iPhoto indigestion

One of my recent/current tasks involves our younger daughter’s disused iMac. It’s a 2011 model which she mostly abandoned using some years ago (ca 2018) because the 512 GB HDD was full to the point where the system was complaining. She subsequently (early 2019) borrowed my MacBook Pro and liked that enough that I let her keep it and moved my own travel activity to an iPad Pro which does well enough for what I need on the road. Her recent efforts to carve out a home workspace included delivering her iMac to me with a request to see if I could rescue the photos from the iPhoto library that accounted for 296 GB of the HDD.

The version of iPhoto dated from 2015 and had 45000+ photos in almost 1400 mostly unnamed events and a few albums. I managed to free about 25 GB of space by deleting things I knew would not be needed but that was nowhere near enough to attempt updating the library to a newer format. Instead I formatted a spare 1 TB external drive and began to copy the library. That took a while to make any progress and when it did, the estimated time for copying was more than a day and ballooned to 3 days.

I quit the copy and tried iPhoto Library Manager but, while it offers useful tools, I found nothing for my situation. Instead I selected all events in iPhoto, went to Export in the menu, and selected to export the lot in original format to a folder on the external drive. That was not fast but there was visible progress. I’d started the task in the evening so I eventually went to bed and allowed the export to complete overnight.

Next day I used iPhoto Library Manager to import those files into a new library on the external drive. That process took some hours to create an iPhoto library with a single large event. The software reported errors with 239 files (probably corrupt or missing) but among 45000+ that seemed a small price to pay. I then attached the external drive to my newer (2017) iMac and began the process of converting the iPhoto library to the newer Photos library format. That was another 24 hour process that is approaching completion as I begin to write this.

By this morning the conversion process had gone far enough that it was possible to view the items in the new Photos library. Enough metadata had evidently come across to have them correctly placed chronologically and by location where that data had been in the original image. However, the videos were not working. iPhoto Library Manager had reported finding almost 600 videos so that was not ideal. A check of the files exported from the original library found more than 800 identified as QuickTime movies but fewer than 20 of those would actually play. The rest appeared to be just a single image frame. Trials with exporting a couple of random videos from the original library confirmed that iPhoto does not reliably export the videos.

A little work with Google found a solution. I used search for MOV to find just the video files in the library, selected them, and dragged them to a folder on an external drive. There were almost 2400 of them totalling 108 GB. Doing something useful with them, mostly short clips of just a few seconds, will be an interesting next challenge.

Meanwhile, once Photos has completed its conversion process I’ll need to remove the empty video files, dump the iPhone screenshots that may have been of ephemeral interest, and try to make sense of the rest. That will probably involve weeding out some images that are clearly poor quality or irrelevant.