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iPhoto's Pictures Forever Lost - Help!

by daveMac89 / January 29, 2011 9:33 AM PST

Hello to all,
I am afraid that I have quite a sad and seemingly hopeless story to share with you, upon this cold and dreary Winter's day. My story begins some time ago, when I sold my 20" iMac and upgraded to a brand new 21". You might ask what sadness could be associated with such a splendid upgrade? I will share this and more with you, dear reader, but you must be patient. Well, before I sold my 20" I backed up my entire computer using none other than Apple's very own Time Machine. However, this is where I failed, and this is where my story takes a sad and bitter turn. With my 20" sold and gone, I purchased a 21" from the local classifieds. Oh what a beautiful machine! I eagerly migrated everything over from my backup, and for awhile it seemed I was in technological bliss. Everything was there, my music, my movies, my applications, my photos...huh?...what's this??? One day my wife was looking through some photos in iPhoto and she met the infamous exclamation point. For those who have never encountered this villain, it shows up when your cached thumbnails fail to link back to the actual pictures. I had met this adversary before, and had defeated him. This time however, his villainous plot was far darker than I could have imagined. When my wife showed me, I thought I would be her knight and shining armor and banish the dark exclamation point forever. I opened up the contents of the iPhoto library, and to my shock and dismay, many (actually most) of the originals were gone. I searched for invisible (hidden) files, but still they were missing. How could this be? It seems that Time Machine is the true villain and the exclamation point is only one of its henchmen. I have searched the web for hours, nay even days for help. I have searched my computer to its very frameworks, all to no avail. They are gone...forever. In desperation I called the technical support of my favorite company. Yes, I called Apple. Off the record I was told that Time Machine cannot be trusted for such important things. I was further advised that in the future I actually need to manually copy over my important files such as movies, music, documents, and yes, photos. It seems shameful that a program who's entire purpose is to safeguard your precious data, cannot successfully complete its reason for being. I have long abandoned this failure of a program, and I am now quite happy with Carbon Copy Cloner. But this does not bring back my precious photos. These are irreplaceable. They are those precious times with my wife, my two precious children, and my relatives. I have been told that this is hopeless, that all is lost. Yet, I will not give up. I have come to terms with the fact that the full quality pictures are lost. But I hold out hope that I would be able to somehow get the pictures back (even if they be lower quality) through the cached thumbnails. I have tried taking screenshots, but they are so low quality (only 72dpi). I had seen people use a very high resolution digital camera and take photos of printed pictures, instead of scanning them in, so I thought this might work. The pictures are just too blurry when I take them of the screen, using a 8MegaPixel Sony camera. I have truly reached the end of my capabilities.

I send this plea out to all who have a heart, that they will try to help me come up with a viable solution. My wife gets tears in her eyes every time we talk of them possibly never coming back. You will be my hero, and hers if you can come up with some way of using those cached files. I am very willing to listen to suggestions. PLEASE HELP ME.

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As has been noted elsewhere,
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / January 29, 2011 11:26 PM PST

backing up to a hard drive, any hard drive, is not really a backup.

At best it is a temporary storage solution that is just waiting to fail.

That said, along with the DVD's in the safe deposit box, I have used Time Machine for a number of years and have yet to have a failure of that piece of software/hardware.
I have restored from it onto 3 iMac internal hard drives, the 24" iMac with the 500GB drive is a ticking time bomb, without any problem and it appears that you migrated from the old machine to the new machine without any missing photo's. The problem, as you tell it, happened later, as in "one day my wife was looking". This would indicate that the pictures were there when you first migrated your files.

You have not said what happened when you tried to use Time Machine to restore the missing pictures.
Are they missing in Time Machine?
How far back can you go?

On the subject of the TIM not being trusted, are you sure that the "tech" was not referring to a Time Capsule, know to fail after about a year?

Where do you store your CCC file?


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As I said before...
by daveMac89 / January 30, 2011 5:10 AM PST

Thank you for responding to my thread. I am aware that backing up on a hard drive really isn't a "safe" solution to data integrity. As for Time Machine, I am very happy to hear that it has worked so well for you. I have friends and family that have made out well using it. However, I also have a few friends and family that have had near devastating Time Machine failures, which if they had not taken precautions they would have had a similar problem to my own. Though the cases be rare when Time Machine (not Time Capsule in this case) fails, those failures are often devastating. As for "The problem, as you tell it, happened later, as in 'one day my wife was looking'. This would indicate that the pictures were there when you first migrated your files." I am sorry if I mislead you to believe that the pictures were there at one time. I only meant that we had not discovered that they never came over from the backup until sometime after migrating. Unfortunately I do not have the back up any longer. You see when I migrated and everything at first glance appeared to be there (and never having prior issues myself with Time Machine), I eventually used the same hard drive for additional back-ups. Though I know that Time Machine can work well, there should be some warning when it is unable to back up certain files. For this reason, I will not ever willingly trust it again for my precious data.

I keep my Carbon Copy Cloner back up on an external hard drive.

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"I keep my Carbon Copy Cloner back up on an external hard
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / January 30, 2011 10:16 AM PST
In reply to: As I said before...

"I keep my Carbon Copy Cloner back up on an external hard drive."

I alerted your post so all moderators would see it and noted we shouldn't start with talking about where the backup copy was. SO I WON'T DO THAT.

--> Now that you wrote again you ended with the statement above which is another variation of how folk lose their files. To keep a backup you need no less than the original and TWO other copies. If at any time you get down to one lone copy then we are risking it all. The idea of TWO copies is that you restore from one and if that fails you can copy from the backup to the backup.

Hard drives are far too unreliable to trust with content we can't lose. Put that on your second external HDD and the stuff we can't lose goes on a few backup DVDs and off to other safe locations.

---> NOW TO DATA RECOVERY. We need the old HDD for any hope of recovery. is good reading and then if that fails we send the drive to

Time Machine is not just a file and can't be casually copied from machine to machine so let's here where the old drive is. I'm hoping it's not gone yet.

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