Sunday, April 26, 2015

iCloud Photo Library: the Missing FAQ

Joe Kissell:

Q: So, um… is there anything I can do about that whole bandwidth issue?

A: Yes. First, you can pause transfers. To do this, go to Photos > Preferences > iCloud and click Pause for One Day, which does exactly what it says. (You can manually resume transfers before the day is up by clicking Resume.) But if you need transfers to pause for a longer period of time, you’ll have to click that button every day. Your second option is to temporarily disable iCloud Photo Library altogether by going to System Preferences > iCloud, clicking the Options button next to Photos, and deselecting iCloud Photo Library. There’s no penalty for doing so; this merely disables syncing, and does not affect any photos on your Mac (except that if iCloud Photo Library has downloaded low-resolution versions of any photos but not the full-resolution copies at the moment you disable syncing, Photos may delete the low-resolution versions, and will warn you that it’s about to do so). If and when you later reselect it, syncing will resume.

But what if you quit Photos? Won’t that also stop syncing? Maybe. My initial experiments showed that transfers did indeed stop when I quit Photos. After Jason Snell pointed out that he had different results, I ran more tests. My revised results suggest that downloads from iCloud Photo Library pause when you quit Photos, but uploads continue even when the app isn’t running. Furthermore, My Photo Stream (if enabled) may transfer photos when Photos isn’t running. All that to say: quitting Photos might help in certain situations, but you can’t count on it.

Bandwidth is an issue, especially when traveling. On my last trip, I had to disable My Photo Stream and import via USB because, even overnight, the photos wouldn’t all finish transferring to my Mac over Wi-Fi. I also found that I needed to set a slow fixed transfer rate for Arq to prevent it from blocking all my other network connections. With the new photos removed from my phone daily, because it was full, and not enough bandwidth to upload them all to a cloud backup, I ended up setting up Time Machine to back up the new Aperture masters to an SD Card.

Update (2015-04-28): Photos doesn’t have a bandwidth limiter, just an off switch. John Siracusa discusses the poor family workflow and how iCloud Photo Library makes the iOS photo picker really slow.

Update (2015-05-04): Matt Henderson:

According to this Apple support document Faces data does not sync. Terribly disappointing.

Fraser Speirs:

The only reliable way I found to determine whether my Mac was completely finished migrating all the data to the cloud was to observe the Networking tab in Activity Monitor. When Photos was migrating, there was a very obvious pattern to the upstream bandwidth usage.

Matt Henderson:

My iPhone saw the Library data quite quickly, but my iPad didn’t, even after a toggling of iCloud Photo Library. Ben Brooks recommended toggling it on all my devices. I would have never considered doing that, but somehow it worked.


But we discovered that the iCloud Photos app on our second generation AppleTV doesn’t provide access to the library, just the “Photo Stream” and shared albums.


Watching videos in Photos on my Mac is very slow (over my Spanish ADSL connection), since the entire video has to download before viewing can begin. I wish there was an option to just stream them.


When cropping photos, I wish there were an option in the Setting to preserve the original aspect ratio. I almost never want a free-form aspect ratio when cropping (which is the default).

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