Apple Now Lets Users Move Photos from iCloud

Posted on March 3, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, Cloud, Google Photos, Music + Videos with 26 Comments

Apple has finally figured out how to let its users get out of the one-way, dead-end street that is the Apple ecosystem. At least part of it.

“You can request to transfer a copy of photos and videos you store in iCloud Photos to Google Photos,” an Apple Support document notes. “Transferring photos and videos from iCloud Photos doesn’t remove or alter the content you store with Apple, but sends a copy of your content to the other service.”

At the moment, the only service that Apple supports transferring to is Google Photos, but presumably more will be added in the future. The process can take 3 to 7 days. And you need to live in Australia, Canada, the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, or the United States to use this feature.

To make the transfer, sign-in to your Apple account at the Apple Data & Privacy website. Then, just choose the service to transfer to. There’s no way to choose which photos and videos to transfer; instead, it will transfer all of your photos, all of your videos, or both.

You can learn more here.

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Comments (28)

28 responses to “Apple Now Lets Users Move Photos from iCloud”

  1. jdmp10

    Anyone can do this now on an iPhone with Google Photos installed. Just choose the option to backup photos to your Google account, same functionality exists in the OneDrive app and in the case of 365 Family subscribers, you get a 1TB of storage to backup your photos all you like.

    • ivarh

      In reply to jdmp10:

      Not exactly. If you install google photos/onedrive and set it to back up your data you have to leave your phone unlocked and on power for the backup to run in the background. In addition to this it will be slow.


      The new method means Apple is pushing your photos to google directly from their servers, your phone is not involved.

      • jdmp10

        In reply to ivarh:


        If you're after doing a one-time transfer without having to install and maintain one additional app on your phone then sure this probably works fine but that's all it's good for.

      • jason_e

        In reply to ivarh:

        Its not slow at all. I transferred about 10,000 photos and videos over night once. Not to mention its faster than 3-7 days. You can do with Flickr, Amazon, One Drive and many other services so I do not know why this is a big deal. You have never really been locked into Apple photos.

        • jdawgnoonan

          In reply to jason_e:

          I agree that it is not optimal trying to do it with the One Drive app on iOS. I use to try to do this and hardly any of my photos were backed up to iCloud with that method. If you use Windows the easier way was with the iCloud Sync application, although it is a piece of garbage like most Apple apps created to run on Windows.

  2. winner

    This is known as a chink in the walled garden.

  3. robinwilson16

    So you must move to one of the listed countries to be able to transfer your data - that's a bit of a pain!

  4. spiderman2

    Glad we have 6x1TB on onedrive + o365

  5. nbplopes

    I think it always did like everyone else. It just made it easier for people with a massive number of photos in the iCloud. TBs of photos.


    Apart from the fact that in this ecosystem, devices need to be bought to one company only, Apple, they don’t do much else than anyone else does.


    Now, lately they have been forcing the market to be the sole supplier not only of devices, which is reasonable considering they produce them, but also third party software and digital services. Presenting this as a solution to solve Privacy and Security problems. This needs to be stopped considering their mobile market share.

  6. wright_is

    Hmm, from Apple to Google? Out of the frying pan and into the fire, isn't it?

  7. markwibaux

    Wonder if photos transferred this way start counting towards your google storage limits and if they are converted to "High Quality" copies as part of the process or stored as the original files.

    Just thinking if it is worthwhile getting some family, who are only on Apple, across to Google photos before they start making all photo uploads count against you Google storage quota. They've been wanting to get a Google Nest Hub Max up and running so they can display their photos and this seems a simpler way versus downloading their iCloud photos to their Mac and re-uploading to Google Photos.

  8. spacecamel

    I wonder if Google will allow the same i.e., move photos into Apple.

    • joeaxberg

      In reply to spacecamel:

      I have to think that would be a very small sub-set of users. If a Google user switched to iPhone, I'd kinda think they'd just stay in Google photos.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Is there a person on this earth that wants to move photos in that direction? Kidding, but ... is there? :)
      • ivarh

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        When google killed inbox I had enough of google dropping things i had taken time to integrate into my workflow. At that time I was a gsuite customer and a user of google photos. This triggered me moving to fastmail for email and as I had enough I moved my photos over to icloud. Since then google have changed the rules for google photos in regards to making it no longer free but not limiting what they use your photos for in ML (as far as I have been able to ascertain)


        Getting a copy of my photos out of Google photos was not that hard but deleting them afterward was not a easy exercise. I discovered that google photos had no delete all button. With about 30K pictures I had to manually marking small blocks of photos in the web interface and deleting them. If I selected to many pictures the deletion would fail. I discovered by trial and error that the maximum number of photos I could reliably delete in one go was around 150-200 photos. After completing the deletion I discovered that google photos would still keep popping up with suggestion of events based on my photos even months after i had purged my deleted pictures and had no pictures visible in my web interface. This exercise thought me one thing: Never put anything into a google service ever again.


        I used to have a US itunes account that I moved my pictures into but since the only way I could pay from Australia was by buying US itunes gift card I had to move my pictures over to a Australian icloud account. This was simply done by telling my mac to keep a local copy of all my photos and then log out of my US account and into my new Australian icloud account and letting the photos app sync the pictures up to the new account. Afterwards I logged into the web interface of my old icloud account and pressed select all and then delete to remove ALL the pictures in one go. It took less than a minute.


        The funny/scary part is that now even 4 years later google still keep some information about my photos since if I log into my google account and then enter google photos I get gray placeholders for all my photos with a timeline going back to 1998.


        Here is a screenshot showing the problem: https://cln.sh/ouHWkh

  9. Calibr21

    In reply to lvthunder:

    i believe you can install iCloud on a windows pc and copy off your photos that way.

  10. scovious

    Now if only I could get photos and videos off my iPhone without jumping through a hundred hoops. Has anybody tried pulling 200GB of photos off their iPhone using Windows (and not batch uploads using the cloud)? It's not a smooth experience; which is a shame considering the iPhone is more camera than phone these days.

    • apa

      In reply to scovious:

      Granted, I’ve never done 200GB, but the Windows Photos app always has worked fine for me to get photos and videos off of many iPhones.

    • RobertJasiek

      In reply to scovious:

      For moving photos locally between iDevice and Windows, iPhone should work like iPad as follows.

      • Use a Windows user account with password.
      • For the Windows user account, activate a cable network in Private mode.
      • Right-click (and go to properties) a folder, say, 'FO' accessible by the Windows user account to set a Share (SMB share version 3) for Any user (German Windows: Jeder), name the share, say, 'fo', grant Full Access and confirm by admin password.
      • Have your Windows user account and network running. Have your iDevice running with i(Pad)OS version 13 or later. Connect them by cable to a Windows PC's USB port.


      (to be continued)

      • RobertJasiek

        •   On the iDevice, open the Files app. Select "...". Select "Connect with server". Enter smb colon slash slash <IP_of_PC> slash <Share>, where this is an URL (sorry, no links can be posted as non-Premium users), <IP_of_PC> is the IP address of your Windows PC and <Share> is fo, for example, smb colon slash slash 192 dot 168 dot 0 dot 1/fo and enter the name of the Windows user account and its(!) password. Now, you should see the folder fo in Files.
        • RobertJasiek


          •    To transfer files from the folder fo on your Windows PC to your iDevice, in Files go to fo, mark files, select the command Move, select a destination possibly using the command / symbol Share (arrow upwards leaving a box), possibly select Files and a folder as the destination.
          •    To transfer files from your iDevice to the folder fo on your Windows PC, use the i(Pad)OS app Documents (Readdle), have the files in its folder My Files/Downloads or open its photo folder (having granted Documents access to Apple's Photo app). Select some files. Use the Share command. Save in Files. Select the server IP, such as 192 dot 168 dot 0 dot 1, select the folder fo.



          WARNINGS:


          •    Application is at your own risk.
          •    For an i(Pad)OS version, use a Documents version working under it.
          •    Transfer your files before you update i(Pad)OS because Apple likes to reestablish the Walled Garden and inhibit file transfer by third party apps at least temporarily.
          •    Never first batch process. Always first test for a single file.
          •    Files is programmed terribly: it lacks some essential security checks. In particular, if your Windows PC is connected by WLAN and you try to batch process a file transfer, Files might hang itself up and you might have to manually delete each individual file of your batch process or figure out some other workaround. Files expects exactly the network connection you have told it to use. Files does not switch between LAN and WLAN voluntarily.
          •   Expect USB 2.0 speed.
    • wright_is

      In reply to scovious:

      Yes, I don't use any of the built-in services on my phones (iCloud, Samsung cloud, Google Photos etc.), I use my own cloud service to automatically upload from my Android phone, I used to use OneDrive.

      As the iPhone is a company phone and we aren't allowed to use Apple cloud services on it, the point is moot there.

  11. pbsie

    "Apple has finally figured out how to let its users get out of the one-way, dead-end street that is the Apple ecosystem. At least part of it."


    Seriously, why should I trust anything you say about Apple to be unbiased ever again?

    • joeaxberg

      In reply to pbsie:

      It's just the usual Thurrott snark imho. Very few companies escape it here.


      I like Apple stuff. I like their services. My wife is a long-time iPhoto/Apple Photos user. Doesn't want to change. Doesn't need to change. I once suggested she should change, we tried, at which point she secretly plotted to have me assassinated. Therefore...I love Apple Photos!


      The snark doesn't bother me.


      If you're looking for websites that sing Apple's praises, or are supposedly "unbiased", there about about 1.2 zillion other websites one could browse.


    • pecosbob04

      In reply to pbsie: Well to be fair Paul does occasionally offer Apple commentary on FRD that could be construed as slightly less than totally biased against Apple. However many people are saying that Brad is running a beta of Unreal's deep fake technology to generate the 'unbiased Paul'. Personally I don't subscribe to that theory because if that were the case Paul's image wouldn't be so fuzzy. I think those anomalies are more likely to be a momentary tear in the fabric of the spacetime continuun, or perhaps an intervention by Q, the STNG version but I suppose the other one might be a possibility also.

      .

  12. glenn8878

    I wish Apple can fix backups so 5 GB is enough without going to a subscription backup plan. Running out of space is a constant struggle. I already don't backup my photos.

  13. jabi

    Good job apple! we can totally trust all of our personal data, especially your photos, with an ad company. /s

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