Sunday, January 24, 2010

TimeMachine Is Not Backing Up Your Photos

A while back, I lost a lot of information because I was relying on TimeMachine to back up my iPhoto Library. What I learned is that TimeMachine will not back up an iPhoto Library (that is, any of your photos), if iPhoto is open. Since I leave iPhoto open all the time, mine never got backed up. But since Apple promises that TimeMachine completes full, automatic backups in the background, I never suspected there was a problem until it was too late. After an iPhoto crash, my old library was no longer visible, and the backup was nowhere to be found. That's when I wrote this.

Today, I got yet another sad letter from someone else who lost photos and information about their photos because of this issue. So, I thought I would write an open letter to Apple asking them to at least have TimeMachine warn users if it has been unable to backup their photos. I posted it on their feedback page. Perhaps if enough of us write them, they'll fix this glaring error in an otherwise brilliant program.

Dear Apple:

I have been trying to warn folks that TimeMachine does not backup an iPhoto Library if iPhoto is open. Since many people (like myself) keep iPhoto open all the time, that can mean losing hundreds or thousands of photos while you're assuming that TimeMachine is doing its job.

The fact that TimeMachine promises to do full, automatic backups in the background (as stated on your Web site) keeps people from worrying about their iPhoto Library until it's too late and the unthinkable happens: they have a disk failure, or some Apple person tells them to reformat their drive. Do you have a backup, they ask? Yes, the user confidently replies. I backup faithfully with TimeMachine. Little do they know their iPhoto Library was NOT included.

If TimeMachine can warn users that they haven't completed a backup in 10 days, it seems like it would be a good idea to also warn users when TimeMachine has not been able to complete a backup of the iPhoto Library because it has been open. In that way, users wouldn't be lulled into a false security, and most importantly, they wouldn't lose their photos.



  1. You can also follow the discussion of this issue on the Apple Support page

  2. I'm glad you made me aware of this issue. I just upgraded to Snow Leopard at the beginning of the year and starting using TimeMachine. Now I know what to watch out for.

  3. Hi - several replies to this suggest that quitting iPhoto and then running a Time Machine backup will force a correct backup of the photos. This doesn't work for me - I just can't get it to backup all my recent photos. Anyone else seen this problem?


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