How to transfer photos and videos from iPhone to computer (Mac or PC)

There is the old saying that the best camera is the one that’s with you. This takes on new meaning with the iPhone 4S and it’s stellar optics. With iOS 5, Apple now allows you to setup your iPhone 4S without the need for a computer. This is great for those who are looking to get a quick start, without the hassle of having to tether their new phone either a Mac or PC in order to get it up and running. If you are using iOS 5, Apple’s new iCloud allows you to take advantage of Photostream, which will push photos to all of your iOS devices, but that’s limited to 1,000 photos. Despite setting up Find My iPhone, losing an iPhone could mean that you’d lose all of your precious photos and videos. It’s always a good idea to back them up and you can do very easily if you transfer photos and videos from your iPhone to a Mac or PC.

Transfer photos from iPhone to Mac

If you have a Mac, there are multiple ways to transfer your photos. The easiest and most productive way has to be iPhoto ($14.99, Mac App Store). This is also included as part of iLife, which comes free with every new Mac. When you plug-in your device, it will bring up the screen below.

Transfer photos from iPhone to computer

It will show you the number of photos available for transfer, which in this case happens to be 24. The blue button at the top allows you being the process of transferring photos to your Mac. Note: If you check the box ‘Split Events’, iPhoto will create a new event for each grouping of images.

Q: What if I don’t see any images when I connect my iPhone or iPad?

When you complete the transfer process, you’ll be asked if you would like to delete the photos. If you select no, they will remain on your phone. However, when you connect to iPhoto again, it knows that you had previously transferred those pictures.

Using Image Capture to transfer pictures

If you don’t have iPhoto, the free Image Capture app should launch when you connect your iPhone or iPad. If not, you can navigate to Applications > Image Capture. On the left hand side of the window, you’ll see your device. In the bottom part of the window, you select the destination folder for your imported photos. By default, it’s set to ‘Pictures’. You can command-click to select individual photos or simply ‘Import All’. Unlike with iPhoto, you check a box at the bottom left in Image Capture if you want to delete photos on your device after the import. Click ‘Import’ and your photos will transfer to your Mac.

Image Capture iPhone

Q: Can I mount the iPhone like a USB drive and drag-and-drop images?

No, you can not mount your it like a USB device on a Mac without third-party software. You must use one of the apps mentioned above.

Transfer pictures from iPhone to PC (Windows 7, Vista)

When you connect your iPad or iPhone for the first time, you’ll see Windows install assorted drivers. This should take a matter of seconds and the ‘Auto Play’ dialog box will appear. You’ll have the option to ‘Import Pictures’ or ‘View Files’. If you have a preference, check the box and your Windows PC will do this each time you plugin your device.

Auto-play connect iPad

When you select ‘Import Pictures and Video’, your computer will find media that is ready for transfer.

transfer photos iPad computer

You will have the option to ‘Tag’ photos. This is handy if you are tagging a set of vacation photos.

import settings pictures

You can also set Import Settings. This allows you to set:

  • Destination folder for imported images
  • Destination folder for imported videos
  • Folder naming convention
  • Enable option to delete photos from device

If you select ‘View Files’, it will appear as if it is a USB device, providing access to your photo files in a folder titled DCIM. Once they render, you can easily drag and drop the pictures to your desktop or folder of preference.

iPhone drag and drop photos

While having successfully moved your photos to your home computer, we’d highly recommend you have a back-up strategy in place to protect your valuable images.

Have questions or need help? Join our iPhone and iPad forums to comment on this article or to create your own topic. Know of a better way, let us know.


  1. Ron says

    First of all, i want express how truly frustrating dealing with Apple products is. I cant believe how difficult it is to get MY pictures off MY $400 phone! I love how this article starts off by saying, “The best way to get photos and videos off your iPhone is to PURCHASE iPhoto!!! Give me a break! $400 isnt enough to include an easy way to get MY photos off MY phone! Shame on you apple. Sure, you can import with windows, but after you import one time, it will not allow you to reimport the same pictures a second time. Lets say i erase the photos I imported and want to reimport them from my phone. I cant!!! I get an error saying no new photos found! Pathetic. Also, the videos I import are UPSIDE DOWN! WTF!!!! Apple’s website tells me maybe i was holding the camera upside down. Typical Apple, deflect blame. They make the take picture button the volume up button. Thats fine, but i have never seen a camera where the button to take the picture is on the bottom! For Real! Are they serious?!?!? I will never buy another apple product again in my life. iTunes is worse. HOW DO I GET MY PHUGGIN PICS AND VIDS OFF MY STUPID PHONE!?!?!?!?!

  2. Mark Judice says

    I share your frustration. The Bump app works pretty we’ll for phone to PC transfers. Does not work for videos though (to date).

  3. Joey says

    I’m a mac person but ended up with an Android phone because of these type issues. When you plug in an Android, a menu pops up with multiple choices. One of those choices is to “Mount as Hard Disk.” Nice…

  4. ilango says

    Great article.
    Can you clarify what you meant by “When you connect your iPad or iPhone for the first time..”. I mean, how do I connect the iPhone to my Windows XP/7 computer? Do I use the charging cord that I use everyday, with the only difference that instead of connecting it to the power supply, I connect it to the USB port on my Windows machine?

    • dave schoenke and sally schoenke says

      don’t see answer to this question I have same question? note I have iphone 5 and new mac bought feb. 2013. thanks Sally

  5. Darlene says

    I found that going to start menu, then devices and printers, there was an exclamation point on my iphone and I had it trouble shoot the problem. It said a driver was missing and it fixed the problem. It now detects my iphone again (am using a pc). I did have to go to hardware and sound and autoplay and my iphone and have it set to import pictures

    • thatonegrrl says

      OMG… same here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thankyouthankyouthankyou!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! as soon as i get my phone back, I will do the same!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • NGunn says

      Thank You!! this was very helpful, it resolved my issue. I didn’t realize my driver was corrupted until I came across this posting. Fixed the driver and now started seeing phone under explorer, now able to drag n’ drop to save photos & videos…Thanks! a ton.

  6. LC says

    Hi! I have a ton of photos (500+) to transfer from my iPhone to PC. The last time I successfully transferred photos for about a year and 500 photos ago. Today, when I tried to import the “new” photos to my PC, the computer showed 0 new items to import. Looking in the DCIM folder, I also found 0 photos. The photos are clearly saved in the phone, but my PC is not registering them as new, import-able photos. Please help!

  7. ron says

    new to iphone, have followed the comments on transferring pictures and vides very helpful. If I transfer photos and videos to my computer are copies still on my iphone5 and stored in the icloud.? . Just purchased the adobe photoshop elements 11 and adobe premiere elements 11and will try to use on the photos, is there a forum and possible problems

  8. R Christie says

    I’m with Ron. It doesn’t work!

    Gear: iPhone 4 (with up-to-date software); MacBook with IOS 10.6 8.

    [iPhoto] “will bring up the screen below”…

    No, it doesn’t.

    Image Capture app should launch when you connect your iPhone

    No, it doesn’t.

    Click ‘Import’ and your photos will transfer to your Mac

    … but my photos don’t appear as illustrated.

    You must use one of the apps mentioned above

    The apps do not work as described.

    My Windows PC doesn’t download the photos either.

    In fact the only way I can transfer my photos is to email them to myself. Surely this can’t be right!

  9. tovah says

    what if i already have photos on my computer from my iphone that havent been set to delete after syncing? can i put them in a different place then resync and have them deleted?

  10. Bill says

    I have photos on my computer that I want to export to my new iphone 4s. Lost several photos when my previous android but had them saved on computer and now want to export them to my new iphone. All instructions seem to address going from phone to computer. Give me a simple process

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