Struggle with removing photos from iCloud without deleting them

I thought that the location of all of my photos was on my MacBook but recently I got the message that my iCloud storage was full.

I really thought that everything was setup without photos being stored to iCloud because I knew that photos would fill up this storage.

Possibly something got messed up when I transferred photos from my old phone to the MacBook.

When I go to I see that all of my photos are stored there.

When I click on the photos app and from the top menu choose photos and settings I choose the iCloud tab. When I look at this it is unchecked leading me to believe that I am not using iCloud storage. There is a greyed out option to download photos to my device which I am thinking I want to do. If I click on the iCloud Photo storage option it brings up a pop up window for me to upgrade my iCloud storage to a pay per month which I don’t want to do, and I have no clue why it even pops up. This ends up being a dead end.

There is another location in which I can remove my photos from the iCloud. When I click on it I get a warning that if those photos aren’t backed up that they will be lost. It suggests to download these photos to the device from settings, which apparently is not possible.

It is possible that the photos already are stored on my MacBook, and that if I just delete all of the photos on the iCloud that everything might be fine. Is there a way that I can verify this? If they don’t fully physically reside on my MacBook my next dilemma will be in how to download these photos fully to my MacBook/

In macOS System Settings, click on your name/Apple ID and then on iCloud.

There you can see which iCloud services are being used from the Mac. If you then click on Photos you can see a toggle switch.

I believe if you turn that off, it will stop syncing with iCloud and leave your photos exactly where they are on the Mac. But I haven’t touched that setting in years, so unless someone else chimes in with an agreement that’s the way, I recommend having a backup.

Note that iCloud is a sync service. If you delete a photo from any device, you are deleting it from every device.


I think that you likely are correct.

Not understanding fully how the MacBook Photos works one point of confusion is that I am not sure how to verify that the photos and videos have size to them. If they do I believe I could safely remove the photos from iCloud.

If the Mac had “Optimize Mac storage” set in Photos > Settings > iCloud before you turned off iCloud sync, it’s likely most of the photos are NOT on the Mac. If you had Download originals to this Mac set, then there’s a good chance (but not 100%) they are downloaded to the Mac. I don’t know how to do what you’re trying to do in Photos itself but I’m the author of a command line tool, osxphotos, that can help with this. Install it per the instructions then you can run this command in the Terminal:

osxphotos query --missing --not-shared --add-to-album "Missing" --quiet

This will find all photos missing from the Mac (that aren’t in shared albums…those are likely missing anyway as they’re not cached on the Mac) and add them to the album “Missing”. If there are photos here you want to download you’ll have to download them manually from iCloud or use something like iCloud Photos Downloader tool.

osxphotos has a number of other useful tools like an export command that might be helpful in your situation. See the documentation.


I did see that download originals to this Mac was checked.

I also was able to find that the size of my photo library which exceeded the size of my iCloud Photos.

I decided to disconnect my photos from the iCloud and it appears that I am keeping everything that was expected and losing my ipad photos which is alright.