Save Google Drive storage space by moving images to Google Photos

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 10, 2015
Updated • Jan 4, 2018
Companies, Google

When Google launched Google Photos a while ago, it introduced an option to store an unlimited number of photos and videos in the cloud using the service.

While limited to 16 Megapixel or smaller photos, and 1080p or smaller videos, it allows you to upload as many photos or videos as you can that meet the requirements.

Google did not explicitly mention if the feature would be retroactive or only available for new uploads to Google Photos.

If you have uploaded lots of photos or videos to Google Drive, the company's cloud storage solution, then it may be beneficial to you if those files would fall under the same unlimited storage policy.

This however is not the case. A tweet to a customer inquiry by the official Google Photos Twitter account reveals that the unlimited storage option applies only to new uploads but not existing photos or videos stored on Google Drive.

google drive photos

This means that photos and videos uploaded to Google Drive still count against the account's storage quota.

Since there is no "export to Google Photos" option available right now, the only option you have to reduce the storage used on Google Drive is to re-upload the photos and videos to Google Photos.

This is not comfortable considering that you may need to upload (and maybe even download) Gigabytes of data again to Google servers.

While you can add a Google Photos folder to Google Drive, it appears impossible right now to move photos and images to the service on Google Drive.

It would actually be comfortable to do so. You would search for media using the type:image search option on Google Drive, mark all images found, right-click and select the move context menu entry to move them to the Google Photos folder.

Since this is not working currently, you are left with the re-upload option right now. The best option for that is to use the Google Photos Uploader that Google released some time ago.

Ideally, you have access to all photos and videos that you have uploaded to Google Drive on your desktop system. If that is not the case, you need to download the files first to it before you re-upload them to Google Photos.

google photos backup

The operation may take a while to complete considering that you may have uploaded Gigabytes of media files to Google Drive in the past.

This is a one-time operation on the other hand as new uploads make use of the new system automatically.

Please note that you need to delete the photos and video files that you have uploaded to Google Photos on Google Drive after the import to Google Photos completes. If you don't do that, you end up with duplicates on Google Drive that still count against the account's storage quota.

Save Google Drive storage by moving images to Google Photos
Article Name
Save Google Drive storage by moving images to Google Photos
Find out how to free up space on Google Drive by moving photos and videos to Google Photos.

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  1. Alex said on February 12, 2016 at 9:47 am

    That “Recover space” button can play a bad joke with you if you have panoramic photos uploaded. They’re usually many thousands of pixels wide and once being compressed to follow google restrictions they become a digital trash

  2. Paul Evans said on November 29, 2015 at 11:11 am

    I’ve been struggling with recovering 7Gb of Google Drive storage after I’d initially uploaded my photos at Original size, but later changed it to High Quality and there wasn’t an easy way (or any way!) to identify which were the ones which were taking up quota space, or those that weren’t.

    Just come across this new feature that was launched on the 18th November – a ‘Recover Storage’ button in Google Photos Settings that will convert all your Original photos to High Quality ones!

    I think you might need to re-write your article accordingly (or create a new one and reference it prominently from this one (so people get the right answer straight away without having to get to my comment).

  3. Rob said on October 19, 2015 at 9:30 pm

    This is what I don’t understand. What’s the point of having this, other than to save on space in your Drive account, when you can’t organize your photos into folders. It simply uploads everything into one space sorted and grouped by date. However, I categorize my photos into things that are personal vs business vs other. If I want to share photos/videos, I want the option to share the whole group by folder…Anyway, this is useless for me in its current state.

    1. gonda said on January 2, 2016 at 4:37 pm

      Totally agree with you. Just spent ages trying to figure out how to arrange my photos. They are now just all lumped together and one can’t do anything with them. Can’t edit them anymore, can’t create folders – nada. Waste of time.

  4. James C Sauer said on August 15, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    How can I move photos from photos on my ipad2 to google drive? If I do this can i then delete them tofree up space on my ipad2?

  5. Amy said on August 6, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    It doesn’t work.
    I select move to google photo, but when I deleted the photo in the drive, the photo in google photo can not be loaded, either.
    which means, the photo in the drive still can not be deleted anyway.

  6. Salvador Harrison said on June 30, 2015 at 10:20 pm

    I have T-Mobile & they USED to have albums for cloud file backups. It worked simple & great, whenever you took pictures/videos. Then TMobile went & cancelled it. Why can’t Google get the same thing going, without the uneccessary?

  7. Achmad Sholahuddin said on June 24, 2015 at 5:50 am

    Are the google drive and google photo not syncronized?

  8. Clarence Brown said on June 21, 2015 at 11:30 pm

    I give a lot of credit to Google for the incredible strides they have made in technology. However, sometimes I wonder who thinks that its ok to come up with a new service and then not get something as easy as legacy settings right. Why is there no easy way to move data from one service to another service within the ecosystem of Google. If google needs a common sense position filled, I’ll totally take the bullet and do it. I won’t let you down!

    1. Anonymous said on January 20, 2016 at 9:59 am

      thumbs up

  9. Ed Youngless said on June 11, 2015 at 3:49 am

    How do I get my goggle drive back? Accidentally erased it.

  10. Ed Youngless said on June 11, 2015 at 3:38 am

    Says I don’t have enough storage on my nexbook to install goggle. How do I get more storage to install the app.

  11. Cool said on June 10, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    I think it is lacking in many aspect. For instant, both the application and web uploader doesn’t show the most important thing which is the status (percentage to complete) of the file we upload instead it is just a progress bar. Why need the application? Nevertheless there is no pause and resume upload option it is basically the same thing with web uploader they does not justify the reason for user to use its uploading tool/app.

    The thing I like is how we can transfer our video to YouTube account easily. But there is a concern whether the video we import to YouTube indirectly affect the video which had been uploaded on Google Photo. Say if the video we import get copyright infringement or muted on YouTube, will they remove the that same video on Google Photo? Or will it not affect the video that had been uploaded on Google Photo? Somebody can please help rectify?

  12. Gerry said on June 10, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    I’m really confused by Google Photos, Drive, AutoBackup and the rest – Google seem to be designing this as they go along. Can anyone please explain what the Google Photos folder in the Google Drive folder on my desktop contains? It has a bunch of folders with the year (YYYY) as their title which in turn seem to have all my photos. How are these folders and images maintained, by Autobackup? If I delete them will I lose my photos held by Drive or Photos in the cloud? Sorry, as you can see, I can’t make any sense of this, maybe it’s my age.

    1. Jupster said on June 10, 2015 at 10:53 pm

      Don’t forget the Picasa Web Albums option. Another photo storage service under the Google banner, because they don’t have enough apparently. Confusing.

      1. Anonymous said on February 22, 2016 at 1:59 pm

        One way found to indirectly shift google drive photos to google photos

        Use to create free account, which offers 10 GB free shifting

        Use drive to picasa option to move photos

        Picasa will discontinue from 1 may 2016, and these photos are already showing now in google photos after shifting completes.
        I read most blogs, but this solution is given nowhere. I invented myself. Thanks to me..

        That’s it. Enjoy !,,

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