Simplest way to continuously sync iPhone photos to a Windows desktop PC
February 1, 2020 12:29 PM   Subscribe

This seems like a simple question, but my paltry GoogleFoo is not up to the task. What's the simplest way for my iPhone photos to show up (automatically and continuously) on my Windows 10 desktop computer?

When I take a photo on my iPhone 6, a few minutes later I would like it to show up on my Windows PC. Ideally, I'd like to find some kind of "set it and forget it" solution where I don't have worry about any sort of manual intervention -- and especially not anything using USB cables. It would be nice if the system worked for videos, as well, but not strictly necessary.

I would really prefer not to keep any copies of the photos on a cloud site. I want the photos to stay local to my iPhone and my Windows computer. Also, I'd prefer not to pay a monthly fee, if possible -- although I'll pay it if that's the only way to get this done.

Is there a solution to this?
posted by akk2014 to Technology (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Unfortunately to my knowledge there's no simple, free way to do this that doesn't use a cloud service at all. I use Dropbox, which syncs a local copy of every photo and video to my computer and also backs it up online. I can at any time delete the cloud versions and keep my local folder of photos, though I've chosen not to because I find it useful to have a single location for all my photos across platforms and phones.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:13 PM on February 1, 2020

How do you expect this to work without a cloud when you are not at home? That is not snark, just asking for clarification. In order for any data from your phone to make it to your PC , they have to connect somehow. If they are on the same wifi network or connected by Bluetooth, that can be done in theory. But if your phone isn't home, a cloud service or email may be the only way to get data back to your PC.

In practice, iCloud does this and you should have 5 free gigs with your apple id. It is a cloud service but you can install it on your PC and set it up on your phone so your pictures go there. If you are open to that, let us know and we can probably help you more.
posted by soelo at 4:02 PM on February 1, 2020

Response by poster: @soelo:I was expecting (or hoping?) that the photos would be synced without a server somewhere retaining a copy of them in the cloud. I realize that they have to go through the Internet en route from my phone to my computer, but I didn't want a copy to be created in the process. Seems to me that this could work in theory, but maybe such a service just doesn't exist in practice. The photos are for a work-related project, and I was hoping to avoid having them be available (even if password-protected) on a cloud site somewhere.
posted by akk2014 at 4:46 PM on February 1, 2020

Depending on your level of technical proficiency, you could potentially set up your own OwnCloud instance. If your Windows machine is a desktop, you could leave it on all the time, do some NAT setup in your router, and have a sync system which will automatically grab all of your iOS photos and upload them.

Some NAS devices have OwnCloud available as an App, so you could go that route too.
posted by tomierna at 4:59 PM on February 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: a sync system which will automatically grab all of your iOS photos and upload them

Yes, I guess that's the crux of my question. What sort of sync system could do that on an iPhone?
posted by akk2014 at 5:03 PM on February 1, 2020

Apple's iCloud photo sync is almost certainly the simplest AND most secure venue for automatically transporting photos from your phone to your PC. This is what it is designed to do.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:12 PM on February 1, 2020

Response by poster: @seanmpuckett -- As I understand it, iCloud Photo Sync retains a copy of the photo in a cloud site. I was hoping to avoid that, if possible. I just wanted the photos synced between the phone and the computer, without a third copy being created in the cloud. I'm starting to get the sense that this simply may not be possible, though it surprises me.
posted by akk2014 at 6:17 PM on February 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Like tomierna said above, you can do this if you’re willing to set up your computer as a server for something like ownCloud or Nextcloud, but it’s up to you whether or not it’s worth the extra work to keep from having the photos on someone else’s servers.
posted by doctord at 8:38 PM on February 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @doctord: I'm willing to do it, I guess, if that's the only way to keep them out of the cloud. But I just don't know how to sync the photos from the iPhone to ownCloud. Is there an app? What do you recommend?
posted by akk2014 at 8:44 PM on February 1, 2020

Yes, you would need the corresponding app to support this feature. The description for the Nextcloud iOS app says that it supports this, but I’ve never tested it myself.
posted by doctord at 9:02 PM on February 1, 2020

Resilio Sync is an option -

Lots of people use Syncthing, which is exactly what you are looking for, but it doesn't currently have an iOS app.

For searches, you're looking for a peer-to-peer syncing solution,where there is an intermediary server to coordinate the transfer, but the files themselves are only stored on your devices.
posted by jaden at 6:38 AM on February 2, 2020

Response by poster: Thank you for the tips, Jaden. Later today, I'll try out GoodSync, which I've used in the past for other purposes. It didn't occur to me that it could work on iOS. What's not clear to me, however, is whether you can configure the sync to happen automatically (which is what I want), or whether you need to manually trigger the sync. I guess I'll just install the app and see what sort of options are available.
posted by akk2014 at 7:12 AM on February 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Would it suffice to have the photos in the cloud for only a short time? Perhaps you could set up a script on your computer that runs once an hour (or whatever) and moves all the latest photos out of Dropbox etc. into a local folder.
posted by moonmilk at 4:57 AM on February 3, 2020

Best answer: I'm marking this question resolved, though I gave up on getting this done the way I had intended. I'm using Dropbox, which sort-of works, but it won't sync the photos automatically. I have to open the Dropbox app in order for the sync to take place. And it keeps copies in the cloud, which I really didn't want to do.
posted by akk2014 at 7:02 PM on February 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

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