Opinions on external Photo Library

In an attempt to conserve space on my internal drive, a few months ago I purchased an external SSD and migrated the Photos library there. I’m starting to wonder if that was the right decision. I have a MBP M1 Pro that I occasionally travel with. I may or may not take the external drive along when I do. I use iCloud Photos, with “Download Originals” selected.

I recently discovered that Photos Library in ~/Pictures had reappeared (I had removed it after verifying the initial migration). It was a near duplicate of the one on the external drive. This duplicate had somehow become selected as the “System Photo Library”, according to Photos.app, and was syncing with iCloud.

So my question is, given my use case is an external drive an appropriate location for my Photos library? Perhaps there’s something I did wrong that caused the duplicate library to reappear, but if this is a consequence of using the MBP without the external drive attached, then that seems to rule it out for me.

I also have my Photos Library on an external SSD to save space on my internal drive.
I found that iCloud will not sync with an external drive. :slightly_frowning_face: (Why not?)
So if you use iCloud Photos, it might be generating a new Photos Library on your internal drive using the library it has previously synced or a library from some other device?

One possibility might be the format of that drive. As TidBITS contributor @glennf point out in this MacWorld article, you need to format the drive as APFS. When mine is attached, it syncs just fine with iCloud.

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2 issues here:

  1. My system Photo Library is on an external drive formatted as MacOS Extended (Journaled), not APFS. Syncing and viewing work fine. I think that problem is that the external drive is using a non-Apple format, not that it’s not using the latest.

  2. The OP reported that a new library showed up when he disconnected the drive with the photo library from his Mac. I think that is how it’s supposed to work. Photos needs a Photo Library on the computer in order to operate. II can see a bunch of difficulties when you do that. I would advise only moving the Photo Library to an external drive for computers that stay in one place. My desktop computer has all its media files on an external drive, but both stay connected in place.

One more thing:
When I checked the location of my Photos library via Photos>Settings>General, I saw the message
‘This library isn’t searchable via Spotlight due to its location’. Apparently this is a bug in Ventura.

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Yeah, I’m beginning to think I should bite the bullet and move the library back to the internal drive.

Yeah, and to add to the weirdness, that warning is followed by a “learn more” link that leads to a help page. But the only reference to Spotlight on that page is Note: The enhanced Spotlight Search can locate items in the System Photo Library. If you use other libraries, Spotlight does not locate items in those.” Which of course, does not address the System Photo Library being on an external drive.

In any case, from what I can tell the warning is at least telling the truth: I can’t find any photos in my library via Spotlight.