How to download all your Google Photos to your PC or Mac

Download all your Google Photos to your PC or Mac and get offline access to those super special snaps anytime, anywhere - we show you how!

Google Photos
(Image: © Future)

Trying to figure out download all your Google Photos to your PC or Mac? You're definitely not alone. Many of us have hundreds (if not thousands!) of images and videos stored in the cloud and while you'd think it would be easy to get them all off of there and onto a hard drive, it takes a little more work than we thought it would.

But fear not, you photography lover you, we've got you covered. Granted, it's not as straightforward as we feel it should be, but it's absolutely doable and once you get the hang of it, you'll find the process fairly easy. Whether you have one of the best computers or you're more a fan of the best MacBooks and Macs, knowing how to download all your Google photos to your PC or Mac is a handy skill to have.

Before we go into all of that though, let's briefly explore Google Photos cloud storage function and why you would want to download your snaps and videos from there onto your hard drive. There's no denying that the cloud system is a great way to securely store your photos and videos, plus it's easy to use and has great cross-platform support.

And yet, even though Google Photos is one of the best photo cloud storage options available in 2022 and is an accessible and secure way to store your snaps, keeping a backup of your library isn't a bad idea. Whether you've been locked out of your Google account or you're traveling and have limited internet service, having offline copies of your precious pics can let you view them anytime, anywhere.

Another reason to learn how to download all your Google Photos to your PC or Mac is that Google Photos changed their policy last year, meaning that they no longer offer unlimited free storage for 'high quality' photos. If you have the best iPhone or one of the best Android phones and use that to take your photos, you'll likely quickly max out the 15GB of free storage space now being offered by Google. 

Once you've reached your free limit, you'll then have to sign up for a Google One storage plan, which starts at US$1.99 / £1.59 per month for 100GB. While it's definitely unlikely to break the bank, these small costs all add up and so if you want to avoid paying this, learning how to download your photos to your hard drive is going to be well worth it. 

Whether it's one-by-one or in batches, we talk you through the various ways that you can download all your Google Photos to your PC or Mac. And if you'd prefer to explore your options first, check out our guide to the best Google Photos alternatives

How to download images from Google Photos

The most straightforward way to download all your Google Photos to your PC or Mac is one at a time, which you may find is the best approach. Simply open the photo you want to save, click the three dots in the top right corner and select ‘download’. But unless you only have a handful of shots stored in the cloud, downloading individually will be a painstaking way to save all of your photos.

An alternative is to pick batches of snaps to save simultaneously. Using Google Photos on the web, hover over a particular image’s thumbnail and click the checkmark in the top left. You can then click other images to add to your selection. Holding shift when you click will also allow you to highlight batches of snaps between the first and last shots you select.

Google Photos download all

(Image credit: Future)

Once you’re happy with your choice, click the three vertical dots in the top right corner, then click ‘download’. Google will compress your chosen shots into a single zip archive, ready for saving.

While this method isn’t as simple as downloading all of your Google Photos images in one go, it allows you to save data by selecting only the shots you really want to keep. From June 2021, Google will also offer a free storage management tool to help you find and delete shots that are underexposed or blurry, which should make it easier to pick through pictures to find your favorites.

If you’re planning on categorizing snaps on your hard drive, it’s also a good opportunity to download batches to match your sorting criteria. Use the search bar to filter your images – such as by location or date – then pick from the results. This makes it easy to save similar images, such as ones from the same place.

How to download albums from Google Photos

If you’ve already sorted your snaps into Google Photos albums – or saved some of Google’s suggested ‘smart albums’ – you can easily download their pre-sorted contents.

Under the ‘albums’ tab, select ‘view all albums’ to see your entire collection. Click an individual album and, once it’s loaded, hit those three dots in the top right and select ‘download all’. This will compress all of the images and videos contained in the album into a single zip file for you to download.

Google Photos download all

(Image credit: Future)

The benefit of this approach is that you can selectively download your snaps in just a couple of clicks, and keeps them organized on your hard drive.

The downside? You can’t download multiple albums at once. Instead, each one has to be opened and saved individually, which could prove laborious if you have a large number.

What to do before downloading all your Google Photos

While the export process allows you to select albums and years to include in your download, it doesn’t permit more detailed fine-tuning. For that, it’s worth combing through your Google Photos snaps before you begin your download. 

That said, checking through a sizable Google Photos library could be a time-consuming task. You might instead want to wait for the arrival of the free storage management tool from Google, due in June 2021, which should make it simpler and quicker to root out superfluous photos lurking in your library. 

Remember that ‘high’ quality images uploaded before 1 June 2021 won’t count towards your storage total, so you shouldn’t immediately be faced with a problem if you choose to wait for the trimming tool to arrive before saving your snaps. Ready to go? Here's how to download all your Google Photos at once.

How to download all your Google Photos at once

If you want to download all your Google Photos to your PC or Mac in one go, you won’t find the option in Google Photos. Instead, for the fastest route to a total backup, you need to use Google Takeout (opens in new tab). This is the same tool that can be used to export all kinds of user data, as well as Keep notes, Mail messages, and your Chrome history.

Google Takeout Screen

(Image credit: Future)

Head to takeout.google.com (opens in new tab). After signing in with your Google account, you’ll need to ‘create a new export’. This means selecting all of the content from your Google account that you’d like to download. If you only want to save your image library, click ‘deselect all’ under the ‘select data to include’ tab. Then scroll down the list of products until you find Google Photos.

Checking the box next to ‘Google Photos’ will include your entire image library in the download. Alternatively, if you click the button labeled ‘all photo albums included’ a pop-up will let you select or deselect specific albums in your library – as well as entire years. Thankfully, Takeout will preserve the album structure in the resulting download folder.

Bear in mind, though, that you won’t be able to preview the contents of any albums through Takeout – so you might want to cross-reference each folder’s contents with Google Photos in another tab.

Manage your exports screen

(Image credit: Future)

After selecting your albums, hit ‘OK’ then scroll down and click ‘next step’. You’ll be presented with a range of export options. The ‘delivery method’ drop-down lets you choose to receive a download link via email once the export is ready. 

It also gives you the option of transferring your snaps straight to another cloud provider, including Dropbox, OneDrive, or Box. If your intention is to re-upload your library to one of these platforms, a direct transfer will save significant time and bandwidth.

Create a new export screen

(Image credit: Future)

You can also choose between a one-off or periodic exports, and select your desired file type. Most users will find .zip is the best choice. 

Additionally, you can set the maximum size of download files. Select 1GB, for example, and exports above that threshold will be split into 1GB chunks for more manageable downloading.

Google your account, your data screen

(Image credit: Future)

Once your settings are sorted, click ‘create export’. You’ll see a message saying ‘Google is creating a copy of files from Google Photos’. Depending on the size of your photo library, this can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

You’ll receive an email when your download is ready. If you’re saving snaps to your device, click ‘download your files’ to get the process rolling. Downloads remain available for a week after creation.

Formerly News Editor at Stuff, Chris has rarely been able to resist the bite of the travel bug – so he now writes about tech from the road, in whichever Wi-Fi-equipped café he can find. Fond of coffee kit, classic cars and sustainable gear, if there’s one thing Chris loves more than scribbling, shooting and sharing his way around the world, it’s alliterative triplets.