Jan 042011

Note: a more recent article on this topic can be found at Keep your People Named by Checking this Box.

Q: If I re-install Picasa and delete the old database, what happens to all the face tagging? I have spent a lot of time getting my ~10,000 pictures or so all tagged with named faces. It appears to be rescanning. How can I get back my name tags?

Quite some time ago, I wrote an article called, “Picasa Tip: When your pictures get “All Messed UP”.  In it I wrote about the scary things that you see in Picasa when its database gets corrupted.  This used to happen quite regularly. It doesn’t happen so much anymore, but there are still times you need to re-install Picasa and rebuild its database.  And now, with face recognition there are more issues.

In the article I detailed 2 procedures for fixing the corruption.  1. Delete the Picasa2 folder or 2. Open Picasa while holding down Alt/Ctrl/Shift.  The Alt/Ctrl/Shift method has been removed – I’m not sure when.  The delete the folder technique still works, but it is not the officially recognized method for dealing with the problem.  The Official method is to uninstall Picasa and reinstall it.  It is important to realize that, when you uninstall Picasa, you have the choice of deleting the database.  If you say Yes – which you need to do if you have a corrupt database – you will be deleting an important part of the face recognition information.

Prevent Losing Name Tags by Synchronizing

If you use Google’s Contacts (e.g. for Gmail) and you have set the option in Picasa to ‘Sync with Contacts’, then you’re all set.  Picasa will be able to recreate your nametags.  This setting is located on the Tools Menu, People Manager. Read more about Sync’ing Name tags and Google Account contacts.  If you didn’t have that set, then you’ll need a backup of a Picasa file called contacts.xml.  Read on to understand why.

Saving Faces

The face recognition part of Picasa is a bit complex.  The information that says, ‘this picture includes a face’ is stored in the hidden picasa.ini file that is located in the same folder as the picture. Deleting the database will not touch this information – it’s in the picture folders. But, the information that says, ‘that face is Harry Jones’ is stored in a file called contacts.xml which is located in the user configuration/database folders for Picasa (e.g. )

The identity of the faces in your pictures is stored in the Contacts folder within the Picasa2 folder.  It’s a file called contacts.xml.  These folders are hidden – you need to turn on the ability to see hidden folders in order to see them.  From Windows Explorer: Tools, Folder Options, View, Advanced Settings, Show Hidden Files, Folders or Drives.

So – if you uninstall Picasa, and choose to ‘delete the database’, you will be deleting the entire Picasa2 folder, including the contacts.  When you re-install it, that PIcasa2 folder and database configuration gets rebuilt.  Picasa uses the information in the picasa.ini files in each folder in order to rebuild the database.  EXCEPT the identification of the people.  If you made a copy of your contacts.xml file before uninstalling – you can get that back by simply copying your backup and pasting it into the Picasa2 folder.

Saving Albums

When you create albums in Picasa, you are just building a list of pointers to the pictures you want to show in the album.  That list of pointers is kept in a set of configuration files located at:

The Picasa2Albums folder does not get deleted when you choose to delete the database upon Uninstalling Picasa.  So, when you reinstall, your albums should come right back.  I still make a backup copy of the Picasa2Albums folder just in case.

Step-by-Step Uninstall Picasa and Save Faces

To make sure this works as I say, I used my Netbook computer that has a few thousand pictures, 54 ‘Blue icon’ Albums, and 48 identified face albums.  It is not sync’ed to any Google account Contacts – all people were manually created in Picasa.  Here’s what I did:

  1. Backed up the contacts.xml file, Backed up the Picasa2Albums folder.
  2. Uninstalled Picasa.  I clicked on Start, All Programs and found the Picasa folder, there is an option there for ‘Uninstall Picasa.’  Be sure to say Yes to deleting the database as part of the uninstall.  Remember – the reason you’re probably doing this is that the database is corrupted!
  3. Re-installed Picasa.  Go to www.picasa.google.com and click the button to Download Picasa.  Then choose Run to install it.
  4. Opened Picasa and let it re-scan.  Choose, Scan My Pictures, My Documents, This can take a while – sometimes hours.
  5. Restored the Contacts.xml file.  This is the key to getting your faces back.  After step 4, I saw all 48 of my face albums listed, but each face was labeled <Unknown Person>  I copied the Contacts folder that I backed up in step 1, and pasted it into the Picasa2 folder.  Nothing happened immediately, but when I looked again after about 15 minutes People’s names were starting to show up.  I left it alone all night and when I looked in the morning, all my faces had names.
  6. Note: my albums all came back in step 4.  I didn’t have to do anything.  The Picasa2Albums folder was still in the location where it had always been.

This tip brought to you by Geeks on Tour

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Members may want to view the following tutorial videos.  Not a member?  Join now.

People Albums: Viewing Faces or Entire Picture

Naming faces

Using Tags aka Keywords


  14 Responses to “Saving Faces When you Re-Install Picasa”

  1. I have windows 7 and picassa 3.9.137 and spent several weeks scanning my computer. Tagged about 900 faces and scanned about 10,000 pictures. Suddenly , the people tags have switched around in a given picture. The tag list is correct partially but when I put the mouse on the faces, the names are not correct, i.e. the person on the left, has the name of the person in the center, the person in the center has the name of the person in the top right corner etc…..Very scary to see the work of many weeks and hours go up in the air. I tried your method “Ctrl+shift+alt” but I got the choices of “” Delete the databse” or “dont delete the database” !!! I got scared to click on “delete the database”. If I do , will I loose all the face tags ( 900??)??
    Please help
    Thank you and Happy forth

  2. Hi Chri and Jim

    You guys are wonderful. This is the best site I have seen on making Picasa do all the work when organising photos.

    Thank you so much
    Auckland, New Zealand

  3. thank you so much for your clear helpful answer!! it really worked!

  4. Note that the face tagging has changed significantly in 3.9, which now has an option to store the face positions AND names in the XMP tag area of the images themselves – though I don’t know if it would then use these to recreate the people folders after a complete rebuild. Also, an upgrade from 3.8 to 3.9 messed up many of my face tags, and in the end I wiped the database AND all the picasa.ini files and retagged all the faces from scratch. On the plus side, the face matching now seems much better, with far fewer “spurious faces” being found in patteredn backgrounds etc..

  5. I am trying to use Picasa on 2 computers, but with only one networked drive containing the pictures. I use my desktop to find, tag, geotag, etc., the photos, then use my netbook to show pictures to people. I started with a fresh install of picasa, copied the contacts folder from the desktop into the netbook, and then started to add a folder at a time to the netbooks list. Do I need to have the face recognition and suggestions turned on in the netbook, or will it read the info in the .ini files I have already created using the desktop? Thanks for the help.

    • Did you ever get this to work across computers? I’d like to set up a similar network driver solution for all my photos and faces.

      • Yes, I have made it work in network. You have to put all photos in a root folder and assign a letter P: for example.

        And in all computers you have to assign letter P: to the same location. Then map the picasa2 folder to networked picasa2 folder using symlink process.

  6. I had high hopes for this solution (thanks for providing so much great info on this product by the way), but it’s not working for me. I have a Mac and a Windows 7 machine, both running Picasa 3. I’m trying to migrate everything over to the PC. I configured the Mac to sync with my Gmail account, and when I do the same on the PC, I get some of the nametags but not all. When I look in the folders it seems I have 3 .ini files in some of them, each with slightly different names (using the computer name mixed in with .picasa.ini in 2 cases, and just .picasa.ini for the third)

    MDMP is the name of my Mac and HDX27 the name of my PC. I tried tagging some new faces to see which files are getting updated, but alas, none of them are. So I moved pics to NEW folders using Picasa’s “Move to new Folder” command, and both the Mac and the PC create .picasa.ini files, yet the name tags aren’t coming up on the PC.

    Any thoughts?

  7. I am not that computer savy I have used picasa for a long time. Suddenly my files are continuously reinventing themselves and won’t stop. I thought it may have something to do with the face thing. any ideas. It just keeps going. thanks sue

  8. So, I have opened the xml file. It is not hard to copy the text inside it. Here comes the question.
    what if I take the file from different PC and cut the text and if I paste the test into second PSs contacts.xml file, Will it be merged?
    If now, how can we merge the face recognitions settings from 2 or more computers?

  9. Thanks for your notes on the contacts.xml file.

    I had restored my backup, opened Picasa and some of the photos were scanning already. I closed Picasa, copied the Contacts folder into the application folder, and then opened Picasa again. It seems like any newly found people who were in my contacts got their name identified, but all others who were previously found stayed in . I picked one of these people and manually compared the id numbers in a picasa.ini file to those in the contacts.xml file and they looked the same, but Picasa was just not picking them up.

    To fix this, I went to Add Folder and removed all folders from Picasa scanning. I restarted Picasa, checking that the contacts folder was in place, and the main screen comes up with “No photos” – good. I then went to Add Folder again and added my restored folder of photos. This essentially starts a fresh scan from scratch. This time, it recognized all the faces and named them properly according to the names in the contacts.xml file. Note, I never logged in to my Gmail account for contacts. I have identified children in the Picasa faces and they don’t have phones or email accounts, so my Gmail contacts would not have helped. The contacts.ml file had all I needed.

    Fyi, I did this from Picasa on Windows to Picasa on Mac, but based on what I saw it should work for PC to PC or Mac to Mac. There aren’t any special file formats going on here.

    • Same here.

      I waited 3 days, but Picasa just recognized about 100 of 700 contacts – those 100 that it had recognized right after changing the xml-file.
      I keep the changed contacts.xml in place, cleared all folders from “Add folder to Picasa”, closed Picasa, opened it again, added the requited folders, had Picasa rescan everything…
      .. for now it seems that all contacts will be found.
      Up until now Picasa has found 400 contacts in 21% of the photos, so there is a good chance, it’ll find all.

      Thanks very much for this blog post. I’ve been searching for it for quite some time.

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