Recovering iOS iPhoto Albums and Journals from iOS 8 Upgrades

So Apple says they will not support iPhoto anymore under Yosemite or iOS 8. Now, for the desktop world, people are scrambling to export out images, edits, books and other projects. But on the iPhone, Apple was strangely quiet about this. Oh, they gave you a way to “migrate” your edited images from iPhoto to the camera roll but you lost ALL of your book projects, Web Journals and meta data.  While iPhoto was a average editor, the DAM (digital asset management) side was excellent and I used it to manage over 5,000 images on my iPhone.

But getting back to the task at hand which is getting back my book projects that Apple so kindly refused to manage a export function for. They could have easily exported it out to the desktop iPhoto for now but no, Apple being Apple said we are done.. period.  That didn’t settle well with me and I set out to find a way to recover them. The first road block I hit was under iOS 8 it appears that Apple has changed the back up strategy of iTunes backing up iOS. You used to have versions and versions of your backups. This was pretty stupid since it chewed through a lot of disk space but it was nice to be able to back up a few months or even longer. Now, with IOS 8, I see ONE back up even though I had done it several times manually. Thank you God (Apple) for Time Machine. I was able to recover my iOS 7 backup from TM and copy it to the folder and rename it.

~/Library/Application Support/Mobilesync/Backup

You do need to identify which file is the one you want. If you have a single device, you can easily go by date. In my case, I have several devices attached to iTunes so go to iTunes/preferences and the select devices. Find the backup you want and then right click and choose “show in finder“. Just like magic you will be taken to the backup you need.

Make a note of this file or better yet, copy it out to a folder so you can easily find it.

I ended up using a couple of applications what was critical to recovery of my iPhoto files from my iPhone. The first one is called “iPhone Backup Extractor” and while it will cost you some money, it’s worth it for several reasons beyond this exercise. The biggest reason to use this application is that it can looks ANYWHERE for a backup file. Most will only use iCloud or the default locations of iTunes without any other choices. I had moved my user account/files off my SSD to cheaper storage so I needed an app that would let me tell it where to go to get the backup.

In this screen shot, I have selected my backup and files I want recovered. You need to use “expert mode” to be able to select the application data files.
iPhone Backup Extractor Expert Mode

Now you can select the iPhoto app data files.
iPhone Backup Extractor Selecting iPhoto files

Now iPhone Backup Extractor is extracting my files.
iPhone Backup Extractor

Now the hard part it done. I have all my data files but iPhoto uses a database and so the book files are pretty useless right now. The web journal is all HTML and easily reused now however you want.
iOS iPhoto data files

But I need to get these files onto my iOS 7 iPhone or iPad. And this is key, you have to have a second iPhone or iPad that still has iOS 7 on it. In my case, I had both and I did restore the files to both just to see if I could.

I used a second application called “iExplorer” which lets you treat the iPhone as a data drive. In this image, I have my 2nd iPhone plugged in and loaded into iExplorer. I need to click on the ALL button to see the apps.
iExplorer Start

This is what you get when you select All. I need to click on apps and find my iPhoto and then copy over the directories with the red arrows

iExplorer Apps

Files in iPhoto to Copy

The copy works just like any other copy. Go to the restored copies on your computer then drag the directories one at a time over to the root of the iPhoto app. It will ask if you want to overwrite the folder and say yes. It will take a few minutes to finish the copy. Once done, open up iPhoto and it will start rebuilding the database.

Now I have my files back

Restored iPhoto files

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This entry was posted in Articles, iPhone, musings and tagged , , , .


  1. Ldabney November 4, 2014 at 12:21 am #

    i have a question for you. I upgraded without the knowledge that my iphoto journals would be dumped. Fortunately I turned off automatic backup and was able to create a clone of my iPad before the update on an older iPad. I’ve exported all my journals to iCloud but now I’m not sure they won’t be deleted if I migrate from iphoto to photos on the original iPad. What are you doing with the files you’ve recovered since there Is no longer. Iphoto support for them.

    • Mike Sweeney November 6, 2014 at 3:04 am #

      I used a tool called iExplorer to copy the recovered files onto an iPhone with IOS 7 and iPhoto. I’m looking to see if there is a way to get iPhoto on my Mac Pro to use them.

  2. Lyle November 16, 2014 at 2:48 am #

    I did not know that upgrading to iOS 8 would remove all of my iPhone mobile app’s web journals, dismantle the journals and randomly drop them into the photo library. Do I read it correctly that if you recover the web journals, one can only operate on iOS 7 or lower?

    Do you know of a comparable app to the now retired iphoto app (should I find the energy to sort through 19000 photos).

    • Mike Sweeney November 16, 2014 at 8:00 am #

      No, the web journals are HTML and once you have recovered them from an old backup, you can view them with any browser. The Photobooks are a different story. They are kept in a SQL database which means you need an iPhone or iPad with iOS 7 on it and iPhoto to keep working with them. I have not tried to import them into the desktop iPhoto as of yet.

      • Lyle November 16, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

        Thank you for your reply.

        Have you come across another similar mobile app?

        • Mike Sweeney November 16, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

          No, I have not. I’ve seen bits and pieces but not together. iPhoto was a average editor but it had DAM (digital asset management), web journals and book projects.QuickPics does a decent job of DAM but no editing. Most of the book apps are just bad which includes Blurb. I have not really looked to see if anyone has a web journal app yet. I’ve tried posting to WordPress but that is often a real kludge from the iPhone.

          • lyle November 17, 2014 at 12:06 am #

            Thanks. I’ll keep watching the space and please do let me know if you hear of anything.


  3. joao magalhaes January 15, 2015 at 11:53 am #

    Hi Michael!
    I was almost having a heart attack until i saw your post!
    I had a lot of iPhoto Journals on my iPad w/iOS7 and when i upgraded everything seemed lost!

    I have used iPhone Backup Extractor and found that some journals were there as HTML (Documents Folder), which i already recovered, but some seem to be in “database mode” (Library Folder > Projects).

    I only want to recover the Journals as HTML, no need to resend them to iPhoto.
    Any suggestions/help would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks in advance!
    Best regards and thanks for saving my day! 🙂

  4. joao magalhaes January 15, 2015 at 2:01 pm #

    Just a quick edit to your post: has super crazy awesome “simple as hell” free app to extract files from the itunes backup! It’s only for mac but it’s definately worth mention! 🙂

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