How to transfer photos from your iPhone to your Windows PC

An iPhone taking a photo of a flowering plant


If you’re like me, you’ve probably taken thousands of photos on your iPhone over the years. But now you want to copy them to your computer for editing or just to keep. No problem; There are a number of ways to do this.

You can simply plug your iPhone into your PC via a USB cable and access the photos from your phone. You can use the Windows Photos app to import your phone’s photos to a specific folder. If you take advantage of OneDrive, you can automatically upload new photos you take on your iPhone to the OneDrive Pictures folder. And you can still sync your photos with iCloud.

Also: How I took control of my iPhone photos and freed up gigabytes

Let’s explore each method so you can find the one that works best for you.

Connect your phone to your PC

The easiest way to transfer photos is to simply plug your iPhone into your computer via USB.

Your phone should appear as a device in File Explorer. Double-click your iPhone icon and explore the Internal Storage and DCIM folders.

You should see one or more subfolders, each named with a number indicating the year and month the photos it contains were taken.

Open the folder containing the photos you want to access. From there, open another window in File Explorer pointing to the folder you want to copy the photos to. Select the photos you want to transfer, then drag and drop or copy and paste them into the folder on your PC (Figure 1).

iPhone photo selected using File Explorer

Figure 1: Select your photos.

Screenshot/Lance Whitney

Although this seems like the easiest way to transfer photos, it doesn’t always work reliably. Sometimes the DCIM folder does not appear. Other times, your latest photos may not be visible. In these cases, disconnecting and then reconnecting your phone to your PC can solve this problem.

Also: How to Use Photoshop on Your iPhone

Use the Photos app on Windows

Another option is to import the photos to your PC using Microsoft’s Photos app. To do this, connect your iPhone to your computer via USB. Open the Windows Photos app. Click the Import icon in the upper right corner and select the “From connected device” option (Figure 2).

Transfer photos using the Windows Photos app

Figure 2: Import from a connected device.

Screenshot/Lance Whitney

The app should detect your connected iPhone and display the photos stored on it. By default, photos will be imported into the Pictures folder in your user account, but you can change this by clicking the “Change Destination” link and selecting a different folder.

Click the drop-down menu for Select and choose whether you want to import all folders or just those since the last import.

You can also select all photos for a given month and year or manually select individual photos. Additionally, you can choose to delete all photos from your phone after importing them.

After configuring the import, click the “Import” button [x number] of [x] items” and the photos will be transferred to the chosen destination folder on your PC. If you chose to delete the photos from your phone, you will be asked to confirm the deletion in the final step (picture 3).

Import 68 of 68 photos

Screenshot/Lance Whitney

Use OneDrive

If you already use OneDrive to back up and sync your files, you can sign it up to back up and sync photos from your iPhone to your PC. To set it up, download and install the OneDrive iOS app on your phone if you’re not already using it. Open the app and tap the Photos icon at the bottom. Press the Enable button for camera upload.

You can choose to download selected photos, allow access to all photos, or not allow access. You will want to choose the option to allow access to all photos. Your photos are then uploaded and visible on the Photos screen of the OneDrive app (Figure 4).

Transfer photos using OneDrive

Figure 4: OneDrive requesting access to photos.

Screenshots/Lance Whitney

On your PC, open the OneDrive folder, select Photos, then select Camera Roll. In Camera Roll, you’ll see subfolders for Year, then Month. Open one of the month folders to see the photos inside. You can either leave the photos in OneDrive accessible on your PC or copy them to a local folder (Figure 5).

View photos on OneDrive

Figure 5: Photos in OneDrive.

Screenshot/Lance Whitney

Use iCloud Photos

Another option to copy photos from your iPhone to your Windows PC is to use iCloud Photos. This allows access to your photos not only on your computer, but on any other Apple device synced with iCloud. On your iPhone, go to Settings and select your name at the top of the screen. Tap the setting for iCloud, select Photos, then turn on “Sync this iPhone.” You can also turn on the switch for shared albums if you want to share or access shared albums with others (Figure 6).

Enable iCloud Photos

Figure 6: Turn on iCloud Photo sync.

Screenshots/Lance Whitney

Next, you will need to download the iCloud for Windows app from the Microsoft Store. Open the app after installation and click on the Options button for photos. Check the options for iCloud Photos and Shared Albums if they are not already checked. Click Done then click Apply (Figure 7).

Set up iCloud for Windows

Figure 7: Turn on iCloud Photos.

Screenshot/Lance Whitney

Open File Explorer and click on the entry for iCloud Photos. You should now see all of your synced photos (Figure 8).

View your photos from iCloud Photos

Picture 8: Your iCloud photos in Windows.

Screenshot/Lance Whitney

The iCloud app for Windows is a convenient option for a Windows PC, but it has some major downsides. The app puts all your photos in a flat folder structure, so they’re not organized based on folders or albums you’ve created on your iPhone or iCloud. Also, the app doesn’t support true two-way sync, so if you delete a photo in iCloud folder on your Windows PC, it won’t be deleted in iCloud or your other devices.

Best options

Overall, I think Windows Photos is your best bet for manually transferring photos from your iPhone to your Windows PC, and OneDrive is the best method for transferring them automatically.


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