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* * * * *

Weekend Project: Backup your Photos & Videos for FREE using Google+

What’s the worst phone call you can take from a non-techy friend? “I think i've lost all my photo’s, can you help?”

So with that in mind, lets ensure everyone (yourself included) has all their treasured memories backed up somewhere. And the good news is that you can do all this via Google+ for FREE.

Note: The contents of this guide should no way be seen as your sole backup method. Please consider buying an external hard drive and ensuring you have at least TWO physical copies of the important data stored on your computer. The harsh truth is that hard drives do eventually fail. :(

Article Agenda
  • Instant Upload using the Google+ App on your Phone
  • Backing up the photos on your PC/MAC to Google+ (For FREE)
  • Want to upload photos in their original size? (that will cost you)
  • Getting your data back from Google should you need to
  • Alternatives to using Google+
  • Conclusion, Thoughts and Over to You
Instant Upload using the Google+ App on your Phone

Automatically upload photos and videos as you take them using Instant Upload. With Instant Upload enabled, photos and videos taken with your phone are automatically uploaded to a private album on Google+. Once uploaded, you can easily share them later from your phone or the web.

Note: This feature is only available on devices with Android 2.2+
  • Make sure "Sync Instant Upload" is enabled on your phone. Go to your phone's Settings > Accounts & sync, touch the account you'd like to enable sync on and enable "Instant Upload".
  • Then in the Google+ App head into settings and turn Instant Upload on.
Once both are enabled, take a photo with your phone and it should appear on Google+ within a few minutes.

Be sure to go into the Google+ settings again though and enable/disable the instant upload settings you require.
  • When to Upload Photos (over Wi-Fi or Mobile Network / Over Wi-Fi ONLY)
  • When to Upload Videos (over Wi-Fi or Mobile Network / Over Wi-Fi ONLY)
  • Roaming Uploads (upload photos & videos when roaming on a data network yes/no)
  • Upload only when charging (Upload photos & videos only when charger connected yes/no)
  • Upload All (upload all photos & videos now (if connection settings allow))
It goes without saying that choosing to upload over Mobile Network could be a bad idea if you are on a limited data plan.

You need to choose the final option (Upload All) if this is the first time you have enabled instant sync. This could take a while depending on the amount of data you are uploading and the speed of your internet connection.

Note: This is free service from Google+ which does not count against your Google data storage limits, this is because any photos uploaded are downsized to 2048 pixels on the longest edge.

Source: [and further Google+ / Instant Upload help]

Backing up the photos on your PC/MAC to Google+ (For FREE)

As Google are keen to get all your photos into Google+ (so you can share to friends/circles and drive G+ activity) they allow you to upload an unlimited amount of photos for FREE. With the only restriction being that upon upload, the pictures are downsized to maximum of 2048 pixels on the longest edge.

I can confirm its certainly free as I have got 18,000 photos up there and my Google storage plan shows 0gb used. :)

There are two ways to get the photos up there:
  • If you wish, you can organise/sync all your photos and directories on your PC/Mac using Google's Picasa client: [Download Picasa Client]
  • Or if you want the simple life, just choose Photos, +Add Photos from the Google+ web client and bulk upload all your files.

Until you "share" any photo or album that you have uploaded they are classed as only being visible to you, so are completely private.

As well as photos, you can also upload video for free, with the restriction being a maximum of 15 mins per video.

Note: If you don't have a Google+ account, the maximum size for free uploads via Picasa is 800px on the longest edge.

Source: [Picasa Support Pages]

Want to upload photos in their original size? (that will cost you)

You will need to use the Picasa client and choose "Original Size" when choosing “Share on Google+”. The size of these photos will then come out of your google storage allowance.(although your first 1gb is free) So if you have a lot of photos you may need to buy more storage from Google.

For more info on how Google Storage works and what freebies you are entitled to, look here: [How Google Storage Works]

Getting your data back from Google should you need to

Retrieving "EVERY" uploaded photo in one go using "Google Takeout"
Google Takeout is a tool that lets you quickly and easily download data that you created in (or imported into) a number of Google products. It provides the data in a variety of open, portable formats so that you can easily import the data into other internet services. [Google Takeout]

Just choose PicasaWeb Albums and it will give you the option of taking every single photo in one go, no matter how big your collection is.

Downloading one Album at a time
Choose the album from the Google+ web client, then select "More", "Download Album". All the photos in that album will be downloaded in a zip file called albumname.zip. Obviously these are the same max 2048px files held in Google+.

Alternatives to using Google+

Dropbox with its syncing capabilities is an option if you just want a straight online backup that syncs with your computer without all the sharing/displaying shenanigans.

Through referrals you can get upto 16gb of free space, but if you need more space than that you’ll need to get the credit card out.

100gb ($10/month or $100/year)
200gb ($20/month or $200/year)

But at least you'll be able to upload/sync your original large files and not worry about losing any quality.

And to mirror “Instant Upload” in Google+, Dropbox have added a feature called "Camera Upload" to their Android app where any pictures taken with the phone’s camera are automatically uploaded to your dropbox folder.

Dropbox Link: [Dropbox Website]

Conclusion, Thoughts and Over to You

As ever, you don't get something for nothing without a compromise. If you are happy to have your online backups as 2048px versions, with the added ability to share with family and friends, then this freebie from Google+ should suit you fine. Remember, theres not an abundance of screens/displays out there at the moment with a longest edge greater than 2048px.

At the very top end an iPad 3 is 2048 x 1536, the 27" iMac is 2560 x 1440 and the Retina display Macbook Pro is 2880 x 1800. :)

But if you do want to future proof yourself and upload those 12 megapixel 4256 x 2832 originals from your Nikon D3 dSLR exactly as shot, then you'll need to finance that yourself. Be that with Google+ or using an alternative service.

My personal take is that I already have 3 different physical copies of my original size photos at home (stored on PC, Raid 1 NAS as well as a daily USB external backup), so these Google+ backups are for fire loss/last resort and sharing only. And if the worst was to happen, i'm sure i'll have more on my mind than my photo backups being only 3 or 4 megapixel affairs.

Also, my originals from the last 18 months are all RAW files from my dSLR, so run in at around 13MB per file, whereas these 2048px jpgs are around 1MB apiece. So i'd need 13x more space to store all my originals online, plus the extra time it would take to upload them all? And my collection runs in the thousands!! Is it worth all the extra time and effort?

So let us know how you get on.

What are thoughts on storing 2048px versions versus original size backups?

Or if you use a different backup method let us know what it is, how much it costs you and how it works for you?

Any Flickr, SugarSync, SmugMug, SkyDrive, Amazon Cloud or Mozy users have any recommendations or comments?

About the author

Zarch1972's Photo
Zarch is a veteran gadgeteer who has owned everything from a Commodore VIC-20 to an iPhone 5S and much of what came in-between.

  • 0


It looks like you can do the same for music too if you sign up through an American proxy but has anyone tried getting their music back yet? When you download it is it still at the original bitrate/encoding?
    • 0
I think any decent Photographer or someone with lots of keepsake Photos will ALWAYS have a back up on external Drives etc (i do)
I use Google+ and happy with the resolution they show, its actually the better of Facebook (who say they have improved) and Flickr
See my comparison shot here g+comparison
I will have a go at uploading all my photos (probably not this weekend as im out taking more) to G+

A great project and well documented!
    • 1
Oct 06 2012 12:29 AM
Box.net is OK if you have a supported device to get the free 50GB upgrade. (Also upgrades your maximum file size limit to 100MB).
The Windows Desktop client and the web interface are absolute junk with box.net though. (Can only download single file at once).

Foldersync or ES File Explorer is the best way to connect to it from Android.

Looks like you can trick it to thinking you have an elegible device also.

See :
for more details.
    • 0
Oct 06 2012 12:36 AM
The may be another catch with box.net that I am not aware of such as bandwidth limitations or something.
    • 0
Oct 06 2012 12:49 AM
Best Windows Client to connect to multiple cloud storage (i.e as many as you want of (box.net/skydrive/sugar sync/google drive) is called Carotdav.
There is also a cloud based one but the free version is too limited to be much use. (http://otixo.com and another I have forgotten the name of that is offline but doesn't support multiple accounts from the same provider).
    • 1
Oct 06 2012 12:58 AM
Amazon Cloud Player is good if you have all your cd's ripped to flac because it just adds them to your account (Dunno about anything else because all my stuff is flac). Then you can stream well encoded 256k mp3's (Same ones they sell) from them without hassle. (Upto 250 songs). As far as I knew Google Music (With the USA VPN hack) reencodes the files badly.
    • 0
I've been using Google for a few years. Always upload in original size. Using a US proxy or VPN service helps the upload speed. Previously had my own symmetrical gigabit link and it was still slow. Don't forget to install any video plugins e.g. QuickTime s otherwise your videos won't get uploaded as well. Currently running at about 65gb and fortunately on the original price for 200gb of storage which Google were really nice about.
    • 0
Mind you. If you live in Romania Ukraine lithuaia etc where they have gigabit for £10 a month unlimited, there are a number of free unlimited storage sites. Mostly people upload and share blurays because to upload avatar takes a few hours for 150gb or so!
works because laws aside... ISP's just peer locally and manage the bandwidth and even contribute to the running of such sites! Thus saving on international traffic costs. Most people store entire music collections online. Only thing is ... the files can be browsed by others so need encrypt photos.
Just need find a vpn in a copyright friendly country. Hence it hasn't caught on in the west .. stupid copyright rules. They should sold come up with a better system for playback.
Ooh yeah, now and again some government officials pretend to do something about it, so the systems may go offline for a few weeks until the array is rebuilt. I know of one currently has about 2 petabytes in use.
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