Gone are the days of printing photos and putting them into a photo album. Now our photos are mostly all stored digitally, and we have to trust our phones and computers to store all of our precious memories.
Your phone can malfunction or break any day, and if your photos aren’t backed up somewhere else, you could lose all of them. You may be wondering if you should back your photos up into one of the “clouds,” or if you want to store them externally off of your device.
We’ll break down the easy top 3 digital and external ways to back up your photos.
Backup your photos
Your Google account comes with 15 GB of free storage that is spread across all of your Google platforms (including Gmail, Photos, Drive, etc.) If you upgrade to Google One, you can have over 100 GB of storage.
Your photos will be saved and available on Google photos whenever you login, and you can also use Google Photos to search through your photos in many categories. One stark reality is that Google Photos harvests personal information from the photos you store on their service.
By using Google Photos, you are sharing a lot more than you think with an AI machine learning algorithm that tells Google specifics about your life. I’m done oversharing to the big tech beast, so this is not my favorite way to store photos. Most people don’t mind the privacy trade-off. Google Photos is far superior in accurately finding old photos when you search versus Apple iCloud stored photos.
How to backup photos using Google Photos:
If you’re on a phone:
- Download the Google Photos app
- Sign into your Google account
- At the top right, tap your initial, or your profile
- Select Photo Settings and Back up & sync
If you’re on a desktop computer:
- Download and install Google Drive for Desktop
- Sign into your Google Account
- Either opt to install Backup & Save or manually use the app to select any photos and videos you’d like to backup
*Note – your photos won’t backup and sync if they’re too large (over 200 MB or 150 MP for photos and 10 GB for videos) or if they aren’t a standard photo or video file format.
If you have an iPhone or other Apple device, setting up an iCloud account is the only way to connect all of your Apple devices and back up your apps and photos. You get 5 GB of free iCloud storage, and plans for more storage start at $0.99 a month.
Once you have an iCloud account, you can sign in and turn on iCloud Photos. Your photos across all of your devices where you’re signed into your account will be backed up. Your photos will automatically be organized by date and subject, making it easier to locate an old photo.
Apple iCloud offers privacy and does not process your photos on its iCloud servers. Apple is not in the data harvesting business unlike Google who relies on selling advertisers access to you.
How to backup photos using iCloud:
Using iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch:
- Go to Settings and select your own name/account
- Tap iCloud.
- Tap Photos, then turn on iCloud Photos
On a Mac computer:
- Choose Apple menu > System Preferences
- Click Apple ID.
- Click iCloud in the sidebar, then select Photos.
- If you have an earlier version of macOS, go to System Preferences > iCloud. Click Options next to Photos, then select iCloud Photos.
Amazon Photos offers unlimited storage for Amazon Prime members, along with 5 GB free for video storage. You also can get 5GB free as a non-prime Amazon customer. Plans for more video storage start at $1.99 a month and go up to $6.99 per month for 1 TB, or 140 hours of HD video.
You can access your photos on the Amazon Photos App available for Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android. You can also use devices like a Fire TV, Echo Show, or Fire tablet.
Amazon Photos also offers prints, photo gifts, and cards with free shipping for all Prime members. See the other best features of Amazon Photos here.
As for privacy, Amazon says Prime member photo storage is private and secure. If you cancel your Prime membership, Amazon gives you 60 days to download your stored photos.
How to backup photos using Amazon Photos:
Be sure to activate the backup feature to make sure your photos and videos are automatically saved.
On the Amazon Photos Desktop App:
- Go to the Backup tab
- Select Add folder to backup and select the folder you want to backup
- Set how often you want the folder to backup
- Click Save
On Android Phone:
- Open the Amazon Photos app
- Tap More
- Select Settings
- Press Auto-save
On iOS devices:
- Open the Amazon Photos app
- Tap the Smile icon on the top left
- Tap Uploads and click the three dots on the top right
- Select Uploads settings
- Under Auto-Save, toggle Save ON
External hard drives are your option if you don’t want to leave your photos in a digital space, and want to be able to just plug them into a computer.
The pros of using a hard drive include having a physical backup that you can store in a safe place. This avoids hackers from being able to access your photos and helps avoid the chance of losing any photos digitally.
Most importantly, your photos remain in your possession and not subject to harvesting your personal data and private details like storing photos on Google.
The cons of an external hard drive backup include having to manually plug in and back up your photos, and you likely won’t have as many backups.
The 3 best drives for storing photos
This portable external hard drive is sturdy and FAST. It has passport protection with hardware encryption, and speeds of up to 1050MB/s. The smallest backup option is 500 GB, and they go up to 4 TB of storage. It uses a USB-C and is compatible with both Mac and PC.
This external hard drive is dust, water, and shock-resistant, giving you extra peace of mind as you store your photos on it. Available from 500 GB – 4 TB of memory, this hard drive has read and write speeds of 2000 MB/s and also has password protection with hardware encryption.
Flash drives have always been handy for transferring work from computer to computer, but this flash drive will be able to hold a solid number of photos thanks to its 256 GB capacity. A flash drive couldn’t be handier in size, and it’s easy to transfer both photos and videos from both Macs and PCs. The price also cannot be beaten for that amount of portable storage,
How to backup photos using an external hard drive:
On a related note, we recently got this question from a viewer:
How do I download my phone to SanDisk hard drive? The main thing is my photos. – Patricia L.
If you want to back up photos from your phone onto an external hard drive, the easiest way will be to first transfer them to a desktop computer. You can do this using one of the cloud systems above – or plugging in a cell phone and dragging your photos library or specific images over into a folder on your computer.
Once you have your photos accessed on a computer, plug your external hard drive in. All of the external hard drives come with attached cords you can plug into your device.
After you plug in your hard drive, it should pop up on your computer’s Finder. Open that folder, and to stay organized, you should create a new folder called BACKUP. You can also include the date so you can keep track of the last time you backed up photos.
Do you trust your photos in the cloud or will you back up your photos manually?