How to backup or transfer photos from your Android phone to the cloud or desktop computer

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Smartphones make for great point-and-shoot camera replacements, which means many people use their phones exclusively to take all of their photos and keep up with memories. The problem with that is that phones can easily get lost or stolen, SD cards can go bad or any number of things that can cause you to lose months or years of pictures unexpectedly. In this guide, we’re going to go over how to backup your pictures, just in case you run into some data loss down the road.

Option 1 – Backup to your PC

The quickest way to backup your pictures is to connect your device to your computer and copy your photos, but it can be a little confusing to find exactly where your photos are at on your device. Many Android devices have internal storage and an SD card slot, so there can be two possible locations for it, and there’s tons of folders in both locations, especially if you have tons of apps. If you know what you’re looking for, it’s not too hard to navigate, and that’s where this guide comes in.

First things first, connect your phone to one of your computer’s USB ports with your USB cable. If you’re using Windows, you’ll see a new device show up in the left pane of Windows Explorer, around where your hard drive is listed. Some models require a driver or software to be installed in order to see the internal storage. If so, just follow the prompts to install it.

photo backup 1

If you do have a device that has both internal storage and an SD card, you’re going to see two locations listed in your device. “Card” will be the SD card inserted in the phone, obviously, and “Phone” will be the phone’s internal storage. Most people tend to store photos on the SD card so it’s easier to move photos between devices, but either option works. Open up whichever storage you use to hold your pictures, and you’ll be able to see every file and folder that’s stored in it. For this example, we’re going to use the SD card because it’s less likely to be cluttered with folders from apps, but if you’re using your phone’s internal storage to hold your photos, it’s not uncommon to see dozens of folders here. You’re going to want to find the folder labeled DCIM. (Digital Camera IMages)

photo backup 2

Opening your DCIM folder can show a few different folders, but you’re going to want the Camera folder. Open it to make sure all of your photos and videos are in it. Now we need move you stored pictures to your computer’s hard drive for backup. The easiest way to do this is to go back to the root of the DCIM folder (where you can see the Camera folder instead of the individual photos) and right-click and copy that entire Camera folder. Then, find a suitable place to backup your photos, which could be in your Photos library or just your desktop, and right-click and paste the folder. The copy process might take a few minutes depending on how many photos you have, but after it’s done you’ll have two copies of your photos in both places.

If you primarily take photos in other apps, such as Instagram, the photos may not be stored in the DCIM/Camera folder. Most apps will store photos in a Pictures folder, so for Instagram you would look for an Instagram folder inside the Pictures folder on your device storage. Aside from that, however, the copy/paste process is identical.

Dropbox-Logo

Option 2 – Cloud Backup

Connecting your phone to your computer to backup photos is an easy way to keep your memories safe, but it’s still a hassle to connect your device to your computer and manually move everything over. It also isn’t a feasible solution for someone that uses something like a Chromebook or tablet for their primary computer. Fortunately, you can use Dropbox’s fantastic app to automatically keep your photos backed up to the cloud, no cables involved.

If you already use Dropbox to frequently store files in their cloud, setting up Dropbox to automatically sync your photos is a piece of cake. If you don’t have a Dropbox account, you can get a free account and get 2 GB of space to store your photos, which, for most people, is way more than enough storage.

First things first, if you don’t already have the Dropbox application, you can grab it off of Google Play. It’s a free app, so no worries there. You can either sign into your current account or create one. During the initial setup, Dropbox will prompt you to setup your automatic photo backups. You can choose to either upload photos on your data connection and WiFi, or only WiFi. For most people with a data cap, sticking to WiFi uploads is the best option as Dropbox uploads photos immediately after taking them. If you snap a few dozen photos, you can burn through quite a bit of data in a short time without realizing it, and this is doubly true for videos. There’s also an option to go ahead and upload your current photos and videos on your device to Dropbox. Another cool aspect of the photo backup is that your first photo upload gets you an extra 500 MB of free storage space, so you’ll come in close to 2.5 GB total space.

If you already use Dropbox but don’t have the camera upload turned on, you can find the option to turn it on in the settings menu. It walks you through setup just like a first-time user, and you’ll still get your extra 500 MB for your first upload.

All of your uploaded pictures and videos are stored in a Camera Uploads folder in your Dropbox account, which can be accessed from the Dropbox app or any web browser from any device. You can even install the Dropbox desktop application and all your photos will be automatically copied to your desktop/notebook. You will find a Dropbox folder under your username folder (PCs) which always be in sync with the Dropbox website. Once you photos are copied to Dropbox, you can delete them from your phone if you wish. You can also move photos into Dropbox’s Public folder to easily share them with your friends and family, which is a great tool for those of you that are heavily dependent on social networking sites.

The downside to using Dropbox’s Camera Upload is obviously the data usage and battery usage. It’s not a huge battery drain, but naturally the more often your device has to wakeup to upload something, the more effect it’s going to have on your battery. If you don’t mind giving up a bit of battery for the extreme convenience Dropbox offers, though, it’s a great tool to use.

Obviously, Dropbox isn’t the only cloud storage solution for backing up your pictures, but in my opinion, it is easiest to access and effective way. Google offers photo backups through Google+, but they can’t be access in Google Drive the same way Dropbox allows you to from your desktop. Any other cloud service like Box or SkyDrive could also be theoretically used to backup your photos, but they won’t be as automatic as Dropbox.

There are also options for simply moving files around your WiFi network for photo backups, too. For simplicity, though, Dropbox and the direct PC connection are your two best options.

» See more articles by Jared Peters


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  • Donatzsky

    There are a number of alternatives to Dropbox for automatic cloud backup: Wuala and Hubic both have it while also giving more free space and, in the case of Wuala, better security and syncing options.

  • http://MyShocker.com Nudo

    You can upload to Google Plus, unlimited storage. Only catch: the pics are around 4MP, which is more than appropriate for sharing on the web. For professionals who want more than 4MP, they offer 15 GB Free in Google Drive/Plus/Gmail, and low cost upgrades from there. I find it superior to Dropbox in every way.

  • touchfree photo homesync

    TouchFree Photo HomeSync is an android app for automatic backup of photos to PC

  • calinere

    Hey, thanks for sharing your method, and i also find iPubsoft Android Manager helpful for transfering photos from Android phone to computer!

  • Philippa drake

    I need help to transfer my photos to my samsung galaxy ace phone. My photos are on my computer in google drive format. Does anyone know?

  • jassmin

    When I open the DCIM folder I only see one folder, “thumbnails.” When I try to open any of them, I get “invalid image.”

  • tan

    Help please! I use the instagram app to edit my pics but then I exit out before sharing them. My Samsung 3 saves all these pics in my gallery. Now I want to print my pics on a poster but because I haven’t shared them they are not on my instagram profile. Is there a way to transfer them onto my profile?

  • Paul

    Dropbox Camera Uploads auto saves files from Screenshots and pictures you download from Facebook. It includes any files in sub-folders which you create. However, it renames all the files according to the date and jumbles them up! They are no longer in their original folders. Files from Downloads and Photos which were downloaded from your camera are not backed up at all. Also your documents, such as PDF’s, are ignored.

    Google+ only seems to back up pictures inside the DCIM folder. Files under Downloads, Photos or Screenshots are not. I would love to have somone tell me I am wrong. Is there a better cloud auto backup and sync’ing solution?

  • Cynthia’s

    I lost my phone(android) is there any way I can back up the pix currently on it through a desktop before someone deletes all my stuff?

  • Diane

    Every time I switch my phone on, my photo’s are being wiped. I’ve lost a bunch of them. Where did they go and how can I stop this from happening? The photos are on my phone for a reason, that’s where I want them.

    • Rosie

      Did you ever find them? This is happening to me.

  • Diane

    Have discvered them in ‘my files’ DCIM. When I try to create a folder, it states the ‘my files activity’ is not responding.

  • Simona

    i have more then 1600 picture on my phone but when i try to transfer them only 1500 are showing on the pc, how can i get the rest of the pictures?
    Thanks

    • Sunny

      it may be in your whatsapp folder or some other folders

  • BigMuscleWoman

    I would love to see the video, however, it is posted as private.

  • Lynn

    Hi, I have the same problem as Simona. I have more than 2000+ pictures in my photo album and another 2000+ pictures in my whatsapp folder. But only 1500 of both are shown on my pc. Any way to solve that problem? I think it might be a limit issue with the pc. How can I get around that and show the rest of the picture?
    Thanks!