This post has been in the works since 2019 when Google shut down the feature to sync Google Photos to Google Drive. The one feature of Google Photos I really loved was the ability for the images uploaded to Photos to show up in the Photos folder on Google Drive. I would then run the Google Drive desktop app and all my and my wifes new photos would show up in Google Drive and then automatically show up on my desktop. This allowed them to all be automatically be backed up in my usual backup plan to local drives and to my personal cloud backup using Backblaze. It was great, but since that ended I have struggled to find a replacement. Here are some of the things I have tried.
I like Syncthing and I was able to sync photos from multiple devices to my home computer. It was not perfect, but it worked. The biggest problem when I was using this method it just did not work reliably. It seemed to be hit and miss when the images would upload. I don’t think this is really a problem with the app itself just limits on Android. I could be wrong but it made me keep looking.
IFTTT applets looked so promising. In theory it should do exactly what I wanted. Take a new photo and upload it to my Google Drive. That was the theory, in practice, I tried several different applets and could never get it to upload a single photo to Google Drive. Perhaps it is my phone, it is a little older but whatever the reason IFTTT was a bust.
Running Rclone to copy photos from Google Photos to my desktop worked, and I could easily have set it up to run regularly and copy only new photos. The only problem with Rclone downloading Google Photos is the fact that when images are downloaded the EXIF location data is stripped from them. That was a deal breaker for me because one of the reasons I wanted the photos was to have the EXIF data so I could create my own map of photos. If that is not an issue for you using Rclone to copy your Google Photos to your desktop is certainly a good way to do it.
I experimented with running Nextcloud in a Docker container and it showed some promise, but I had some trouble getting things to work correctly. Granted I do not consider myself a Docker expert and perhaps if I followed a different tutorial on how to setup Nextcloud in Docker instead of just tinkering I might have had better luck. In the end though I just did not want to self host this extra service. It was one more thing that I would have to manage and maintain and I just wanted something that works. I might change my mind on this in the future but for now Nextcloud is out.
I could probably have used several different options instead of Sync, like Dropbox or PCloud for example, but I went with Sync for a few reasons. One, I like the fact that they are zero-knowledge by default. I don’t have to add in an extra layer of encryption to do zero-knowledge, or make sure that the folder is encrypted like with PCloud. It is just one extra thing I did not have to worry about. Two, when I testing the app on my phone it just worked. It copied all the existing photos up to Sync and all new photos not long after I took them. There is something to be said for an app just working. This is currently what I am using to replace the Google Photos to Google Drive feature. I have the Sync Android app installed on two devices, the app on me desktop then syncs those files to my desktop and I copy them out from there to their final destination. It is not perfect yet. I still have to organize the photos by year and month, but I have Advanced Renamer that helps with that. This has been the best solution I have found so far.
For the record I am a Sync affiliate. They will pay me something if you signup for them through my link. That is not why I choose them, it is just a nice added bonus.
It has been a long process to finally decide and settle on a replacement for just this one feature of Google Photos and Google Drive. I did not stop using Google Photos or Drive but if I wanted to download all those images from Google I had to jump through several more hoops. Moving to Sync or a similar feature from another provider allows me the freedom to use my images how I want. Now if, or maybe when, Google Photos decides to remove some other feature or remove my account for some reason, I have access to the original photos with all the data intact.
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