Get help with the Photos app on your Mac

If Photos for macOS won't open or isn't performing as expected, try these tips.

Back up your library

Before following any of these steps, it's a good idea to create a backup of your photo library, even if you use iCloud Photos. You can use Time Machine, use a third-party backup solution, or copy the library to an external drive. By default, your photo library is stored in the Pictures folder within your home folder.

Make sure that your software is up to date

Photos is part of the Mac operating system. You can avoid or fix many issues by running the most up-to-date version of macOS. Learn more about updating the software on your Mac.

If you use RAW images in Photos, learn more about the digital camera RAW formats supported by iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.

If you have trouble migrating an existing iPhoto or Aperture library to Photos

You might see an alert message when you first open Photos or migrate an existing iPhoto or Aperture library. Learn what to do if Photos can’t copy or create a library.

If the Media Browser isn't showing your photos and videos

Use the Media Browser to make images from your photo library available in other apps, like Pages and iMovie. The Media Browser shows only the contents of the Photos library designated as the System Photo Library. If you have more than one Photos library—and the one you're using isn't set as the System Photo Library—the Media Browser won't show its contents.

Follow these steps to designate the current library as the System Photo Library:

  1. Choose Photos > Preferences.
  2. Click the General button at the top of the Preferences window.
  3. Click Use as System Photo Library.

If you're having other issues with Photos

If you're experiencing other issues—like missing or blank photo thumbnails, unexpected behavior, or if Photos won’t open—try to see if it's an issue with your library by following these steps.

Create a new Photos library and see if your issues persist:

  1. Quit Photos.
  2. Press and hold the Option key while you open Photos.
  3. In the dialog that appears, click Create New.
  4. Give your new library a name, then click OK. Note whether Photos opens successfully with this new library.

To return to your main Photos library, quit Photos. Then open it again while holding the Option key, select your main library, and click Choose Library.

Alternatively, you can open Photos in another user account on your Mac and note whether Photos opens successfully.

If Photos opens with the new library, or in a different user account, it might mean that there's an issue with your library. Follow the steps to use the Photos library repair tool on your main Photos library.

Learn more

Published Date: