Emptying iPhoto’s stubborn trash

Australian Macworld staff
4 May, 2010
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Have you ever run into troubles with trashing images in iPhoto? The app isn’t always be as user friendly as we would like, but it is possible to take back control.

iPhoto has a separate trash from the Finder’s rubbish bin that lives in your dock. When you delete images in iPhoto, they go into this separate trash and they’re not deleted from your Mac until you expressly tell iPhoto to empty the trash. You do this by Control (right) clicking on iPhoto’s Trash icon and choosing Empty Trash from the contextual menu. 

You may, however, have found that you’ve tried that with no satisfactory results. If so, you’ve hit a fairly common snag where iPhoto has difficulties deleting a lot of images in one go. There is a solution, but it takes a bit of fiddling:

First, you need to select all the images in the trash, assign an identifying keyword to them (I’d suggest “trash”), and then choose Photos -> Restore to iPhoto Library. This, as you might imagine, places the trashed photos back in your iPhoto library.

Now choose File -> New Smart Album, create an album with a condition that reads: Keyword is Trash, and click the OK button that creates the smart album. Select a hundred-or-so images in that smart album and press Command-Option-Delete. This tosses those images in the trash. Now use the Control (right) click trick to empty the trash. If successful, do the same thing with another hundred images. Keep going until the images are really gone.

iPhoto’s Rebuild window

If none of this works, iPhoto may have a touch of the corruption. Quit it, hold down Command and Option, and launch it. A Rebuild Photo Library window will appear. In this window you’ll see a number of repair options. Start with the first one (Rebuild the Photos’ Small Thumbnails) and give it a try. Check iPhoto after you’ve done this to see how it behaves. If it’s still funky, give the next option in the Rebuild window a try. Rinse and repeat until iPhoto bends to your will.

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