Photos Library Too Big? – How to Move It to an External Hard Drive

SSDs are essential for ensuring optimal performance on a Mac, but because they’re expensive, many people don’t have as much built-in storage space as they would like. If your Photos library has grown to the point where your SSD is nearly full, it might be time to think about offloading it to an external hard drive. (Don’t put it on a drive that you’re using as a Time Machine destination because there could be permissions conflicts, and note that Apple doesn’t recommend storing a Photos library on a drive shared over a network.)

Before we explain how to offload your photos, we want to mention another way of reducing the Photos footprint on your drive. If you’re using iCloud Photos (previously called iCloud Photo Library) to sync photos and videos between your devices, the originals are all stored in iCloud. In Photos > Preferences > iCloud, you can enable Optimize Mac Storage, which swaps the full-resolution images for smaller versions, saving a boatload of space. However, you may find Photos somewhat slower to use, as it has to download full-resolution versions of images you work with, and you won’t have a local backup of the original images. So it’s an option, but it has tradeoffs.

For most people with burgeoning Photos libraries, a better approach is to offload the entire library to an external hard drive. This approach comes with tradeoffs too; accessing images from a hard drive is slower than getting them from an internal SSD, and you have to figure out how you’re going to back up that drive as well. Plus, the drive has to be available, connected, and turned on (so you have to listen to it) for you to use Photos at all, which might be especially annoying if you regularly work remotely on a notebook Mac.

To move your Photos library to an external drive, follow these steps:

  1. If it’s running, quit Photos.
  2. In the Finder, drag Photos Library, which is stored in your Pictures folder by default, to the external drive. A few answers to common questions:
    • Where on the external drive should I put it? It doesn’t matter, but we recommend putting it at the top level so you are less likely to lose track of it in the future.
    • I got an error—what should I do? If you see an error telling you that you don’t have permission to copy to that drive, select the drive’s icon in the Finder and choose File > Get Info to open the Info window. If necessary click the triangle next to Sharing & Permissions, and make sure “Ignore ownership on this volume” is selected. If it’s not, click the lock icon, enter an administrator name and password, and select the checkbox.
    • How long will it take to copy? Quite some time, depending on how many photos you have. It’s best to do overnight or when you don’t need to use Photos.
  3. When it’s done copying, double-click the new Photos Library icon on the external hard drive to launch Photos and set it to open that new copy on future launches.
  4. If you use iCloud Photos, designate this new library as the System Photo Library by choosing Photos > Preferences > General and clicking the “Use as System Photo Library” button.
  5. Scroll through your photo collection and make sure all your photos are present—double-click a few of them to spot check that the actual images open properly.

Obviously, your original Photos library is still taking up space on your SSD, but it’s best to use the new version for a little while before deleting the old one, just in case. When you’re ready to do that, drag it from the Pictures folder to the trash and choose Finder > Empty Trash to reclaim the space.

How Free Up Space with iOS 12 on an iPhone or iPad

Little is more frustrating than running out of space your iPhone or iPad. In this article, I’ll explain how to free up space on your iPhone and iPad in iOS 12. You can’t take new photos, you can’t download new apps, some things may not work at all, and iOS will nag you repeatedly about how you can “manage” your storage in Settings. Luckily, over the past few versions of iOS, Apple has significantly improved the options for clearing unnecessary data from your device.

Storage Graph

To get started clearing space, go to Settings > iPhone/iPad Storage. At the top of the screen, a graph reveals where your space is going, such as Apps, Photos, Media, Messages, Mail, Books, iCloud Drive, and Other. You can’t do anything with the graph, but it will likely reveal the main culprits.

Recommendations

Next, iOS shows recommendations for quick ways to recover space. These vary based on how you use your device, so you will likely see other options here.

Some of the possibilities include:

  • Offload Unused Apps: This choice is particularly helpful if you download a lot of apps that you later stop using. Enable it, and iOS automatically recovers space from unused apps when you’re low on storage. Each of these apps remains on your Home screen with a little cloud icon next to it, and when you next tap the app to open it, iOS re-downloads the app from the App Store. You won’t lose any documents, data, or settings associated with an offloaded app.
  • Review Downloaded Videos: Some apps, like Netflix, can download videos for offline watching. That’s great for when you’re on a long flight, but if you forget to delete the videos, they can consume a lot of space. This option shows them to you and lets you swipe left on any one to delete it.
  • Review Large Attachments: Photos, videos, and other files sent to you in Messages can take up a lot of space. This recommendation reveals them and lets you swipe left to delete those you don’t need to keep.
  • “Recently Deleted” Album: When you delete photos in the Photos app, they go into the Recently Deleted album, where they’ll be deleted automatically after up to 40 days. This recommendation lets you remove those images right away.
  • Review Personal Videos: Shooting videos with your iPhone or iPad can guzzle storage, so this recommendation shows you the videos you’ve taken in case you don’t want to keep them.

iOS’s recommendations are quite good and may be all you need to clear space quickly. However, if you need to dig deeper, you can look at the usage of individual apps.

Individual App Usage

The third and final section of the iPhone/iPad Storage screen lists every app on your device, sorted by how much space it takes up. Along with the app’s name and how much space it consumes, iOS helpfully tells you the last time you used the app. You may even see “Never Used” for older apps that you’ve carried over from previous devices but haven’t opened on this one.

When you tap an app, iOS shows more information about how much space the app and its documents occupy, and lets you tap Offload App or Delete App to recover its space. For some apps, mostly those from Apple, like Music and Podcasts, iOS also shows the data stored by the app and lets you delete any individual item (swipe left).

Focus on the apps at the top of the list—the list is sorted by size—since it will be a lot easier to realize, for instance, that you’ve never used GarageBand and recover its 1.59 GB of space than to sort through a long list of apps and their data.

With all these the tools from Apple, you should have no trouble making space on your device for more photos, videos, and apps that you actually want to use.

Troubles with Messages? Read On for Ten Possible Solutions

Apple’s Messages app for iOS and macOS generally works well, but when it doesn’t, figuring out what’s wrong and how to fix it can take some doing. Here are a few of the most common solutions we’ve come across for problems with sending and receiving messages.

Help Android-switcher friends turn off iMessage

Do you have a friend who previously used an iPhone but later switched to an Android phone? People like that can confuse your copy of Messages, which doesn’t know if it should send to them via iMessage (no) or SMS (yes). If you text with someone in this situation, get them to deregister from iMessage.

Check device connectivity

If messages aren’t flowing when you think they should be, the first “is it plugged in?” thing to check is connectivity. Make sure that your iPhone has at least cellular service (for SMS) and cellular data (for iMessage) and that your iOS device isn’t in Airplane mode. In the case of a Mac, make sure it’s connected to your network.

Relaunch the Messages app

Force-quitting in iOS isn’t something you should do willy-nilly, since it slows down your device and hurts battery life, but it’s worth trying if Messages isn’t sending or receiving messages correctly. Double-press the Home button on Touch ID devices or swipe up and to the right from the bottom of the screen on Face ID devices, then swipe up on the Messages app thumbnail to force-quit it. On the Mac, just quit and relaunch Messages.

Toggle iMessage off and back on

Here’s an easy one. In iOS, go to Settings > Messages and turn the iMessage switch at the top off and back on. iMessage may take a minute or two to reactivate. On the Mac, go to Messages > Preferences > iMessage > Settings, uncheck Enable This Account, and then log in again.

Toggle Messages in iCloud off and back on

With the new Messages in iCloud feature, Apple syncs conversations through your iCloud account. If messages from one device aren’t showing up properly on another device, in iOS, go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud and turn Messages off and back on. On the Mac, go to Messages > Preferences > iMessage > Settings and uncheck and recheck Enable Messages in iCloud.

Verify your phone number and email addresses are correct in Messages settings

SMS relies on a phone number, and you can be contacted via iMessage via a phone number or email address. Make sure you can be reached at all the appropriate ones. In iOS, go to Settings > Messages > Send & Receive to check. On the Mac, look in Message > Preferences > iMessage > Settings.

If they’re not right, fix them in iOS in Settings > Passwords & Accounts > iCloud > Your Name > Contact Information, by tapping Edit in the Reachable At section. On the Mac, you add these addresses with the plus button in System Preferences > iCloud > Account Details > Contact.

Verify that SMS fallback is enabled

When you’re in an area with sketchy cell service, there may not be enough of a data connection for iMessage to work. In such a situation, SMS text messages are more likely to get through, but Messages will try to send to iMessage users via SMS only if you turn on Send as SMS in Settings > Messages.

Check text message forwarding settings

If you’re receiving SMS messages on your iPhone but not any of your other devices, make sure Text Message Forwarding is enabled for the relevant devices (they need to be signed in to the same iCloud account). On your iPhone, look in Settings > Messages > Text Message Forwarding.

When in doubt, restart

Restarting can resolve all manner of problems, so it’s always worth a try if all the settings and accounts are correct. On the Mac, of course, just choose Apple > Restart. For iOS devices with Touch ID, press and hold the top button until the Slide to Power Off slider appears. For those with Face ID, press and hold the side (iPhone) or top (iPad) button and one of the volume buttons until the slider appears.

Reset network settings in iOS

Finally, the most voodoo of the fixes we’ve seen work is to reset network settings in iOS. You don’t want to start with this option because doing so also resets Wi-Fi networks and passwords, cellular settings, and VPN settings. But if all else fails, go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings.

If none of these techniques fix your problem, let us know and we’ll see what we can do to help!

iCloud Services Being Wonky? Check Apple’s System Status Page

Many Apple users rely on mac.com, me.com, or icloud.com email addresses, along with plenty of other iCloud-related services. So if you can’t send or receive email, if photos aren’t transferring via iCloud Photo Library, or if some other iCloud-related service isn’t responding, the first thing to do is check Apple’s System Status page. It’s updated every minute, and if it shows that the associated Apple service is having problems, you know to sit tight until things come back up. If everything is green, you’ll have to look elsewhere for a solution—or get in touch with us.

Winter Weather Warning: Keep Your Tech Toasty!

When it’s cold out, you can always throw on a sweater to stay warm. But your electronics are more reptilian—they can get sluggish or even fail to work in freezing weather. (No, that’s not what iPod Socks were designed to fix.) Worse, charging batteries at low temperatures or moving tech gear between extreme temperature ranges can cause damage.

There’s a difference between temperatures your devices can withstand when you’re actively using them and when they’re just being stored. Manufacturers usually publish the environmental requirements for devices, though it may take a little searching to find the details. Here are the ranges for the devices you’re most likely to care about:

  • iPhone/iPad: Operating temperatures from 32° to 95° F (0° to 35° C) and nonoperating temperatures from −4° to 113° F (−20° to 45° C)
  • MacBook (Air/Pro): Operating temperatures from 50° to 95° F (10° to 35° C) and storage temperatures from −13° to 113° F (−25° to 45° C)

It’s easy to imagine wanting to use an iPhone in temperatures below freezing or a MacBook outdoors on a crisp autumn day. And in fact, they probably won’t stop working entirely. After all, putting your iPhone in your pocket next to your body will keep it warmer than the outside air, and it will take a while to cool down. But you shouldn’t be surprised by crashes, shutdowns, or other unusual behavior if you do use your device below its recommended operating temperature for a while.

Batteries Hate Working in the Cold

The main problem is that batteries prefer to be used in moderate temperatures (they hate heat even more than cold). When batteries get cold, they appear to discharge more quickly. That’s because the chemical reactions that generate electricity proceed more slowly at lower temperatures, and thus produce less current. The weak discharge fools the device’s power management circuitry into thinking that the battery is nearly dead; hence the shutdowns. Once your device has had a chance to warm up, the battery should revive.

However, don’t charge batteries when it’s very cold, as in −4° F (−20° C). Doing so can cause plating of the graphite anode in the battery, which will reduce battery performance.

Other Technologies That Dislike Cold

Two other standard bits of technology don’t like operating in the cold either: hard drives and LCD screens.

Hard drives aren’t nearly as common as they used to be, particularly in laptops that are likely to be left outside in cold cars. Most have a minimum operating temperature of 32° F (0° C), and you’re unlikely to want to use a laptop in temperatures lower than that. In very cold temperatures, the lubricant inside the drive can become too viscous to allow the motor to spin up the platters. Although solid-state drives have no moving parts, most are rated for the same minimum operating temperature, oddly enough.

LCD screens can also have problems. Extreme cold can slow their response times, leading to slow or jerky screen drawing. OLED displays, such as in the iPhone X, XS, and XS Max, withstand cold significantly better—some OLED displays are rated for temperatures as low as −40º (which—trivia tip!—is the same in Fahrenheit and Celsius).

Avoid Temperature Swings

Regardless of whether you want to use your devices in cold weather, you’ll extend their lifespans if you don’t regularly expose them to significant temperature swings. There are two reasons for this: condensation and thermal expansion.

Those who wear glasses know that when you come into a warm house from the cold, your glasses immediately fog up with condensation. That’s true even though most houses are quite dry in the winter. Wait a few minutes, and the condensation evaporates back into the air. The same can happen with any electronic device that’s open to the air, and moisture inside electronics is never good. It’s thus best to let electronics warm up slowly (and in their cases or boxes) to reduce the impact of condensation.

Finally, as you remember from high school science, objects expand when heated and contract when cooled. The amount they expand and contract may be very small, but the tolerances inside electronics are often extremely tight, and even the tiniest changes can cause mechanical failures, particularly with repeated cycles of expanding and contracting. Try to avoid subjecting devices to significant temperature swings on a regular basis or you may find yourself replacing them more frequently than you’d like.

In the end, our advice is to keep your gear warm whenever possible, and if you must use it in temperatures below freezing, be aware that battery life and screen responsiveness may be reduced.

Don’t Use Rules in Apple’s Mail to Send “Out of Office” Replies

It’s helpful to unplug occasionally and ignore email while on vacation or otherwise away from your work routine. And it’s a good idea to set up a vacation auto-responder to tell correspondents what to do in your absence. It might be tempting to create such an auto-reply with a rule in Mail on the Mac, but resist the temptation! It’s way too easy to end up sending replies to every message from a mailing list or to addresses that will themselves reply back, causing a mail loop where each message generates another reply, ad infinitum. Instead, always set up such auto-responders in the server settings for your email provider, which are better about avoiding mail loops. Here are instructions for Gmail, iCloud, Outlook.com, Spectrum, Xfinity/Comcast, and Yahoo. If you use a different email provider, the instructions will likely be similar; check with your provider for details.

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