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How to back up photos and videos to Google Photos

Google’s annual I/O conference did little to rock the boat in 2015, but the giant tech company did wow attendees with its announcement of the new Google Photos service.

Google Photos isn’t just a duplicate of the Photos component within Google+, Google’s social network. Instead, Google Photos differs in that it gives users unlimited storage of photos and videos, provided that they are no larger than 16 megapixels (photos) or Full HD 1080p (videos); larger photos and videos are either downsized or counted against a user’s base 15GB Google Account storage. Moreover, Google doesn’t require iOS, Android, or Web users to have a Google+ account to access this new service, making it even more attractive for any smartphone user to utilize.

Related: Google gives free unlimited photo storage to everyone, even iPhone users

Because Google Photos gives users boundless cloud access to save (compressed) photos and videos, the application gives millions of smartphone and tablet users the instant ability to free up some precious storage space on their devices. By simply activating the Back up & sync function on an Android or iOS-based smartphone or tablet, Google Photos automatically saves all photos and videos stored on all the devices a user owns, as well as any taken in the future.

All photos backed up from synced devices also save to a private folder — unless you choose otherwise — assuring those photos from your night out last week aren’t seen by the entire Internet. All content is synced across devices, so it doesn’t matter if you view them on an iPhone one minute, and move to an Android tablet next. To help those new to the app activate this handy feature, we’ve put together this comprehensive walkthrough detailing the steps necessary to back up any pictures or videos to Google Photos.

Activating the Back up & sync function for iOS and Android

For both mobile operating systems, a similar process exists for activating the Back up & sync function. Simply open the Google Photos application, tap the menu icon in the top left corner of the screen, then select Settings. Once inside the Settings menu, click Back up & sync, and choose to set the feature to either on or off. After changing the setting to on, any photo or video stored on your smartphone backs up to the Google Photos application. To access these photos and videos on the Web, simply navigate to the Google Photos webpage.

For Android users: Altering your phone’s backup settings changes the backup settings for any downloaded application that uses a Back up & sync function. For instance, an app like Google Drive also utilizes such functionality, meaning once you activate the feature, Google Drive’s content also starts backing up. Moreover, turning off the Back up & sync function stops other capable apps from backing up its content.

For iOS users: A message may appear after activating Back up & sync asking for permission to access the device’s photos. To turn this on simply navigate to the phone’s Settings application, select the Privacy option, then switch Google Photos to “on” within the Photos category. When turning off the function, always make sure to switch Back up & sync off in every application that has the ability to utilize it – like the above mentioned Google Drive.

Once you activate the Back up & sync function we also recommend checking which photos or videos don’t back up to your account. To do this, navigate to the Google Photos menu via the icon in the top left corner of the application and click Photos. Browse through the photos listed: all those adorned with an icon resembling a cloud with a strike through it did not back up.

Understanding how the sync process works

If you choose to activate Google Photos’ sync function, keep in mind any changes made to photos or videos occur across every device synced to your account. For instance, if you make any alterations to a photo or video – or just altogether delete them – on the Google Photos Web page, the same alterations occur on any smartphone or tablet synced to the account. Any computer signed into your Google Account that accesses Google Photos also becomes a synced computer, thus also having the ability to alter and delete any photos saved to your library.