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New macOS bug can devour hard drive space when importing iPad and iPhone photos

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A rather annoying new bug has been found that affects macOS Catalina and the built-in Image Capture app, which can cause a Mac’s hard drive to fill up alarmingly fast.

As the team behind the NeoFinder digital media organizer app have discovered, a bug in Image Capture means when you copy your photos over from an iPhone or iPad, the app also creates empty data files that can clog up your hard drive.

When using the app to copy over photos, they are usually saved in a HEIF format. However, if you uncheck 'Keep originals', Image Capture converts those files to the more common (and smaller) JPG file type.

While this is supposed to help save disk space, the bug appears to be doing the complete opposite.

What’s going wrong?

The issue seems to be that after converting the file, the Image Capture tool in macOS Catalina for some reason adds 1.5MB of empty data to each image – increasing their file size unnecessarily.

Looking at a converted photo in a hex editor, the NeoFinder team found that there’s a section that’s filled with zeroes – essentially empty data.

And, while an extra 1.5MB doesn’t sound huge, if you have a large photo collection, that can soon amount to a lot of wasted space. Having 1,000 files, for example, would result in 1.5GB of space lost.

With some MacBooks coming with only 128GB of storage space, this could end up being a very annoying problem.

NeoFinder claims that Apple is aware of the bug, but there’s been no news on when a fix may come. We’ve reached out to Apple ourselves to find out more.

For the time being, you can avoid the issue by not using Image Capture to import your photos.

Via 9to5Mac