Curating iCloud Photos

Why can’t Apple just synchronize our photo metadata via iCloud?

About a month ago I had to reinstall the operating system on my MacBook Pro. It took a few hours and after copying a few apps from the cloud, I was back up and running. No big deal, except now, nearly a month later, my computer is still “curating” my best photos, and asks me to “Leave device connected to power”.

The actual synchronization of the photos from iCloud took a few hours for just shy of 40,000 pictures and videos (about 360GB), this was fine, no complaints about that. But on the Years, Months or Days tabs in (Days is the default), it tells me that it is analyzing and curating my photos and not to unplug the laptop. Over the course of two days it had gotten to about 90% of the way through the progress bar, where it sat… for weeks.

This was on a fresh copy of macOS Big Sur, so the entire photo library was fresh from iCloud. I read how earlier operating system versions could get stuck on corrupt photos, but that’s shouldn’t be the case here. In the there are no enlightening messages from the, just things like [CuratedLibraryAnalysisStatus] Did transition to <private>.

By holding ⌘+⌥ (Command+Option) while launching you can choose to recover your photo library. I assumed after a month, nothing was happening anymore, so I tried that, but it just got me right back to the same spot again.

I don’t see the security benefit if we’re trusting Apple to store a copy of the actual photos in iCloud, why can’t we trust them to store a copy of the metadata from whatever device first analyzed the photo? Apple doesn’t need to do the processing, my device still can. It seems ridiculous that every new or restored device I connect to my account will be held hostage indefinitely redoing the photo analysis work… again.

Do Macs just always show the curation message and a progress bar in these days? Is there something corrupt in my iCloud photo library and I am just stuck with it forever now?