Running out of SSD space on laptop (primary & only Mac). What to do?

My laptop is running out of disk space. Mostly because of photos, (my Photos library is 180GB on a 512GB SSD, plus I have photos taken with the “big” camera outside of the Photos library).

I want to keep “download originals” on for the Photos library so my photos are backed up to Time Machine & Backblaze. I also don’t want to be permanently attached to some external drives as I like to use my laptop as a laptop out of the house sometimes.

So other than TJ’s laptop expansion from MPU #515 what are my options?

I’ve thought about putting the Photos library on an external drive, but:

  • if I do that what happens when that drive isn’t attached and the computer tries to download photos that I took on my phone?
  • If my Photos library is on an external drive, is there a way to work with recent photos, or some sort of temporary library while I’m detached from that drive?

Purchase more storage space on iCloud
On your Mac:
Photos > Preferences > iCloud: Select Optize Mac Storage.

The OP said that they want the Originals on their mac.

What are your options to have a larger SSD installed in your Laptop. What Laptop are you using? Model, year, current configuration?

Yeah you can’t have it both way’s, either save space by utilizing iCloud or install a larger drive if possible.

It’s a late 2013 15-inch MBP with a 512GB SSH, so larger SSD is impossible, I believe, (Isn’t the SSD soldered-on or something in these)?

The problem with iCloud is that if I start using the “Optimize Storage” option, then that’s the only copy of most of my photos. If I have a local copy then they end up in other backup locations too.

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That’s the model with an SD card slot, you can get little micro SD card adapters that when inserted are flush with the side of the machine so they can remain in place all the time.

That paired with a large MicroSD card should buy you some time.

I assume you bought it in 2013, but which model year was it. Can you post a screenshot of your “about this mac” page?

If it’s the mid 2012 model, you can fit a standard SSD in there so for just over £100 Crucial will sell you a 1TB SSD. Much cheaper and simpler than other models.

Also if its a Laptop with a DVD Drive, if you don’t use it, you can buy an adaptor, remove the DVD and replace it with a secondary HDD,so you may be able to put 2 x SSDs in the same machine.

I’d check with OWC / MacSales to see what upgrades are possible, because I think you might be able to upgrade that SSD.

(I don’t think my option is that bad!)

It’s a late 2013 model. I bought it in 2014.

Thanks to @tjluoma’s tip, I just checked OWC and, according to them, I can replace the SSD. I’ll pop open the bottom to make sure, but the info is probably accurate.

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That works, except I use the SD slot. I guess I could use my USB card reader though, and drop a big microSD in there.

You wouldn’t always need to keep it in there, you could un-mount, remove it, use the SD slot for something else briefly then re-insert the “additional storage”.

To be fair, it’s not the most elegant solution, replacing the internal drive as others have suggested is probably the ideal approach for a long term solution. If you don’t like the idea of the MBP being opened up or just want to keep it ticking over till a complete new machine is viable, then this might buy you that time. The other issue with it is I doubt the speed will be that fast either. If you’re just using it for storage rather than a working area it might suffice though.

You might also find this link useful, you can have multiple photo libraries, doesn’t look like you can easily move photos between them without doing an export & import process but it could allow you to have an “archive” library on external media and a “current” library on the internal drive:

Do note the section about moving photos to an external drive, that seems to suggest that you can only have one library sync’ing with iCloud.

When you say you want to use the MBP ‘out the house’ is that well away from the house or in the garden & in still in wifi range? Is some sort of NAS storage an option?

I knew about multiple libraries, but hadn’t thought of that as a potential solution. Maybe I’ll made a second, test, library to see if both sync to iCloud or only one, (I also suspect only one).

“out of the house” means out of wifi range: coffee shop, the in-laws, that kind of thing.

I’ve looked at a NAS, but they all seem pretty expensive, and then I can’t use Backblaze. Something that would be great about a NAS is that I could have my Time Machine volume there and not worry about mounting/unmounting USB all the time, which would be awesome. I think if I was going to buy some sort fo NAS, I would just go the Mac Mini server route and hang a bunch of external drives off the back of it.

I have no problem opening up my MBP, (I’d love it if it was more tinker-able, like the pre-unibody ones were), so I’ll probably end up replacing the SSD. I had been debating upgrading to the new 16-inch, as this computer is not young, but it still works, pretty well actually, and got a new battery and display a year ago, so a new SSD seems like the most responsible option.

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Some NAS’s often have software & services that allows you to access them from anywhere but then you get into issues of bandwidth & charges etc. I believe that backblaze’s b2 service works with a NAS though again, this is an expensive option (the pricing structure is per TB). I’d also caution about using as NAS for Time Machine, network time machine backups tend to be quite fragile and corrupt themselves with relative ease meaning you have to start over. I’ve got 2 TM backups going, one to a NAS & one to a USB drive which I plug in every few days to update.

To be fair, from all that you’ve said, I’m inclined to agree that a new SSD is likely your best solution here.

I installed a 1TB Feather drive in the comparable system. See some of the discussion in this thread. After I installed it, the drive would force a reboot twice any time I opened the clamshell or unplugged the power cord. After consulting tech support more recently, I had to turn off hibernation mode and something else. Now, the drive is stable, albeit with greater power demand.

I have reservations to recommend Fledging based on my experiences. They may have improved their product line in the meantime.

In short, you can increase the internal SSD to whatever size you want.

Should you change out the SSD, I also recommend to do a clean install of the OS. In my case, I also partitioned the 1TB into a 750 + 250 split. The 250 stores lots of cruft that I use to create DevonThink databases for review. You could do the same with your photo library. The approach might afford you a clearer path to do backups and archives as well.

You also mention a debate about buying a new 16in. I am on the same decision point. You may want to consider where you will send this machine should you buy the new 16in. It may be better to purchase an external SSD that can transition with you to the new machine than to buy an internal SSD that will be “given away” in a year or so.

And, should rumors prove to be true, you could always consider this option at some point in the future for less than the price of the new MBP.


Only one will. You have to tell Photos which is the primary library for iCloud to use.

To my knowledge iCloud only synchronizes with a Photos library on the internal drive that also has the macOS.


Short update on the Fledgling drive.