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How to make a local backup of your iCloud Photos-synchronized library

iCloud Photos is a great way to have all your photos and videos across all your iCloud-connected devices. Apple lets you choose an optimized storage option, which ensures that the media resolution of media is uploaded to iCloud and kept there (and available via icloud.com) while each endpoint, like an iPhone or Mac, only has a set of greatly reduced thumbnails . To work on or view the image or movie in full size, double-click or tap it. You can get your cake (preserve storage on devices) and eat it too (have a large photo library).

The fly in the ointment is that with optimized image storage put on all your devices, you can not make a local backup of all media, as I explain in a column from 201

7. I offered a complete download strategy in 2018 for a reader who wanted to move from iCloud Photos to another service. None of these help with ongoing backups.

Reader Todd recently wrote in with a question and suggestion that is brilliant. He pondered a solution:

  • Create a new account on a Mac designed just for backing up iCloud Photos, and sign in to that account.

  • Log in to the same iCloud account that was used for iCloud Photos, via the iCloud preferences panel (Mojave and earlier) or Apple ID (Catalina).

  • Connect an external drive and use Photos to create the library there.

  • Launch Photos and configure it to perform full resolution downloads in Photos> Settings> iCloud.

  • Wait until the first synchronization is complete, then download all the images.

  • Log off the other macOS account and return to the primary one.

  • Trigger the external drive.

The next time you want to back up your Photos library, log in to the other account with the attached drive, launch Photos, and it will update exactly as you expect.

This strategy checks all the boxes. It lets you keep an optimized library on your Mac, sync via iCloud Photos, and create a full, local backup as an extra guard against anything happening to Apple’s redundant backup servers or your account.

This Mac 911 article is an answer to a question from Macworld reader Todd.

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