iCloud Photo Library out of sync and Mac Photos stuck on updating

Well, I don’t know how well Apple has really debugged their iCloud Photo Library but here is what I see:

  1. Even though I have several phones, iPads and MacBooks set to iCloud Photo Library, they all show different versions of files store on top.
  2. When you get to a particular system, for instance my main Mac, it will hang on the “updating” screen as it tries to figure out what is going on in the cloud.

This is normally after I do some heavy editing and removing of files, so I think the synchronization is really busted. There is a post that suggests deleted the com.apple.cloudphotos.d¬†directory but this doesn’t seem to work. The best fix seems to be to just delete the entire library in your¬†Pictures/Photo Library. Note that at least with Mac Sierra, this is three steps:

  • Go to your home directory and delete Pictures/Photo Library
  • Start Mac Photos and it will say it can’t find it and ask if you want to Create Other
  • Close Mac Photos and restart it, so it sees this new library and the “System Library’

As an aside, this is yet another reminder that you shouldn’t trust tools like iCloud or even Adobe Lightroom, backup to the regular files system early and often because you definitely do not want your photos trapped in someones database. Make sure to set Mac Photos to not copy photos into its library otherwise this will happen and it is really hard to recover.