Your main hard drive contains the system files for Mac OS X and all the files for all the users. Eventually, even with the best of housekeeping, you run out of space to keep new files. At that point it makes sense to invest in an external hard drive.
Almost any external hard drive you find will be of good quality. Get a Firewire drive if you have an older Mac and a USB 2.0 drive if you have a newer Mac. Somewhere in the size range of 300 gig will keep you happy for quite a while.
Once you have your new external hard drive, you can move your iPhoto library to it. This will free up the space on your main hard drive and let you grow your iPhoto library to thousands of photos.
Note: If you have a notebook Mac, this tip isn't very practical. You would have to have the external drive plugged in every time you opened iPhoto.
Moving your iPhoto library isn't very difficult, but there is always the risk of making a mistake and losing data. Losing precious photos isn't a good thing, so BACK UP FIRST. Check out the Basics4Mac ebook The Backup Plan if you need help getting started making backups.
What we are going to do is actually COPY the iPhoto library from the main hard drive to the external drive. This is safer than just moving because if something happens during the copy we still have the original library. Once you are sure that everything copied properly, then you can delete the iPhoto library from the main hard drive.
Here are the steps to make the copy of your iPhoto library. It would be helpful if you print these instructions out since they are longer and a little more involved than normal tips on Basics4Mac.
- Quit iPhoto if it is running.
- Make sure your external drive is connected and turned on. In the Finder, the external drive will show as an orange drive icon in the left pane.
- Open two Finder windows and position them one on top of the other as shown in the image on the right. (click the image to see it larger.)
- In the top Finder window, start at your Home folder (the one with the icon of the house and your user name by it) and select the Pictures folder. Inside the Pictures folder you should see a folder called iPhoto Library.
- In the bottom Finder window, select your external drive. That is where we are copying the iPhoto Library to.
- Select the iPhoto Library folder from the top Finder window. Drag it to the bottom Finder window. This will start a copy process. How long the copy takes depends on how large your iPhoto library is, but it should take at least several minutes.
- If iPhoto is open, quit it.
- Go to the Pictures folder of your Home folder.
- Rename "iPhoto Library" to "iPhoto Library.old". (To rename a file, click the file name once. Pause a second, then click the file name again. The file name will be highlighted in light blue and you can type to rename the file.)
- Open iPhoto. You will see a dialog box like the one on the right. If you don't see the dialog box, click the iPhoto icon on your Dock. This dialog box likes to hide behind other windows for some reason.
- There will be two items listed in the scroll box, one called "iPhoto Library" and one called "iPhoto Library.old". Select "iPhoto Library". (This is the one that you moved to the external hard drive.)
- Click the Choose button.
- iPhoto will open and you should see your photos.
- Hold down the Option key on the keyboard and open iPhoto. You will see a dialog box like the one on the right.
- Click the Choose Library... button. You will get a standard Open dialog window.
- Click on your external hard drive icon (the orange one) in the left pane. You should then see the iPhoto Library folder that you copied earlier.
- Select the iPhoto Library folder and click the Open button. iPhoto will open and you should see your photos.
NOTE: If you want to maintain two (or more) iPhoto Libraries, a smaller one on your internal hard drive and a larger one on your external hard drive for example, there is a great application for that. Check out iPhoto Library Manager.