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Google Photos: how to back up photos from your phone, tablet

google photos
(Image credit: Google)

With the ever-increasing quality of smartphone cameras, most of us are taking more pictures than ever before. This means more memories and more stories to tell to our family and friends in the future. 

Better cameras also mean higher-quality pictures, which means more data space is required to store them. This partly explains why CD drives, USB sticks, or local hard drives have largely fallen out of fashion. They simply can’t hold all the photos we take in a time-efficient and affordable manner. However, there’s also another, more compelling explanation: they’ve been surpassed by cloud storage technology.

Cloud storage is now the most affordable and most effective way to store large amounts of photos and images online securely. Google Photos, part of the broader Google One ecosystem, is one of the best cloud storage platforms for storing multimedia. Google Photos plans are affordable, feature-rich, innovative, and easily scalable. 

In this article, we take you through the step-by-step process for backing up your photos on Google Photos across three types of devices: phone, tablet, and computer. After reading this how-to guide, you’ll be confident in backing up your photo library quickly and getting back to what’s most important: creating memories!

How to back up photos from your phone

The only thing to do here is to ensure you have downloaded the Google Photos app. On most Android devices, it is found on the Google Play store, while on an iOS device, it is located on the Apple App Store. There is no cost involved in downloading the app, so you can test out the system hassle-free before committing to a paid subscription.

Google Photos on the Play Store (Image credit: Google)

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Google Photos on the Apple App Store (Image credit: apple)

Once you’ve downloaded the app, log into your Google account, or create an account if you don’t have one. This is also free, and all users receive 15GB of complimentary storage space when creating an account. If any photos were previously tied to your Google account, they should appear automatically. 

If you’ve lost access to your Google account, follow the prompts to regain access or reset your password. 

When you first launch the Google Photos app, it will ask you to turn on automatic backup and syncing. Because you’re reading this article, we’ll assume you want to do this, so go ahead and follow the on-screen prompts. You’ll need to provide the app with certain permissions, such as access to your photo library. 

If you have previously launched the app and didn’t set up automatic backup and sync, you can activate it by going to the account control screen. To do this, click on your account icon in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

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Access your account setting by clicking on the icon in the top right-hand corner of the app (Image credit: Google)

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If you’ve previously turned backup off, you’ll need to turn it back on (Image credit: Google )

We now proceed to the next step, where there are several settings you might want to change depending on your personal preferences.

When setting up photo backup, you’ll need to make two key decisions. Firstly, you must decide whether to upload photos at their full resolution or in a reduced file size. If you choose full resolution, all images will count against your total storage allowance. If you choose the reduced resolution, you can store an unlimited number of photos, regardless of your storage allowance. If you plan on purchasing one of Google’s affordable high-capacity plans, we recommend uploading photos at full resolution, because why settle for second best when you don’t have to!

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Users must choose whether to upload at the original resolution or the reduced “high quality” size (Image credit: google)

You can also choose when to upload photos and videos. The default option is WiFi-only upload because this saves users from unexpected data charges. However, if your mobile plan provides you with large amounts of data, you can override this and upload photos and videos on both Wi-Fi and mobile networks. Unless you have an urgent need to upload content as soon as it’s taken, we think Wi-Fi-only upload is the most appropriate choice.

Users can also implement different settings for photo upload and video upload. For example, you can choose to upload photos over both Wi-Fi and mobile data but prevent videos from uploading until you connect to a Wi-Fi network.

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You can override the default settings and upload imaged over mobile data (Image credit: google )

Once you’ve made your decisions, click confirm and your photos will begin uploading. This is likely to take a long time, so move on at a leisurely pace to step three. 

After some time, your photos will have been uploaded to the Google servers. Congratulations, your phone’s photos are now securely available from any device connected to your Google account, and you can begin benefitting from Google Photos’ feature-rich platform.

If you want to set up automatic backup and syncing for another device, read on for more step-by-step information.

How to back up photos from your tablet

Preparing to back up your library to Google Photos on a tablet is similar to the process for a mobile device. The first thing to do is ensure you have downloaded the Google Photos App onto your device. Like with mobile, head to the Apple App Store for iOS devices and the Google Play Store for Android tablets. 

Once you’ve launched the app, the process for setting up backup and syncing is much the same, so we won’t repeat ourselves more than necessary. The images inserted in the previous section will also prove helpful. 

If you’re launching the app for the first time, you’ll be asked if you want to set up cloud backup and sync. Say yes and follow the on-screen prompts. 

If you’re returning to the app and need to turn backup on, head to the settings screen and slide backup and sync to the On position. 

In either case, and as with phone setup, you’ll need to make important decisions. These include selecting the resolution images and videos should be uploaded at, and whether data should be transferred over both Wi-Fi and mobile data, or only when connected to Wi-Fi.

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Customize your backup and sync settings from the settings screen (Image credit: Google )

After your device has completed the initial upload of photos (which may take some time if your library is extensive), you’ll want to ensure photos and videos sync regularly. This will guarantee you have seamless access to your library and protect your recent shots in case your device is lost or damaged.

To ensure your device regularly updates, make sure you frequently connect your device to power and a trusted Wi-Fi network at the same time. This enables the device to upload photos on a fast network without the risk of losing power. It also allows essential syncing to occur when you’re not using the device, such as while you’re sleeping. 

Ensuring your device has time to update and sync your photo library overnight will ensure your photos are always available when you need them. It also means backup and syncing will occur entirely in the background, with no further effort required on your part.

Sometimes, photos uploaded on one device might not appear as expected on another device. However, if you’ve followed the previous steps correctly, this is unlikely to be an issue. In any case, we’ll troubleshoot some of the most common reasons that this may occur. 

Firstly, ensure both devices are logged into the same account. It seems like common sense, but with most people managing more than one Google account, it’s easy to log into the wrong one accidentally. If this happens, your photos won’t appear until you log into the account that was used to upload the images. 

If you still can’t access your images, ensure the device that is uploading the photos is connected to a Wi-Fi network. If you haven’t selected mobile data upload (and we don’t recommend you do so), your photos won’t upload until you’re connected to Wi-Fi. 

If both these steps have failed to resolve the issue, it might be time to contact the Google Support team. If you’ve purchased a Google One subscription, you’ll have access to priority customer support.

How to back up photos from your computer

Uploading multimedia to Google Photos from your computer is a slightly different process than that for phones and tablets. If you’re using a Windows 10 device, the first thing you’ll need to do is download the Google Photos client from the company’s website.

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Download the Backup and Sync app to use Google Photos on a Windows computer (Image credit: google )

When you first launch the app, you’ll be asked to log into your Google account. Go ahead and do this, and make sure you’ve got your phone handy if you’ve set up two-factor authentication on your Google account.

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The Google Backup and Sync app works well on Windows (Image credit: google)

After logging in, proceed to the next step where you’ll be prompted to set up automatic backup and sync. 

At this step, you’ll need to choose whether to upload photos and videos only or all file types. Choosing all types will result in data being uploaded to Google Drive as well as Google Photos. This is ideal if you want to backup your entire device. However, if you want to solely focus on photos and videos, choose the first option.

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Do you want to upload just photos and videos, or all file types? (Image credit: google)

Whether you’ve chosen to upload photos and videos alone or all file types, you’ll need to select the folders and drives that will be uploaded. The most obvious folder to select is the Pictures folders, however, you might also want to select the Desktop or Download folders. 

At this stage, you’ll also need to select the resolution you’d like to upload photos at, just as with phone and tablet setup.

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(Image credit: Darcy French)

After you complete the two previous steps, all that’s left to do is click confirm, ensure your computer is connected to a Wi-Fi network, and watch the photos begin uploading. Depending upon your connection speed and the size of your library, this may take several hours. However, once the initial upload is complete, you’ll have seamless access to your photos across your devices.

How much does Google Photos cost?

If you’re now uploading photos and videos from all your devices, your 15GB of free storage will quickly disappear. It’s worth remembering that this 15GB is shared among all Google One services, including not only Photos but also Google Drive and Gmail. 

And although you can store an unlimited number of photos on Google Photos at a reduced image quality, we don’t recommend this option. Google One’s paid plans are very affordable, so we consider investing in one appropriate to your needs. 

There are three plans, providing 100GB, 200GB, and 2TB of data respectively. The 100GB plan costs $1.99 per month, or $11.99 per year. 200GB costs only fractionally more at $2.99 per month, or $29.99 per year. The 2TB plan will set you back only $9.99 (or $99.99 for the year). For each of the plans, paying annually saves you 16%.

A Google One Subscription also comes with several other benefits, such as the ability to share data with family members. As previously mentioned, priority customer support is provided to Google One customers. If you’ve subscribed to either the 200GB or 2TB plan, you’ll receive a discount on items purchased in the Google Store. For 200GB plan customers, the discount is 3%, while for 2TB plan customers, it’s 10%.

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Google offers affordable and high-capacity plans for all users (Image credit: Google)


This article explained how to back up your multimedia library to Google Photos across three types of devices: mobile, tablet, and computer. 

Setting up automatic backup and syncing across all your devices will ensure seamless access to your photo library across all your devices. You can also now begin taking advantage of Google Photos’ excellent features, such as smart search capabilities that make it easy to sort photos by content type, location, or even the people captured in the image. This saves time and ensures you can always pull up the perfect shot at the perfect moment. 

If you want to learn more about the Google One cloud ecosystem, check out our article on the topic. Google One incorporates not only Google Photos, but also Google Drive and Gmail, making it a one-stop-shop for cloud storage, backup, and syncing.