How to Backup Google Photos Locally after Google Drive Sync Changes

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Back in June, Google changed how it’s Backup and Sync product works with Google Photos. I used to rely on that tool to backup (or back down?) all the photos I had stored in Google Photos. I’ve used a Pixel phone for a number of years which includes free full-res storage in the Google Photo cloud, so that’s where most of my photos live. With the now-defunct Backup and Sync, you used to be able to sync all the photos to your desktop along with all your Google Docs. Googled killed that in June because it was supposedly “confusing to users.” In doing so, there was no longer an easy way to pull down my photos locally. Google recommends using their takeout service, which seems to be a bit flaky and time consuming (you queue up your entire backup and then wait for Google to send you a mishmash of zip files). Also, there’s no good way to automate it. I just wanted to to have a automatic sync with any new photo I added to Google Photos to the local photo library on my desktop.

So it turns out that Google has made this task, which was previously automated, fairly difficulty to do. After a lot of digging, I think I found something that gets me fairly close to how the old Backup and Sync used to function. A Python script on GitHub called Google Photos Sync seems to do the trick. This handy script can backup all the photos uploaded to Google Photos as well as photos created by Google (animations, panos, movies, collages etc.). Once running, the tool will create a directory named with the date, and filled with photos from that date, which is pretty similar to the old drive sync.

Since it’s a Python script, it takes a little bit of work to get it up and running on Windows. I found a helpful post in the GitHub comments to get things rolling. After installing Python and the script, I had a few issues with odd spaces in my file paths, but finally got things working. Now I have a Windows batch file set to run daily in scheduler to pull down any new photos. It’s been running successfully for about a month now, and I have the backup of my backup functioning again.

It’s a shame that Google broke a helpful feature, but that seems to be what Google does. Thankfully there was an alternative this time around.

One Comment

gravatar Giles Knap

Hey, please could you elaborate on the issue with spaces in the filenames. It sounds like something I could probably fix.

I agree that getting python working is a bit of an issue. Linux users have the option of docker which is a little more straightforward. I’m wondering if this can work for Windows too.

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