How to Transfer Photos from iPhone to Computer (Mac, PC, iCloud & AirDrop) UPDATED for iOS 11

If you’re looking to transfer photos from your iPhone to your computer, you have lots of options. The classic way of getting your pictures off your iPhone is to use the built-in Photos app both Mac and PC offer. This method of importing photos involves plugging your iPhone into your computer. But you can transfer photos from iPhone to computer wirelessly by using iCloud; or if you have a recent Mac, you can use AirDrop for an incredibly easy transfer of photos to computer. Getting photos off your iPhone may be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be. Our devices have become our go-to cameras, which means we can’t avoid importing our pictures from iPhone to computer forever. Whether you have a Mac or PC, we’ll cover how to transfer ppictures from iPhone to computer for each. Then we’ll cover using iCloud and AirDrop as popular alternatives. You've got plenty of photos to import from your iPhone; don't leave them there without backup pictures. This article will make transferring your pictures from iPhone or iPad to computer (Mac or PC) a breeze.

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Downloading your pictures to computer without iTunes is easy; regardless of whether you own a PC or a Mac, your computer will recognize your iPhone as a camera when connected, which makes copying photos to your computer easier. Connecting your iPhone to your computer with a Lightning-to-USB cable is still one of the quickest ways to transfer your photos. There are alternatives such as Dropbox, Google photos, or email that you can check out in other posts we’ve written, but we’ll focus on downloading photos via USB and with iCloud or AirDrop here.

Table of Contents:

How to Transfer Photos from iPhone to Mac

How to Transfer Photos from iPhone to PC

How to Transfer Photos with iCloud Photo Stream

How to Import Photos Using AirDrop on Mac

How to Transfer Photos from iPhone to Mac

  • Connect your iPhone to your computer with the USB cable.
  • The Photos app on your Mac will automatically open. If it doesn’t, open your Applications folder and select the Photos app.

  • Select Import at the top. Then Select Import All New Items.

  • If you’d rather download select photos, click all the photos you want to transfer, then click Import # Selected.

To view the recently imported photos, select Last Import on the sidebar. And you’re done.

How to Download Pictures to a PC

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. When in doubt, look for the Import button.

We’re going to focus on getting photos onto your computer with Windows 10. Like the Mac, Windows has a Photos app for easy import and organization.

  • Plug your iPhone into your computer with the USB cable.

  • The Photos app should automatically launch. If it doesn’t, launch the program using the Windows Start menu or search bar.

  • Click the Import icon in the upper right corner of the Photos app.

How to Download Pictures to a PC

  • A box with the new photos for transfer will pop-up. Select the photos you want to import and tap Continue.

How to Download Pictures to a PC

  • The next pop-up will show you where the photos will be saved and give you the option to change the location. Here, you can also check the box, Delete imported items from (device) after importing.

  • Click Import.

How to Download Pictures to a PC

Once Imported you can view the photos in the Collections menu or select the Album icon on the left sidebar to view specific albums.

We’re going to delve into the two different way to transfer photos with iCloud next: 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 Transfer Photos 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. To set up Photo Stream, you’ll need to enable it on both your iPhone (or iPad) and computer.

  • On your iPhone, open Settings.

  • Tap iCloud.

  • Choose Photos.

  • Toggle on My Photo Stream.

How to Transfer Photos with iCloud Photo Stream

  • On your computer, open System Preferences from the Apple menu at the top. If you’re on a PC, click here to download iCloud for Windows.

How to Transfer Photos with iCloud Photo Stream

  • Choose iCloud.

  • Tap Options next to Photos.

  • Check the box next to My Photo Stream. Click Done.

How to Transfer Photos with iCloud Photo Stream

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,

  • Open the Photos app.

  • Select Preferences at the very top, under Photos.

  • Choose General.

  • Check the box, 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 Import Photos Using Airdrop on Mac

AirDrop uses Wi-Fi to transfer files from your iPhone to computer 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 computer and iPhone or iPad. To send files from your iPhone to your Mac using AirDrop:

  • Open the Photos app on your iPhone.

  • Select the photos you want to transfer to computer. Tap the Share icon.

  • You’ll see AirDrop at the top of the Share menu.

  • Choose your computer’s name.

  • If successful, it will say Sent below your computer's name.

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. Otherwise, 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. *note that some screenshots are slightly out of date but the how-to info is accurate.

Related: How to View Burst Photos on iPhone


Top Image Credit: Worawee Meepian / Shutterstock

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