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


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.


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.

About the Author: Jared Peters

Born in southern Alabama, Jared spends his working time selling phones and his spare time writing about them. The Android enthusiasm started with the original Motorola Droid, but the tech enthusiasm currently covers just about everything. He likes PC gaming, Lenovo's Moto Z line, and a good productivity app.

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • 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?

  • jane

    how do I transfer “auto back up” pictures to the drop box?

  • Tracy

    I would like to transfer photos from Samsung 3 to Samsung Tablet. Can someone please tell me how to do it? Thanks in advance

    • amir hosein Nafar

      I just wanted backup image my child to the hospital milad name. for 3 week later.

  • Kellie

    My kid reset my phone back to factory settings. I have all my photos on my google account…. HOW DO I GET THEM BACK TO MY PHONE?????

    • shasta


  • Abbie Howard

    My phone got stolen. I did not back up mh photos that I am aware of. Is there any way I could get them back?
    Samsung s3

  • lsvolppgg

    I searcch in google about how to backup and transfer android phone data to pc,I found a powerful tool – Samsung Messages Backup software.

  • Robin Sanchez

    How do I get pics from either drive, photos, or cloud to my gallery?

  • Michelle Read

    DO NOT store your photos on google drive!! If you don’t get them back before you buy a new device, you can kiss them goodbye :(

    years ago when I purchased I new Verizon Android, I was forced to sign
    up for Google backup for my contacts and photos. For two years all of
    my pictures were stored online.

    I bought a new phone from T
    Mobile 3 weeks ago and was assured that all of my photos and contacts
    would transfer over on gmail. They never did.

    I have lost
    thousands of images and hundreds of contacts. I contacted Google (after
    Verizon and T Mobile) and I asked for my information to be preserved
    and returned.

    I was told by google that I would have to sue
    them to get it back. Seriously, they didn’t even offer me any other
    options. Never been SO pissed!

    I was also SHOCKED to find out
    that google can share or use any images that are on your phone. Why
    isn’t there more media coverage of these things? I am sure people
    would think about how their use their cameras allot differently!!

  • GavinStiven

    Try MobiKin Assistant for Android software. You can transfer photos from Android phone to computer easily.

  • Xkoiul

    Have a look at the powerful tool Assistant for Android, easy steps to transfer your photos from Android to a desktop computer. Also help backup your data to pc.

  • Karl Keyte

    Problem with these methods is that they cause the file dates to be lost. For example, in Android, photos are sorted by the “date modified” meta-data. When copying using the methods described, the “date modified” is reset to the date/time the file was copied and the “date created” is usually blank. There are a few tools to address this, but they require rooted phones. It’s all a bit of a problem because it should be very, very simple. Well – photo viewers (Gallery, etc.) should actually use the “photo taken” date rather than any of the file attribute dates.

    If anyone has a solution, please let me know!

    • Hopey Merithew

      I’m having this issue right now and it’s driving me crazy! Even moving the sd card from one device to another changes most of the dates, but if I put it back in the original phone the dates are great…about to throw both phones away!

  • Karl Keyte

    I installed the QuickPic app., which immediately offered to “fix” the photo dates. I let it go ahead with that and all was suddenly perfect – including video, etc. Did an amazing job. No root required.

    • http://JEF2D.COM JEF2D

      thanks for the tip. Was going crazy for a solution to this. Even if I don’t use the app as my main gallery I can just use the ‘Fix Date’ function in a folder and the photos are now in the correct order in all other places on my phone. Another thing it does have going for it as a gallery app is it shows more detailed EXIF data such as shutter speed, aperture, ISO and focal length

  • Gablkyt

    Coolmuster Android Assistant is an excellent transferring tool .Here is its features :
    1.Coolmuster Android Assistant enables you to backup almost every data type, contacts, videos, music, photos, messages,applications.
    2. It is compatible to almost every Android phone, Samsung, HTC, LG, Sony, Motorola, ZTE, LG, HUAWEI, Dell etc.
    3.Transferring process are simple that within only 3 steps, you can transfer data that you want .

  • Polskder

    I’d like to recommend Android Mobile Manager, this tool works well on file transfer between android and computer. Supported files include sms, contacts, music, photos and more.

  • Chalsea

    Ok so I’ll just start by saying that I’m not computer savvy at all.. With that being said I’ve transferred my photos from my camera roll from my Android to my laptop but cannot figure out how to get them from my cloud to my laptop… Can anyone help with this please???

    • Dave Hunter

      Hi Chalsea – did you ever get an answer? I have a new Windows 10 laptop and want to get all the photos from googles cloud onto it – at present stuffed

  • Peter

    I’m having trouble with Lyve….all my pics come with the (!). How can I transfer them back to my phones (galaxy)gallery ao I can print them? Thank you to anyone who can help me!!

  • Hiedi

    I have a Samsung S5, i have tried copying, moving & backing-up with all of the listed options, either way, my files and photos lost their date (timestamp).
    What can I do to keep the original date(s), other than doing so on the same date?

  • Joyce Scott

    If you have WhatsApp images to be copied to computer, Jihosoft WhatsMate will help you easy to copy WhatsApp photos from Android to PC. I have tried this tool to help me manage WhatsApp data on my Android phone. It’s really helpful.

  • Joyce Scott

    If you have WhatsApp images to be copied to computer, Jihosoft WhatsMate will help you easy to copy WhatsApp photos from Android to PC. I have tried this tool to help me manage WhatsApp data on my Android phone. It’s really helpful.

    • pratik boricha

      hey send me your whatsapp number

  • kishba

    I like to backup my android phone files to pc, and it often requires a tool to transfer data to desktop. If you need to transfer data from your phone to pc easily, you can have a try of the tool MobiKin Android Transfer, which allows you to transfer contacts, photos, texts to pc only with clicks.

  • Jesw

    If you need to transfer or backup data from your phone to pc, some professional data backup programs are good choices for you, like Titanium Backup and airdroid, they are popular backup tool. And this MobiKin Android Transfer app allows you to save a lot of time to transfer or backup text messages, contacts, photos, and other media files like videos, music files.

  • thisoldsoul

    difficult for me to find this answer on the web. I want to know what method is best for moving pics from my android gallery, to my computer BUT— I want to move FOLDERS, not individual pics. Named folders of pics as I have a lot of pics organized by folder. Would be hell to have them move individually

  • Barbara Cleveland

    Thank you. That was easy and took about 20 minutes. i plugged in, copied the photos to a file on my desktop, then imported them to my photo management software – made sure they were there – then unplugged. Then on my Android phone I went to Settings>Storage>SD card>Erase SD card. Then Settings>Storage>Internal Storage>Pictures,Videos and erased the images there.

  • Brevin Ratliff


    try with this TunesGo, transfer photos from Samsung Galaxy to your computer is so easy