to commonly asked questions.

Can I recover only my Photos projects from Time machine?

Follow up to the Mac slowness issue. I’ve been running the Mac from the external drive for the past several weeks. Not much difference honestly as I still get the spinning beach ball a lot and overall system slowness for mundane tasks. I do notice it happens very frequently in Photos (I have a fairly large photo library of over 34,000 images but it’s all stored in icloud)
Which leads me to...all of my Photos projects are missing after reinstalling it on the new drive.  How do I go about finding them on a TM backup and adding them back?

First, as we may have discussed in the past, watching Activity monitor will reveal the painfully massive CPU intensive processes related to Photos. As Photos continues to identify objects, places, and people, it sometimes brings computers to a halt. These processes include, but are not limited to the following:


Keep in mind several of these processes will stop when Photos is open. But then your computer is dealing with caching the entire size of your library and it can struggle in that regard. In other words, dammed if you do, dammed if you don't.

Now to your more specific question. Your Photo projects are missing. Hmmm. You can't (to my knowledge) easily add only the projects to a photos library back exclusively and not touch the other items. Instead, you might be better off replacing the entire photos library. To do this, you may want to leave the current photos library in your Pictures folder but rename it because you'll be bringing in another full copy of that exact library, just an earlier version that hopefully contains the projects.

I don't use the "enter time machine" function Apple provides. Instead, open your time machine drive, navigate to backup.backupsdb/computer name/macintosh hd/users/you/pictures/ then pull a copy of the photos.library over to your computer in the same folder you just renamed the old photos.library.

Now before you do this, you may need to think about storage. You'd be temporarily duplicating your photos library which could cause space issues. If you can't afford the gigs then you can move the file you've retrieved from the backup drive to a different drive.

Now open Photos holding down the Option key. It will automatically find all the photo libraries (not contained in the time machine backup) and list them as candidates that you can open. So choose the new library you've dragged out and open it. If your projects are there, great. If not, delete that file then repeat the process but with an even earlier version.

Full Disclosure: I've never tried just using the "enter time machine" while Photos is open in order to recover projects. It's worth a try. You may find that time machine will allow you to restore just the projects. To try it, open Photos, go to the time machine icon in the menu bar, select enter time machine. Your screen will go into a funky star trek warp looking thing. Start scrolling back in time and keep an eye out to see if the projects reappear in the left column. I doubt it but worth a try before going through everything else.
This image is a theme.plist hack