar with it and have trouble using it. The Photos app uses its databases, which is why it is prone to accidental deletions, and the photos can go missing due to hardware, software, or other driver problems. This article details how you can recover and restore the Photos library on Mac. 

You can restore your Photos library using various methods, like recovering it from a time machine or an external hard disk, looking for any backups in your iCloud account, or using third-party recovery software to do the job for you.

However, almost all the third-party recovery software you can use are paid applications. So, it’s entirely up to you which method you want to use. 

How Do I Restore the Photos Library on Mac Using Time Machine?

1. Create a Backup

Before we begin restoring, we must first understand how to create a backup file using Time Machine. Read the steps provided below to learn more.

  • Sign in to your Mac and connect an external USB or thunderbolt drive that is compatible with Time Machine. 
  • Bring the cursor over to the Menu bar and choose System Preferences after clicking on the Apple logo. 
  • Head over to the Time machine tab and click on Select backup disk. Choose the drive that you just connected.
Restore the Photos Library on Mac
Restore Photos Library on Mac
  • Enter a name for the disk and then click on Use disk. 

Time Machine will now begin automatically making periodic backups to this external drive that you can access later on.

The first backup will take some time, and the backups succeeding the first one will be much quicker as Time Machine will only back up the files that have been modified or edited since the last backup.

Read How to Enable Bluetooth on Mac Without Mouse

2. Restore Photos Library on Mac Using Time Machine

You can use the Time Machine feature on macOS to make a backup of your files and folders, including photos, music, notes, and emails, to an external drive and then reinstall that version if the need arises. 

However, you can only use Time Machine if you have been making regular backups to it. Otherwise, this method will not work for you. If you’ve consistently made backups to Time Machine, follow the instructions given below to see how you can restore your Photos library from it. 

  • Power on your Mac and sign in to it. 
  • Select the Apple logo on the menu bar and click on System Preferences from the list. 
  • Head to the Time Machine tab and check the box next to the Show time machine in the menu bar option. 
  • Now open a Finder window and move the cursor over to the Menu bar. 
  • Click on Go and select Computer from the list. Alternatively, you can also use the Shift-Command-C shortcut to do the same. 
  • Select Macintosh HD, click on Users, select the folder with your username, and choose Pictures within the folder. 
  • Once you’re inside the folder, move the cursor over to the Menu bar and click on the Time Machine icon. 
  • Select Enter Time Machine from the list. 
How Do I Restore the Photos Library on Mac
Restore Photos Library on Mac
  • With the time machine window open, navigate to a snapshot of the folder where .photoslibrary hasn’t been deleted. 
  • When you find it, click on it and click on the Restore button. 

Read How to Sync Reminders on iPhone and Mac

How Do I Restore the Photos Library on Mac Using External Hard Disk?

If you’ve backup the iPhotos library to an external hard disk and the original library has been deleted from your Mac. It won’t show that particular library until and unless you connect that specific hard disk.

  • Sign in to your Mac.
  • Connect the external hard disk where you’ve previously backed up the Photos library. 
  • Make sure the Photos app is not open on your Mac. 
  • Now, hold down the Option button and open the Photos app from the dock. If you cannot find the app on the dock, press the Command-Space shortcut to launch the Spotlight search bar. 
  • Type in “Photos” without quotation marks, and remember to hold down the Option button before clicking on the application. 
  • This will launch the Photos Library selection window, and you should see the missing library displayed in the pop-up window. 
  • Select the library and click on the Choose library option. 

Read How to Delete Desktop Shortcuts on Mac

How Do I Restore the Photos Library on Mac Using iCloud?

The last method to restore your Photos library is checking your iCloud account to see if you have any backups stored there. Read the instructions provided below to know more.

  • Select the Apple logo on the menu bar and click on System Preferences from the list. 
  • Click on the Apple ID tab and select iCloud from the menu on the left side. 
  • Make sure the box next to the Photos app is checked. This will ensure all the photos on your iCloud account are synced onto your Mac. 
  • Alternatively, you can also go to the iCloud website and download all the original photos from there. 

iPhone Photos Not Showing Up on Mac- How To Fix

Well, apart from simply restoring all the photos on Mac, there might be circumstances where the photos are stillnot backed up on your iPhone and not showing up on the Mac. A lot of users have reported errors where they were unable to see all the photos on the Mac.

It could be because of an internal error that is unknown. But you can fix this by following the steps below.

  • Transfer photos from iPhone to Mac using third-party software or Airdrop
  • Restart your system to ensure all the backup has been saved, and check the photos again.
  • Remove any third party photo storage software such as Dropbox, Google Photos, etc.
  • Enable the iCloud data backup for your photos on Mac

These methods are most likely to work under every circumstance and your issue might then be fixed as well.

Read Why is YouTube Not Working on Mac


That’s it for this article, folks; now you know how you can use Time Machine, external hard disk, and iCloud to Restore the Photos Library on Mac. However, you need to be sure that you make regular backups to your Time Machine for that method to work. Other than that, you can use other third-party recovery software to make the job easier for you.

You may also like the following mac tutorials: