How to Rebuild Thumbnails in a Photos Library

by:  léonie
Last modified: Dec 16, 2018 9:39 AM
Rating: 5 out of 5
15 12 likes 28,084 views Last modified Dec 16, 2018 9:39 AM

Occasionally the thumbnails in the Browser may not correspond to the enlarged image, or the thumbnails may appear to be corrupted, but the enlarged image is fine. While iPhoto and Aperture have a tool to recreate the thumbnails, such a tool is missing in all versions of Photos from Photos 1.0 to Photos 4.0.

We can use this simple workaround to fix the thumbnails: To rebuild the thumbnails edit them slightly, so Photos will be forced to render new thumbnails. This is best done by rotating the photos back and forth, because rotating by 90° degrees is non-destructive and can be applied to multiple photos at once without having to open the Edit window for each photo individually.

  • Select all photos that need new thumbnails at once - it does not matter if the selection includes photos that do not need repairing.
  • Then rotate the selected photos back and forth by first pressing ⌘R (Image > Rotate Counterclockwise) and then back by ⇧⌘R (Image > Rotate Clockwise).

This may not suffice, if your photos are RAW photos and the corrupted thumbnails are caused by a difference in RAW processing. In that case try to reprocess the RAW files:

  • Double-click a photo in your Photos library to open it, click Edit in the toolbar, then choose Image > Reprocess RAW.

Before applying this fix I'd repair the Photos library, just in case there are other hidden corruptions. Only, if your library is an iCloud Photo Library wait with repairing as the last resort. Repairing will result in uploading the complete library again and comparing the photos to iCloud. You may not want to have that happen on a slow Wi-Fi.

To repair the Photos Library:

  • Make a backup copy of the iPhoto Library.
  • Hold down the key combination alt/options key and command key ⌥⌘ while double clicking the Photos icon.
  • Click the "Repair" button and repair the library.

This may take a while for a large library.

Update: There is now an Apple Support Document describing this fix: Fix missing or incorrect thumbnails in Photos - Apple Support

Update 2: The link above does currently not work. The document has been removed for all language versions.