How To Transfer Photos From One Mac To Another Title Image

You’ve a lot of photos stored on your old Mac computer, and you’ve bought a new Mac.

Maybe you’re on an old 128GB MacBook Air. And you’re stepping up to a MacBook Pro.

You want to know how to transfer photos from one mac to another.

Can you expertly transfer or move those photos? Or get your iPhoto or Photos library across.

The thing is. There are so many different ways to do this.

I’m going to show you my favorite easiest ways.

So let’s dive in…

How Do You Easily Move One Or Two Photos From One To Another Mac?

Sometimes you only want to move a few photos from Mac to Mac. Just 1, 2 or 3 photos. There are a couple of quick and easy ways to do this.

Transfer Photo Mac To Mac With AirDrop

You’ll need both Macs connected to the same WIFI network for each Mac to see each other. And be discoverable. Here’s how to do it.

1. Go to each Mac and open up a new Finder window.

2. In each Finder window. Click on AirDrop in the sidebar. The picture below shows you where.

3. Pick how you want each Mac discovered on the network. You can pick Contacts Only, or Everyone.

Pick Contacts only if the person who owns that Mac is in your contacts list.

This is useful if you’re on a crowded WIFI and your wary of opening up your Mac to everyone.  That said you still need to confirm that you’re accepting the photo.

Or choose Everyone.

Set Up Airdrop For Sending Photos

Now both Mac’s should see each other over AirDrop. And you’ll see the other Mac on the Finder window’s AirDrop screen.

4. Then go to the photo you want to send.

Hold down the shift key and click on more photos if you want to send more than one.

Then right click. And from the menu that comes up choose Share. And from the sub menu pick AirDrop to Airdrop photos.

The Mac you’re sending to will need to accept the photo. And the photo files are then quietly sent.

Send Photo Over Airdrop

Things To Note When AirDropping Photographs

The good news is Apple’s AirDrop also works for moving photos from your mobile Apple device to your Mac.

Have an AirDrop Finder window open on your Mac.

Then on your iPhone or iPad mobile device. Go to Settings > General. Pick the AirDrop option and check how your iPhone is discoverable.

Then go into your photo app on your iPhone. Select the iPhone photos you want to send to your Mac. Then touch the share icon on your iPhone.

And from the menu that comes up click on AirDrop to send the photo.

Understand that AirDrop only works between Macs running compatible MacOS.

If you’re AirDrop to move your pictures from an old Mac computer to a new Mac. Then you might find that they can’t see each other on AirDrop.  For example. A Mac running High Sierra can’t AirDrop to a Mac running MacOS Big Sur.

You’ll then need an alternative way to send your pictures.

Transfer Photos To Another Mac Over Bluetooth.

You’ll need both Mac’s near each other. Within Bluetooth range.

And this method reliably works from a Mac running an older MacOS. To a Mac running a newer OS. To set this up.

1. Go To System Settings (from Mac OS Ventura).

In earlier Mac operating systems, it’s called System Preferences. Open System Settings on both Macs.

From Mac OS Ventura.
System Settings From Apple Menu

2. Click on General. Then Sharing.

System Settings General Sharing

3. Scroll down and toggle the switch for Bluetooth Sharing.

System Settings Bluetooth Sharing On

Then you can click on the information symbol (the letter i in a circle) along side the Bluetooth sharing toggle switch. That will open a pop up window. And on this window you can choose what your Mac does with files shared over Bluetooth.

Bluetooth File Sharing Options

Then click the button to Open Bluetooth Settings.

After that, as long as both Macs are set up to find each other over Bluetooth. You can click on the other Mac in Nearby Devices and connect.

4. Then Browse to the photo or photos you want to send.

In a Finder window browse to the photo or photos you want to send.  You can hold down the shift key and select more than one photo.

Browse To Photo Right Click Share

Right click on the selected photos and pick share from the menu.

Then pick AirDrop from the menu that comes up.

Photo Air Drop
Or On Mac Operating System Releases Prior to Ventura.

2. Click on Sharing.

System Preferences Sharing

3. Check mark the box for Bluetooth Sharing.

Set Up Bluetooth Sharing

Then take a look at the other options on the screen. Decide if you’d like to change any of them. Click on the Open Bluetooth Preferences button.

Turn Bluetooth On

And switch Bluetooth on.

Both the old Mac and the new mac should see each other over Bluetooth.

4. On the Mac you’re sending from.

Still in the Bluetooth window.

Double click in the Bluetooth Devices window. Then click on the Mac you’re sending to.

A Finder window will pop up.

Bluetooth Pick Photo And Send

Navigate to the photo you want to send.  Click on the photo.

You can hold down the Shift key to pick more than one photo. Then click on the send button.

A window will open up on the other Mac you’re sending to. Asking you to accept the file. Once accepted the file will transfer over Bluetooth.

Tah Dah and it’s done.

How To Automatically Transfer Photos Mac To Mac

This way is particularly smooth when you’re moving from an old Mac to a new one. And as well as your photographs you need to transfer all your user data as well. 

You use Setup Assistant to set up your new Mac. And then you can use Migration Assistant to transfer your photos and your user files at the same time.

You can transfer Mac to Mac wirelessly over WIFI. Using Ethernet cable or USB cable from one Mac to another.  Or transfer using a Time Machine backup of your old Mac.

Here’s an article on the site that delves into how to do this. Does Migration Assistant Transfer Photos? Yes! Easy.

And the beauty of using Migration Assistant is that. It moves your photo files and libraries and puts where they should be on your new Mac.

Changing any file ownership and permissions as it goes.

iCloud Photo Transfer To Another Mac

When you use iCloud as the place for all your photos. You can transfer your iCloud photos simply by using your Apple id.

To use.

1. On your new Mac start up System Settings (from Mac OS Ventura).

It’s System Preferences on earlier Mac releases.

For Mac OS Ventura.

2. Click on the ‘Sign In’ button.

System Settings Sign Into Apple Id
On earlier Mac OS releases.
Sign Into iCloud

3. Enter your Apple id user name and password.

And that will sign you into iCloud on your new Mac.

For Mac OS Ventura.

After you’ve signed in. Click on iCloud. Turn it on.

Then click on iCloud drive and toggle on photos.

System Settings ICloud Drive And Photos
On earlier Mac OS releases.

4. Be sure to put a check against the Photos option.

And iCloud photo transfer your photographs to your new Mac.

System Preferences Set Photos To iCloud

How To Conveniently Move Your Photo Library From Mac to Mac

Understand that the iPhoto and Photos applications on a Mac. Store your photographs in a library file. This library file is a database of your photos.

They’re not whole distinct photos.  You can’t go in and take a photo out of the library without going through the application. Or you risk corrupting your library file.

You need to move the whole library file when you want to transfer Mac to Mac.

Or export your photos. More information on that below.

When Your Library is An iPhoto Library

When the photographs you want to transfer are in your Mac’s iPhoto app on an old Mac. There are a few things to know;

  • Apple dropped the iPhoto app and replaced it with Photos.
  • So when you’ve got an older Mac and you’re still using iPhoto. You’ll need to run and view those pictures in the new Apple Photos app. Because iPhoto does not run on the newest MacOS’s.
  • All your photographs in iPhoto live in a photo library file.

To move your photos to your newer Mac. You move your iPhoto library over to the new Mac. And use them in the Photos application.

The Photos app understands and will import your iPhoto library. And so your photographs ready for you to use.

Where To Find And Mac Transfer Your iPhoto Library?

It’s on your old Mac in your home folder, in the Pictures folder.

Home Folder Picture Folder

And it’s called iPhoto Library.photolibrary.  To shift the library from your old Mac to your new Mac. You’ll need something to copy it onto.  You can use an external hard drive formatted to MacOS Extended (Journaled) or ExFAT. Or an external SSD drive formatted to Apple File System or ExFAT.

You can also use a flash drive and have that formatted to MacOS Extended (Journaled) or ExFAT.

1. Open a Finder window on your old Mac. And in that window go to your Home Folder/Pictures folder.

2. Plug in your external hard drive, external SSD drive. Or Flash drive into your old Mac’s USB port. Open up a Finder window on the external device.

3. Right click on your iPhoto Library.photolibrary file. Pick copy from the menu that comes up.

IPhoto Library In Pictures Folder

4. Move to the Finder window on the external drive you’re using. Right click and pick paste from the menu.

5. Eject the external drive. Then plug it into your new Mac’s USB Port. When the drive comes up.

6. Open up a Finder window on your drive.  Open up a Finder window on your new Mac in the Home Folder/Pictures folder.

7. Click on the iPhoto Library file on your external drive. Right click and pick copy.  Move to the Finder window on your Home Folder/Pictures folder. Right click and pick paste from the menu.

The library is now transferred.

When you open up the Photos app on your new Mac, it should see the iPhoto library and import your photos in.

You may need to hold down the options key as you open up the Photos application. And then pick the iPhoto library to import photos.

What If You Want To Transfer Your Photos Library To Another Mac?

The file you’re looking for on your old Mac is in your Home Folder/Pictures folder.

Called Photos Library.photolibrary.

You’ll need an external drive. Hard drive or SSD formatted. Or a flash drive formatted for MacOS.

1. On your old Mac open up a Finder window in your Home Folder/Pictures folder.

2. Into your old Mac’s USB port plug in your external storage device. Open up a Finder window on there. You now have two Finder windows open.

3. Right click on your Photos Library.photoslibrary file. Pick copy from the menu.

Photos Library In Pictures Folder

If at some point in the past you used iPhoto. And your pictures were migrated into Photos. You’ll also have a .migrated.photolibrary. Copy that over as well.

4. Move your cursor to the Finder window on the external storage. Right click and pick paste from the menu.

5. Eject the external storage. Plug it into your new Mac’s USB Port.

6. On your new Mac. Open up a Finder window on the external storage. Then open up another Finder window and move to your Home Folder/Pictures folder.

7. Click on the Photo Library file on your external storage. Right click and copy.  Move to the Finder window pointing at the new Mac’s Home Folder/Pictures folder. Right click and pick paste from the menu.

Wait for the Photo library to file transfer. And the library is moved.

8. If you’re now in a situation where you have two Photo libraries on your new Mac you’ve a few choices.

You can pick your transferred Photos library.  You do this by holding down the Option key and start up the Photos app. A menu comes up and you can choose the Photo library you want.

If you want to make that change permanent. After the Photos app starts up. You’ll need to go to Photos, Preferences.  Click on the General Tab. And you can click to ‘Use As System Photo Library’.

For more info you should find this Apple document helpful.

How Do You Manually Move Photos From One Mac To Another?

You can export your photos from your iPhotos. Or Photos applications and transfer them.

When you’d like to go the route of exporting your photographs.

You’ll need an external hard drive, SSD drive or flash drive. Formatted for Mac and large enough for all your photos.

Here’s how you do it.

1. Open up your iPhoto or Photos application.

2. Pick File > Export.

iPhoto File Export

3. Next you pick from the File Export tab how you’d like your photos exported.  The file format for your photos under the Kind option on the menu. The quality. What you’d like included, size. When you’re happy click on the Export button.

iPhoto Export Photos

4. Decide where you’d like your Photographs exported to.

You may want to create a folder on your internal drive to hold your photos. Or export them directly to a folder you’ve created on your external storage device.

When you’ve navigated to where you’d like your photographs exported to. Then click on ok. And your pictures are then exported. Now your photo’s are out of iPhoto or Photos. Copy them to your USB external storage if you haven’t done that already.

Eject the external storage.

5. Plug in your USB storage device into your new Mac.

And then you do the same thing in reverse.

6. Start up the Photos application.

Pick File > Import

Photos File Import

Navigate to the folder with your photos in on your external storage.  And import your pictures.

In Closing

So, there you have it. Easy, skillful ways to transfer photos from one Mac to another.

With the right knowledge to hand, it’s easy to transfer photos or your photo libraries over.

Don’t forget we’ve got plenty of articles about transferring data. Just take a look at our related articles below.

Happy photo moving day!

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