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Ten Tips to a Clean Aperture Library (7 of 10) — Repair Your Library

Thomas Boyd's picture
April 17, 2012 - 3:00pm

(If you’re just joining us, start with Tip 1)

Tip 7 — Repair or Rebuild your Aperture Library

It might be running fine, but it doesn’t hurt to run some diagnostics on it. I’ve found that it usually finds some database issues every time I run it. Just do it.

Hold down the Option+Command keys when launching Aperture to make this window appear

Update on April 17, 2012 - 3:00pm by Thomas Boyd

Repairing and rebuilding the database is a great fix-all. Think of it like rebooting.

Customer: My computer doesn’t work.
Tech Support: Have you rebooted?
C: no…
TS: Call me back after you do.

But of course rebooting, or repairing the database, doesn’t always work. Sometimes you need more.

The FAQ lists all kinds of things you can do to get Aperture up and running better, but I have one Jedi trick up my sleeve that has, in the past, on occasion, worked wonders.

That’s the “Import your Library into a new, clean Library” trick. Basically, create a new Library, and drag your old one into it. It will take a long time and you’ll need some free hard drive space (at least 2x the size of your library; 3x is better) but it may be worth it. My theory is that this does some kind of major rewrite of the entire database. Not a repair or rebuild, but a rewrite.

I could be 100% wrong. But it’s worked for me, and worked for customers here. What have you got to lose? If you’re pulling out your hair because of library issues, it’s worth a try.

Apple Aperture
Thomas Boyd

Might want to add “when launching aperture” to the “Hold down the Option+Command key to make this window appear.” line above. Just a heads up.

Thanks Nathan — keeping us on our toes ;-)


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It’s interesting you mention this, I’ve been doing some house keeping in Aperture and I found something I think you should do from time to time if you want to maintain a good library.

See Aperture has a bug or glitch in how it’s designed. When you delete a picture from Aperture, even if you delete the master image, there are files that remain inside the Aperture library. Thumbnails and Preview files. For some reason they are not deleted.

I went to my actual Aperture library file, by default stored in the pictures folder under your user. I then selected it, right clicked, and picked “Show contents.” Once in inside I deleted the Previews and Thumbnails folder. I then started Aperture and let it rebuilt all the previews … WARNING it can take a long time.

The result is my library decreased in size by nearly 60GB.

If you shoot and delete a lot, I recommend doing this from time to time. I shoot a lot of sports, shoot maybe 1000 to 1500 pics per match. I import everything sort it and edit. Then upload images into my agencies picture bank. After wards I will only keep the items I submitted to the bank. So it will be 250-500 images per game. While I delete those other images, their thumbnails don’t seem to disappear and over time it eats up space.


Thanks for sharing that. I don’t think I was aware of this issue.

I rarely recommend people poke around in the package, but certainly if you’re well backed up it can be worth doing.


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Just curious, If you just ask Aperture to rebuild previews, will it automatically delete all previous thumbs and previews?

That way you don’t have to poke around in the package, which might be unnerving for some. :)

Thanks for the tip.

After running time machine prior to doing anything…

I just followed both hints above, repairing my DB and then deleting the previews and Thumbnails.
After deleting the previews and Thumbnails Aperture had completed rebuilding by the next morning.
Net result on my 29,000 photo library, I had saved about 27GB.. In other words my Aperture library was 27GB smaller.

At the risk of seeming obtuse, what exactly does “drag your old one onto it” mean. I know how to create a new library, but is the above suggestion done in the Finder? Are you duplicating your Aperture library in Finder (~/Pictures/Aperture Library right click), then dragging one library on top of the other? Or, creating new library in File > New then dragging within Aperture?

Thanks for the clarification.


When you export a project, it becomes a stand-alone library. You can merge projects/libraries by simply dragging one into another.

So, you have an Aperture library that’s giving you problems and decide to go this route. Create a new Library, which closes the existing one, then import the old one into the new empty one. Drag and drop, or go to the import menu. That’s it.

You will need space to do this though. Be sure to read the complete FAQ, linked above. And this isn’t just something to casually do… it’s somewhat of a last resort.

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John, when you transfer the existing library to a new one as you mentioned above, would the JPEG images suffer, as every time it was recreated, it loses some of the image quality? Thanks.

Am I about to make a huge mistake?

I had/have a very large Aperture 3.2.4 library of 400G on a secondary internal drive and decided to segment it off into an external 2T drive that I use for backups. I created a new library and then moved everything prior to 2012 over to the new library; about 300G. Then I went back and deleted from the original library (option-delete) and BAM, should be smaller and agile, right? Nope. To my surprise, it made little dent in the original library size and little or no performance improvement.

After reading this tip section, I opened the original package and indeed noted all files in the Masters, Previews, and Thumbnails seemed to be nicely nested and intact. So what was the point of deleting from the user interface? Apparently not much.

Anyway - I was about to delete the nested Masters and Previews of 2011 and prior, and also the Thumbnail file entirely but then thought… OK, what else can I not know?

Am I about to make a huge mistake? Will my new backup library be impacted in any way?

nervous near Seattle…


Did you empty the Aperture trash?

Check this article:…

If that doesn’t help please post a question in the forum and we can discuss it there. Thanks.


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How embarrassing. Thought I did. Didn’t. Sometimes I find myself looking for a hard solution and the simple answer is right in front of my eyes. Kind of like the old did you check the on-off switch joke.

Something I haven’t done before; I monitored the progress bar while deleting trash and noted that it explicitly included a phase of “Deleting Master Records…” While this happens in Aperture rather quickly, it only moves the process to Apple’s trash and on my system began automatically. It does take time…

I followed the suggestion from the comments here to rebuild my Thumbnails and wanted to advise readers that it can take a Very Long Time.

I have a 2011 MacBook Pro with 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB RAM, and a half-full 750 GB hard drive. I have 80,000 photos stored as referenced masters (258 GB of photos), and my Aperture Library was 36GB (of which almost all the space was taken up by the Thumbnail folder of 36GB. I have no Previews, no Faces and no Places).

It took 30 hours to recreate the Thumbnail folder, and the size of the folder was reduced from 36GB to 25GB.

After 14 hours I was bothered by it taking so long and tried to stop it by Quitting Aperture and replacing the Thumbnail folder with my old folder that I had backed up before starting the Thumbnail rebuild. This just resulted in Aperture picking up where it left off and continuing to rebuild the Thumbnails into the old folder – it had 48,000 photos to go… So I quickly quit Aperture again and put the new Thumbnail folder back in place and let it run to completion after 30 hours. I may have some corrupted or missing thumbnails somewhere… oh well.

This whole process has shaken my confidence in Aperture’s file management system. The fact that 3 thumbnails are created per photo and that they aren’t deleted when the photo is deleted smacks of shoddy software coding at Apple. One weird thing I found was that the internal structure of my old Thumbnail folder was quite different than the new one.

I would not want to rebuild the thumbnails on this Aperture Library again and put my MacBook hard drive and fan through another 30 hours of non-stop use like that, so I am going to create a new library and will rebuild Thumbnails on a regular basis in this smaller library (I shoot about 1000 photos a week and delete about 600, so there are tons of leftover unnecessary Thumbnails hanging around…).

Just a heads up to anyone thinking about rebuilding their Thumbnail photo folder.

Hi Joseph,
You don’t hear9read) very much from me! but now I need help/advice! I have been using iPhoto until ~2010 before I change to Aperture! I am using (or is it using me??) 3.4.3.
In the beginning I was struggling to get a handle on Aperture and I am still not sure wether I got it? I thought I got it but now I am not sure about that! I am in the process to “clean up” my mess of 14 Years “shooting” and am quite close to shoot me now ;)!
I have 2 “Main” Libraries: one is big (120K Photos) including A LOT of dups/triples/quadruples…..(infinite)! The 2nd is the clean(almost)Library! I close to finish the 10th year now! But Aperture starts behaving strange! During my ordeal I have been repairing the Libraries (mostly the messy one though) not so often the “clean” one!
I am working as follows:

1. - open/switch to then “big & messy Library)
2. - locate Pics per Month (Mo by Mo, Year by Year i.e. 1998:Jan, then Feb and so on..)
3. - each Month&Year (i.e. 01-1998) into their own Project
4. - clean out this project
. delete “original and all versions”
. relocate originals
. c…

6. - export the(se) project(s) as Library….
7. - switch to clean(new) Library
8. - import project(from 6.)
9. back to step 1. with next Month/Year-Month (and so on, and so on)

That’s it. Tedious-boring-error prone-time consuming! :( !

Am I doing it right? Could I do it better/faster? If so would you be willing to suggest improvements or an even better approach?

BTW: ALL (>95%) of the dups/trips/quads.. are according to Aperture M-Key: ORIGINALS!
But almost all have DIFFERENT PIXEL SIZES (from very small to large!! Any idea what I could have done wrong to get THAT??

Thanks in for your help at least for reading this!
I hope I explained this sh…. situation so that it makes sense!
Before I forget:

Have a Healthy, Happy and successful New Year!

2010 28” iMac i7 Quad Core, 2.93 GHz, 32 GB 1333 MHz DDR3, 2 TB internal HD, 4 TB external HD for Time Machine, Mountain Lion

Max's Dad

Werner, sorry but I missed this. Support questions really should go in the forum, not as comments on posts. If you’re still having issues, please post it there. Thanks.

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I have already posted the question in the Forum, but I think it is worth to ask the same question here and - in case - to share the solution (hopefully).

It is interesting to know what Michael says at the beginning of this stream. But I’m now experiencing something different: I realised that my Master folder is “infested” by a huge amount of medium/small sized jpegs coming from my Flickr account. I guess they come from a wrong synchronisation. It seems that those synchronised files had been imported as masters.

Any comment? Any idea about how to clean my Master folder in a safe way?


Yeah this is really a question for the forum but in brief; it’s likely from disconnecting a flickr account, at which time Aperture asks if you want to import before disconnecting. As far as cleaning them, see if they got a flickr keyword attached to them so you can search and destroy that way.

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Hey guys, maybe you can help me with an issue I am running into now.

I am having an issue with Aperture 3 (current update version) I have a library that I have used for quite some time with no problems. The other day I loaded some pictures did all the metadata etc. and went about my day. A few days later I opened Aperture again and it said there were inconsistencies in my library and click repair to repair them. So I did. It reverted back to an old version with my files out of order and the newest few sets of photos missing. I restored from the vault and it was the same as it was before the restore. I have a fairly redundant backup system, so I uploaded the missing images again, changed all the key photos for each project etc. Then I updated the vault again and the little symbol turned grey indicating it was up to date. Then a few days later I uploaded another shoot. The next day when I opened Aperture it reverted back to that previous status with the newest uploaded projects missing and my key photos all wrong again. So I then uploaded everything again got it all set and working, created a new vault all together, updated it with all the new photos and keywords etc. I then completely deleted the old vault thinking it was linking somehow to that and pulling outdated info about my library. It worked for two days and now today I come back and open Aperture and again I am back at the old version of my library with the last 3 imports missing and my key photos all wrong again for all the existing projects. Also, when I look at the vault at the bottom corner, it shows the vault name and path that does not exist anymore. I am at a loss for what to do at this point and am looking for any help I can get. I obviously cannot continue to work this way with projects constantly disappearing. Do you have any advice or direction I could look on this one. Thank you for your time, I really appreciate it.


This is a support question — can you please post it in the forum? Thanks.

And just to test before you do… make sure you are opening the same Library. It almost sounds to me like you have TWO libraries on your system, and are somehow toggling between them.

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I didn’t really understand. How do I drag one library to another? By dragging one Aperture symbol onto another in the Finder nothing happens. Do I have to drag the complete library content into the already open content of the new library?

Thanks for your help.


Here's an FAQ describing this in more detail. Good luck! This tip can take ages if you have a large library, but it really can work wonders.

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