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Who is this article for?

Code42 for EnterpriseSee product plans and features
CrashPlan for Small Business 

CrashPlan for Small Business, yes.

Code42 for Enterprise, yes.

Link: Product plans and features.

This article applies to app version 4.

Note: This app version is no longer supported.

Code42 Support

Back up photo libraries

Who is this article for?

Code42 for EnterpriseSee product plans and features
CrashPlan for Small Business 

CrashPlan for Small Business, yes.

Code42 for Enterprise, yes.

Link: Product plans and features.

This article applies to app version 4.

Note: This app version is no longer supported.


CrashPlan's default backup file selection (your user directory) contains the default location of photo libraries for several applications. If you are using CrashPlan's default settings, and you have not changed the default location of your iPhoto, Photos, or Aperture library, then your photos from these libraries are already backing up.

However, there are several ways to improve the efficiency of your photo library backups. This article contains tips and considerations for backing up iPhoto, Photos, and Aperture libraries. We also have tips on restoring these libraries.

Non-Code42 products
​Information about products from other manufacturers is intended as a resource to help you get the most out of Code42 products. However, our Customer Champions cannot provide direct assistance for these products. For assistance with products not developed by Code42, contact the product's manufacturer.


  • Time required to back up: iPhoto, Photos, and Aperture libraries can be quite large (it is not uncommon for libraries to exceed 30 GB). On average, you can expect your Code42 cloud backup to progress by at least 10 GB of information per day, as long as your computer is powered on and not in standby mode. For more information, see our special considerations on speed of initial and ongoing backups for photographers.
  • Real-time file watching: Information in your iPhoto, Photos, or Aperture libraries may change frequently as you edit and organize your photos. CrashPlan continuously monitors these changes in real-time. New photos and changes are queued for backup like all files in CrashPlan.

Key concept: Photo libraries

iPhoto, Photos, and Aperture rely on libraries to store information about your photos, such as where they are located, how they are organized, thumbnails of the images, and edits you have made to them. This method of storing information has important implications for backing up and restoring these photos. For example, if you only back up your original photos and not the library, then you won't be able to restore the information about your edits, how your photos are organized, etc.

File drawer analogy

Think of your library like a big file drawer containing your photos. Each photo is clipped to a folder, and in each folder, there are notes about the photo, such as, "this photo was taken on June 22nd; you want to see it in black and white; crop an inch off the side."

Each time you view photos in iPhoto, your notes are applied to the photo you are viewing, but the original photo is left unchanged. This is also called non-destructive editing.

Back up photo libraries

The name of your photo library varies based on what photo application you are using. You can include this entire folder in your backup file selection. However, there are two folders contained within the folder that are not advantageous to back up because they can actually decrease the efficiency of your backup: Previews and Thumbnails.

Many photo applications generate preview and thumbnail files so that you can quickly browse your photos. However, since these files can be generated "on the fly" from the master photos, there's no advantage to restoring them, and therefore, no advantage to backing them up.


Use the steps below to ensure you are backing up only the essential items within your photo library:

  1. Open the CrashPlan app.
  2. Click Change to open your backup file selection.
  3. Locate the photo library in your Username > Pictures folder:
    • iPhoto: iPhoto Library.photolibrary
    • Photos: Photos Library.photoslibrary
    • Aperture: Aperture Library.aplibrary
  4. If it is not already selected, select the folder.
    It is common with Aperture to have multiple Aperture libraries. You should include the .aplibrary folder for each library in your backup file selection.
    iphoto backup file selection
  5. Click the arrow next to the photo library to expand the folder contents.
  6. Deselect the Previews folder.
  7. Deselect the Thumbnails folder.
  8. Click Save to confirm your updates.
Remove previews and thumbnails from backup immediately
CrashPlan automatically prunes deselected folder locations from your backup archive the next time archive maintenance occurs. If you would like changes to take effect sooner, you can manually trigger a file verification scan from Settings > Backup. Next to the Verify selection every setting, click Now.

Managed vs. referenced libraries in iPhoto & photos

It's helpful to understand how your iPhoto or Photos setting for importing photos impacts your backup. The setting determines if Photos or iPhoto copies the files into the library or keeps them in their original location. To view or edit the Managed or Referenced mode setting, go to:

  • iPhoto: Preferences > Advanced > Importing
  • Photos: Photos > Preferences > General > Importing

The mode you use should be based on your own personal preferences for managing your photos. However, there are backup considerations unique to each mode, as described below.

Managed library (default)

Both Photos and iPhoto's default mode is Managed, and it's typically considered to be the safest and easiest way to ensure that all of your photos are protected.

In Managed mode, all of your photos, whether you import them from a phone or camera, or from a folder on your computer or external hard drive, are copied to your photo library. This means if you import a photo into Photos or iPhoto from a folder location, like an external drive, then you have two copies of the photo (one in the original location and one in your photo library).

If you import photos from a folder location, you may choose to back up the original location (in addition to your photo library). Doing so won't increase the size of your backup archive, or the amount that you need to upload to your backup destinations, because CrashPlan detects the files are the same during the de-duplication process.

However, if you back up hundreds or thousands of photos in their original location (in addition to backing them up in your photo library), it will take CrashPlan longer to scan and analyze your file selection, and it could increase the memory CrashPlan needs to monitor your file selection.

Backup File Selection Recommendations
  • Include the photo library folder.
  • Exclude your library's Previews and Thumbnails subfolders.
  • Consider excluding the original file locations of any photos imported into Photos or iPhoto from a folder location.

Referenced library

In Referenced mode, photos are stored exclusively outside of your Photos or iPhoto library. For example, in this mode, you could store your photos on multiple external hard drives, but still manage and edit them with Photos or iPhoto. However, if the file location or name changes, Photos or iPhoto will not be able to locate the photo. In this mode, you are responsible for managing your photos.

Backup File Selection Recommendations
  • Include every location of your photos on your file system.
  • Include your photo library folder to ensure that your events and edits to your photos are backed up.
  • Exclude your library's Previews and Thumbnails subfolders.