Google Photos is NOT a “Backup” of Your Photos

A Backup is an EXTRA copy kept in a safe place.

First, here’s the definition of “Backup” that I use:

The procedure for making extra copies of data in case the original is lost or damaged.

Backup files are EXTRA copies. 

These extra files are stored in a safe place where they will not be touched unless you need them. 
When you use the Google Photos app on your phone or tablet, you turn on the setting called “Backup and Sync.” I wish this was called “Upload and Sync” because it does not meet my definition of Backup.

Google Photos are Working Copies

With the Backup and Sync feature turned on, Google Photos will automatically upload  every photo you take with your phone to the cloud – in your specified Google account. This is great! If you drop your phone overboard, your photos are not lost! So far, it does sound like a backup.

But, after your photos are uploaded, you are encouraged to work with them there. You can edit, delete, create, and share your photos using the Google Photos copy. These are not extra copies – they are the working copy of your photos. If you delete these, they’re gone, unless you have an extra copy somewhere.

You are also encouraged to “Free up Space” on your phone by deleting the photos from your phone. Now the Google Photos copy is your only copy!
See other article: Three Ways to Delete Photos with Google Photos

How to make a Backup of your Smartphone Photos

It is your responsibility to make a true backup of your photos. Google Photos, all by itself, is not doing that for you.

Automatic method: use another cloud storage service like Dropbox, or OneDrive, or Amazon Cloud. I use OneDrive. Just download the OneDrive app to your phone, go into settings, and turn on Camera Upload. That automatically uploads a copy of every photo to my Microsoft OneDrive account.

Since this is in addition to Google Photos, the OneDrive copy is an extra copy! A backup. I rarely touch these photos since I prefer to work with the Google Photos app. An extra benefit of OneDrive is that you can choose to also synchronize with your computer’s hard drive, so your photos are automatically on your computer, available offline. Now you have 2 extra copies! It’s starting to feel very safe now.
See other article: Getting your Photos Down From the Google Photos Cloud

Manual Backup: you can manually connect your phone to your computer and copy pictures to your hard drive. Use the charging cable that came with your computer. There is a USB connection on the end to plug into the computer. Then, follow the prompts on both your computer screen and the phone screen to establish the phone as a drive that your computer can see. Then use standard copy/paste functions to get the pictures from your phone to your computer.

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Chris Guld is President and Teacher-in-Chief at She has been in computer training and support since 1983 and owned a Computer Training Center called Computer Savvy from 1983-1996. She was one of the first WordPerfect Certified trainers in 1986; President of the International Computer Training Association in 1993; Author of the Beginner’s Guide to Picasa and the website. She is now a Top Contributor for the Google Photos Forum and owner of the blog. She loves to teach! If you want to learn, you’ve come to the right place.

3 thoughts on “Google Photos is NOT a “Backup” of Your Photos”

  1. Absolutely! Google kidnaps your data. It’s like falling from a high place to a hard surface; everything feels great till you hit the hard surface. Google then suggest you give them more money for greater storage, if you fall for that, more pictures, videos and important drawings, charts or writing will be under Google complete control. You can see the pictures in their album, or send copies but of much lower quality. I cannot keep them with my other hard drive storage or even sort them as I want. Forget about privacy! I feel like a giant SUCKER for falling for Google storage. I never paid, but they still have my pictures and videos.

    1. My point is that Google Photos is a complete working copy of my lifetime of photos – I love it for that and think it is well worth the $20/year that I pay. I just need another copy to be a true backup.

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