Migrating from Aperture 1.0 to 1.5 to 2.1


I’ve been using Aperture since version 1.0. When the application was released in 2005, all images had to reside within the Aperture Library. This did not prevent me from using the product, but it was deal-breaker in terms of switching to Aperture completely from iView Media Pro. Version 1.5 was released a year later, and it allowed users to store the master images by reference. This was great for me, since I could now import all of my images by reference and keep the annotations synced with iView using Annoture.

When Aperture 2.0 was released a few months ago, I decided to make a permanent switch to using Aperture as my primary photo organization tool. For

Projects can now contain 100,000 images, which is great since I was running into the 10,000 image limit in 1.5.6. Image editing plug-in support in version 2.1 means Noise Ninja from Picture Code is coming soon to Aperture.

My goal is to have my entire image collection — work and personal — contained in a single Aperture Library. I know other people who use multiple libraries, but I wanted a single one so I can easily share photos via iLife and sync to my iPhone.

This post is my odyssey to Aperture’s Promise Land. Does it exist? If so, will I get there? Read on to find out the issues I have to overcome along the way!


Infrant ReadyNAS 600

Up until a year ago, I was storing all of my RAW photos on a 1TB RAID 5 (650GB available) Infrant ReadyNAS. Before I purchased the Infrant in 2005, I had run out of space on my primary photo volume, a 250GB FireWire drive, and was using a spare 80GB external disk to store my recent images. Last year, I ran out of space on the Infrant, and the overflow images were being stored on a 750GB hard drive. As I wrote in 2005, and as I write today:

This was not a good solution because (1) the data wasn’t being backed up and (2) I didn’t like the idea of my photos residing on multiple hard drives, and (3) I’ve already had one hard drive crash in the last year. Since my data is priceless, I was eager to find a better solution.

First, I copied all of my RAW images from the Infrant to a new 750GB hard drive. I made the mistake, however, of naming the hard drive Photos instead of photos, which was the Infrant’s volume name. This caused Aperture to lose track of all referenced files. I could have simply changed the name of the hard drive to photos, but the anal-retentive in me decided to reconnect all referenced images to the new Photos drive. I’ll be the first to say that reconnecting over 100,000 photos can take a long time.

Double Masters

Next, because I have been using Aperture since version 1.0, I had a number of projects with managed photos. This meant the Aperture Library contained the RAW files. Remember, however, I also had these same images imported by reference in the Aperture Library. As a result, I had duplicate photos:

  • Managed Photos (A) with adjustments, ratings, and metadata
  • Reference Photos (B) with no adjustments, ratings, nor metadata

Obviously I had painstakingly added adjustments, ratings, and metadata to all of the managed files, and I didn’t want to lose them. After consulting with Steve Weller, I did the following:

  1. Exported the managed projects (A). I chose to consolidate the masters photos in the exported projects. I did this to create a backup in case I screwed up anything.
  2. Relocated the masters photos in the managed projects (A).
  3. Moved the relocated master photos to the trash. This caused Aperture to lose the reference to the master files.
  4. Located and deleted the exact same master versions in my referenced projects (B). Obviously, I did not check move referenced files to the trash.
  5. Reconnected the dereferenced photos from (A) to the files referenced by (B)

If that sounds complicated, it’s because it was! The end result, however, is that I have one master version pointing to one file, not two master versions pointing to the same file — or worse, two identical files.

Now my Aperture Library has over 120,000 referenced images and 177 managed files. Fortunately, most of those managed files exist in one project, which is much more manageable than thousands of managed files spread across twenty projects! My Aperture Library is still large at 74GB, but it’s not the 105GB behemoth that it once was.

Backups and Vaults

Aperture Vault Progress

Up until now, I haven’t used Aperture Vaults to back up the library. I first tried copying the library to another hard drive, but 50GB into the copy, Finder popped up with an error saying it had encountered a problem writing one of the files in the Library. Ugh!

As I’m writing this post, Aperture is creating a brand-new vault on a separate external hard drive. It’s a tad over 50% done, and I really hope that there isn’t a problem with the remaining 40%. It would be a real bummer if I can’t back up my Library! Sadly, I’ve read of several problems getting Vaults to update properly.

If all goes well, in the morning, I plan to restore my library from the vault. Then, I will again attempt to copy the library to an external hard drive. My ideal backup scenario is twofold: automated backups via SuperDuper!, Carbon Copy Cloner, or RsyncX and periodic Aperture Vault updates.

Update: The Vault update failed, but at least there was a descriptive error message:

Aperture Vault Error

Looks like a corrupted thumbnail to me. I wasn’t able to delete the file using the Finder (it crashed), but was able to remove the file through Terminal. After doing that, the Vault update completely successfully, and the Vault refresh icon changed from red to black. Now, I will try copying the Aperture Library to the hard drive with the Finder.

Update #2: The Finder copy completed successfully.

4 thoughts on “Migrating from Aperture 1.0 to 1.5 to 2.1

  1. Hi,

    I’m facing a similar problem with you, but can’t solve it by now.

    I’m using a Firewire HDD to store my Aperture Library (Managed projects) since I used an iMac before. Now I buy a Macbook and want to use it as my primary computer, so I want to use Reference Projects on it. How can I “Transfer” the Managed projects to Reference projects (keep the original RAW photos on the Firewire HDD, of course), and browse photos with/without connecting the FW HDD to my Macbook?


  2. Ran:

    Use the Relocate Masters function to move the managed images in your Aperture Library to some other location on the FW HD. Set up the folder structure to your liking in the Relocate Masters dialog box.

    Once you’ve done that, you can copy the Aperture Library to your MacBook. Use an Aperture Vault to keep a backup of the Library on your FW HD.

    With this approach, you can take your photos with you and you don’t need the FW HD unless you want to deal with the original, now reference, masters.

  3. Hi,

    I figure it out just now.

    1. select all your photos in the Aperture, and click Files->Relocate masters from library, choose a new folder (on the FW HDD) and you’ll see all your RAW files there.
    2. copy the Aperture library file (which is much smaller than before, 30gb->5gb in my case) to the notebook
    3. Open Aperture with the library file on the notebook and check everything still working
    4. Delete the library file on the FW HDD (you can keep it if you want to make a backup for your adjustments, ratings)

    and using a Vault is a great idea and works just fine with my Macs.

  4. Hi Adam,

    I miss your post but I found out how a moment ago.

    Thanks anyway, and, Aperture Rocks!!

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