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iCloud is built into every Apple device and keeps your stuff safe, up to date, and available wherever you are. … Everyone gets 5GB of free iCloud storage to start, and it’s easy to add more at any time. … You can even have everything in your Mac Desktop and Documents folders …

Apple’s iCloud Photo Library is a great online backup service, but even online sync services need to be backed up.

Apple’s iCloud Photo Library service works flawlessly to sync and back up your images and video to iCloud — but if you’re serious about keeping your irreplaceable photos and video safe, you’ll want a redundant (second) backup.

That can take the form of a local backup on your own drive or an external source, a secondary online backup, or both. Here’s how to do it.

How to back up iCloud Photo Library to your Mac’s hard drive

The best way to back up the images and video in iCloud Photo Library is to make sure you’re downloading all your content onto your Mac.

Note: If you plan to back up your entire digital library to your Mac’s hard drive, you’ll likely want to do it on a desktop Mac with a 1TB drive or higher. Otherwise, consider backing up to an external drive.

  1. Launch the Photos app on your Mac.
  2. Click Photos in the App menu in the upper left corner of your screen.
  3. Select Preferences from the drop-down menu.

    Optimized Storage in the Photos app

  4. Click the iCloud tab.
  5. Click Download Originals to this Mac.

Your Mac will now download full-resolution copies of all your images to your external hard drive, stored inside your Photos app library.

How to back up your iCloud Photo Library content to an external drive

There are two ways to back up your iCloud Photo Library to an external drive: by backing up your Photos library automatically, or manually. (You can also export sections of your library if you don’t want to back up the whole thing.)

Back up your Photos library automatically

If you’ve turned on the Download Originals option for your Photos library, you can back up your Photos library as part of your regular backup routine. Whether you use Time Machine or clone your hard drive using SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy, your Photos library (and all images and video automatically downloaded from iCloud) will be backed up as well. (And if you don’t currently use a backup service, well… now’s a good time to start!)

Back up your Photos library manually

If you’ve turned on the Download Originals option for your Photos library but don’t want to back it up automatically, you can always copy your Photos library to an external drive at regular intervals.

  1. Connect an external drive to your Mac via USB, USB-C, or Thunderbolt.
  2. Open a new Finder window on your Mac.
  3. Go to Users > [username] > Pictures.
  4. Drag your Photos Library to your external drive.
  5. Wait for it to copy.

Create an external library for backing up iCloud Photo Library

I recommend setting a bi-weekly reminder for these steps, so you keep your Photos library regularly backed up.

How to back up portions of your iCloud Photo Library

Don’t want to back up your entire library? You can export individual images and video to your external drive.

  1. Connect an external drive to your Mac via USB, USB-C, or Thunderbolt.
  2. Open the Photos app.
  3. Select the photos and video you want to back up.
  4. Go to the File menu.
  5. Select Export > Export Unmodified Original For 10 Videos…
  6. Press Export
  7. Choose your external drive.
  8. Press Export Originals.

How to make an online backup of your iCloud Photo Library

Even though your entire iCloud Photo Library is (as the name implies) stored online in iCloud, it’s worth considering a second online backup as one of your redundancies.

If you store your entire iCloud Photo Library on your Mac

Good news: If you already use a service to back up your hard drive and you’ve synced your full iCloud Photo Library to your Mac, it’s easy to back it all up. (If not, consider it a good time to start!)

If you don’t store your iCloud Photo Library on your Mac

If you don’t store your iCloud images locally, this is a bit trickier: you can use the external drive method to export portions of your library to an external drive, then sync that drive to your preferred online backup service, but it’s a bit more labor-intensive. In general, this is why I tend to recommend backing up your full library to your Mac or storing a library on an external drive.

Did you discover some new How to back up your iCloud Photo Library that I hadn’t discussed here?

Let us Know in they comment below!

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