June 2018


Forcing Optimize Storage in Photos – How I bent Photos to My Will!


If you’ve seen my writing before, you likely already know how much I love the iOS and MacOS platforms. They are my preferred way to get work done, even with my background as a Windows Systems Administrator. While most of the time it’s great, like anything there are hiccups and frustrations.

This is one of those stories…

iCloud Photo Library

Photos on the Mac and on iOS has a feature called iCloud Photo Library, which allows you to sync your entire photo library across your devices. This way, all your photos are in the cloud, protected if you were to lose a device and able to immediately view your photos on another device signed into your iCloud photo account. This is a very nice feature (that I pay extra money for iCloud storage for) but it does have a caveat. If you have the storage for your entire photo library, your computer will download and keep your entire photo library.

My library of 5 + years of videos and photos has hit 50gb in size, so this does take up a good chunk of storage on laptops. There is a setting called “optimize Mac storage” to clear that space up, but it will only trigger if you are actually running out of free space at that specific time. If you want your library to never take up 5gb of space despite how much free space you have on your hard drive? Too bad!

Luckily I figured out a way to get around this, and now my photo library on my Mac is less than 5gb! Let me walk you through the steps.

Step 1 – Sign out of iCloud photo library on your Mac.

You want this feature turned off while doing these steps. If you dont know how to do so, you do the following:

Step 2 – Delete your Photo Library on your computer

If your library is already too big than the size you’d like it, deleting it is the best bet. This library is stored on your Mac in the following directory:


You should see a rather large size file with the photos logo that is your photo library, get rid of it!

Step 3 – Create a Photos APFS Volume

This is where we start getting a little nerdy. APFS is the new file system on MacOS, and one of its features is creating volumes with storage quotas that don’t require you to partition your whole drive. That may sound really confusing, but trust me it’s not! I’ll walk you through the steps below:

Step 4 – A new Photos library

You’ll now want to reopen photos, at which point photos will scream at you that there’s no photo library. Create a new one, and set the location to be in your volume that you created.

Go back to your Photos Preferences (File -> Preferences) and make sure that “use as system photo library” is greyed out. If not, press the button. This tells photos that this library is the system one, and the only one allowed to use iCloud functions.

Click the iCloud tab here now, and go ahead and turn on iCloud photo library again. Make sure you have the radio button for Optimize Mac Storage checked as below:

Step 5 – Celebrate!

You’re done! Now that your photo library is on a quota capped volume, you will never use more than the amount you selected! If this was hard for you to follow along, or you just prefer to have a video tutorial, below is the process done in a video for your enjoyment!


I hope this solves a headache for you all as well!


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