How to Solve Your iPhoto Auto Launch Issues by Checking Your Preference Files


Julie writes: I love the way that iPhoto works with my iPhone to automatically open and import my latest photos whenever I connect the phone to my Mac. Lately, however, something has gone wrong and the Image Capture app now opens when I connect my iPhone instead of iPhoto. I’ve verified that my iPhoto Preferences are configured correctly to open when a camera is connected, but I still see Image Capture launching instead of iPhoto. What am I missing?


iPhoto IconIn the words of the Mac Geek Gab’s John F. Braun: “You’re not missing anything, Julie. But your Mac is lying to you.

While Apple’s image-related applications – iPhoto, Aperture, and Image Capture – include helpful preference options that allow a user to select which application launches when a camera is connected, those settings are only as useful as their related preference file, or .plist, in your Mac’s Library folder. In Julie’s case, even though her application Preferences tell her that iPhoto is supposed to launch when she connects her iPhone, something has happened to the corresponding preference file that stores that setting, and we’ll need to clear that preference file in order to restore the expected behavior.

In terms of which application launches when a camera is connected, you can find the preference file in the following location. To get there easily, open Finder and select Go > Go to Folder from the Menu Bar (or press Command-Shift-G) and copy and paste this path:


In this folder, you’ll find one or more files that start with this filename, followed by a string of characters:

Once you’ve located this file (or files), quit all other open applications on your Mac. Next, select all files that start with the above filename and then delete them. Finally, reboot your Mac.

iPhoto Preferences

Once you’re back up and running, launch iPhoto and head to iPhoto > Preferences > General. Make sure that the entry for “Connecting camera opens” is set to iPhoto (or the application of your choice). Assuming that the original issue was caused by a corrupted or locked .plist file, by deleting those files and reconfiguring the app’s preferences, we created a “fresh” .plist that should now honor the changes you make in the application. To verify this, close iPhoto and connect your iPhone or other camera. You should now see iPhoto open as it used to.

Bonus Tip: Corrupted or locked .plist files can often be the cause of odd behavior in OS X like that experienced by Julie. In this case, we told you exactly which .plist files to examine, but what if you’re troubleshooting an issue on your own? How do you determine which files need to be potentially deleted?

Good news! We have just what you’re looking for! In a previous entry in the Mac Geek Gab Answers series, we demonstrate how to create a real-time smart search in Finder that automatically shows you the most recently modified system files. By seeing which preference files are modified when you fiddle with an application or system setting, you can quickly determine the applicable .plist files that you should examine as part of your troubleshooting process.