Google Photos users report 'depressing' corruption issue on older images

Hands holding a photo of a smiling man and women
(Image credit: Google)

Update (September 27): Since the initial publication of this story, Google has confirmed to TechRadar that it is aware of an issue affecting Google Photos and is rolling out a fix. It has also confirmed that original photos are not impacted by the bug. 

Using Google Photos as your main photo cloud storage provider? Then beware! Several users have reported seeing unwanted, water stain-like discoloration on their older image uploads (by the way, it's worth checking our best cloud storage page as well for more service providers). 

The issue, which seems to be affecting files uploaded five or more years ago, has left a selection of photos defaced with strange transparent lines and pools of messy pixels. Google Photos users first flagged the issue in a Google support forum, before similar comments emerged on Reddit

“These are pictures I know for a fact were uploaded and saved properly,” one user wrote. “There is seemingly no pattern to which photos are corrupted and which aren't.”

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“I cannot express how depressing this is right now,” another user complained. 

Luckily, it seems as though the corruption issue only applies to edited versions of photos. Users selecting the ‘download original’ option have reported seeing uncorrupted results, while the discoloration also appears to remove itself when entering edit mode. Google has since confirmed all of the above to TechRadar, and is rolling out a fix for the bug. 

Still, even if your photos haven’t been affected by the bug, we’d recommend downloading copies of older files to mitigate the risk of any unwanted corruption in the future. 

In more positive Google Photos news, the platform’s Memories feature recently received its “biggest update since launch”, which brought about improved customization options, easier content sharing and a functional redesign. 

Google Photos snafu highlights cloud risks

These changes to users' Google Photos are likely to have been caused by a change in the compression algorithm which is used – as its name implies – to save space. Did Google go too far this time? 

Why is Google so intent on saving storage space? Is it part of a bigger drive to cut costs as we saw when Google ended its popular free unlimited photo storage last year, and convinced a lot of early G Suite users to migrate to paid services

A hard lesson to be learnt once the dust has settled is not to put all your eggs in the same basket. It pays to backup all your pictures on a secondary cloud storage provider (like iDrive Photos or Amazon Photos) and get an external storage (like a NAS or an external hard drive) or better still, a Blu-ray writer.

Axel Metz
Senior Staff Writer

Axel is a London-based Senior Staff Writer at TechRadar, reporting on everything from the latest Apple developments to newest movies as part of the site's daily news output. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion. 

Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned an NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme. 

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