How to transfer photos from your Android device

DIY Instagram Photos on Canvas


If you’re anything like me, you probably threw out your old digital camera and decided to try your hand at being an amateur photographer with your latest Android device. With all these photography applications these days, why wouldn’t you?

However, with the ability to take hundreds of photos on a whim, comes the inevitable task of getting those valuable photos off your Android device and onto a safe and secure hard drive or folder.

But don’t fret; you have many options at your disposal.

USB Cable via Windows

The most common and traditional method of getting photos and general data off your phone is by plugging your phone directly to your computer via a USB cable.

When you plug your phone into your computer, Windows will ask you what you would like to do, just as it would if you plugged in your digital camera.

USB Cable via OS X (Apple Mac)

Retrieving photos from your Android device requires Google’s free Android File Transfer App. It runs on Mac OS X 10.5 or later. It also works with Android phones and tablets running Android 3.0 Honeycomb or later.

  • The app can be downloaded from the Android Website.
  • Once it’s installed the app will automatically open whenever you attach an Android phone or tablet to your computer.
  • Your photos will be in one of two areas: The Pictures folder or the DCIM folder.
  • Photos you took with your phone will likely be in your DCIM folder, while other photos or images (like screenshots) you keep on your phone will likely be in the Pictures folder.
  • To save photos you took with your phone’s camera, double-click the DCIM folder.
  • There should be another folder within that named “Camera” which has your photos.

Google Drive

Personally, I use Google Drive, simply because you can access your photos from anywhere and from any device. Once the Google Drive application is installed on your Apple Mac or PC, you can have your photos (or any other files) automatically and conveniently synchronised to multiple devices.

  • To upload them to Google Drive, select the photos you want to upload, then tap the share button.
  • From the menu, tap “See all,” then select Drive from the list. It’ll ask you to give the photo a title and to confirm which account you want to upload to, and where you want to put it on your drive.
  • If it all looks fine, tap OK, and it will go ahead and upload your photos.

The reason for my affection towards Google Drive is simple. I’m an avid user of all Google applications such as Google Chrome as my Smartphone browser, Google Googles (highly recommend you try this) and of course, Google Maps. The convenience of everything synchronising together and with my Gmail email account is just too great.


Dropbox is another application that is similar to Google Drive. Simply install the application on all your computers and devices, and it will synchronise your photos and files to every other device.

  • Firstly, install the free Dropbox app on your Android device.
  • Now you can upload your photos to Dropbox directly from Android’s Gallery app. Simply select the photos you want to upload, tap the sideways-V-shaped share button, tap “See all” from the menu, then tap Add to Dropbox.
  • From there, you can choose where on your app you want to stick your photos. Once you’re ready to upload your photos, tap Add, and Dropbox will work its magic.
  • Conveniently, your photos will then appear synchronized on all your devices with the application installed.

Camera Upload, another Dropbox feature, lets you automatically upload your photos from your phone directly to Dropbox, so you don’t have to individually select then upload them. You can choose to turn this feature on when you first install the Dropbox app on your phone, or from the Dropbox app’s settings (tap the three dots in the upper right corner in the Dropbox app, then select Settings from the menu).

Dropbox is arguably the most popular online storage and syncing application out there. It’s safe, secure and convenient which is what the consumer wants. However there are many other similar applications out there. Other options include, Microsoft  and Amazon Cloud Drive.

These applications have similar features and functionality, however I recommend you shop around and make sure you’re comfortable and confident with the one that you eventually pick.

Old fashioned email

I must admit, I do this from time to time. The best thing about Android is that it’s convenient to email photos to yourself or any email address.  But it’s not ideal if you have multiple photos to move.

  • Open the Gallery app, and navigate to the album containing the photo (or photos) you want to share.
  • Tap the three dots in the upper right corner, and then tap Select Item from the menu that appears.
  • Select the photos you want to send to your computer, then tap the email button in the toolbar at the top of the screen—it looks like an envelope with a card sticking out of it.
  • If the email button doesn’t appear in the toolbar, tap the share button—it looks like a sideways V—and select Gmail from the menu.
  • You’ll get a “compose” window where you can enter your email address then send your images to yourself.

Do you have any other tips to share? Or would you like us to cover another how-to topic in the future? Let us know in the comments below!

Learn with iiNet also run free monthly workshops at the iiStore in Subiaco, WA. Visit Learn with iiNet Workshops to find out when the next workshop will be held and future topics. 

Photo credit: Jorge Quinteros


  1. Stephen Angelico says:

    I just want to point out a couple of things.
    First, if anyone out there has Linux (of just about any flavour) on their desktop/laptop, it will automatically mount, as it does in Windows. Of course some people have disabled automatic mounting, but if they’ve done that, they’ll know how to mount it manually.
    The other thing is, if you have the Google+ app, you can use auto-backup and have all your photos privately in Google+ to share, download and otherwise manage.

  2. Gai says:

    I have a Samsung Galaxy4S which I love but I am having so much difficulty transferring my music, photos etc to my macbook. I have Android file transfer downloaded on both my phone and the mac, but when I connect my phone to my macbook or open the android file transfer it ALWAYS tells me that there is a problem and to restart or disconnect the USB cable and try again. I have also tried Samsung Kies to transfer photos etc, but this only transfers some photos, music etc. Why can’t Samsung make it so that their phones are recognised a a USB drive on the desktop when you plug in the phone via USB. This is what my HTC did and it was so easy to transfer, you just dragged and dropped, love the Samsung phone but very frustrated with the way the transfer system doesn’t work. I have also tried to transfer on my husband’s iMac but have the same problem. I don’t really want to go back to an iphone as their screens are so small.
    Do you have any way to solve this issue with transferring?
    Thanks Gai

  3. Stephanie Nagel says:

    If you have a tablet or other device with wi fi you can use wi fi direct to transfer photos or any files including music from phone to tablet or tablet to phone. Easy!

  4. kerry says:

    Thanks for the info, I have dropbox but always looking for other apps

  5. Steve Clark says:

    1. Doesn’t anyone worry about the trillions of rubbish photos held on server farms in Iceland. Is this a good use of the world’s resources when a person could burn their own to CD to save them for future viewing?
    2. Doesn’t anyone worry about giving all their personal data to Google?
    3. And is email now “old fashioned”? Maybe it is amongst the semi-literate who play constantly with their phones when they are supposed to be working or driving or listening to their companion. If one can only communicate in emotive ejaculations and pre-defined clichés then I guess email is too difficult.

  6. Judy says:

    Yes, I agree Google Backup is the way to go. It’s all done automatically!