The iPhone isn't completely incompatible with PCs, but unlike with a Mac, it can be challenging to keep your data synced across both devices. Windows users, however, have the option to transfer photos from an iPhone to a computer. By using the official iCloud for Windows app, you have several options to ensure all your images are easily viewable from your PC. Whether it's to download photos for editing on your PC or to ensure that your photo gallery is backed up across multiple devices, here are essential steps to make your images available on a Windows PC.
Apple's iCloud is the main tool required to sync your photos across iOS and Windows devices. With iCloud, you get 5GB of free storage for photos, videos, documents, apps and data. Those will keep all your devices up to date automatically. However, keep in mind that those 5GB of storage space may be eaten up rather quickly.
Follow this general guide to get started with iCloud:
- Make sure your iPhone is running the latest version of iOS. To check, go to Settings > General > Software Update.
- Turn on iCloud Photos on your iOS device. Go to Settings > Photos and toggle iCloud Photos on.
- Choose whether or not to "optimize iPhone storage." With this setting activated, full-resolution photos and videos are replaced with smaller versions on the iPhone. You can still download the full-resolution versions at any time from iCloud. This can improve your device's storage capabilities.
- Be sure the "Upload to my Photo Stream" setting is toggled off. While this uploads the last 30 days of new photos and enables you to view them with the My Photo Stream feature on other devices, only iCloud uploads videos and keeps all of the edits up to date. Apple details the differences between My Photo Stream and iCloud here.
- Install iCloud for Windows to your PC by downloading it from Apple's website. If you have Windows 10, you can download iCloud from the Microsoft Store.
- Open iCloud and sign in with your Apple ID on your Windows PC.
- On the next screen, check the Photos box.
- Click Options. Select what you wish to sync. You can upload photos from your library to iCloud and enable download of iCloud photos directly to your PC.
- iCloud for Windows will create a photos folder in File Explorer called iCloud Photos. iCloud Photos will upload any new photos added to this folder so they're accessible by other devices where you have enabled iCloud syncing.
- Turn on iCloud Photos on all your devices to ensure all the images you wish to sync do so.
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If you'd prefer to sync your music, videos, photos, contacts, calendars and device backups via your iTunes account, there are two methods: USB or Wi-Fi.
Sync via USB
- Open iTunes and make sure you've got the most recent version.
- Connect your iPhone to your PC via USB. You should see a device appear in the upper left corner of iTunes under Connected Devices.
- Click on the device icon.
- Click Settings on the left side of iTunes to see the types of content you can sync.
- Click on the content you want and then click on Sync in iTunes.
- Click Apply in the lower right corner of iTunes. It should start to sync automatically. Now each time you connect via USB and have iTunes open, your devices will sync.
Turn on syncing over Wi-Fi
If you've already confirmed your PC is running the latest version of iTunes and that your iPhone and PC are running on the same Wi-Fi network, you can set your iPhone to sync content over Wi-Fi. This will require a lightning cable to physically connect the iPhone to the PC.
- Connect your iPhone to your PC via USB.
- In the iTunes app, click the Device button near the top left of the iTunes window.
- Click on the Summary tab, located below the Settings
- Select the checkbox for "Sync with this [device] over Wi-Fi."
- Click Apply.
- Wi-Fi syncing will remain on. To disconnect your device from the computer, click the eject button.
Sync device over Wi-Fi
After setting up the above process, you can also sync the device wirelessly when it's on the same network as your PC.
- Connect your device to a charger, making sure it's plugged into an electrical outlet.
- Your iPhone will begin to sync automatically.
- In the Windows iTunes app, click the icon for your device and the Sync button.
- On the iPhone, go to Settings > General > iTunes Wi-Fi Sync, then tap Sync Now for your images to be available across the devices.
Want more control of where your files are backed up from your iPhone to your PC? Try Windows AutoPlay and grab that USB cable again.
- Plug in your iPhone via USB.
- Open the Settings menu on your PC and click Devices.
- Click on AutoPlay on the left side of the screen.
- Click on Choose AutoPlay Defaults to tell your PC where to put your photos, files and music.
Access photos from iCloud in a web browser
Another option to view your iPhone photos on a PC is through a web browser. This is a good choice if you want to transfer photos without iTunes.
- Go to iCloud.com.
- Enter your iCloud login credentials.
- If you have two-factor authentication, you'll receive a prompt on another Apple device.
- Enter the six-digit code you receive into the form.
- On the next screen, you'll see a selection of various web apps. Click on Photos.
- From this screen, you'll see your photo stream.
- Double-click to view an individual photo. At the top right of the screen, there are options to favorite a photo, add it to an album, share, download or delete it. From the menu on the side of the screen, you can access files organized by media type and any albums that have been saved in iCloud.
Increase your storage
As indicated, you start with 5GB of free storage. Once you go past this limit, you'll need to increase the amount of storage you have with iCloud. You can do this directly on your Windows PC:
- Open iCloud for Windows.
- Click Storage.
- Click Change Storage Plan.
- Choose a plan, then click Next.
- Enter your Apple ID password, then click Buy.
There are several third-party applications that can make transferring and syncing your iPhone and PC easier:
- EaseUS's MobiMover allows you to manage your iPhone files and export or import your data between either device. You can set it up so that it can back up your phone with one click when it's plugged in. It can also transfer your data between two different iPhones.
- iMazing can similarly sync your devices automatically, wirelessly and on a consistent schedule. If you're upgrading to a new version of the iPhone, it can transfer your data as well as your apps and preferred settings.
If you want to transfer photos from iPhone to PC, you have many options. The key is to choose the least disruptive workflow that also provides the right flexibility for accessing your images.
Andreas Rivera contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.