Google Decouples Drive and Photos

Posted on June 12, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Google, Music + Videos, Google Photos with 21 Comments

Google announced today that it will no longer automatically sync photos between its Drive and Photos services.

“Many of you store your photos and videos on both Google Drive and Google Photos, which keeps them safe and easy to access,” a new post to the Google Photos blog explains. “We’ve heard feedback that the connection between these services is confusing, so next month, we’re making some changes to simplify the experience across Drive and Photos.”

Today, new photos and videos that appear in a user’s Google Photos automatically appear in that user’s Google Drive as well. And vice versa. The problem, as it turns out, is that users would delete photos from one service but not intend to delete them in the other. So Google is making changes to prevent this kind of accidental deletion.

So, here’s what’s happening.

Starting in July, new photos and videos added to Drive will no longer automatically appear in Photos. Likewise, new photos and videos added to Photos will not be added to the Photos folder in Drive too.

When you delete photos and videos in Drive, they will not be removed from Photos. And vice versa.

Additionally, Google will add an “Upload from Drive” feature to Photos that lets users choose items to copy to Drive. Copied items are not linked back to the original service. So when you delete one in Drive, the original in Photos will remain. “Since photos and videos will no longer sync across both products, items copied in Original Quality will count towards your storage quota in both Drive and Photos,” Google notes.

Backup and Sync will continue to work as before using the Windows and Mac clients. But items uploaded using Backup and Sync in Original Quality to both services will count only once towards your total online storage quota.

Any photos or videos that were uploaded prior to this change will remain in Photos. Your Google Photos folder in Drive will remain but will no longer update automatically as before.

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (21)

21 responses to “Google Decouples Drive and Photos”

  1. michael.dice

    I have been using Backup and Sync to automatically download my Google Photos down to my PC (for backups). If this gets disconnected, how will I continue to sync my photos locally?

    • waharris007

      In reply to michael.dice:

      SAME! I have loved how I get automatic local backups of all my photos, automatically arranged neatly into year/date/month folders, without me having to lift a finger. I certainly trust Google's servers, but I don't know that I trust them as the ONLY copy of my pictures. And I'd hate to have to start manually saving them elsewhere. I know I could turn on OneDrive photo backup, but that doesn't automatically organize them the way Google does, does it?

  2. nicholas_kathrein

    I like this change. I never liked having the photos showing in Google drive.

    • Riopato

      In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

      I would prefer to have an opt-in function instead of no option. I got used to managing my photos via the Photos app instead of the drive app on both Windows Photo/one drive and Android Photo/Google Drive.

  3. Riopato

    Windows 10 mobile solved this confusion by simply having a prompt to verify a choice to delete cloud copy or not. Of course I'm expecting for this function to stop working like everything else that is Windows Phone related making Photos on Windows 10 also to lose this functionality.

  4. truerock2

    This is a very unfortunate reaction to a "non-computer science problem".

    Most individuals deal with photos, videos, music and "other-files" in various ways. Part of the reason is in regard to the amount of storage needed for each category. A typical user may have a few gigabytes of music and several terabytes of videos.

    Also, the management of each category has different requirements and are utilized in different ways.

    Regardless, from a user perspective, the simple view of storage should be consistent, single view. A model that suggests that a specific data category is stored in 2 different locations is unnecessary and overly confusing.

    In my opinion, this unfortunate situation occurred when Apple decided to handle photo storage differently from other storage.

    On top of these types of issues we must deal with local file copies versus remote file copies. For whatever reason, some users cannot deal with differentiation. Microsoft screwed up this situation when it decided to make auto-save the default for Excel. Which was followed up with a warning that an original file and remote backup were to be automatically modified if changes were made. I believe Microsoft finally had to turn off that default?

    So, now I see... this subject is too involved and my post is just becoming a ramble. Maybe if Steve Jobs was alive he would come up with a better file storage model. What would that be?

  5. dontbe evil

    One more google services mess up...glad I use onedrive

  6. Lauren Glenn

    So I can get the 5GB of drive storage back for images that I since pulled off the system that I can’t seem to clear up without manually removing every picture and video since they don’t have an option for it?

    I don’t trust Google Drive.... Dropbox gave me an extra TB for free with my $20 plan, so now I have 3TB. I have no need for anything else now

  7. roykirk

    Not sure what was so hard to understand. I very much liked having Photos as part of my Drive and well understood that deleting them from Drive would delete them in Photos. I am disappointed by this change, especially as I invested in the 2TB monthly fee for Drive so I could have everything in one convenient location and didn't have to think about it as two separate services.

    Is this a case where a few outliers complained and the vast majority who used and liked the way the service functioned are now having a valued feature removed? Asking seriously.

    • Lauren Glenn

      In reply to roykirk:

      It’s probably because Google realized they kept a feature alive for more than three years and decided to kill it. It had its bugs and google (as always) just didn’t bother to fix it.

  8. UK User

    Thing is I have multiple duplicate pictures in my One Drive and if I try to cull a few I get a dire warning that any duplicates, anywhere else, will also be deleted. So now I have many copies of pictures that I dare not delete. So for me Google's idea seems like a sensible one.

  9. MikeGalos

    Maybe someone told them that if they didn't have their services linked they'd be less likely to be a monopoly. :-)

    More seriously, saying "the way this feature worked confused people so we are removing the feature" is just shoddy program management.

  10. jimchamplin

    Nice! I love how they don't talk about there being a setting to turn it back on because there isn't one. Options aren't something anybody wants or needs according to modern developers.

  11. the escalation

    In my opinion, this sounds like an even worse move. Part of the reason I started using Google Photos was so that I could easily sort my photos into folders (which could then be moved to other services like OneDrive, if need be). As an added bonus, those folders also doubled as my albums in Google Photos, and moving or deleting anything in one would seamlessly sync up in the other. This change will just make things more complicated for me, and I'll likely have to quit putting my photos in Drive altogether.

  12. jbinaz

    One thing I wish I could find a way to do is have my OneDrive camera roll and Photos in Google kept in sync, i.e., if I delete from one it deletes from both.

    • Riopato

      In reply to jbinaz:

      The Onedrive app on Android has a setting to sync any pictures saved in Google Photos but I've never tried deleting pictures that I wanted to lose on the Onedrive side. Because of this change, I'm expecting the Onedrive/Google Drive sync to eventually stop working entirely.

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to jbinaz:

      Interesting; I use Google Photos and OneDrive on iOS to backup my camera roll, and OneDrive seems to be a one way path, while Google Photos and the iOS Photos app interoperate the way you describe. So I have to go back and manually delete stuff from OneDrive.