Can I speed up iCloud photo sync between iPhone and Macbook?

by Pekka 웃   Last Updated October 09, 2019 15:12 PM

I have an iPhone 5 running iOS 9.1 and a Macbook Pro running Yosemite.

Both devices are set up to sync photos to and from iCloud.

When I take a photo on the iPhone (for further processing on the Macbook), it takes an inordinate amount of time until the photo shows up in the Macbook's photos library - sometimes up to 10-20 minutes. Sometimes it seems to work faster if I quit the Photos app on both devices, and start it again.

I often end up sending myself photos through E-Mail because it's quicker. That seems ridiculous!

Is there a way to force a sync on the iPhone, or to speed up the process some other way?

Answers 4

I've an iPhone running 9.2 and MBP running El Cap (Photos v1.2). I do the following:

  1. Open Photos on my MBP and let it stabilize (finish its startup processing).
  2. Take a photo(s) on my iPhone.
  3. View the photo(s) on my iPhone -- even just popping into and out of the app is enough to ensure the sync process has started.
  4. Return to my MBP, and the photo(s) appear there, usually within 2 minutes.

The syncing of the photo on OS X corresponds with the process photolibraryd jumping to the top of my process list, as viewed in Activity Monitor. I think the key is to have Photos open and switching into Photos on iOS -- the latter step signals the app that you have stopped taking photos and it's safe to start the sync. More experimentation is obviously needed, for example, I've not yet been able to see if photolibraryd runs on a periodic schedule, or if some other process signals it that there is new data in the cloud that needs to be sync'd.

December 16, 2015 14:10 PM

No, unfortunately the process is completely automated and no "force sync" exists, you simply have to wait.

Obviously understand that your iPhone needs to be on Wi-Fi (and the faster this is the better) for the sync to iCloud to happen. Photo app sync doesn't happen over 3G / 4G.

For me this process is lightning quick - I take a photo on my iPhone 6S and within seconds my Photo's are updating through iCloud. Now, I should point I'm checking the upload through and not the Photo's app but you could do the same to check if at least the iPhone is getting the shots up quickly and whether the slow down is between iCloud and your Mac.

December 16, 2015 14:57 PM

When you take a photo from your iPhone, switch to the Photos app. At the very bottom of the Photos tab, you should immediately see the indicator Uploading…

If your MacBook is plugged in to a power source and/or has the Photos app open, it will download photos as soon as they are in iCloud.

Both your devices need to be connected to Wi-Fi for the aforementioned to occur.

The key is for you to open the Photos app on your iPhone. It used to upload as soon as you connected to Wi-Fi (possibly only if you had sufficient battery), but as of iOS 9 that no longer appears to be the case. I’m guessing this was done to keep from eating up your bandwidth while you may be doing something else.

If you don’t open the Photos app, your iPhone will upload new photos if it is connected to a power source and locked, and it has sufficient battery.

Update: Starting with iOS 10, I am once again seeing immediate uploads of photos from my iPhone when connected to Wi-Fi, whether I’m using the phone or not, and whether connected to a power source or not (might still need to be above 50% battery). Low power mode should be turned off too.

August 25, 2016 17:43 PM

You absolutely can speed up iCloud photo sync. can run on most any Mac and act as a caching server.

Once you've set up the caching server, you can opt in to caching your iCloud data (encrypted and secured) on the local server which in my experience greatly increases the download time from iCloud to a device.

I haven't experienced any upload delays of more than a few minutes lately, but that might also be affected by the caching server and wireless sync peer to peer if you update the iOS and mac OS devices.

August 25, 2016 18:50 PM

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