back to article iPhoto 11 ate my library, say users

Apple fans upgrading to the latest version of iPhoto are finding that their photos are being gobbled up and spat out to god knows where. Users have reported albums being reordered, messed up, and in some instances apparently eaten up, either in part or completely. Unhappy snappers have taken to the vendor's support forums to …


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  1. Tech Hippy

    Exactly what happened with the last upgrade..

    And this is why I postponed upgrading to iPhoto 11..

    I was just adjusting to my first Mac when I upgraded to iPhoto 10 - I'd finished moving my photos across from my old windows box, upgraded iPhoto and BANG - start all over again..

    Yes Macs have an easier user interface, right up until something goes wrong...

  2. Lottie


    Sounds like a major screw up somewhere.

  3. Cameron Colley

    That's what you get when things are too easy.

    What's wrong with opening a file manager and dropping photographs into a folder, then letting your photo "management" app simply index them? A similar approach is taken in many media players, for example, and means the app writer would have to fuck up royally and encode "search and destroy" media into the app in order to remove your collection.

    Using an application to manage and index your collection of anything leaves you open to this kind of problem and is one reason I can't help but feel computers are "too easy" to use nowadays.

    1. Michael C

      because it's slow

      btw, the files are still there on disk... They do not live inside a data base. The library file is just that, a library, and from the command line it doesn't look any different than a regular folder. Recovering lost photos or objects in the library is as simple as opening a backup copy of the library and dragging folders inside of it back into iPhoto (which re-imports them). Inside the library it maintains it;s own database, as iTunes does, but the photos are just files in folders stored inside a special "container." It;s just a normal folder, but it has a "lock" on it to make it behave differently to the OS and keep people from mucking around inside of it (and causing bad links in the database as a result).

      If the Library file itself was dramatically reduced in size, and photos are missing, there are a number of possibilities, but as long as you had a time machine or other backup, the data should be easily recoverable.

      Here's a nice article covering common issues with this upgrade, how to avoid them, and how to recover from them.

      1. Cameron Colley

        re: because it's slow

        Eh? It's too slow to pull a folder from one place to another, do something else while they copy, then click "update collection"? Yes it's fast to pull the files across and wait the same amount of time for the data to move and the database to repopulate?

        I realise my technical knowledge of the application may be flawed -- but the article stated that files would have to be restored form backup so I was thinking this sounded an awful lot like the old "sync tunes to ipod->take away ipod and wipe it (for whatever reason)->plug ipod in and loose music" problem which a few people I know moaned about before they found the correct tick boxes.

  4. DZ-Jay

    Pictures still intact here...

    I recently upgraded to iLife '11 and used iPhoto extensively during the past weekend. I can attest that my ~2,300 picture collection is still safe and sound.

    I did find a few bugs with the "Places" feature while trying to search for locations by address. And at one time it even crashed while attempting to update a location. But other than that, it seems fine.


  5. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns


    Just take all of your photos again. Not that big of a deal.


    Sent from my HTC

    1. Ammaross Danan

      It Just Works

      And always remember, where Apple is involved: "It just works!" Shame it's the delete key this time....

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'i' apps want to control, just like steve

    same with iTunes, it wants you to trust your mp3s to it's own management. When iPhoto suggested that to me, i ditched it.

    Now 'i' am laughing with a safe and secure music and photo collection.

    1. Michael C

      stop this now

      You do not understand the construct of the library fie. Stop spreading BS.

      You do not understand that is is NOT a database, just a "special" kind of folder, and all the photos are in there even if iPhoto can;t see them in the converted database. Look at it from the command line (or right click and set show contents) and you'll see its a folder. Its the equivalent of a CAB or WAR file. It looks like a file to you, but like a folder to the OS.

      The iPhoto upgrade does NOT delete any photos from inside the library file, just the control files and database itself. If stuff went missing, it could possibly be disk corruption, but in the cases so far of "missing photos" they are in fact still in there, just an issue with the database pointers being updated properly during migration, and they easily re-imported.

      You SHOULD ALLWAYS have a good backup before doing an upgrade, especially after receiving such as a warning on install....

  7. Simon B


    We called Apple to see what its official solution to the users' problem is. We were told: "We don't comment on rumours or speculation." ®

    Or in otherwords, they're fucking clueless!!

  8. Richard 31
    Jobs Halo


    You should not complain iPhoto has examined your photos and determined that they are not good enough and you lack the pre-requisite artistic skill to own a Mac. Be thankful that they are providing this feature!

    To remedy this please send a polo neck to Steve Jobs.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Apple never release glitch ridden junk software

    unless the day has a Y in it!!

    Skeletor will not be happy!!

  10. Michael C


    1: never upgrade ANY software on any platform without ensuring a full backup first.

    2: Check the forums for issues before buying updates to software you rely on.

    3: if you can wait to upgrade, WAIT! Generally following: 1 week for major patches, 1 month for new major versions, 2 months for a major service pack or OS update (Os X retail releases updates may or may not fall under OS update), and 3-6 months for a major new OS version. Double this for Microsoft.

    4: when updating an OS, always check all your apps and device drivers for compatibility first.

    OS X is no exception. At best, common scenarios and some limited lists of extremes are tested, but since Apple has no "open beta" periods, and devs working on unreleased products have tight limits on speaking about it, Apple product releases should be approached with equal caution. There WILL be bugs, pretty much guaranteed.

    Most likely, we're dealing with an issue here where your iPhoto library is already at least partly corrupt, or contains unexpected data iPhoto 11 was not tested to handle, and is botching a database migration process. Likely, all your photos are still there, but you loose albums, some photo customizations, faces, and more. To me, that would be devastating!

    To be certain, we use a NAS compatible with time Machine and store both the Mac and Windows backups there, and use an archive slot to migrate backups of key directories off-site as well. I have about 600GB of stuff I do NOT want to loose, and that is the cost that comes with it. We also separately back up to a HDD (manually) certain folders about once every 2-3 months, as a fallback. If you only have 1 machine in the house, a simple backup is fine, so long as at least 1 backup set is not in your house at all times (trade drives with a family member, or get a safety deposit box). Leaving a backup drive plugged in all the time is a good way to get a virus on that drive, but also don't forget to plug it in regularly. especially imediately before an upgrades or patches.

    1. some vaguely opinionated bloke

      "... but it's Apple..."

      "... it just works..."

      Thus spake much of the user base.

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      No excuse

      Ok, so all our photos and videos are backed-up. Some are still on slide, even though they have been digitised. Almost all are backed-up to DVD (the older ones also to DAT but I can't use the DAT drive easily anymore). DVD has the advantage that any disc can be read, and all the discs can be stored away from the house. Adding to the backup does not involve moving the existing backup media around (as a couple of external HDDs would).

      But if you are suggesting that it is ok for software to trample all over my system, because I can always restore everything from ~300 DVDs, I think that you can do the restore!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        You've got, presumably, something like 1.4TB of data to back up and you've written it to DVD's? I'm stunned.

        You do realise that other faster and more convenient backup media are available don't you?

  11. Pandy06269

    Backup... drastic?

    "take the drastic step of backing up their iPhoto library before making the switch"

    Since when was taking a backup before a major upgrade, a "drastic" move? It's good practice.

    1. J 3

      @Backup... drastic?

      ERROR 37012: Sarcasm detector failure. Redo from start.

  12. Geoff Campbell

    Can I just say....

    "It just works"

    Thank you for listening.


  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Luckily I had a time machine backup. I hope you do too!""

    Oh come on. What sort of fucktard doesn't make a backup before running an upgrade? Come to that who doesn't make regular backups of their important photographs?

    If you lose your library and you don't have a backup it's no good blaming the upgrade. Haven't these people heard of hardware failures? How about burglaries? What crack hound wouldn't tuck that nice shiny iMac under their arm and run?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      What sort....?

      erm, my cousin's step daughter. Some people never learn...

    2. Kevin Reilly

      Re Backup

      I have a Mac Mini, I also have a Windows 7 Toshiba netbook dual booting Ubuntu complete with a card reader & Shotwell. Linux is worth having just for Shotwell alone. If you insert an SD card or connect a phone it will import only the shots not already in the library. All these pictures are kept in date order in a folder within your home folder called err, Pictures. This folder can easily be copied to a USB stick or hard drive etc plus you have a backup left on the memory card. When that fills up just buy a new one. Simples! iPhoto 11 is costly and not required by me thanks very much.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What sort of f******d doesn't make a backup before running an upgrade?

      You don't mix with real people do you?

      After years and years in this business I still know more people with no back-ups than I do with back-ups.

      I'm currently running around trying to fix Entourage databases that have been screwed by a recent MS Office update.

      Thankfully since OS 10.5 and the advent of Time Machine manu of these screw-up are fixed a lot easier than they were a few years ago.

      Mind you, a few years ago most fild photo collections were in shoe boxes and albums on the coffe table. Now I'm finding average families witrh 20,000 images in their iPhoto Libraries - and it's only going to get worse.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "You don't mix with real people do you?

        After years and years in this business I still know more people with no back-ups than I do with back-ups."

        And they're all fucktards. Got the point yet? If you don't back up your important data you're a fucktard. I don't care if those without backups are in the majority, that doesn't stop them being fucktards. Millions of people watch the X-Factor, strength of numbers doesn't make them discerning viewers.

        The worst thing about all this is that I wouldn't be surprised if the upgrade instructions urged the user to backup their images before running the upgrade. And the users just performed the upgrade without a backup and then complained that their images had gone.

    4. Super Mario



      "Oh come on. What sort of fucktard doesn't make a backup before running an upgrade? Come to that who doesn't make regular backups of their important photographs?" -AC


      An iUser

  14. RichyS

    Contrary to geek opinion

    I happen to think the way iPhoto manages your photos is a good way of doing things.

    The photos are not merged as BLOBs into some big arsed database, but simply stored as files in a Package. There is good reason for this.

    The good reason is that iPhoto stores the original photo and any updates is a second photo that includes sufficient meta data so that the various changes can be undone (to an extent, at least). If all these files were open to the average user messing around, then the links in the iPhoto database will soon get lost. Now, Apple could make use of their kernel hooks to track this (in much the same way as Spotlight is managed), but this seems an unnecessarily complex way of doing things.

    If you want to keep a filing system 'backup' of your files, you can always export the photos from iPhoto. Otherwise, just let Time Machine back them up for you. You do make sure you have a backup before installing new software, don't you?

    Regardless of the pros and cons of Apples approach, this still seems a bit of a feck up from Apple. It will be interesting to see what the causes of the issue are, and why these did not become apparent in Apple's testing.

  15. groovyf


    ...there's nothing wrong with iPhoto '11 it's the way you're installing it...

  16. J. Cook Silver badge

    Ah, the joys of database/metabase corruption...

    This is why I keep my media in a set of nested folders: I've seen enough database corruption in my time to know that garble funk panda my hovercraft is full of eels

    *** thread aborted; error in row 36148613 ***

  17. Montreux

    Constant crashes

    I upgraded from iPhoto 8 to iPhoto 11 at the weekend. I haven't lost any pictures in my upgrade, but I have been shocked by the number of crashes when using the faces feature. I had iPhoto 11 crash on me around 10 times, each time while searching for additional pictures containg the faces I had just tagged.

    Also all the tags I had set on pictures disappeared.

    1. RichyS


      The faces were just too ugly.

  18. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Good job iPhoto is hand crafted in Obj-C

    Instead of some dodgy fly-by-night language like Java or Flash which Steve has stopped bundling with the OS to maintain the end-user quality experience.

  19. JaitcH

    Photo 11 ensures conformity with Job's concept of family friendly

    As in all things 'i' an undocumented feature is present that ensures all content conforms with Job's vision of acceptable taste.

    Excessive skin, ugly faces and questionable subjects are at risk of rejection by the index software.

    If you want to see how Photo 11 should work, check out Picassa, fast and free.

  20. Gary S.


    "We called Apple to see what its official solution to the users' problem is. We were told: 'We don't comment on rumours or speculation.'"

    Wait... Apple spoke to The Reg? Hallelujah!

  21. twunt

    Terrible update

    iPhoto '11 has been dumbed down - big ugly chunky buttons, controls moved to a giant right hand side bar, and more than anything else, its slower than '09.

    It felt like using one of those iPhoto clones they keep bundling with Ubuntu - like a half arsed copycat.

    Do yourself a favour - stick with 09.

  22. Diziet Sma

    Who keeps that much in iPhoto?

    100+GB of photos in iPhone? Seriously? That's just stupid. Use aperture or some professional package if you have that much. Personally I have time machine backups but also this:

    Pictures diziet$ tar czf iPhoto\ Library.tgz iPhoto\ Library/

    Oh and it's only:

    Pictures diziet$ du -sh iPhoto\ Library

    8.2G iPhoto Library

  23. Nameless Faceless Computer User

    Happy user here

    I just grabbed an old copy of iPhoto9. It appears that my new free copy of iPhoto11 will remain in a box until it's ready for prime time.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    iPhoto 11

    I have posted the fix:

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      iphoto 11

      Thanks a million!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Upgraded with no issues :-)

    From '08 to '11. Seems ok, but that 'full screen mode' has huge boarders on the top and bottom in edit mode. Isn't that a step down from the old version? Specially when you're on a 13" screen ...

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