Google Drive photos folder

Google has announced that Google Drive and Google Photos will be separating in July. Google says, “the connection between these services is confusing,” so it’s making some changes to “simplify the experience.” Here’s what that means for you.

How Were Google Drive and Photos Connected?

Currently, Google Drive and Google Photos are linked together. From within Google Drive, you can select a “Google Photos” folder to browse all your photos and videos. The Google Backup and Sync tool for Windows and Mac can sync these photos to your computer, just as it can sync your other Google Drive files.

And, from within Google Photos, you’ll also see photos you store in other folders in Google Drive.

These interfaces are linked together. If you delete a photo from within Google Drive, it also vanishes from Google Photos. If you delete a photo from within Google Photos, it will also be removed from your Google Drive.

Google says it’s heard feedback that this connection is confusing, so it’s making some changes.

What’s Changing?

Starting sometime in July 2019, this connection is being removed. New photos (and videos) added to Google Photos will not appear in the Google Photos folder in Google Drive. According to Google’s announcement, any existing photos and videos you have in your Google Photos folder will continue to remain there in Google Drive—but no new ones will be automatically added.

New photos and videos stored in Google Drive won’t automatically be shown in Google Photos, either.

If you delete photos or videos from Google Drive or Google Photos, they won’t be automatically removed from the other service. Google says, “this change is designed to help prevent accidental deletion of items across products.”

In other words, the automatic link between the two services is being removed. Photos and videos will exist only in one place. Google is already showing a notification saying your “Google Photos folder is changing.”

What Happens to My Photos and Videos?

Google Photos folder is changing message from Google Backup and Sync

Nothing’s changing for existing photos and videos. If you currently have photos on Google Drive, those photos will still be shown in Google Photos in the future. If you currently have photos in Google Photos, they’ll still be shown in the Google Drive folder in the future.

However, any new photos uploaded to Google Photos won’t appear in Google Drive, and any new photos uploaded to Google Drive won’t appear in Google Photos.

How Can I Move Photos From Drive to Photos?

Google is adding an “Upload from Drive” feature to Google Photos. When you head to the Google Photos website, you can select “Upload from Drive” to upload photos and videos from your Google Drive account to Google Photos.

After they’re uploaded, these photos and videos won’t be linked—in other words, if you upload a photo from Drive to Photos and then delete it on one service, it won’t be removed on the other.

This also means that, if you upload a 50 MB video from Drive to Photos and leave it in both locations, it will take 100 MB of your Google account’s storage quota.

Can I Still Sync Google Photos to My PC or Mac?

Currently, this integration means you can automatically download (sync) any photos and videos added to Google Photos to your PC or Mac. It all happens via the normal Google Backup and Sync application that syncs Google Drive files—just select the Google Photos and everything syncs.

Is this feature going away? It looks like it might. Google’s statement says that “You’ll still be able to use Backup and Sync on Windows or macOS to upload to both services in High Quality or Original Quality.”

In other words, Google says you’ll still be able to upload photos and videos from your PC automatically—but doesn’t mention downloading photos and videos to your PC. We’ll have to see exactly what Google does in July, but it looks like this feature is going away.

If you need to sync photos to your PC, you might be better off switching to Dropbox or OneDrive on your phone. Those services can automatically upload photos you take, and then you can sync them to your PC like any other folder.

Can I Automatically Upload Photos to Google Drive?

The Google Photos application for Android and iPhone will still automatically upload photos, if you like—but only to Google Photos. You can no longer automatically upload them and have them placed in Google Drive—at least with Google’s own applications.

As Android Police notes, the Android app Autosync for Google Drive could help fill the hole. It will let you automatically synchronize files and folders (including photos) with your Google Drive folder. They’ll then sync to your PC. It’s two-way sync, too, if you like—you can delete photos or other files in the synced Google Drive folder, and Autosync will delete them in their original location on your Android phone.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
Read Full Bio »