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iPhoto library on a NAS

I've been working the past weekend setting up my new Buffalo LinkStation 4TB NAS. One of my goals was to free up some space on my cluttered Macbook by hosting a bloating iPhoto library on the NAS. However, setting up the iPhoto library on the NAS didn't come without some caveats. This blog post will hopefully save some trouble from you.


I expect you to have the NAS configured and a share directory mounted on your Mac. Make sure you have the necessary permissions to write on the share.

The problem

iPhoto libraries require a specific file system, HFS+, which also goes by the name of Mac OS Extended. Using the library on another file system might cause harm for your library's integrity sooner or later. The problem here is that the LinkStation does not use the HFS+ file system and I don't want to break the internal file server by formatting the drives to HFS+ which it doesn't understand.

The solution

My solution was to set-up a virtual disk on the LinkStation. This way I could host and use the iPhoto library on a Mac OS Extended (journaled) drive on the native file system of the LinkStation. In the next chapter I will walk you through the set-up phase step by step.

Steps to follow

1. Open up the Disk Utility

Macs have a fantastic integrated tool for managing physical and virtual disks, Disk Utility. We can use Disk Utility to create our virtual HFS+ disk. You can find Disk Utility on your Mac under Applications > Utilites > Disk Utility (or just use Spotlight search). Open it and read through the next steps.

2. Click to create a new image

The Disk Utility window has a row of buttons on top. Click on the one saying New Image.

3. Configure the virtual disk

Now we will configure the virtual disk that will be created on the NAS. First up we will set the location where we want the virtual disk image to be saved at. Choose a location from your mounted share directory.

4. Move your iPhoto library on the disk image

Note that it is important that you first copy your iPhoto library on the disk image leaving the original file in place and test the new library out to make sure everything is fine. Do not remove your old library before testing the new one properly.

By default, iPhoto saves your photo library under /Users/YOUR_USERNAME/Pictures. Right-click on it and choose copy. Open your mounted share folder from the NAS. Double-click on the virtual disk image to mount it. Paste the copied iPhoto library to the disk image.

5. Open the new library in iPhoto

You can open the new library in iPhoto by double-clicking on the iPhoto library file.

6. Enjoy

Enjoy using your new iPhoto library. If you have any questions or comments, don't hesitate to touch base.

Tomi Hiltunen

Senior Full-Stack Developer @ Hubchat

Helsinki, Finland