In the world of Apple blogging we make a silly assumption, which is that people who own an iPhone or iPad also own a Mac.
We assume for example that people know how to get images from one device or computer to another because, in the world of Apple-to-Apple communications, this has been made very easy.
However, the majority of iPhone owners have a PC of some kind, with the iPhone or iPad being their only Apple device.
Apple is perhaps surprisingly sympathetic to such a situation.
Using iCloud for Windows
In fact, Apple makes available a dedicated Windows app to allow access to much of iCloud, including photos. This will, of course, require that you have iCloud activated on your iPhone or iPad – if you haven’t already, open the Settings app on your iOS device, then tap the iCloud icon and sign-in with your Apple ID, before tapping Photos and activating the switch alongside iCloud Photo Library. Note that the initial upload of your photo library will take a long time!
In addition to photos and videos, iCloud for Windows lets you sync the following data to your Windows computer:
- Mail, contacts, calendars and reminders: Via Microsoft Outlook 2007 to Outlook 2013, and NOT Outlook 2016 at present. No other mail client or PIM is supported – not even the default Windows client.
- iCloud Drive files: Via a folder in your Users folder, although this is largely moot if you don’t have a Mac.
- Safari bookmarks: Via the ancient Windows version of Safari, or Internet Explorer, Chrome or Firefox. The Edge browser isn’t yet supported directly.
To configure photos and video download/upload once iCloud for Windows is installed, click the Options button alongside the Photos entry of the iCloud app in Windows. To keep your Windows PC fully in sync you’ll want to check pretty much every option box, as in our screenshot above.
To add photos from your PC, just drag them into the Uploads folder in the iCloud folder, which you’ll find in the side pane of Windows Explorer. They’ll then sync with your iOS device via iCloud (give it a few minutes to happen).
Remember that all syncing can take a long time to complete, especially for the initial download of your photo library once you install iCloud for Windows. Expect it to take hours, if not days, depending on the size of your library. On my test PC syncing didn’t seem to be in a hurry to complete, and I suspect Apple prioritises syncing for their own devices over PCs.
Uploading via iCloud.com
Once again this will need iCloud setup on your iOS device, but you can login at http://icloud.com on any desktop browser (including those on Linux) in order to view nearly all of your iCloud data – including email, if you have it setup. You’ll need to use Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox to get the best experience because Internet Explorer and Edge don’t appear to work too well.
Download: Just click the Photos icon on the iCloud webpage, then select to view the image and click the download button (the cloud icon with a down arrow in it). To download multiple images, click the Select Photos entry on the upmost toolbar and then select the image thumbnails, before again clicking the download icon.
Upload: Navigate to the All Photos album, then simply drag and drop images on top of the browser window to add them to your iCloud photo roll. Alternatively, click the Upload button on the toolbar and select the photos via a Windows file explorer window. Again, the photos will now sync with your iOS devices given a few minutes.
USB, email, Dropbox and iTunes – avoiding iCloud
A direct USB cable connection to a Windows computer will – after you’ve tapped to allow it on the iPhone or iPad – show the DCIM folder, along with all the photos and video. Sadly, this is read-only so you can’t add photos from your Windows computer this way.
If you want to avoid the use of iCloud then emailing the photos to your own email address, and accessing that email on your iPhone or iPad, is perhaps the best solution. On the iOS device either tap and hold the photo within the email and select Save Image, or tap the Reply button on the toolbar and then tap Save Image. Either way, the photo will be imported into your camera roll. Be careful sending photos to yourself via any other messaging service because they may shrink or otherwise lower the quality of the image.
If you don’t mind using the cloud, but just don’t want to use Apple’s iCloud, another option is to copy the files into the Dropbox folder on your PC, then sync it on iOS. Open the photo for viewing in the iOS Dropbox app, then tap the Share button and then the Open In button that appears. Then select iCloud Photo Sharing, once exporting has completed. Of course, you could use any cloud provider, such as Google Drive.
Apple provides instructions on how you can use iTunes to sync photos – although I know most PC users try and avoid iTunes if they can help it.