Free & Unlimited Photo Storage From Google

Do you take lots of photos, but have no idea how to organize and back them up? I had the same problem. I have an Android phone and my wife had an iPhone, plus we had a Samsung Android tablet and and iPad. Not to mention the years of photos we had taken and scanned- terabytes of photos- that were scattered on desktops, laptops and external hard drives. There was no easy way for us to backup and access all the photos from all our various devices. And the thought of possibly losing them someday due to a broken hard drive or a natural disaster was terrifying.

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Google has a complete photo management system that solved the problem for us. It’s easy to use and free. It also offers an unlimited amount of storage, although the file size and is slightly reduced (about 40% or so). The reduction in size does reduce the quality of the photos, but if this is only a backup and not your only copy of the photos it won’t matter much.

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For smartphone users, the Google Photos app is very easy to install, and works equally well for both Android and iPhone. Install the app, and associate it with a Gmail account (or open a new one for free).  If you’re an iPhone user, Google will automatically back up all the photos in your Camera Roll, and all the new photos you take whenever you are in wifi range. Android users will also be able to select any number or all of their folders containing photos.

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With the desktop app, your Desktop, My Pictures, My Documents and My Videos folders (and subfolders) are selected by default. You can add as many additional folders as you’d like. In this example I have added two folders from my mapped P drive that has all my photos on it.

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2015-11-30_20-31-32If you have a large number of photos on your computer, the desktop loader may take days or even weeks to get them all uploaded.

The Google Photos Desktop App will continue to run in the background until it catches up, and then it will automatically add new photos as you save them.

In my case, I selected some very large folders and have over 46,000 pending, so it’s bound to take a while.

By logging in to the same account on the app on all your devices- Android phones, iPhones, iPads, Android tablets, Mac computers, Windows computers- the photos and videos from all those devices are all in one place.

For example, I created a new google account just for my family, installed the app on both my wife’s phone and mine, and then installed the desktop app. She can now log in from work and see photos I have taken while I am home with the kids during the day. And we can both access all those years of old photos that we took with our various digital cameras, as well as all the photos and documents I’ve scanned. Everything backed up in one place, for free.

While it certainly isn’t a full-featured editing app, the editor features a basic set of tools for enhancing your photos. Perfect for a quick correction before you post something online.

Using the autofix feature, I did a quick edit of this underexposed picture of my house.

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Before (left) and after (right) using the autofix feature in the Google Photos editor.

Changes you make when editing are applied to the version of the image that’s stored on Google Photos in the cloud, while the original on your device remains untouched.

pcoverhaul google photos multiple file select
Select multiple files by dragging your finger across the screen
pcoverhaul google photos sharing
Share your photos in dozens of ways. Copy the file link for pasting into a message, or share directly into email, app or upload to social media.

Sharing the files is simple and easy.

Just select the file or files you want to share, click on the share icon, and choose how you want to share it. If you want to select a bunch in a row, you don’t have to do them one at a time. Choose the first one, then drag your finger to the last one and Google Photos selects them all.

The Assistant feature in Google Photos is truly amazing. The app chooses certain photos and works some magic with them. In some cases, it may stylize them (think Instagram filter), or add a frame. If photos are similar, the assistant may group them together into a collage. Panoramas will be created by stitching together individual shots if they line up correctly. And if you have pictures taken close enough together in time, the Assistant will throw them all together into an animated GIF file. You can save any of these creations right to your account, or delete them with a swipe of your finger.

Search by a persons face, a pace where photos were taken, or search for "things" found in photos.
Search by a persons face, a pace where photos were taken, or search for “things” found in photos.

The search feature gives you several options to find your photos and videos.

If your photos have names, or are in folders with names, those names are searchable.  But Google Photos goes further by using an algorithm to identify things in your pictures even if they aren’t named. A search for “cat” brought up hundreds of photos of both our current cat and our two previous cats.

Google Photos also gives you the option of searching by category. Here you can see it has displayed faces of some people it found in my photos. Clicking on a face shows all the other matching faces, and you can easily assign a name to any face you choose.

The places category is based on location data in the photos themselves. If you don’t have location data turned on, Google will still try to figure out where a photo is taken and put it in your places file. Somewhere like Cinderella’s Castle at DisneyWorld is going to be easy for the system to identify, for example.

The “things” category is a sort of hodgepodge, and isn’t totally accurate, but can be helpful if you only want photos with the Christmas ornaments, for example, and don’t want to sort through every picture you’ve ever taken at Christmas to find them.

At the bottom you can search your videos, as well as recently added photos, your Google Drive, and any of the creations you have saved with the Assistant feature.

Search by a persons face, a pace where photos were taken, or search for "things" found in photos.
Search by a persons face, a place where photos were taken, or search for “things” found in photos.

I’m very familiar with the delete feature, because I often take photos in burst mode and end up putting the phone back in my pocket before the lock goes on my phone, resulting in dozens of dark blue and black photos.

Deleted photos can be recovered for 30 days, then they are gone forever. You can also go into your trash and permanently delete them whenever you’d like.

Google Photos does all of that and more, and will probably continue to add more features over time.  If you only need to back up photos and videos, this may be the solution for you.

 

Leaked Google Photos app appears, showing off automatic image sorting capabilities | PCWorld

We’ve known for some time that Google Photos would be broken away from Google+ into an app of its own, and as someone who uses Google Photos to backup photos from my phone, I’m very happy with the results.

The app will make a clean break from Google+ and give you a ton more editing, sharing, and privacy controls.

Source: Leaked Google Photos app appears, showing off automatic image sorting capabilities | PCWorld

 

How to Backup Your Facebook Data

If you’d like to backup all the data on your Facebook account, this post is for you.

To see the full list of data you can download, check out the list here.  Photos are probably the main thing most people wan to backup, followed by private messages, and those are included in the download.

Click on the little down arrow at the top right of your Facebook page and go to settings.

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Directly underneath all your general account settings is an option to download a copy of your Facebook data.

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Click on the green Start my Archive button to get the process going.

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Depending on the size of your archive, it can take a long time to create the archive. Facebook will send an email to your registered Facebook email address when it’s ready.

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At the bottom of email is a link to the archive.

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Verify your password and the download should begin.

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Once you have downloaded and extracted the .zip file, you’ll see some folders with your archived files inside them.

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A look inside my html folder shows some of the many files you can back up. Obviously these will vary depending on how much you use your Facebook account and what you do with it.

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It’s amazing some of the information you can get from these archived files, like all the IP addresses you (or anyone else) have used to log into your account. The main thing lacking from this archive is the information for all your contacts. For some reason, Facebook doesn’t allow you to back these up. Still, if your goal is to back up your messages and photos, this will do the trick.

 

Google Takeout

If you are a Google user, you probably have a lot of information stored in your various Google accounts. All your emails, contacts, photos, Google drive files, and even your location data is all out there on the cloud.  Now there’s a simple interface for downloading all that data for back up or archiving.

Google Takeout is not new, but it has been redesigned to make the interface easier to use.

After opening the app, you see a list of all the different types of data you can archive. Just check the box next to the data you’d like to download.

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You can touch the arrow to the left of the check mark to see additional options. For items like contacts, bookmarks,  SMS messages or location data a file is created with all the data in it and there aren’t any options to configure. But in some cases you can be more selective about what exactly you back up.

For example, under Google Drive, you can choose to include everything you have uploaded to your online storage account, or select only specific files, folders or even only files of a certain type.

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Under Google Photos, you can also back up everything or select individual albums. I use Google+ for my online photo storage, so I happen to have a large number of albums (over 800 just in 2014) to back up.

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And if you’re downloading your gmail data, you can archive the entire account (complete with attachments) or extract only the folders that are important to you.

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Once you’ve decided what you want to archive,  you can choose your format and delivery method.

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Google will let you know when your archive is ready for download. I selected my entire account while I was creating this post, and I am still waiting a week later, so please be patient if you have selected a large amount of data.

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Use Google+ to Backup Photos Taken With Your Phone

If you enjoy taking photos with your smartphone, you have probably run into problems backing them up or transferring them to your computer. Whether you have an Android or an iPhone (or really any smartphone for that matter),  Google+ can solve some of these problems for you.

Every Google+ account allows you 15GB of free cloud storage, which is shared between your email (gmail), Google Drive files and your Google photos. If you create a new gmail account and use it for only photo backups, the entire 15GB can be dedicated to your photo storage.

Storing your photos on Google+ also makes them much easier to share with other people. Photos are put into albums by date, and all the albums are private by default.  Once your photos are uploaded, you can view them  from any web browser or by opening the Google+ app on your Android or iPhone. (Select Home in the upper left, then Photos to view your photos.)

This is what the photos look like on a Windows computer once they have been uploaded.
This is what the photos look like on a Windows computer once they have been uploaded.

 

You can choose to set your phone to backup over Wi-Fi or over mobile networks. Most people choose to upload photos over Wi-Fi, since that’s available at the office, home or on the road and doesn’t count towards your phone’s data plan. Your mobile network is a good choice if you are on the road for work or on vacation and want to be sure the photos back up before you get home.

 

The Android and IOS Google+ apps offer slightly different backup features. Both will store an unlimited number of  photos, reduced to a maximum side length of 2048 pixels. Android users have the option to store full versions of their photos, but keep in mind that takes up more of your 15GB free cloud space.

The Android app can be set to upload only when the device is plugged in and charging, which can help save battery life if you have a large number of photos to upload.

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Best of all, more than one device can use the same account. I was using Google + to back up my photos from my Samsung S4 (Android), but my wife’s photos from her iPhone 5 used the Icloud app and went to an entirely different place. So i created a new “family” Google account, and logged into it with both phones. Now all our photos are automatically backed up whenever we are near a Wi-Fi hotspot to one cloud location.  You can also upload photos to the account from any computer, so photos taken with all your various cameras can be in one place.

I am home with our two boys all day, so I filled up the 15GB quickly, but for $2.99 a month I upgraded to a 100GB plan. It’s a simple way to back up photos from multiple devices to one account and both of us can access the account from any web browser to view or share the photos.

If you want to try out Google+ as a photo nackup solution, here are the instructions for Anroid and IOS.

 

What Files Should I Backup?

I am constantly reminding people to keep regular backups of their files, but what does that really mean? There are hundreds of folders and sub folders on your computer, so which ones should and shouldn’t be backed up?

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First of all,  let’s talk about the software you can use to run the backup. There are lots of programs you can use to back these files up. New computers often have some sort of backup software installed and some external hard drives come with pre-installed backup software as well. A backup feature is also sometimes built in to some of the large antivirus suites. But if your computer or external drive doesn’t give you a backup option, don’t panic. If you have Windows 7 or Windows 8 or Windows 10, a backup feature is built in.  And of course there are several great free backup tools out there, like Redo Backup & Restore, Create Synchronicity, and Free File Sync. It’s not important which backup software you use, just be sure to get one that you are comfortable using and use it or schedule it to run regularly.

Free File Sync's interface. The 'Source" drive is shown on the left, the "Target" on the right.
Free File Sync’s interface. The ‘Source” drive is shown on the left, the “Target” on the right.

 

And one more important note-  one backup is never enough. That external hard drive you are using to back up your files is likely going to be in the same location as your computer in order to run these backups. If you have a theft, a natural disaster like a fire or flood, or a power surge fries your computer, chances are the backup drive will meet the same fate. So the key is to have a backup that’s not located wherever your computer is. Most people use a cloud backup for this. If you are confused about the cloud, it basically just means it’s kept on a server outside of your location. Free services like DropboxGoogle Drive, Box,  JustCloud, and Microsoft’s Onedrive may be enough if you only have a few Gigabytes of data to back up. If you have a large amount of data, paid services like iDrive, Cloudwards.net, or even Amazon’s Cloud backup solution are a better option. They allow you to upload very large document, photo, video and music collections (or whatever else you need to store) to a secure account and usually the cost is under $10 a month. Spending $100+ a year to backup your data may seem like a lot of money, but when it’s compared to the $1000-$1600 data recovery companies usually charge to attempt to get your files back after a hard drive crash, it’s a very good investment. DVD or BluRay media also make an excellent backup for files that won’t be changing, like years of older photos. these can be put in a fireproof safe, safety deposit box, or even given to a friend or family member to keep at their place so you will always have a copy “offsite” so to speak.

 

Carbonite's different plan options for home users.
Carbonite’s different plan options for home users.

 

Before we select the folders to back up, there are some hidden folders we need to be able to see, so you should change your settings to make them visible. You can do it manually, or I have a handy little script you can download that will do it for you.

You can manually show hidden files too.

Click on START->COMPUTER->TOOLS and then select the Folder option button.

To show hidden files in Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, select Tools, then Folder Options
To show hidden files in Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, select Tools, then Folder Options

 

Then choose the VIEW tab, and under HIDDEN FILES AND FOLDERS, choose the radio button for Show Hidden Files , folders and drives.

Then choose the VIEW tab, and under HIDDEN FILES AND FOLDERS, choose the radio button for Show Hidden Files , folders and drives.
Then choose the VIEW tab, and under HIDDEN FILES AND FOLDERS, choose the radio button for Show Hidden Files , folders and drives.

 

Finally, the files you should backup.

Files to back up for Windows XP
Files to back up for Windows XP

 

♦  Documents: Your documents folder is an obvious choice. This folder can be a catch it all for some people, with files of various types from actual documents, resumes, tax forms, to downloaded exe files, photos and subfolders created by programs on your computer. Depending on which version of Windows you have, this may also be called “My documents”.

♦ Photos & Videos: The “Pictures” or “My Pictures” folder and the “Videos” or “My Videos” folder are the most important folders I back up. Most of us have been using digital cameras for at least 10 years now and don’t have any negatives to fall back on if we lose these originals (like we did in the old days). Unless you are a professional photographer these have no monetary value, but preserving these memories is priceless. I back these up to disk and the cloud, but also burn a DVD at the end of each year as a set of permanent negatives. Mine are BluRay discs, which cost roughly $1 each but it’s well worth it knowing every photo ever taken of my children are safely stored away.

♦Music: “Music” or “My Music” folder.  –My Mp3 collection is huge and includes stuff I ripped from CD years and years ago, songs I converted from cassette of my old high school bands, and download music. If you use Itunes, this is where the Itunes data is stored for your music, playlists and apps.

♦Application Data: “AppData” or “Application Data” folder. This is that hidden folder we need to back up. The subfolders inside here contain settings and preferences for your software, as well as your PST file for Outlook that is used to store all of your Outlook data, including your emails, contacts, calendar, and more.

♦Bookmarks: For Internet Explorer, these are stored in “Favorites”. If you use Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, there are in a subfolder of your AppData folder.

Of course, you can always just back up your entire User profile. The downside to this is you use more space and end up backing up lots of temporary files, but it’s one way to make sure you get every file you need without missing anything. This could be found at C:\Users\Username in Windows 7, 8  or Vista, and C:\Documents and Settings\Username for Windows XP.

You can back up the entire user profile. This is the default Administrator profile in Windows XP.
You can back up the entire user profile. This is the default Administrator profile in Windows XP.

 

Don’t bother backing up the “Windows” or “Program Files” folders, since you can’t restore your Operating System or your programs without completely reinstalling them.