How to Transfer Photos from iPhone to Computer (Mac, PC, iCloud & AirDrop)

The 3 easiest ways to transfer photos from iPhone to Computer, with and without iCloud, for old and new operating systems

Our devices have become our go-to cameras, which means we can’t avoid importing our pictures from iPhone to computer forever. If you’re wanting to know how to transfer pictures from your iPhone to your computer, you have lots of options. The classic way to download pictures from your iPhone is to use the photo transfer feature in the built-in Photos app that both Mac and PC offer. You can also import photos from iPhone to Mac wirelessly by using iCloud. Or if you have a recent Mac, you can use AirDrop for an incredibly easy transfer of photos to your computer. Getting photos off your iPhone may be frustrating, but it doesn't have to be. This article will make transferring your pictures from iPhone or iPad (even the newest devices like the iPhone SE 2 and the iPhone 12) to a Mac or PC a breeze.

Related article: How to Transfer Photos from iPhone to Computer (Mac & PC) without iTunes

What’s in This Article​:

How to Transfer Photos from iPhone to Computer (Mac)

Importing Photos from iPhone to Mac has a new process since MacOS Catalina and Big Sur. We'll start with the Big Sur way and then show the older Mojave way below

Master your iPhone in one minute a day:

Sign up to iPhone Life's Tip of the Day Newsletter and we'll send you a tip each day to save time and get the most out of your iPhone or iPad.

Master your iPhone in one minute a day:

Sign up to iPhone Life's Tip of the Day Newsletter and we'll send you a tip each day to save time and get the most out of your iPhone or iPad.

How to Transfer Photos from iPhone to Mac in MacOS Catalina & Big Sur

  1. Connect your iPhone to your Mac computer with the USB cable and unlock your iPhone.
  2. Open the Photos app on your Mac. You can find it with Spotlight search, in your Dock, or by opening the Applications folder and selecting the Photos app.
  3. Your iPhone should already be selected in the browser on the left of the Photos page. If it isn't, then select your iPhone.

  4. Select the photos you wish to import by clicking on them.
  5. Click the Import button.

  6. That's it; Finder has made this process easy!

How To Import Photos from iPhone to Mac in MacOS Mojave

  1. Connect your iPhone to your computer with the USB cable.
  2. Open the Photos app on your Mac. You can find it with Spotlight search, in your Dock, or by opening the Applications folder and selecting the Photos app.
  3. Select File from the top menu, then select Import.

    transfer photos from iphone to computer
     
  4. You can download select photos by holding down the command key on your keyboard while clicking all the photos you want to transfer, then click Review for Import.

    how do you transfer photos from iphone to computer
  5. If you've already imported some or all of your selected photos, your Mac will let you know, then give you the option to import the remaining photo(s) by clicking Import New Photo

    how to move pictures from iphone to computer
     
  6. If you'd rather import all the photos on your iPhone that you haven't previously backed up, click Import All New Items.

    how to download pictures from iphone to mac
  7. To view the recently imported photos, select Last Import on the sidebar. And you’re done.

Transfer Photos from iPhone to PC

How to Import Photos from iPhone to PC in Windows 8

If you have a PC with an older version of Windows, Auto Play will pop-up when your iPhone is connected to your computer with a USB cable. On a PC with Windows 8, your computer will detect the device and provide a pop-up that says, Tap to choose what happens to this device. When you click on that pop-up, you’ll see the option to Import Photos and Videos. The rest of the process should be pretty similar to what is below for Windows 10. When in doubt, look for the Import button.

How to Import Photos from iPhone to PC in Windows 10

  1. Plug your iPhone into your Windows computer with the USB cable.
  2. On your iPhone, a pop-up will ask if you would like to allow the computer to access the iPhone. Tap Allow.
  3. On your Windows computer, the Photos application may automatically launch. If it doesn't, launch the Photos program using the Windows Start menu or search bar.
  4. Click the Import button in the upper right corner of the Photos app.

    How to Download Pictures from iphone
     
  5. In the drop-down menu, select From a USB device.

    how to import pictures from iphone to computer
     
  6. If you have multiple USB devices plugged in to your PC, such as a thumb drive, you'll be asked to select which one you want to import from. Select your iPhone.
  7. The computer will search for photos to import, then a box with the new photos for transfer will pop-up. If the Photos application crashes here, you may have a common bug. Try the alternative method listed below.
  8. Select the photos you want to import.


     
  9. To see where the photos will be saved and to change that location click Import settings.

    how to move photos from iphone
  10. ​​​In the import settings menu, you will see the location the photos will be saved and a colored link for if you want to change the import destination.


     
  11. Click Done to go back to the image selection screen.
  12. Once you've selected the images you want, click the Import button.

  13. Once they're imported, you can view the photos in the Collections menu of the Photos app or select the Album icon on the left sidebar to view specific albums.

Import Photos from iPhone to PC with a Cable, Alternative Method

Some users encounter bugs with the built-in Windows Photos application. If you can't get it to work and need another solution, try this.

  1. Plug your iPhone into your Windows computer with the cable, unlock the iPhone, and tap Allow, as above.
  2. On your Windows computer navigate to This PC. You should see your iPhone listed under Devices and Drives. 
  3. Right-click on your iPhone and in the context menu select Import pictures and videos.


     
  4. You can select either to Import all new items, or to Review, organize and group items to import. I recommend selecting to Review because the automatic organization may not be ideal.
  5. The More options link at the bottom offers options to change where the files are saved, but for most users the default Pictures folder is fine.


     
  6. Click Next and the computer will scan your iPhone for images and videos.
  7. In the following window, select the items you wish to import.


     
  8. A slider at the bottom of the menu changes how the images are grouped into folders, e.g. by hour, by hours, by day, by month, or by year taken. You can slide it all the way to the right to get them all in one folder.
  9. Click Import when you're ready to transfer images.

Next, we’re going to delve into the two different ways to transfer photos with iCloud: Photo Stream and iCloud Photo Library. There are some important distinctions between the two that we’ll go over; my best recommendation is to enable both.

How to Import Photos from iPhone to Mac with iCloud Photo Stream

Photo Stream does not take up any of your iCloud Storage package. However, photos will appear in Photo Stream for only 30 days (we have a solution to this below). Photo Stream also doesn't upload your videos, but you can view your pictures across your devices easily. For both methods, Photos will automatically transfer when your device is in a Wi-Fi zone unless you have enabled the option to transfer over cellular. To set up Photo Stream, you’ll need to enable it on both your iPhone (or iPad) and computer.

  1. On your iPhone, open the Settings app.
  2. Tap the banner with your name at the top of the Settings page.

    how to import photos from iphone to machow to transfer photos from iphone to mac
     
  3. Tap iCloud.
  4. Choose Photos.

    how to get photos off iphonehow to import photos from iphone
     
  5. Toggle on Upload to My Photo Stream.


    how to download photos from iphone to pc
     
  6. On your Mac, open the Photos app. If you’re on a PC, click here to download iCloud for Windows.
  7. From the Photos menu choose Preferences.

    How to Transfer Photos with iCloud Photo Stream
     
  8. Choose the iCloud tab.
  9. Check the box next to My Photo Stream. Click Done.
    Note: In MacOS Mojave and earlier the same setting is found in System Preferences > iCloud > the Options button next to Photos.

    How to Transfer Photos with iCloud Photo Stream
     
  10. Now photos will automatically be added to Photo Stream when you’re in a Wi-Fi zone. But remember, pictures remain in Photo Stream for 30 days or up to 1000 images.

To set it up so that your Photo Stream images automatically download to your Mac or PC:

In MacOS Catalina you don't have to do anything special. The Photos app on your Mac automatically saves your photo stream to your photo library.

In MacOS Mojave or earlier, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Photos app.
  2. Select Preferences at the very top, under Photos.
  3. Choose General.
  4. Check the box next to Importing: Copy Items to the Photo Library.

    How to Transfer Photos with iCloud Photo Stream

This way, even once photos leave your Photo Stream, they will be saved to your computer. You can also enable iCloud Photo Library on iPhone and computer if you pay for iCloud storage. Doing so will allow you to store your Photos in the Cloud, making them accessible online as well as on your computer.

How to Download Pictures from iPhone (or iPad) to Computer with iCloud Photos

The process for setting up iCloud Photos is similar to Photo Stream. Enabling iCloud Photos will store all of your photos in your iCloud account, not merely the most recent. This can rapidly use up your iCloud storage space unless you pay Apple for more. On the other hand, your photos from your computer and your iPhone will all be safely backed up in the cloud, and the process of transferring photos from iPhone to computer will be practically effortless, since iCloud will keep the two libraries in perfect sync.

On your iPhone:

  1. On your iPhone, open the Settings app.
  2. Select your name.
  3. Tap iCloud.


     
  4. Choose Photos.
  5. Toggle on iCloud Photos.


     

On your Mac:

  1. On your Mac, open System Preferences from the Apple menu at the top. 
  2. Choose Apple ID and sign in.


     
  3. In the menu on the left, iCloud should already be selected. If it's not, click it.
  4. Check the box next to Photos and enter your computer passcode if asked.


     
  5. Now all the photos you take on your iPhone, and all the photos you add on your computer, will show up in both places. Keep an eye on your iCloud storage!

How to Download Photos from iPhone Using AirDrop on Mac

AirDrop uses Wi-Fi to transfer files from your iPhone to your Mac and vice versa, which means first you need to be sure both your iPhone or iPad and computer are connected to Wi-Fi. Remember that AirDrop also requires a 2012 or later Mac model running OS X Yosemite or later to transfer files between your Mac and iPhone or iPad. To send files from your iPhone to your Mac using AirDrop:

  1. Open the Photos app on your iPhone.
  2. Select the photos you want to transfer to computer. Tap the Share icon.
  3. You’ll see AirDrop at the top of the Share menu.
  4. Choose your computer’s name.


     
  5. If successful, it will say Sent below your computer's name.
  6. If your computer is not using the same iCloud account as the iPhone you are sending files from, you will need to click Save when the file arrives on your computer. If you are using the same iCloud account, the pictures will automatically save.

Need more methods for downloading your pictures to computer? Here's three more you can use to transfer photos from iPhone to computer

Top Image Credit: Worawee Meepian / Shutterstock

Master your iPhone in one minute a day: Sign up here to get our FREE Tip of the Day delivered right to your inbox.

Author Details

Cullen Thomas's picture

Author Details

Cullen Thomas

Cullen Thomas is a Writer and Producer at iPhone Life, creating tips and guides to help users unlock the full potential of their iOS and iPhone. In addition to writing countless tip-of-the-day articles and many detailed guides, Cullen has spent nine years as an instructor in media and communications at Maharishi University, lecturing on technical and artistic subjects ranging from camera and audio hardware to story-plotting to how to manage a film crew. Cullen answers questions daily about iPhones and iOS as part of the Ask an Editor insider service, and designs curriculum for iPhone Life’s online classes. As a frequent contributor to iPhone Life magazine and occasional guest on the iPhone Life podcast, Cullen likes to talk about security and privacy news, tech, gadgets, and apps, even if nobody asked.

Cullen holds a master’s degree in Cinematic Arts from the David Lynch School of Cinematic Arts. Cullen also holds two Bachelor’s degrees from Maharishi University, one in literature with an emphasis in writing and the other in Communications and Media. Cullen’s short fiction has been featured in anthologies from Amphibian Press and TANSTAAFL, and Cullen co-owns a game design company, Thoughtspike games, which builds thought-provoking puzzle games. Cullen is a sci-fi author, a coffee connoisseur, and an iPhone expert.