macOS Photos App Stuck at “Curating Photos”? Try These Fixes

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Trying to manage your photo library can be a real pain. Apple has made great strides to make the process less annoying with the Photos app on the iPhone, iPad, and the Mac.

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However, with the release of macOS Catalina, Apple moved a few of its applications to the new “Catalyst” frameworks. This brings quite a bit of feature parity between some apps on iOS/iPadOS and macOS.

What’s happening with the Photos app on macOS?

Image courtesy of Apple

The problem with the move to Catalyst apps is that there are a lot of issues trying to run a “mobile-first” app on a standard desktop operating system. Apple missed quite a few bugs along the way which has affected the likes of Photos, Podcasts, and Music.

Without diving into the changes in the Music app, Photos is another major way for Apple users to manage their precious pictures and videos. But it seems that there are problems with the Photos app getting through the curation process on startup. Luckily, users have found a few different remedies.

Leave your Mac alone

Usually, when something is “frozen” and seemingly not working properly, our first instinct is to try and close everything out. However, numerous users experiencing this issue have found that simply waiting for the Photos app will “fix” the issues.

In some cases, this may take an entire day, so you’ll want to leave the Photos app running. Also make sure that your Mac does not get accidentally restarted overnight, in the event that Photos is still trying to work its magic.

Quit, repair, and restart

Force Quit Photos App on Mac

If you left the Photos app running and running and nothing happened, then you can try a couple of different things. First of all, you can simply Force Close the app by clicking the () icon in the Menu Bar and click Force Close Photos.

Once Photos is closed, you will want to try and force a repair to your library. This is a built-in way for macOS to try and get rid of any potential issues.

Repair Photos Library on Mac

  1. When opening the Photos app on your Mac, press and hold the Option + Command keys at the same time as opening the Photos app.
  2. A dialog box will appear, tap Repair.

After the process has finished, you should be able to use the Photos app like nothing ever happened.

Check for a software update

macOS Catalina has not been the smoothest release in Apple’s software history. The company has continued to push incremental updates to get rid of the bugs and that includes the Photos app. So if you are continuing to run into issues, make sure your Mac is updated to the latest version.

macOS Catalina Update Screen

  1. Click the () icon in the Menu Bar.
  2. Select System Preferences.
  3. In the Preferences menu, click Software Update.
  4. If an update is available, click the Update Now button and let your Mac work its magic.

Delete corrupt images with the help of Smart Albums

While the Photos app on iOS is fantastic at managing your images and videos, the Mac version is still a work in progress. When syncing between your other devices, there’s a potential for images and files to become corrupt. With the help of Smart Albums, you can identify the problematic ones and then remove them from your library.

  1. Open the Photos app on your Mac.
  2. From the Menu Bar, click File and select New Smart Album.

Create new troubleshooting Smart Album in Photos on Mac

Now, you will be presented with a few different options which will act as the “rules” for your album. However, since we are trying to target specific photos, what you will want to try and do is create a Smart Album for photos that don’t have much metadata. This is usually a tell-tale sign that those photos are corrupted.

So when choosing the parameters of the folder, choose metadata samples such as “Camera Model is Empty”. Or, you can scroll through your Photo Library and look for images that do not have thumbnails and delete those.

Give Photos “Permissions” for the hard drive

This next part is largely for those who have photos stored on an external hard drive but use Apple’s app to manage it. However, there are complications with permissions at a system-level from time-to-time. In order to get rid of the potential problems, you’ll want to give the hard drive the correct permissions.

Hard Drive Information on Mac

  1. From the Desktop, right-click on your Hard Drive.
  2. Select Get Info.
  3. At the bottom of the menu, click the triangle next to Sharing & Permissions.
  4. Click the lock icon in the bottom right-hand corner.
  5. Enter your password.
  6. Next to the proper name for the user, tap the arrow icon under the Privilege column.
  7. Select Read & Write.
  8. Click the lock.

Hard Drive Permissions

Then, you’ll want to try and load the Photos app again and access the images from your hard drive. If the permissions were set correctly, then the app should have no more problems.

Sign out of iCloud

As we mentioned above, problems can arise when trying to sync between multiple devices over the cloud. There are a lot of quirks about iCloud, and in some cases, you’ll need to sign out of iCloud and sign back in.

  1. Click the () icon in the Menu Bar.
  2. Select System Preferences.
  3. Click the Apple ID button in the top section.
  4. Tap Overview in the sidebar.
  5. At the bottom of the main box, click Sign Out…
  6. Choose which bits of iCloud data you wish to keep a copy of on your Mac.
    • We would recommend not keeping a copy of these if you have already backed everything up. This gives you the best chance to make sure there are not rogue files wreaking havoc.
  7. Click the Continue button.
  8. If you have Apple Pay, click the Sign Out and Remove Cards button.

Remove Apple Pay from Account on Mac

Now that you have logged out of iCloud on this account, you’ll need to sign back in. If you want to add some “good measure” into the process, you can restart your computer before proceeding. Once you are ready, these steps will get you signed back into iCloud.

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Click Sign in at the top of the page.
  3. Enter your iCloud login information.

To verify that everything is working properly, just fire up the Photos app one more time. It may take a few moments as iCloud attempts to sync everything again, but then the bigger “curation” issue should be solved.

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