If you use Apple’s iCloud Photo library, your images are automatically synced to iCloud. However, my experience has shown that one should not depend solely on one backup source, especially when working with irreplaceable files such as your photos and videos. For that reason, I always back up my Photo Library to an external drive as well as to another third-party cloud backup service (I use Backblaze).
The first thing you want to do is to ensure that you’re downloading full-sized versions of your images to your Mac, rather than smaller, optimized device sized versions. You don’t want to restore your files from a backup only to discover that your full-resolution originals are lost.
When downloading originals to your Mac, you’ll also want to ensure that you have enough hard drive space on your computer to store the full-sized version of your images. If not, you may want to move your Photos Library to a larger external drive rather than store it on your computer.
To Download Original Versions to your Mac
- Launch the Photos application.
- Choose Photos > Preferences from the menu.
- Click the iCloud tab on top of the window.
- Click the Download Originals to this Mac radio button. Your Mac will now download full-resolution copies of all your images and store inside your Photo Library file (located by default in your Users > Photos folder).
Once you’ve set the option to download your original images, you can then back up your library automatically by using your Mac’s Time Machine backup or a backup application such as Carbon Copy or SuperDuper. I use Carbon Copy and back up my entire Mac to an external drive once a week.
You can also backup your Photos Library manually by simply copying it to an external drive. Here’s how:
To Back Up Your Photos Library Manually
- Open a Finder window.
- Click your Home folder in the Sidebar (your username)
Choose Go > Home from the menu.
- Double-click your Pictures folder.
- Drag your Photos Library file to an external drive.
If you subscribe to an online cloud backup service such as Backblaze or Carbonite, you’ll want to ensure that your Photos folder (or whatever folder contains your Photos Library) is selected for automatic backup.
I personally recommend backing up your Photos Library to an external drive as well as a Cloud backup service. I’ve been using this system for many years and have never lost a file that I haven’t been able to retrieve easily.
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