We’ve already talked through the details of Google’s upcoming transition to stop allowing free, high-quality photo backups to occur via Google Photos. We all have different feelings about this move, but I’ve long conceded that Google can’t keep it free forever. As long as they are giving us plenty of notice before stopping the free backups (they are) and they don’t pull the rug out from under us on already-backed-up media (this will only take effect for photos/videos saved after June 2021), I get it and I understand the move. I may not like it, but I get it.
While June 2021 feels like a long way away, it isn’t. It takes time to break free of old habits, so we figured we’d make everyone aware of a tool that Google has for you to use in the event you choose to go the route of local, self-stored backup with some drives you can purchase at Best Buy or Amazon. There are tons of hardware options, so we’ll get into those some other time, but know there are plenty of drives you can choose from if you decide to go with localized storage for your photos and videos. Some of them even come with networked options out of the box so you can access them from wherever you may be, provided you have an internet connection.
How to use Google’s Takeout tool to export your photos and videos
Google has made it dead simple to get your stuff out of their servers if you so choose, but we’ll focus in on media for today. First up, head over to takeout.google.com (creative name, right?), log in, and you’ll see a long list of all the stuff you have backed up in Google’s servers. Be prepared: it’s a lot of stuff. Hit that deselect all button right up top to get started.
Next, scroll down to Google Photos (or hit CTRL+F to search for it if your list is as long as mine is) and select the checkbox next to it. There are two buttons underneath that are basically telling you that your photos are in multiple formats and that by default, all your albums are included. You can click that second button and select albums by name or by date, but it looks like all your photos are in a daily ‘album’ if they were never put into any specific albums created by you explicitly.
After this is selected, scroll all the way to the bottom and click ‘next step’ to continue. Now, you’ll get to choose how you’d like to receive the data that is exported. There are a few cloud storage options or you can simply get an email link pointing you towards your zipped-up download. Keep in mind, if you choose one of the cloud storage options and unzip it inside that cloud storage environment, you’ll need to be sure you have the space available to deal with all the photos that will come from unzipping these large archives.
Additionally, Google gives you options on creating a schedule for future backups as well. Once the first, large export is done, you could create a new export every 2 months for up to a year and basically just wait for your email to arrive. If you are like me and plan to keep all the pre-June 2021 photos in Google Photos where they are, I’m not sure this scheduled export will be a great option as there is currently no option to only export new additions only. This step also lets you choose the archive format (we’d recommend .zip) and the max file size. As long as you have a newer computer, moving this file size up is fine and will help you avoid having to deal with multiple .zip files. I’d recommend the 2GB or 4GB setting here so you can get a bit larger .zip files but not overwhelm your local system when it is time to unzip them. Once all that is selected, you can now click the Create export button.
After this, you’ll get a message that the export is being created and if this is the first of your exports, it could take a very long time to create. Google warns it could be hours or days for this to happen, and you have an option to cancel the export at any time.
After waiting it out, you’ll get a notification via email from Google that your export is completed and instructions on where to go download it. Again, be aware that if you have a decade’s worth of photos, you’ll be downloading quite a few .zip files and it will take some time and patience with your local machine to sort and arrange those photos to your liking.
Keep in mind, this is all going to take time and increasing expense as you fill up more and more local storage and unless you unzip these in a storage solution that is connected, you can’t use them out and about without some extensive planning first. Google’s prices for cloud storage are very affordable and far less expensive and time consuming when compared with all the steps we’ve outlined here. I know Google One may not be the best solution for everyone, but for most (especially Google users), it is clearly going to be the easiest path forward.
For me, I’d rather start weeding out bad photos in my leisure time right on my phone and trying to keep my Google storage space under control versus having to figure out how to store all the pics I just took on my last trip when I get home or risk losing everything because a drop my phone in the pool. To each their own, and if local storage sounds great to you, I hope this quick guide helps you get there a bit faster. As for me and mine, we’ll just start being a bit more picky about the photos we choose to keep backed up in Google Photos.