Many iPhone/PC users (as opposed to iPhone/Mac users) are not sure how to transfer/import/download/save their iPhone photos/videos to the PC. Worst, they think they need something like iTunes to do this supposedly simple thing. Well, it turns out that it is indeed quite simple, as simple as saying ‘Plug and Play’. In fact, I like the way Windows deals with this issue compared to Mac OSX.

In Windows, the iPhone (and presumably other iDevices) is considered one of USB devices, hence it’s treated like it!

The only limitation is that Windows is only allowed to ‘see’ the Camera Roll folder! You don’t have access to other ‘internal’ folders of the iDevices, presumably this is for our own protection, though others (read: non-iPhone users) would scream ‘Freedoommm!’ – or the lack of it that is.

So, since the iPhone is treated as a USB device, you can practically plug the USB cable from your iPhone to your PC and you are ready to transfer your photos/videos.

Be aware that while you can easily download your photos from iDevices to your desktop, the reverse is not true!  You can NOT just drag and drop photos to the iPhone.  So if you want to transfer photos/videos from your desktop back to iDevices please read my tips here.

In this post I want to show you 2 ways of importing the photos/videos; one is the simplest one and the other is the quickest.

Note that both techniques require a physical connection between your iDevice and the PC via the USB Cable. Each of them has its own pros and cons. You may choose which ever you see fit to your situation. You can in fact use both depending on the need.

Now let’s have a look at the simplest one first.


The Simplest

This is easy:

1. Plug the USB cable from the iDevice to the PC.
2. In Windows, open My Computer.
3. You should have the name of your iDevice under Portable Devices.

iDevice in My Computer

iDevice in My Computer

4. Double click on the iDevice icon. You should see the Internal Storage icon with descriptions underneath showing the total capacity of your iDevice storage and how much from that is free.

Internal Storage

Internal Storage

5. Double click on the Internal Storage icon. You should see the DCIM folder. This is the Camera Roll folder and as I said before this is the only folder you are able to see.

DCIM folder

DCIM folder

6. Double click on the DCIM icon. Now, you might see different view here, but basically you should see a bunch of folders with seemingly random name. Don’t ask me what they means, it’s something to do with maintaining the image name unique.

Under DCIM Folder

Under DCIM Folder


As you can see in my screenshot, I only have to folders, that’s because I just refreshed my iPhone and practically started over. But if you’ve had your iDevice for long you might see even more weird name folders.

7. Anyway, if you look inside each of this folder you should find your photos and videos. And from here you can just copy them to your local hard-drive. You can also delete them.

What you cannot do is to copy photos from your local hard-drive to the iDevice. You can only transfer out not in.

Photos and Videos

Photos and Videos

11. Unfortunately, and this is the drawback, there is no indication into which folder your particular photos would reside. Even looking at the Date Stamp wouldn’t help as they all seem to be stamped on the same day. Consequently, if you want to copy the last photos you just took you will need to hunt them down by opening the folder ONE BY ONE! Crazy huh!

Well fortunately there is one small trick you can do to give your sanity back!

On the DCIM folder, simply put an asterix, that is the ‘*’ symbol on the search box at the top right corner of the file explorer. This will basically show all files under all subfolders on the same page. Sanity back … done!

Unfortunately, you still can’t copy the files in batch, in fact you have to resort to Copy and Paste the photo ‘one at the time‘ because you can’t do drag and drop!

So while your sanity is back, your patience might be tested.

Search All Files

Search All Files

Update:  I found a workaround to at least to batch download images on the same folders (thanks for our readers who had pointed me out on this tips in the comment).

So when you get all files shown on Explorer using the ‘*’ trick, search for one of the image you wanted to download.

Let’s say you found one. Right click on the images and choose ‘Open File Location‘ from the menu.

This will open the folder where the image is located.  From here you can do the usual Batch Drag and Drop with no problem.

Phew! We found our sanity back AND our patience has been paid off!

You might argue that this is not simple at all, but after trying other ways of transferring photos, I decided that this is the simplest and most straight-forward of all. But maybe after learning the quickest technique I describe below, you might choose differently.

The Quickest

The quickest way of transferring photos/videos from your iDevices to your PC is by using the Import Pictures and Videos feature of Windows. This functionality comes with every Windows OS as a standard. Why is it the quickest, because once you set it up, the process is almost automatic!

1. Plug the USB cable from the iDevice to the PC.
2. If you are lucky, Windows would recognise the device and run the AutoPlay function. This functionality would normally run any time any external peripheral is attached to the PC. This peripheral could be a CD/DVD, an External Hard-drive, or an iPhone or iPad.
After doing some searching the AutoPlay should run the Import Pictures and Videos automatically, but if you just can’t wait for it, you are free to just select it from the list in the dialog box.

Autoplay Dialog

Autoplay Dialog

3. If you are not that lucky, and you don’t get the AutoPlay dialog box appears, it might be because your Windows settings have changed or you might’ve installed some other third-party app and it’s overriding the default settings.

4. To see whether your Windows settings are correct, open the Windows Start Menu and select the Control Panel menu item. This will open the Control Panel window. On the Search Bar type in ‘AutoPlay’. This will show all settings menu that has anything to do with AutoPlay. Click on ‘AutoPlay’ from the list. This will open the AutoPlay Settings page.

AutoPlay in Control Panel

AutoPlay in Control Panel

Scroll down until you see settings for Apple iPhone and Apple iPad. The setting for each of these items should read ‘Import pictures and videos using Windows‘.

Autoplay Setting For iPhone/iPad

Autoplay Setting For iPhone/iPad

If not, drop down the combo-box for each of them and change the setting. If they have already the correct setting then that means some other application is overriding it. Don’t worry about this as we can still do it manually.

Autoplay Setting Options

Autoplay Setting Options

5. Just like the first method, observe that your iDevice name will appear in My Computer. Instead of double-clicking it do a Right Click. This will give you the contect menu, and one of the menu item is, yes you guess it, the Import Pictures and Videos! Select this item.



6. The Import Pictures and Videos will be run as soon as you select the menu item. It doesn’t look very much at a first glance I must say. It’s just a small dialog box with a Cancel button on it. But notice that it also have a link to ‘Import Settings‘. Click on this quickly!

Import Pictures And Videos

Import Pictures And Videos

7. The Import Settings window should open now. This contains some important settings with which you can configure how the functionality should work.

Import Settings

Import Settings

Some notable settings are as follows:

  • Import images to and Import videos to settings. Here you can choose where your photos and videos will be transferred to.
  • Folder Name and File Name are to configure how you would want Windows to name the target folder and image file name.
  • Have a look at the options available and set them to the one you want.
  • Other options are self-explanatory.
Import Settings - FileName

Import Settings – FileName


Import Settings - FolderName

Import Settings – FolderName

When you are satisfied with your choice, click on OK to confirm.

8. The Import Pictures and Video will restart and begin to look for any new photos or videos to transfer.

Import Restart

Import Restart

9. At the end of the transfer, the dilogl close itself. Then you can check the newly transferred photos/videos on the path you configured previously on the setting.

10. Note that Windows ‘remembers’ which photos/videos that it has already transferred, so the next time you run the function again it will only transfer the new one.

But in any event where you want to re-download everything all over again, you can do this by deleting the following file:

C:\Users->[username]->AppData->Local->Microsoft->Photo Acquisition->PreviouslyAcquired.db

Then when you plug your iDevice, it will download all photos and videos as if it never download them before.


What if you can’t see AppData folder? Since AppData is considered a ‘system’ folder, Microsoft hides it by default. You need to ‘unhide‘ it. Here is how:

1. Open Windows Explorer.
2. Select the Organize on the menu bar to open the menu selection.
3. Choose the Folder and search options menu item.
4. In the Folder Options screen select the View tab and then select ‘Show hidden filed, folderd and drives‘ item under ‘Hidden files and folder‘ branch.
5. Click OK.
6. You should be able to see the AppData now.

Bonus: Third-Party Apps

If you, like so many others, never use or hate using the notorious Apple iTunes, there is another way and that is to use third-party apps.

Many software makers had recognised that iTunes was just too hard to use and rose to the challenge to develop an alternative app to iTunes and create a better experience to the uses.

Here are some third-party apps that you might want to have a look and try:

Wondershare TunesGo Retro

Wondershare is a Chinese software company that has about 50 odds apps actively developed and sold.  One of these software is called TunesGo Retro.

TunesGo allows you to access your iPhone data without using the notoriously bloated iTunes.  These include your Songs, Photos and Videos, Contacts and SMS.

For Photos, you can get access to all photos in the all the folders you have in your iPhone.  You can select any of these folders and download (export) the photos in it to your PC (or Mac) in a batch or individually.

By the way, as you can see in the following screenshot, downloading photos is not the only thing that TunesGo is good at.

TunesGo Retro is Free to try.  There is a version for PC and for Mac.  If you decided to keep it, the license costs $19.95 per year, or $39.95 for a lifetime (for 1 user).


Final Thought

For day to day backup, I prefer the second technique because once I set it up I don’t need to touch it again. As soon as I run the Import Photos/Videos it will transfer all my new photos and videos to my PC without my intervention. Hence I dubbed it the Quickest method.

As for the first method, I use it from time to time to transfer individual photo/video, especially one that has already been transferred previously. I also use this method to easily see all photos/videos I have on my iPhone and subsequently pick and choose which ones I could delete. I find the deleting photos/videos, especially lots of them are easily done using the Windows Explorer, as opposed to in the iPhone’s Camera Roll.

If you have any other method you usually do to transfer your photos to your PC please don’t hesitate to share it here. I’ll be happy to add it to the post![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Want to take cooler pics with your phone? Use Olloclip's 4-in-1 lens to take your mobile photography to the next level with macro, fisheye, and wide-angle lenses.