My wife and I use iPhoto to store our 40,000-odd family photos and movies. The pictures range from memorable (our wedding, the birth of our child) to questionable (1,400 shots of the cats). My wife is the real power user of these digital memories; she organizes them into albums to share with friends, prints up photo books, and occasionally just sits down to watch a few home videos. To her, these photos are priceless.
This is why there was some consternation the other day, when she got home from work and I told her the bad news: our hard drive had suddenly failed and was completely dead. "But no problem," I told her. "This is why we do backups." In theory, it should be so simple. Restore the iPhoto library from our Time Machine backup, and launch iPhoto. In practice, this is not what happened.
The iMac was resuscitated with a new hard drive (and logic board -- it's a long story), OS X was installed, and all data was put back via Time Machine and Setup Assistant. So far so good. But when we eagerly launched iPhoto, it quickly came up with a message about updating thumbnails, displayed a progress bar, and became unresponsive. After a couple hours it finished and everything seemed ok until I clicked on the Faces item in the sidebar. The corkboard and face tiles appeared, but instead of a grid of faces smiling at me, each tile was completely black. Double clicking empty faces did display the photos belonging to that face, but the faces themselves were gone.
This didn't bother my wife, who thinks that feature is lame. But it scared me, because it made me worry that our ~450 GB photo library had somehow became corrupt. I spent most of a day researching how to recover from this issue, tried many different things, and restored parts of the library from backup after each attempt failed. In the end, it was a simple but time-consuming fix.
To resolve the black faces issue, I had to launch iPhoto several times while holding down both the option (alt) and command keys simultaneously. This brings up the Photo Library First Aid window, from which you can choose various items which will hopefully repair the library.
|iPhoto's First Aid window|
Did the database repair enable the thumbnails to be rebuilt, or did the thumbnails just need to be rebuilt several times? I'll never know, but I thought I'd mention it here in case it can help someone else (I did read on Apple's discussion board that you may need to perform the thumbnail rebuild several times before it works).
All's well that ends well. Our photos are recovered, my wife's happy again, and I can stop sweating bullets.