How to Switch Between Libraries in Photos App for OS X?

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Shreyas PatilUpdated :
How to Switch Between Libraries in Photos App for OS X?

The Photos app for Mac allows you to organize your photos into different libraries. This enables you to separate work and personal photos or organize images by event. Switching between libraries is easy once you know how. In this guide, we'll walk through the steps for switching libraries in the Photos app on Mac OS X.


  • Mac running OS X 10.10.3 or later
  • Photos app
  • Multiple photo libraries saved on your Mac or external storage

Locate the Library Dropdown Menu

The key to switching libraries is finding the library dropdown menu. Here's how:

  • Open the Photos app on your Mac

    Open the Photos app on your Mac

  • Click on Photos in the top left corner
  • Select the dropdown arrow next to the current library name

This will open the libraries menu.

Select a Different Library

With the library dropdown menu open, you will see options for all libraries saved on your Mac or connected external storage.

  • Hover over the library you want to switch to
  • Click on the library name to open it

Photos will close your current library and open the new selected library.

Create a New Library

You can also use the library dropdown menu to create a new empty library:

  • Click on the + icon in the library dropdown menu
  • Enter a name for your new library
  • Click Create

The new library will be created and opened.

Delete a Library

To delete a library you no longer need:

  • Open the library dropdown menu
  • Hold the Option key while clicking on the library to delete
  • Confirm the deletion

The library will be permanently removed from your Mac.

Manage Library Storage

Your photo libraries can take up significant storage space on your Mac. To manage where libraries are stored:

  • Go to Photos > Preferences
  • Click on the General tab
  • Locate the Library Location section
  • Choose where existing and new libraries are stored

You can keep libraries on your Mac's internal drive or move them to an external hard drive.

Tips for Switching Libraries

Switching libraries is easy with the Photos app's dropdown menu. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Use separate libraries for personal, work, events, etc
  • Store large libraries on an external hard drive
  • Back up your libraries regularly
  • Remember to switch to the correct library for your needs
  • Create new libraries instead of overfilling existing ones

Switching Libraries on iOS

The Photos app on iOS also supports multiple libraries. To switch libraries on iPhone or iPad:

  • Tap on the Photos tab
  • Tap on the library name under Albums
  • Select a different library

The selected library will now be accessed in Photos.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Will switching libraries merge them together?

A: No, libraries remain completely separate. Switching just opens a different set of photos.

Q: Can I access one library from multiple devices?

A: Yes, libraries can be accessed from all devices logged into the same iCloud account.

Q: What happens if I delete a library?

A: Deleting a library permanently removes it. Make sure to back up any photos you want to keep first.

Q: How many libraries can I have?

A: There is no limit on the number of libraries. You can create as many as you need.

Q: What is the best way to organize multiple libraries?

A: Use separate libraries for broad categories like work, family, events, etc. Avoid creating too many or libraries that overlap.

Q: Can libraries be password protected?

A: Unfortunately no. Libraries do not currently support encryption or password protection.


The library feature in Photos for Mac and iOS makes organizing large photo collections a breeze. Switching between libraries allows you to separate categories of images while still using a single app. With a little practice navigating the dropdown menu, you'll be switching like a pro. Keep your libraries backed up, and remember they are completely independent. Create and delete libraries as needed to suit your organizing style.

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