How To Restore Erased Pictures From iPhoto?


Brad asks: I had some pictures in iPhoto that are no longer there. I must have unintentionally deleted them and now I want them back. I’ve been making regular Time Machine backups — how do I restore these back into my iPhoto Library?


Brad, you’re in luck. In fact, iPhoto (and Apple, of course) make this easy for you. Just to be safe, though, go make a copy of your iPhoto Library which, unless you’ve moved it, should be in [home] / Pictures / iPhoto Library. You probably won’t need that, but it’s better to be safe than sorry here. After all, you don’t want to lose any MORE of your pictures.

Once that’s out of the way, iPhoto actually integrates directly with Time Machine. Simply go into iPhoto and then choose “Browse Backups” from the File menu.

Alternatively, you could simply click the Time Machine icon in either the Dock (if it’s still there) or from your menu bar (and choose “Enter Time Machine”). As long as you’re in iPhoto to begin with, you’ll be presented with a very custom view that’s a mix of iPhoto and Time Machine. From here you can navigate to the album and backup date and restore.

If you’re forced to overwrite newer photos just to restore the old ones, don’t worry: you’ve got that backup you made. Once you’re done restoring the old ones, go get iPhoto Library Manager and use it to merge your old and new photos into one single library.

As a side note, also sports this tight Time Machine integration, though there’s no Mail-specific menu option to invoke it. You’ll need to make Mail the frontmost app and then either click the Time Machine icon in the Dock or choose “Enter Time Machine” from the Time Machine menu bar item.

Hope that helps!


This question was originally answered on MGG 265: Restoring, Cleaning, Fixing, and Scanning… On Your Mac!

About MGG Answers:

Each week Dave Hamilton and John F. Braun provide some great troubleshooting advice to listeners of the Mac Geek Gab podcast. Here with MGG Answers we share some of those tips with the rest of the world!

Popular TMO Stories



doesn’t iphoto have a trash can?  wouldn’t the first step be to just look in there rather than doing the whole time machine hassle?

Dave Hamilton

Thanks, Scott. Indeed iPhoto does have a trash can. In the process of editing the Q&A for this article, I removed the part about how he checked his iPhoto trash and they weren’t there. But yes, the first place to look is to click on the Trash icon (currently located under “Recent” in the left sidebar).

Additionally, once you know there’s nothing in the trash you need, you can often recover quite a bit of disk space by going to iPhoto > Empty iPhoto Trash—this is a *different* trash can than exists system-wide, and must be emptied manually.


Multiple back-ups of my digital images is essential to preserving them. I create a backup file on my master hard drive and a second to an external drive before loading them into iPhoto. A $100 USB drive is cheap insurance in case my master drive fails. I also use Time Machine as a fourth backup. I even copy important photos I really want to protect to a portable drive (a flash drives works too) that I use to physically transport and copy to a work computer for off-site storage in case of a disaster at my home.

Log in to comment (TMO, Twitter or Facebook) or Register for a TMO account