Mac app “Photos”, check and change the storage location

Updated : Nov 23, 2021

I will explain in detail how to check and change the storage location of the data file of the Mac application “Photos” with illustrations.

I will also show you how to switch between multiple data files and how to view the contents of the data files.



What is “Photo Library” in the app “Photos”?

In the Mac app “Photos”, photo and video files are saved together in one file called “Photo Library”.

That said, the reality is that data containing many files and folders is displayed as if it were a single file.

Mac "Photos" file location


You can also switch between multiple photo libraries, but iCloud can only synchronize and back up the “System Photo Library” that is set by default.

App "Photos" switches several "Photo Libraries"


So, unless you have a specific reason, we recommend that you use only “One System Photo Library” as set by default.



How to check the storage location of the “Photo Library”

▶ In “Finder”, start the application “Photos” in the folder “Applications”.

Mac "Finder"


▶ When the app “Photos” starts, select “Photos” – “Preferences …” from the menu bar.

Mac "Photos" menu bar "Preferences..."


▶ When the “Preferences” screen appears, you’ll see the location of your photo library next to title “Library Location”.

The name of your photo library should be “Photo Library” or “Photos Library”.

Alternatively, it may have “~ .photos library” as an extension , or “写真ライブラリ” in Japanese.

Mac "Photos" "Preferences..."


▶ Then click the “Show in Finder” button to bring the “Finder” to the front and display the files in your photo library.

Mac "Photos" "Preferences..."

Mac "Photos"'s "Photo Library"



How to change the storage location of the “Photo Library”

Since the size of the “Photo Library” can be several tens of GB or more, I recommend using a fast read / write internal drive, Thunderbolt 3, or USB 3.0 at the latest.
In the case of USB 2.0 or NAS, reading and writing data is slow, so it takes a long time to start up and there is a high probability that data will be corrupted.


▶ While referring to “How to check the save location of the photo library” in the previous section, display the current save location of the “Photo Library” of the application “Photos”.



▶ Exit the app “Quit Photos”.

Quit Mac "Photos"'


▶ Brings the “Finder” to the front and shows where you want to move your “Photo Library”, along with the current location of your “Photo Library” that’s already displayed.

Moving "Photo Library"


▶ Move the “Photo Library” to the destination.

At that time, you can move it within the same drive by dragging and dropping.

If the drive is different, drag and drop will make a copy, so delete the original data after the copy is completed.
(If you don’t want to delete it, you can leave it as it is.)

Operation In the same drive Between different drives
Drag and drop move copy
option ⌥ + Drag and drop copy copy

Moving "Photo Library"


▶ When you have finished moving (or copying), double-click the moved (or copied) “Photo Library” to launch the app “Photos”.

Mac "Photos"'s "Photo Library"


▶ When the app “Photos” starts, open “Preferences” and click “Use as System Photo Library” next to “Library Location”.

Mac "Photos"'s "Photo Library"



How to switch between multiple “Photo Libraries”

The app “Photos” remembers to use the last “Photo Library” you used the next time you start it.
Therefore, if you change the “Photo Library” to be used temporarily, be sure to revert to loading the original “Photo Library”.


▶ In “Finder”, start the application “Photos” in the folder “Applications”, but at that time, hold down option ⌥ on the keyboard.

Mac "Finder"


▶ A screen for selecting which “Photo Library” to load will be displayed, select the one you want to load.



▶ The “Photos” app will load and launch the selected “Photo Library”.




Where do you save the photos you have imported into your “Photo Library”?

The “Photo Library” is apparently a single file, but in reality, the data of multiple photos and videos are stored as a group.

Here, I would like to take out the original data of the captured photo.

▶ Bring the “Finder” to the front, bring up the “Photo Library” right-click menu, and select “Show Package Contents”.

Mac "Photo Library" Show package contents


▶ When the contents of the package are displayed, the photos saved in the following file path are the original data imported into the “Photo Library”.

originals > "Numerous folders with alphanumeric names"

To copy this data, hold down option ⌥ on your keyboard and drag and drop it to the destination.

(Because it will move if you do not press option ⌥.)



By the way, there is a similar image file in the following file path, but this is a thumbnail image.

resources > derivatives > "Numerous folders with alphanumeric names"




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