How to remove location data from photos on your iPhoneSource: iMore

Apple's iCloud Photo Library is a great service that makes it easy to sync and back up your photos and videos so that they're accessible across multiple devices, like the best iPhone, iPad, and Mac. However, we highly recommend even backing up your iCloud photos because no service is failproof — if you are serious about keeping irreplaceable photos and videos safe, you want a few redundancies in a backup. As they always say, there is no such thing as "too many backups," and it's much better to be safe than sorry.

Here are a few ways that you can back up your iCloud photos.

How to back up iCloud Photo Library to your Mac's hard drive

The best way to back up the images and video in iCloud Photo Library is to make sure you're downloading all your content onto your Mac.

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Note: If you plan to back up your entire digital library to your Mac's hard drive, you'll likely want to do it on a desktop Mac with at least a 1TB drive or more. Otherwise, consider backing up to an external drive.

  1. Launch the Photos app on your Mac.

    Back up iCloud Photo Library to Mac HD by showing: Launch PhotosSource: iMore

  2. Click Photos in the App menu in the upper left corner of your screen.
  3. Select Preferences from the drop-down menu.

    Back up iCloud Photo Library to Mac HD by showing: Click Photos, Click PreferencesSource: iMore

  4. Click the iCloud tab.
  5. Click Download Originals to this Mac.

    Back up iCloud Photo Library to Mac HD by showing: Click iCloud, click Download Originals to this MacSource: iMore

Your Mac will now download full-resolution copies of all your images to your Mac's hard drive, stored inside your Photos app library. Depending on how big your iCloud Photo Library is, it may take a while — just be patient.

How to back up your iCloud Photo Library content to an external drive

There are two ways to back up your iCloud Photo Library to an external drive: backing up your Photos library automatically or manually. (You can also export sections of your library if you don't want to back up the whole thing.)

Back up your Photos library automatically

If you've turned on the Download Originals option for your Photos library, you can back up your Photos library as part of your regular backup routine with Time Machine or even an online clone service like Carbon Copy or BackBlaze. No matter which method you prefer (though it's highly recommended to use both), your Photos library (and all images and video automatically downloaded from iCloud) will be backed up as well. And if you don't currently use a backup service, well... now's a good time to start!

Back up your Photos library manually

If you've turned on the Download Originals option for your Photos library but don't want to back it up automatically, you can always copy your Photos library to an external drive regularly.

  1. Connect an external drive to your Mac via USB, USB-C, or Thunderbolt.
  2. Open a new Finder window on your Mac.

    Back up Photos Library manually by showing: Click the Finder iconSource: iMore

  3. Click on Pictures in the sidebar.

    • If Pictures is not already in your sidebar, drag the Pictures folder from your Macintosh HD into the sidebar.

    Back up Photos Library manually by showing: Click Pictures in the Finder sidebarSource: iMore

  4. Drag your Photos Library to your external drive.

    Back up Photos Library manually by showing: Click and drag your Photos Library to your external hard driveSource: iMore

  5. Wait for it to copy over.

Create an external library for backing up iCloud Photo Library

If you have one of the best external hard drives just laying around, you should consider using it for making an external library to backup your iCloud Photo Library. If you go this route, it's highly recommended to set up bi-weekly reminders for the following steps to keep the Photos library backed up regularly.

How to back up portions of your iCloud Photo Library

Don't want to back up your entire library? You can export individual images and videos to your external drive.

  1. Connect an external drive to your Mac via USB, USB-C, or Thunderbolt.
  2. Open the Photos app.

    Back up portions of your iCloud Photo Library by showing: Launch PhotosSource: iMore

  3. Select the photos and video you want to back up.
  4. Go to the File menu.
  5. Hover over the Export option.

    Back up portions of your iCloud Photo Library by showing: Hover over the Export optionSource: iMore

  6. Select either Export # Photos or Video or Export Unmodified Original for # Photos or Videos.

    Back up portions of your iCloud Photo Library by showing: Select to Export Unmodified Originals or as-isSource: iMore

  7. Select an option for File Name and Subfolder Format, and then input your text as desired.

    Back up portions of your iCloud Photo Library by showing: Input a file name and subfolder formatSource: iMore

  8. Press Export.

    Back up portions of your iCloud Photo Library by showing: Click ExportSource: iMore

  9. Choose your external drive.
  10. Press Export Originals.

How to make an online backup of your iCloud Photo Library

Even though your entire iCloud Photo Library is (as the name implies) stored online in iCloud, it's worth considering a second online backup as one of your redundancies. After all, you can never have too many backups, in all honesty.

If you store your entire iCloud Photo Library on your Mac

Good news: If you already use a service to back up your hard drive and you've already synced your full iCloud Photo Library to your Mac, it's easy to back it all up there too. If not, consider it a good time to start!

If you don't store your iCloud Photo Library on your Mac

If you don't store your iCloud images locally, this is a bit trickier: you can use the external drive method we mentioned above to export portions of your library to an external drive, and then sync that drive to your preferred online backup service, but it's a bit more labor-intensive. In general, this is why I tend to recommend backing up your full library to your Mac or storing a library on an external drive.

Any iCloud Photo Library backup questions?

When it comes to backing up iCloud photos, these are the best solutions possible. It's pretty easy, and we always recommend keeping everything backed up on an external hard drive, as well as an off-site service as well. Do you have more questions about how to back up iCloud photos? Let us know in the comments, and we'll do our best to help you out.

March 2021: These are still the proper steps to back up your iCloud Photo Library.