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Problems with Library and Reference files missing. #1
Tony L's picture
by Tony L
March 29, 2012 - 8:35am

Hello, my first post heres so please be patient with me.

I’m not so skilled on Aperture but have some 60 000 files in my library.

That caused some problems with space so I had to move my Referenced files (big RAW files) to an external drive. And when that was feed up move it to a bigger drive.

Now I have my Referenced files on one primary external drive, but also back up on one or two other places, and even some copy of old libraries on some external drives.

So long everything have worked ok, but about a month ago I discovered that if i clicked on Photo and scrolled down thru all my photos, there was suddenly just blanks, black frames with no thumbnail. Just one here and there in some places, but in in other areas massive blocks with no thumbnails at all.

The strange thing is that if I click on a black frame the photo is displayed some times or some times not, or in other cases it is erratic or a corrupt photo.

I’ve noticed that in other occasions the black frame has the identical file name/number as the one thumbnail next to it. I’ll then guess that might be that I have deleted that photo from one of the different Library and that Aperture mix things up because I have moved my Referenced files and Library around.

I tried then to Locate the missing Referenced files, but that just solve some of the black frames, there are still many left black.

I don’t really know what the problem is, or how to find out and how to solve it.

Maybe the black frames are pics that I already have deleted correctly my self, and if so the black frames (with or without picture when clicked) shouldn’t be there at all and can be deleted.

Or maybe they are missing or dislocated Referenced files or such that schooled not be deleted but located and put in the right place again. But how do I proceed i the best and safest way to solve this mess?

I have been thinking of having all of my external libraries and referenced files on all the different external drives joined together back on one big external drive that have space enough for that. And then see what happens when all is in one place together, if Aperture finds and place missing things in the right place and some of the black frames disappears or changes to have thumbnails instead of just being black.

I’m afraid of maybe losing photos I don’t wanna loose, because some of them might be just black frames today. But if I can find out that the black frames is just photos earlier deleted by me I’ll be glad do see them gone and just having proper thumbnails and no black ones in my library.

Is there anyone out there that is familiar with this phenomena and can guide me on the day to salvation?

PhotoJoseph's picture
by PhotoJoseph
March 29, 2012 - 4:47pm


I think you’re on the right track here form all the other suggestions, but a few points not yet mentioned:

1. If some thumbnails rebuild when you select them, then that means your thumbnails could all stand with a little rebuild. Go to the Photos view, select all photos, and from the Photos menu, choose Generate Thumbnails. This may take some time so plan accordingly (i.e. several hours or even overnight).

2. It sounds like some images are offline or missing but some are not. You can tell the status by just looking at the badges; there’s one specifically for offline and one for missing. Check this post to understand what they all mean: Badges. Or, “What Are All Those Funny Icons, Anyway?”

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Butch Miller's picture
by Butch Miller
March 29, 2012 - 5:02pm

Working with a referenced library is not difficult as long as you are aware enough and disciplined enough not to move, adjust or otherwise manipulate image files outside of your managing software.

I have been using iView Media Pro/Expression Media/Media Pro for my long-term archive (over 300,000 images) since about the mid-1990’s with great success and it is a “Referenced” catalog/library … If you are using a database driven system, don’t circumvent all that effort by using Finder/Explorer and you’ll be fine.

Don Reilly's picture
by Don Reilly
March 29, 2012 - 5:38pm

@ gfsymon,
Do I understand correctly that your comment, “So I would put my vote towards your buying not one, but 3 big drives. One for your Library. A second for a Vault and a third for a second Vault that you store at a separate location. If you have this setup, you can sleep easy.” is intended for a Referenced Library set up?

However, you strongly prefer “many Managed Libraries”, to get the greatest advantage of the software’s management features.

I’m still trying to understand the definitions of Managed vs. Referenced. Can I keep active Managed Libraries on an external drive, or must they be resident on my internal drive? If on external, does this slow work flow on my MacBook Pro with 800FW connection? Would I be importing Projects into internal drive for adjustments, then exporting back to external drive…….or, would adjustment only involve import/export of single images for adjustments?


PhotoJoseph's picture
by PhotoJoseph
March 29, 2012 - 5:53pm


Some definitions for you:

MANAGED: Photos all live inside of the Aperture Library, which is technically a folder that you have to right-click on to open, called a “package” in the OS. Aperture “manages” all your master files for you.
ADVANTAGE: Easy of use; you can’t lose a file. Complete back-up via the Vault. Portable; wherever you move it to, everything is there, no fuss no muss.
DISADVANTAGE: Library can’t be bigger than the single hard drive.

REFERENCED: Photos live outside of the Aperture library. They can live anywhere you like, including the same drive the Library is on (but that’s somewhat pointless).
ADVANTAGE: Your masters can span multiple hard drives, allowing you to have a virtually unlimited size library. The only size limiter is the Library itself, which contains Previews (if you like) so can technically grow bigger than a single hard drive, but that’d be pretty hard to do. If you’re working portable, this allows you to take a massive library on the road with you on a small internal hard drive — as long as you don’t need access to the masters.
DISADVANTAGE: If you move or lose a file, Aperture may not know where it went, and you can spend ages trying to get things reconnected and/or found. Vault only backs up Previews and metadata, so the masters have to be backed up independently.

I hope that helps,

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gfsymon's picture
by gfsymon
March 29, 2012 - 10:00pm


I think managed is better. But if you can’t do that, probably for the same reasons as Tony, then referenced is your only choice. Since Aperture 3, is very easy to have multiple Libraries and to ‘merge’ or export them at will. So this is something that removes a lot of the rigidity of one large Library and might make it more easy for people with very large libraries to work with in a Managed setup.

The 3 disks thing is simply a reference to a backup strategy. Managed is easy, because you don’t have to think about what you are backing up. Just make a Vault and let Aperture do its thing.

If you have a Referenced library, then you have to look after backups yourself. But whichever it is … you want 3 things. 1/ Original. 2/ Backup. 3/ Off-Site Backup. This is true for any documents you create at all, not just images. If you don’t have this strategy and are lucky enough to live a long time, you may be fortunate and never get ‘bitten’. Anyone without a backup is going to get bitten … sometime. Anyone with just one backup, may get away with it, but then again, they may not. Anyone with a backup and an identical backup, stored in another location is unlikely to ever loose anything. Belt and Braces.

Joseph. Perhaps you should create a definitive guide to Managed versus Referenced, explaining all the boring stuff, like the Lr or iViewMP approach, compared to a database approach. Seems to me that this is the one question which I see over and over.

PhotoJoseph's picture
by PhotoJoseph
March 29, 2012 - 10:24pm

— Have you signed up for the mailing list?

gfsymon's picture
by gfsymon
March 29, 2012 - 10:25pm

Oops!  :) :)

Patrick Vijgeboom's picture
by Patrick Vijgeboom
March 29, 2012 - 10:13am

Hi Tony,

I can’t help you but have you posted your question on Apple’s support forum too? I am sure
they can help you.…

gfsymon's picture
by gfsymon
March 29, 2012 - 10:34am


I’m a strong believer in a Managed library, or many Managed libraries.

Using a referenced library is like buying a Ferrari and only using the first 3 gears. The great advantage of Managed is avoiding EXACTLY what you’re going through right now. I have friends who are very reluctant to entrust their file structure to a computer … one in particular of whom is amazingly fastidious about everything, including organisation … and yet, just a few months ago, he messed up with some archives. He had backups, but still it cost him days to get back to zero. This for me is one of the major advantages of Aperture over Lr. Lr is not a true database. It’s simply a different UI on the Finder.

So I would put my vote towards your buying not one, but 3 big drives. One for your Library. A second for a Vault and a third for a second Vault that you store at a separate location. If you have this setup, you can sleep easy.

Aside from that …

This may help in sorting out the mess.

Make a couple of Smart Folders like this :

Smart Folder-Missing

Smart Folder-Referenced

Smart Folder-Offline

These will let you see in one place, the problem or potentially problematic files in your entire Library.

Then you might look here :


and here :


And finally … these 2 Menu items may help.

Consolidate or Move Masters

Tony L's picture
by Tony L
March 29, 2012 - 11:50am

Thanks for the rapid answer, I’ll try the links and see if they can help me.

But I choose to have just previews on my Macbook Pro because I like to have all pics with me when traveling, but there is not space enough with only 1TB internal drive to have all the Referenced files there too. So I don’t understand, or don’t think I can have a managed library?

gfsymon's picture
by gfsymon
March 29, 2012 - 1:47pm

Indeed. If you want to have everything with you on a MacBook Pro, you’re a bit stuck with Managed Referenced.

If you have to stay with referenced, then I think the key is to never do ANYTHING yourself with your files in the Finder. Nothing at all. Don’t even look at them. Do everything via Aperture. Import, Delete, Rename, Label … everything.

I would have Aperture put all files (Relocate Masters) into a single gigantic folder (I mean a Finder folder where the actual files live). That way it will be incredibly easy to ‘re-attach’ everything in one go, should Aperture ever forget where they are. (There’s only one place they can be). People have trouble trusting computers with this sort of thing, they think they have to ‘organise’ stuff, but as you’ve discovered, computers are better at it than humans.

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