Oct 15 2011
How to Use iCloud Photo Stream to Backup iPhone Pictures to PC
One of the features of Apple’s IOS 5 update for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch that I’ve been most excited about is the ability to use the iCloud to automatically backup pictures taken on these devices. The bonus feature of this is that it will then push the pictures to a Windows PC (or Mac) and to any other IOS 5 devices that you might be using. Whenever I am asked to help try to recover data from an iPhone that has been damaged or lost, it is always the pictures that the user is most concerned about. Although there is a some setup required, I hope that you will take the time to do this so that your pictures are always backed up to your computer. This article is targeted to PC users.
When you take a picture, it goes to your Camera Roll. The picture is also copied to the Photo Stream. The Photo Stream is a holder in your iCloud of the last 1000 pictures that you take with any of the devices. If you are on wi-fi, the iCloud pushes the picture to your other devices that have Photo Stream enabled. If you are not on wi-fi, pictures will be pushed the next time that you connect to wi-fi. Photo Stream will hold up to 1000 pictures. If you exceed 1000 pictures or the pictures are more than 30 days old, they will fall off of Photo Stream. This shouldn’t be a problem as long as you are connected to wi-fi at least once every 30 days and that your PC is turned on as often to receive the pictures from Photo Stream.)
Here’s how to set up the Photo Stream feature:
If you turned on iCloud when you set up your device, you just need to go to Settings, iCloud to make sure that your Photo Stream option is turned “On”, as shown below.
(If you just got your device, follow the steps that I have listed in my previous article called “How to Set Up Apple iCloud on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch” found here.)
If you have already installed the iCloud Control Panel on your PC, open it by finding it in the Start Menu or there should be an iCloud icon in your system tray (see next picture). Click it to open the iCloud Control Panel. (If you have not already installed the Control Panel, set up the iCloud software on your PC with the instructions found here.)
Next, be sure that the Photo Stream option is checked in the iCloud Control Panel (see the red arrow).
Click on the Options (blue arrow), and you will see the following screen, which shows the folder to which the iCloud will copy pictures taken on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. You can change the locations here if you want. It goes both ways, too! If you want to send a picture to your devices, simply drag the picture to your Upload folder and you will almost immediately see it in the Photo Stream album in your Photos app on your device if you are on Wi-Fi.
- Find the “C:\Users\*****\Pictures\Photo Stream” folder in Windows Explorer and right-click. This brings up a menu that lets you choose to “Send to”, then choose “Desktop (create shortcut)”. Now you can easily access your Photo Stream folders right from your desktop!
- You can’t delete pictures from your Photo Stream at this time, but they will fall off after 30 days or you hit 1000 pictures.
- You can’t edit the pictures in the Photo Stream, but can edit the versions in the Camera Roll or on your PC.
Now try it! Take a picture with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch and go look in your Photo Stream download folder on your computer (if your device is connected to W-Fi). The picture should appear within a few seconds. If it isn’t, press F5 to refresh and if everything is working correctly, your picture should appear. Try it out the other way, too. Drop a picture in your Photo Stream\Uploads folder and see the picture appear in your Photo app on your device under the folder “Photo Stream”.
Update - Apple seems to be having some trouble with Photo Stream, so you might find that the pictures show up at an inconsistent speed, but do seem to get there.