Shared Photo Streams May be Eating Up Your Disk Space

Photo Streams are an awesome feature of OSX via iPhoto or Aperture and through iOS. With “regular” Photo Stream, the last 1000 photos you’ve taken on your iOS device are pushed up to the cloud as a short term backup (take photo 1001 and the first photo vanishes). If you turn on Photo Stream in Aperture or iPhoto those same photos come whooshing down to your desktop for safe keeping. I love this feature. I’ll take a photo with my iPhone, wait a few seconds and then go to my Mac to tweet it out. It’s awesome. But you probably know all that. Either you’re like most of us and love it, or you’re like George from Tulsa, Jim Sewell or Kim Landwehr and haven’t turned it on on purpose.

But wait, there’s more. Shared Photo Streams take it up a notch. I’m pretty sure I talked about it on the show a while ago – it’s a great way to do one of two things. You can share photos with friends and family that maybe you don’t really want to put on Facebook or Twitter or Flickr, but instead you just want to share privately. I do this often on vacations with family and friends so they can get the high res versions of the photos too. Even if you have friends who aren’t on Macs or iOS, you can send them a link and they can flip through the photos, do a slideshow and even download the images. The second great use for shared Photo Stream to me, is to make small sets of photos I can show someone when they say, “so how was your trip to Santa Barbara?” The worst thing you can do to that poor soul is to make them sit through 50 photos with you saying, “oh wait, that’s not a good one…where is that good one…” Instead, make a small set of the best of pics and if someone does ask you, you can make sure to not bore them out of their gourds.

Ok, if all this is old news, why am I bringing it up again? Because I made a discovery this week that might be a huge caution if you’ve got limited disk space. It turns out inside your user directory /Library/Application Support folder, there’s a folder called iLifeAssetManagement, and it has a COPY of every single photo you have in Photo Stream or shared Photo Streams! In my case, I’m such a fan of it, I found 11GB worth of photos duplicated in this directory!

Inside iLifeManagment there are several folders, one called sub and one called sub-shared. I’m pretty sure that sub is the photos you have in “My Photo Stream”, which in my case is 980 photos for over 9GB, and sub-shared contains duplicates every photo you have in a shared Photo Stream, in my case another 2GB.

I did a survey on Twitter and in our G+ community ( and many thanks to everyone who answered me on it. From what I can figure out, if you’ve never turned on Photo Stream, like George, you won’t have this folder at all. It also turns out that you can have shared Photo Streams without the “My Photo Stream” in which case you’ll only have the sub-shared folder. The winner if you want to call him that of the survey is Jon Donshik who has 15.2GB worth of photos duplicated on his machine!

Now Bob Correa (aka @bobbyco) gave me a hard time for worrying about disk space after bragging about my 1TB SSD, but I was actually thinking about “normal” people! What if you bought a 128GB Macbook Air and suddenly 10% of your drive disappeared? You’d sure want to know what a likely cause might be, right? And even in my gluttonous disk situation, I was opening up new shared Photo Streams with abandon and leaving them there for years at a time – eventually even I would have run out of space!

I did some experiments, noting the number of files in sub-shared, then noting the number of photos in a given shared Photo Stream, and then deleting the shared Photo Stream. I was able to verify that the right number of files disappeared in sub-shared and that the original photos remained in my Aperture photo library. I checked the trash, and found a folder called Aperture, which had a “recovered project” in it with the same number of photos as the deleted Photo Stream.

So I guess this was a public service announcement – I hope you continue to get joy out of Photo Stream but that you also use caution and keep an eye on it! I’d sure like to know why Apple duplicates these photos though.

2 thoughts on “Shared Photo Streams May be Eating Up Your Disk Space

  1. David Bennett - April 25, 2014

    I got to the end of third paragraph, looked for the folder, didn’t find it.

    I thought – maybe it’s a hidden folder? No, surely not?

    Then I read on.

    So, yes I can confirm that I have never turned on PhotoStream and I don’t have that folder.

  2. podfeet - April 26, 2014

    Glad to know it’s confirmed David!

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