How to Back Up Google Photos to Your Computer

Backup Google Photos Computer Featured

Google Photos is one of the easiest ways to back up your digital snaps and keep them safe. Thanks to Google’s new Backup and Sync application for computers, you can now back up Google photos to your Windows PC or Mac automatically.

The desktop app for files and photos replaces the previous Drive app for Windows and Mac and syncs to Photos and Drive. This change was brought about because of the growing concerns by users over the confusing connection between Google Drive and Google Photos, so Google made changes to simplify the experience.

New photos and videos from Drive won’t show automatically in Photos, neither will those in Photos be added to the Photos folder in Drive. Moreover, any photos or videos you delete in Drive won’t be removed from Photos and vice versa. This helps prevent accidental deletion as was the case among some users prior to the new arrangement.

Backup and Sync works on any folder, which makes it possible to back up all your files from an SD card, USB drive, or the whole system if you like. It can also act as a redundant backup for files in other cloud storage platforms like OneDrive and Dropbox.

We’re going to show you how to use the new unified app to back up Google photos and download them to your Windows PC or Mac.

Set up Backup and Sync app

Before you download or back up photos to your computer, you first need to set up the Backup and Sync desktop app. To do this:

1. Go to google.com/apps.

2. Click the blue “Backup and Sync” button to download and install the app.

Backup Google Photos Computer Backup And Sync

3. Sign in to the Google Account you use for Google Photos.

Backup Google Photos Backup And Sync Sign In

4. Select “backup only photos or videos” or “all files” and click Next.

Backup Google Photos Backup And Sync Backup Options

5. Choose the folders you want to back up or store the Google photos to.

Backup Google Photos Backup And Sync Backup Folders

6. Select “upload size” under “Photo & Video upload size.” You can select either High Quality for a reduced file size at great quality, or Original Quality to keep the original photo’s size and resolution. The latter counts against your Google quota, which for the free version caps at 15GB.

Backup Google Photos Backup And Sync Backup Folders Image Quality

7. Click Start. This will upload files from the selected folder or folders to Google Drive. It may take some time depending on the number of photos you have to upload.

You’re all set. Backup and Sync will now continue to run on your computer, so your files are automatically backed up to Google Drive.

How to download Google photos to your computer

To download photos to your computer, take the following steps:

1. Go to the menu bar in macOS or Application tray in Windows and right-click the Backup and Sync icon (cloud with an arrow).

Backup Google Photos Backup And Sync Icon

2. Click the three vertical dots and select Preferences.

Backup Google Photos Backup And Sync Preferences

3. Select “Google Drive” from the left pane.

Backup Google Photos Backup And Sync Preferences Google Drive

4. Click “Sync My Drive To This Computer.”

Backup Google Photos Backup And Sync Preferences Google Drive Sync Drive To Computer

5. Select “Sync only these folders.” It’ll display a list of folders.

Backup Google Photos Backup And Sync Preferences Google Drive Sync Drive To Computer Sync Only These Folders

6. Select “Google Photos.”

7. Click OK.

The photos will now start downloading to your desktop on your computer. If you have many large photos, this process can take longer.

You can also download using your browser to a folder location on your desktop.

1. Go to Google Photos.

2. Select a photo or video.

3. Tap the three vertical dots or More menu.

4. Next, tap Download. This option won’t appear if the photo or video is already on your computer.

Were you able to back up and download Google photos to your computer? Tell us in a comment below.

Elsie Biage Elsie Biage

My passion has always been to share every bit of useful information I find on tech, with the ultimate goal of helping people solve a problem.

17 comments

  1. I’ve used Google Photos for about two years now. I don’t want every photo I’ve taken downloaded to my computer. Is there a way of only downloading new pictures I take?

  2. Had anyone been able to use this on Linux? I use Linux Mint. Installing with Wine did not work.

  3. As of 7/10/2019 Google Backup and Sync will not sync Google Photos to your PC as you described above.

  4. As already mentioned, as of the 10th July 2019 Google Backup and Sync will not sync Google Photos to your PC for any photos taken after that date as Google Photos no longer syncs with Google Drive. For me this is CATASTROPHIC as now all new photos will ONLY exist in Google Photos once they are deleted from my phones (or cameras which I also only usually sync with Google Photos). As far as I can tell there is now no easy way to backup the photos from Google Photos, apart from manually downloading periodically, which really sucks imo and is a massive step backwards. Also there is no physical address to which I can browse, they are just “in the cloud” under my login in Google Photos, so I have no idea where my photos actually are. This makes me feels very insecure about the safety of my pictures as Google will have the only copy in existence and I am extremely unhappy about this, and would feel a whole lot better if I could sync Google Photos back down to my pc, as was possible using Backup and Sync until the July change. My question to Google is WHY have they done this? I understand and support their want to simplify the Photos/Drive experience, but removing the ability to sync back to your pc is nonsensical.

    1. I totally agree. From how Google described the change, I guess the problem was that some people deleted photos from their computer/GDrive and were surprised that they were then deleted in Photos (or vice versa). So Google just stopped all the syncing and only allowed uploading (from computer to Photos).

      The better way to do this would’ve been to allow the user to control how Backup & Sync works in the app’s settings, using a schematic diagram with arrows showing how changes propagate: one-way arrows mean uploading/downloading without syncing, two-way arrows mean continuous syncing.

  5. My issue is simple, likely common to many, and yet I can’t find a clear answer: how do I copy my photos from photos.google.com on my computer to a hard drive connected by USB?

    1. The only way to get photos off of the photos.google.com web site is to download them individually, or to select a group and download them in a zip file. Click the “More Options” dots in the upper right corner for the download option, and select where you want them downloaded (or your browser will automatically put them in your downloads folder). That is it, there is no other way.

      This is a great article, unfortunately, it completely miss-represents the “new features” after July 10th. Files in Drive continue to sync, but new photos from Google Photos will never show up in Drive. Files do NOT sync from Photos TO your computer, it only backs up new ones to the Photos web site. I have been searching for alternatives for 3 months and have not found any that come close to the old functionality. Google Photos is now a dead-end photo backup service that is worthless for many users, as the photos only go into it and are difficult to get out. As soon as I find a better way to get pictures from my phone to my PC I will delete my google photos account and store them all in Drive.
      – such a waste

      1. Thanks, David Braun. You provide cogent points. I’m in the process of downloading zip files. Curious to see if they “unzip” properly, and if all of the images and data are available.

  6. For those looking for a backup solution for their Google photos library. I have developed a pretty decent solution which works on Windows/Linux/Mac. A little technical effort is required to set it up but after that, it is pretty seamless.

    It is based on the new Google Photos API.

    See https://github.com/gilesknap/gphotos-sync

  7. All – it’s really not that difficult (a bit time consuming). Here’s what I did – my photos went back to 2014. In the search bar, I entered a year, selected the first and then shift selected the last to select all. Then Shift D will start a download. The photos all get put in one zip file. I did this for each year up to 2020. Obviously, you’re not going to add photos for previous years. Then I put a calendar reminder that every six months, I’ll download the most current.

    1. That’s a good spot Jeff. I did try this a few moments ago while I’ve got a “Google Takeout” of everything running in the background. However, there’s a limit of 500 items at a time that can be downloaded. Just for the year 2006 I have 1022 photos so am estimating between 15,000 and 20,000 photos overall! I’m just going to wait for the “takeout” to complete.

      According to the Takeout page you get everything delivered in folders by year and you can determine the maximum size of each ZIP file it creates for you.

      Fingers cross this works as I really can’t be doing with more manual downloads!

  8. You can download all the photos using “Google Takeout” from your Google account settings. I’m doing this right now after struggling a few months ago to download literally years of photos ahead of a migration over to Office 365 with 1TB of storage for each of the family. I gave up once I’d dropped my storage down just below the maximum allowed for a free Google account.

  9. Hi John,

    1) Go to https://takeout.google.com/
    2) In the area labelled “Create new export” click “Deselect all”.
    3) Scroll down and find “Google Photos”.
    4) Tick the box to select it.
    5) Scroll to the bottom of the page.
    6) Click “Next step”.
    7) Choose a delivery method. I left it at “email” and have only just realised I could have had them delivered to OneDrive, Dropbox, Box etc. :-)
    8) Choose ZIP or TGZ file format.
    9) Choose file size. If you go too big you may find your computer struggles to unzip the files. Maybe turn off AV scanning when you do this but don’t forget to turn it back on!
    10) Download your files and unzip them.

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