What does backup and sync mean in Google Photos on Android and iOS

What does backup and sync mean in Google Photos on Android and iOS

On Android and iOS, the Google Photos app asks if you want to turn on backup and sync when you open the app for the first time. This poses many questions about how Google Photos works. You may wonder if Google Photos publishes your photos so that anyone can see them and will the photos lose their privacy? We will answer all of these questions about backing up Google Photos in this article.

Don’t confuse the Google Photos desktop app known as Backup & Sync with the Backup & Sync feature in Google Photos mobile apps. We’ll cover the backup and sync functionality of Google Photos mobile apps in this article.

Let’s start with what it means to Back up and sync in the Google Photos app on Android and iOS, and if you need to enable it.

What is Google Photos and how does it work

The answer depends on the platform you are using. On Android, iOS, and iPadOS, Google Photos apps work in two ways. First of all, it can be used as a typical gallery app to display all the photos and videos on your device. Second, it acts as a cloud storage tool for backing up photos and videos online in the Google Photos library (when activated). This backup is accessible on all devices with the respective Google account. Saving photos to the cloud is possible using the backup and synchronization feature that we will cover in this article. You can save unlimited photos with certain conditions mentioned below.

The web version of Google Photos, which is photos.google.com, allows you to view and edit photos added from other devices in the photo library. You can also download new files from your browser. Google Photos desktop apps for Windows and macOS also offer the ability to add and view files in the Google Photos library.

If you want to use the backup and sync feature in the Google Photos desktop app, see our guide on how to use the Google Photos desktop app.

Note: Google Photos is different from Google Drive because it allows you to save only photos and videos to the cloud. On the contrary, any file (PDF, ZIP, JPG, Mp4, APK, etc.) can be downloaded to Drive.

Now that you have an idea of ​​the Google Photos app, it’s time to delve into its main features – Backup and sync.

What is saved and synchronized in Google Photos

Back up and sync is a feature of Google Photos that automatically stores photos and videos from your device in the cloud linked to the connected Google Account and makes them accessible on other devices. By default, Google Photos does not upload any files to the cloud. This only happens when you enable the Backup and sync setting in the Google Photos app.

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Google Photos can only back up photos and videos. Photos should not exceed 200 MB or 150 MP. Likewise, a video must be less than 10 GB. Supported image file types include jpg, .png, .webp, live photos on iPhone and iPad, and some RAW files. For videos, you can have .mpg, .mod, .mmv, .tod, .wmv, .asf, .avi, .divx, .mov, .m4v, .3gp, .3g2, .mp4, .m2t,. m2ts, .mts and .mkv.

Typically, when you open the Google Photos app for the first time on your phone, you will be prompted to activate the backup. You can activate or deactivate the Backup and synchronize function later from the settings, as shown below.

How to enable or disable backup and sync on Google Photos

Step 1: Open the Google Photos app on your Android (phone or tablet), iPhone or iPad. The app automatically uses the Google account saved on your device to link it to a Google Photos account. You can easily switch between multiple Google accounts or delete an account from Google Photos. If no Google account is added, sign in with your Google account.

2nd step: Tap the image icon at the top, and then tap Photo settings.

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What does backup and synchronization mean in google photos 2

Step 3: Tap Save and sync. Activate the button next to Save and synchronize.

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What does backup and synchronization mean in google photos 4

Enabling the backup and synchronization setting displays an important setting, which is the download size. You have two options for this – High Quality and Original Quality.

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If you choose the original quality, photos and videos will be added to the photo library in their original size, given the limited storage of 15 GB on Google Drive. You can buy plans to increase your storage. On the contrary, the High quality mode allows you to download an unlimited number of photos and videos. The only drawback is that photos and videos will be compressed to 16MP and 1080 pixels respectively. In other words, if a photo exceeds 16 MP, it will be resized to 16 MP.

Likewise, videos with a resolution higher than 1080p will be resized to 1080 pixels. You can switch between the two modes at any time. But it will affect your files. Find out what happens when you go from original to high quality.

What happens when you enable backup and sync on Google Photos

Typically, when you enable the Backup and sync setting in Google Photos, all the photos and videos in the DCIM folder on your phone will be downloaded to the Google Photos library.

On some Android phones such as those running Stock Android, the DCIM folder contains only photos taken via the camera. Usually on Samsung phones, the folder contains photos of other applications such as Facebook and even screenshots. So in such cases, all of them will be automatically downloaded to Google Photos library. You can also enable backup for other device folders. However, you will have to do it manually. On iPhone and iPad, all photos and videos on the device are present in the DCIM folder, so everything is added to the Google Photos library.

Note: As a temporary measure to save Internet resources due to COVID-19, Google has stopped the service of backing up device folders from messaging applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc.

The photo library is a central Google Photos database. It is a private library until you share your photos with others. It works in two ways. First, the data (photos and videos) are downloaded there from different devices. Second, everything in the Google Photos library will automatically become available on other phones with the Google Photos app, signed in using the same Google Account.

The name Backup and Sync is again misleading. Because said parameter only enables or disables backup. Synchronization is activated all the time. Meaning files already available in your Google Photos library will automatically appear on your devices without enabling this setting.

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For example, if I enable Backup and sync on my Google Pixel, it will upload photos and videos from the DCIM folder to the Google Photo Library. Photos can be viewed on the web version of Google Photos. Now, if I add the same Google account to my iPhone, the photos and videos from my Pixel will automatically appear on my other phones even without enabling backup and synchronization. These photos will not take storage on other devices unless I download them.

In a word, the synchronization function of Google Photos is always active. In addition, enabling backup and sync adds photos and videos from your device to the cloud – Google Photos Library.

Benefits of enabling backup and sync on Google Photos

You get the following benefits if you enable Backup and sync on Google Photos.

1. Automatic backup of photos in the cloud

The first advantage is obvious. Your photos and videos are automatically stored in the cloud. So even if you lose your phone or don’t have it at hand, you can view your photos from any device by signing in to the same Google Account on the Google Photos app or website.

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2. Automatic synchronization

Google Photos offers a great editing experience. If you edit a photo or video using Google Photos, the new copy will automatically sync with other devices.

3. Share photos using Google Photos

Enabling backup makes it easy to share photos from the Google Photos library. You can share photos and videos with others even if they don’t have a Google Photos account. Files can be shared without enabling backup and synchronization as well. Only files to share will be added to the Google Photos library. See our guide to Google Photos sharing permissions and settings.

4. Save the storage on the phone

You can save storage space on your phone. Since the photos reside securely in the Google Photo Library, you can delete them from your phone. However, do not delete them manually. To do this, use the Free space function of Google Photos.

5. Powerful search

Enabling backup unlocks Google Photos’ powerful AI search. You can search for places, things, colors, and even people in Google Photos. This feature is not available for photos that are not stored in the photo library.

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6. Automatic changes

Google Photos is known for automatically creating great movies, collages, animations, and more from your stored data. You can either use it as offered by the application, or customize it.

Disadvantages of enabling backup and synchronization

Google Photos becomes confusing when it comes to deleting photos from it. If the photos are present in the photo library, deleting it from one device will also delete it from other devices. Learn more about what happens when you delete photos from Google Photos.

On iPhone and iPad, deleting photos from Google Photos will also delete them from iCloud. Check out our guide for how to stop this. Some users may also want to delete photos from iPhone or iPad only, but not from Google Photos. It’s also possible. Also learn how to delete photos from Google Photos, but not from the phone.

What happens when stopping backup and synchronization

Disabling backup and sync settings will not remove any existing photos or videos from the Google Photos library. However, new photos or videos from the device on which the setting was disabled will not be automatically stored in the cloud.

If you enable backup and sync on Google Photos

It depends on your needs. If you don’t want to save your photos to the cloud, there is no need to activate it. Of course, this would mean that you cannot access it on other devices, and you will lose the benefits mentioned above. If you like the features offered by Google Photos, you can try the offline version of the app called Gallery Go.

But if you want to save storage space and want to view your photos from any device, enabling backup would make sense. However, as mentioned above, be careful about backing up Google Photos, especially when you delete files from Google Photos.

Sometimes you may run into problems with the backup function, such as videos that do not save or are not ready to prepare. It should not affect your decision.

Will you enable backup and sync on Google Photos? Let us know in the comments below.


Not satisfied with Google Photos? Find out what will happen if you uninstall the Google Photos app from your Android or iPhone.

Last updated Jul 19, 2020

The above article may contain affiliate links that help support Guiding Tech. However, this does not affect our editorial integrity. The content remains impartial and authentic.

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