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Help! My iPhoto Photos Are Missing!

written by: Donny Yankellow•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 3/11/2010

What do you do when you open iPhoto and your photos are not there? This article will help you get them back.

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    My Photos Are Missing From iPhoto!

    The other day my friend emailed me with a major iPhoto problem. His iPhoto photos were missing. He opened iPhoto and all of his events were showing up as empty boxes. It was almost like placeholders for the events. Opening an event revealed place holders for his photos with an exclamation point icon in the photo’s place. Of course, he was emailing for help.

    I had never seen this problem before, but I was more than willing to help solve the problem.

    First thing I asked him to check was his external hard drive. He stores his photos on an external and I wanted him to make sure it was connected. It was.

    Next, I told him to quit iPhoto and restart the computer. This did nothing productive.

    Third, I went to the Internet for help. The only solution I could find was to rebuild the iPhoto library. The library is where all of the photos in iPhoto are stored. Rebuilding the library is accomplished by holding the option and command keys while opening iPhoto. A window will appear when iPhoto boots with rebuilding options. The article I found said to click the last three options. He did this, and still no photos.

    Rebuild Your Library 

    I was at a loss. I asked my Mac friends for help, but all I got back was a reply saying the same thing had happened to one person and he was still trying to figure it out.

    I had one final idea, so I remotely connected to my friend’s Mac. I opened iPhoto holding the option key to choose a new iPhoto library. When prompted, I chose the library on his backup drive (another reason for a backup! I can't stress the importance of backing up your photos enough.). iPhoto finished booting and this time all of the photos and events from his backup appeared in iPhoto! I was on to something.

    iPhoto library 

    I then went to the original iPhoto Library and renamed it. I am not sure why I renamed it, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I closed iPhoto and reopened it holding the option key again. This time I pointed iPhoto to the renamed library on the Mac. Success! All of the events and photos loaded in iPhoto.

    Finally, I did one more renaming. I renamed the original iPhoto library back to “iPhoto Library." I did this because my friend’s backup software was set to look for the library with the original name. Not changing the name back would have caused a mess with his backup. So, I renamed the library once again and when I opened iPhoto everything was the way it was suppose to be.

    I’m not exactly sure why this happens in iPhoto, but it seems to happen more often than not. If it happens to you, I hope this article can help you get your photos back.