Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

While iCloud has many convenient features and works pretty reliably, you may face occasional technical glitches. One common issue is when iCloud Photos fails to sync with the Photos app on your Mac. Let’s take a look at why this happens, and the steps you can take to fix it.

1. Check the Sync Status in Photos

The first thing to do when you’re having trouble with iCloud Photos syncing is to check the sync status in the Photos app. This will give you an idea of exactly what the problem is. To do this:

  1. Launch the Photos app and choose “Library” from the sidebar.
  2. Select the “All Photos” tab from the top.
  3. Scroll down to view the iCloud syncing status.

Photos app on Mac showing iCloud photos sync status.

It may say various things, including “Last Synced” if syncing is complete. If you see “Waiting to Sync”, it means you have many photos to upload or your internet connection is slow. If you see “Uploading to iCloud Paused” or “Syncing with iCloud Paused”, it could be due to a lack of internet connection, Low Power Mode being enabled, or a temporary sync interruption.

2. Make Sure iCloud Photos Is Activated

If your photos aren’t syncing, it’s possible that iCloud Photos is not enabled on your Mac. As it’s an optional feature provided by Apple’s iCloud service, it’s not activated automatically. To enable iCloud Photos on your Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Photos app on your Mac.
  2. Choose Photos and click “Settings” from the menu bar.
  3. Navigate to the iCloud tab and check the box next to “iCloud Photos”.

Activate iCloud photos on Mac.

You can choose to download the full-sized images or save space on your Mac. If you choose the “Download Originals to this Mac” setting, you’ll download the original files from your Photo library onto your Mac.

Alternatively, you can select “Optimize Mac Storage” if you need to save space. This will replace the full-resolution photos and videos with smaller, lower-resolution versions. You can still download the full-resolution versions anytime from iCloud.

Another way to do this is to ensure that iCloud Photos is enabled in the System Settings. For this:

  1. Launch System Settings on your Mac.
  2. Click on your Apple ID located at the top.
  3. Go to iCloud and select Photos. Make sure “Sync this Mac” is toggled on.

iCloud photos activation from System Settings.

Turning off iCloud Photos and then turning it back on using the same methods mentioned above may also fix the syncing issue.

Remember that syncing your iCloud photo library to your Mac for the first time may take some time, so be patient if your images don’t appear immediately.

3. Use the Same Apple ID on All Devices

If you use multiple Apple accounts, you must verify that your Mac is signed in with the same Apple ID used on the other devices you wish to sync photos with. To verify this:

  1. Open System Settings on your Mac.
  2. Click on your Apple ID name located at the top. Check if the email address matches with the one on your other devices.
  3. Scroll down to the bottom to view the list of devices linked to your account under “Devices”.

Apple ID section in the System Settings.

In case you have signed in with a different Apple ID on your Mac, scroll to the bottom and select Sign Out. After that, sign in again using the same Apple ID associated with your other devices.

4. Check Your Internet Connection

Your photos may not be syncing to and from iCloud due to a lack of internet connectivity. Successful synchronization relies on both your iPhone (or whatever Apple device you’re taking pictures on) and your Mac being connected to a stable network—preferably Wi-Fi on your phone if you’ve got a limited data allowance. If there are issues with your Wi-Fi, resolve them before resuming iCloud syncing.

5. Ensure You’ve Got Enough Storage in iCloud

iCloud account storage management on Mac.

iCloud Photos can only work if you have enough free space in your iCloud. Go to System Settings > Apple ID > iCloud and click Manage to check your iCloud storage. If your storage space is low, uploads for new photos and videos will pause.

To fix this issue, free up some iCloud space by removing unnecessary files from your account. This includes apps, photos, videos, and other files. Alternatively, consider upgrading your current iCloud plan. Apple provides various plans for additional account storage. By default, you get 5GB of free iCloud space per Apple ID. But if you upgrade to iCloud+, you can increase this storage to 50GB or even up to as much as 12TB.

6. Force Quit and Reopen the Photos App

Sometimes, minor glitches or temporary disruptions can prevent the Photos app from syncing with iCloud. Force closing and reopening the Photos app can often help you resolve the issue. To do it:

  1. Click the Apple icon in the top left corner of your Mac’s screen.
  2. Select “Force Quit” from the drop-down menu.
  3. In the Force Quit Applications window, scroll down to find the Photos app and select it.
  4. Click “Force Quit”.
  5. Click the Launchpad icon (located in the Dock) or open Finder and navigate to the Applications folder.
  6. Find the Photos app and click its icon to relaunch it.

Force quit application window quitting Photos app on Mac.

7. Turn Off Low Power Mode

Low Power Mode, when enabled, may restrict certain background processes to save battery—including iCloud syncing. You might have your MacBook set to automatically switch to Low Power Mode when you’re running on the battery. To turn this feature off:

  1. Open System Settings on your Mac.
  2. Scroll down and choose “Battery” from the left sidebar.
  3. Click the pop-up menu next to “Low Power Mode” on the right and select “Never”.

Setting Low Power Mode to Never on Mac.

8. Repair the Photo Library

The Photos app might not be syncing properly with iCloud Photos due to corrupted or damaged library files. In this situation, repairing the library may resolve the issue. Here’s how you can repair the Photos library manually:

  1. If the Photos app is open, quit it completely before proceeding.
  2. Press and hold the Option and Command keys on your keyboard.
  3. While holding these keys, open the Photos app from the Applications folder (or the Launchpad).
  4. In the Repair Library window, click the “Repair” button.

Repair Photos library on Mac.

Your Photos app will attempt to repair the library. This process may take some time, depending on the size of your Photos library.

9. Charge Your Mac

While this solution may seem general, ensuring your Mac has enough battery power is crucial for optimal iCloud syncing. When your Mac’s battery is low, it prioritizes essential background processes that may affect iCloud Photos syncing. Therefore, charging your Mac and ensuring it has sufficient battery power can help fix this issue—or just plug it in when you want to sync.

10. Restart Your Mac

Restarting your Mac is a fundamental yet effective solution to troubleshoot iCloud Photos syncing issues. For this:

  1. Click on the Apple menu in the top-left corner of your screen.
  2. Select “Restart” from the dropdown menu.

Select the restart option in macOS

Allow your Mac to shut down and restart completely. This process clears system caches and can resolve minor software inconsistencies, ultimately contributing to a smoother iCloud syncing experience.

11. Update to the Latest Version of macOS

Keeping your macOS up-to-date ensures you have the latest bug fixes, improvements, and updates, which can fix syncing problems with iCloud Photos. Follow these steps to ensure your Mac is running the latest version of macOS:

  1. Open System Preferences on your Mac.
  2. From the left sidebar, select “General”.
  3. Choose “Software Update”.

Software update screen on Mac.

If an update is available, follow the prompts to download and install it.

Finding the exact reason preventing your Mac from syncing with iCloud Photos may be frustrating. However, by implementing the fixes we’ve outlined in this guide, you should be able to resolve the issue, and your Photos app will resume syncing photos on your Mac.

If you’ve tried all the suggestions above and are still experiencing the same problem, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Apple Support for further assistance. Their expert team can provide additional guidance and help you identify any underlying issues interfering with the syncing process.

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By John P.

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