Photos missing in iCloud, only thumbnails available locally – can I extract the thumbnails?

I have around 1700 photos that I’ve discovered are missing from my iCloud storage. (These are family/baby photos that we desperately don’t want to lose.)

When I try to download the photos from iCloud to Photos I get the following error:

iPhoto Download Error

I can see full-screen thumbnails in the Photos app (and they mostly look to be a decent resolution) but when trying to export/share the file it must be looking for the original and gives this error:

iPhoto Export Error

Is there any way to export the thumbnails from the Photos app? I’ve had a look through the SQLite database file and can’t see any blob data that could be thumbnails, although I may have missed it.

I’m hoping someone has a better idea than just taking screenshots of each photo individually, which is the only option I can think of right now.

Answer

Unfortunately you are looking in the wrong place.

By default the Photos.app (macOS Catalina) stores everything in redundantly named “Photos Library.photoslibrary” usually kept in the ~/Pictures folder.

If you right(or control) click on the .photoslibrary file and select Show Package Contents it will open a new finder window. I have my Finder set to display columns but the thumbnails are all stored in one place:

Thumbnails location

Once inside the .photoslibrary package file they are in:

iPod Photo Cache/FXX/T####.thmb

As above. There are not real big or very high resolution but they are something.

Attribution
Source : Link , Question Author : mmldrm , Answer Author : Steve Chambers

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