OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 released with new iPhoto replacement [UPDATED]

Today Apple released the third service update for OS X Yosemite which introduces many security and bug fixes, speed and reliability enhancements, and the sleek new replacement for iPhoto simply called “Photos“. Don’t worry, you aren’t being forced to upgrade your library to Photos just yet if you aren’t an early adopter. You can continue running iPhoto after upgrading to 10.10.3. But you may be impressed with how fast Photos runs compared to iPhoto and how easy it is to sync with your iPhone, iPad, and even other Macs with iCloud Photo Library enabled.

You can update your Mac by clicking the Apple menu > App Store, and then switching to the Updates tab.

Because Photos has only just been released and I have only had the chance to tinker with my own photo library, this brief migration overview isn’t going to be comprehensive, but if you are willing to dive in this should help you get started.

PhotosMigrating from iPhoto to Photos

  1. Back up your computer, especially your iPhoto library. The easiest way to do this is with Time Machine.
  2. Upgrade your Mac to OS X 10.10.3. As the Photos app is now integrated into the OS and not a separate app, you’ll need to be running the new version of Yosemite.
  3. Upgrade iPhoto to version 9.6.1 if it hasn’t been updated already. If you visit iPhoto on the Mac App Store the app page will offer to upgrade you to the current version if you are still behind. [Updated Apr-11-2015] Click the Apple menu > App Store. Switch to the Updates tab and install the iPhoto update if it’s offered. If you are running iPhoto 8 or earlier you might not see the update there and will need to contact Apple to get the final version of  iPhoto added to your account so that you can upgrade to the intermediary stage, since the iPhoto product listing has been removed from the store.
  4. Launch iPhoto to make sure that your library database has been fully upgraded.
  5. Launch the new Photos app and allow the migration to complete.
  6. Delete your old iPhoto library and iPhoto app after you are sure you are satisfied with the migration and with the new software. There isn’t a huge rush to do this, as the libraries use “hard links” so that each library isn’t a true duplicate. Finder may report that each library file consumes several gigabytes, but some of the picture files will exist simultaneously in both libraries, inflating those numbers without actually reducing your available storage. But changes made in the new Photos library will not trickle back to iPhoto or vice versa. So before you invest too heavily in using the new Photos app you’ll want to be sure it will work for you.
  7. If you are running at least OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 or iOS 8.3 and have enabled iCloud Photo Library everywhere then you can probably disable Photo Stream on all devices as it would be redundant.

Possible upgrade hangups

  • There are reports that the Photos app doesn’t offer to migrate your library unless it is in your Pictures folder where it expects to find it.  If you run into that problem you can simply drag your library file onto the Photos icon on your dock.
  • If your iPhoto library is corrupt or if you receive error messages about permissions or access you can perform several types of repairs on your iPhoto library by holding Command+Option while you click the iPhoto app on your dock. Start with a permission repair and work down the list. Launch the Photos app to try the migration again after each process.
  • If the iPhoto library is still corrupt after all of the built-in repairs above you may need to use a third-party tool such as iPhoto Library Manager which can rebuild your library by creating a new library, exporting your existing photos, and importing them to the new library.
  • In order to put all of your photos into iCloud Photo Library, which enables the fantastic new syncing across all of your devices, you’ll need to have enough storage in your iCloud account for your entire library. Fortunately Apple recently lowered the pricing to make lots of storage quite affordable. Most people can either get by with 20 GB for 99¢/month or with 200 GB for $3.99. If you don’t have enough space you will be prompted to upgrade before the sync starts.

iCloud Photo Library

Photos includes an optional new feature called iCloud Photo Library which keeps your entire photo library synced between the Photos apps on all of your Macs and iOS devices. The idea is that if you snap a new photo on your iPhone, delete a photo from your Mac, or edit a photo on your iPad, all of these changes will be instantly replicated through all of your devices. Which is different from the current mess that Photo Stream has created where many people now have multiple copies of photos replicated everywhere. If you are concerned with the safety of your content in case Apple’s servers go down, copies of each item can be kept locally allowing you to back up your library with Time Machine or continue operating without a connection to iCloud. If, however, you have privacy concerns about keeping your photos in iCloud, you can still use the new Photos app in the traditional manner, plugging in your iPhone or camera to import photos to your local Photos library.

Revert to iPhoto

Though I almost never recommend it, if you wish to revert to iPhoto for any reason you can read my article about that.