Reconnecting Referenced files in Photos.

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    I have 147,000 photos in the Photos app and they are referenced to an external hard drive. It is the same one that the Photos library is located in.

    Recently I changed the external drive. Photos no longer recognises any originals and shows a question mark for each. I tried the locate Original file process and it took 4 minutes to reconnect one photo. Often it did not work at all. There does appear to be any way to bulk reconnect originals.

    I tried the same thing with my Aperture library (Monterey using RetroActive) and it reconnected all of the photos (over 100,000) in about 30 seconds.

    I tried Apple Support Community (Leonie who is pretty smart) and the response was “Since macOS 11 the handling of referenced items has become somewhat buggy and unreliable, depending on the system version. Occasionally I not even consolidate the referenced files even longer. It is a Disaster waiting to happen, to use a referenced library with Photos. ”

    So I now have a Photos library that I can’t use.

    Is there a way to fix this by say adding a HUD in Raw Power similar to the Aperture one?

    Otherwise unfortunately I can’t use Raw Power if Photos does not work.


    Unfortunately, Leonie is right, the ‘referenced’ system for Photos is unreliable (although IME it goes back further than macOS 11). I’ve tried it myself in the past, and usually found it to lose connection to referenced images at some point – even in normal use it does this with random images. Also, there is no way to bulk reconnect either, you have to click on each image individually to do it.

    If you check the Apple Discussion forums for Photos, it’s been a common thing to not recommend using the referenced library system. I have a fully managed library, along with iCloud storage, and it’s been very reliable.

    If you still have access to the old HDD, and as you have everything on the one drive, it might be possible to use the ‘consolidate’ option and get all the images into it as a managed library, then transfer it over to the new HDD.

    Generally, it’s a very bad idea to try manipulating any of the files outside of Photos, that’s likely to screw things up even more than ever (I’ve also found that out the hard way). Which is another reason the referenced system is not recommended, you can clearly use images for other purposes if they’re outside the library, but change anything outside of Photos (move a file, rename it, or edit it), and that is a recipe for disaster.

    My own setup includes a backup of all my images on a separate HDD, using a standard folder structure, completely separate to Photos, and never used as a live working source. That can be used to access image files for use in other apps if needed. However, if I’m only working with a few images, I tend to just export them as ‘originals’ from within Photos, which just make a fresh untouched copy to work with. Most of the time I try to use software that work with Photos as an extension/external app, and integrates with the library that way.

    Just a final thought, you did remember to check it was set as the ‘System Library’ in the Photos preferences? (might only matter if you happen to have more than one library showing in Photos).

    Nik Bhatt

    Sadly, the Photos referenced file feature is just as poorly implemented as the one in iPhoto. iPhoto also couldn’t handle moving files to a new drive. It’s rather shocking.

    One crazy idea – what if you name the new drive the same as the old drive, and copy the files to the exact same locations on the new drive, might that work?

    I suggest doing this:
    1) Copy the files from old to new
    2) Eject the old
    3) Rename the new drive = the old drive

    Those steps are important otherwise, you might get a “-2” or something appended invisibly to the drive name.


    I decided to delete the Photos Library and reimport the files to Photos. The Library was corrupt anyway after trying to open an Aperture Library
    Photos is now working.
    However all of the edits I did in Raw Power are not showing up. The sidecar files are still in the Raw Power folder.
    Is there a way to reconnect Raw Power sidecar files to the same file that was in olddrive/files to newdrive/files?

    Nik Bhatt

    I’m unclear about what you are trying to do. If you have copied files from one drive to another, then yes, the app has a feature for migrating edits to point to other drive. If you look in the user manual, look for Reconnect Files.


    I went through this section but unfortunately I am still not sure what to do.

    1) Copy the files (using the Finder or whatever)
    What files? The old drive (Thunder2) is gone and the files were restored onto a new drive (Thunder3). Do you still have to have the old drive?

    2) Select the folder in RAW Power that has the original copies
    I assume this means the File Browser in Raw Power
    3) Pick File > Reconnect Files
    Greyed out


    Duplicate removed

    Nik Bhatt


    Sorry for the delay – I forgot to check the forum for a while. Can you – it’s a lot easier to do this over email.

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