How To Move From iCloud Photos Library to Google Photos on OS X

Photo embedded from Google Photos library.

I have been using the iCloud Photo Library for quite a few months now.

In an earlier post, despite it’s obvious strengths, I listed some things that bugged me about the service. One of those things was the amount of space used by the Apple Photos app. Even with photo optimization switched on, the iCloud Photo Library was consuming over 4GB of my 16GB iPhone.


After reading up on Google’s Photo app for a while, I much prefer Google’s approach to the client iOS app.


It does not need to download 4GB worth of photo thumbnails. It has a much smaller footprint on my phone (~300mb), and at any time (from the phone) allows you to remove original versions of photos that have already been backed up.

Also, Google Photos offers unlimited space for photos if you don’t mind them reduced to a maximum resolution of 16MP. This may be showstopper for professional photographers but at the end of the day, I still have all my originals in Apple Photos on my Mac, and in addition to that, backed up to an external hard-drive.

The option to store originals with Google is available, but space is limited to your Google account capacity (15GB for free with more available at a cost).

After weighing up all the pros and cons, I decided to switch off my $2.99 per month 200GB Apple iCloud Photo Library plan, and move my 30,000+ photos and videos to Google Photos.


My photos are still uploading as I write, but I wanted to share the steps I would take if starting the process again (*).

  1. Turn off iCloud Photo Library on your iPhone (**).
  2. Install the Google desktop uploader on your Mac.
  3. If you upgraded to Photos from iPhoto, you probably don’t need to also upload your iPhoto library as it is most likely already merged into Photos.
  4. Now Wait.
  5. Wait some more. (***)
  6. Once upload has completed, install the Google Photos iOS app and have it back up your photos direct from your iPhone.
  7. Turn off iCloud Photo Library on your Mac.


  • Ok, so I have been getting a number of failed uploads to Google Photos and I’m not sure why at the moment. It could be for very valid reasons, but since I can’t actually see what photo it refers to it makes me a little nervous.
  • I had a few photos that I changed the date in Photos (camera date was incorrect). These photos have had their dates reverted to the original.


  • I like that I can quite easily embed photos in my posts by opening the image in Google Photos, right-clicking and copying the image location. Then in my post I create an <IMG src=”” /> tag and insert the URL. Obviously a WordPress shortcode would be better, but I’ll take this for now.
  • I like that it generates animations, stories and panoramas from my library. That’s quite a neat feature, and you have a choice whether you wish to add these creations to your library or not.


(*) I installed the Google iOS app and the desktop uploader at the same time. I don’t think that was such a good idea, since both apps may be try to upload identical photos potentially. I had read that duplicates are not uploaded, so I was concerned that the iOS app would upload the lower quality thumbnails from my iPhone and then the desktop uploader would not upload the originals from my Mac.

(**) To turn off iCloud Photo Library entirely, you first need to switch it off on all your devices (iPhones, iPads, additional computers), and then on the main computer navigate to your iCloud settings are remove the option there. I requested the option to delete the iCloud Library and it’s given me 30 days to ensure I have everything before it’s final. I already have everything locally on my Mac, so I’m good.

(***) Backing up a large library of photos & videos takes days. I went through this painful process with iCloud as well when I first signed up. If you don’t configure QOS on your router, this upload process may KILL your download bandwidth.



6 Replies to “How To Move From iCloud Photos Library to Google Photos on OS X”

  1. Did you ever complete the move to google photos? Do you need to leave the mac alone while all photos are uploading or can it be used (macbook closed)? What was the error issue? I’m contemplating making the same move now and could use help.


    1. Yes, I completed the move. Still don’t think it’s as seamless as Apple’s option, but I’m sticking with it for now. I still get the odd error (photo could not be uploaded) from time to time.


  2. I have around 25,000 photos in iCloud that I have been trying to transfer to Google Photos. On my phone, I like that I can automatically tell the Google Photos App to delete the images that it’s already backed up, but I am constantly getting messages that my storage on my phone is full because it’s trying to download full resolution images in iCloud before Google Photos can back them up. So I turned that off and went over to my Macbook Pro. I turned on “download originals to this Mac,” turned on Google Photos backup, but there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to delete the already backed up photos without manually looking to see what’s been backed up so far. And this is a problem because my hard drive isn’t large enough for the entire full resolution library of photos. Any tips? I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place.


    1. Turn off photo library on your phone, that way it won’t download the photos to your phone (thumbnail or original). However, you still will have your photo stream (last 1000 photos). You do need somewhere to keep all your originals, and I don’t know if there’s any other way around it except to purchase a bigger hard-drive to store those locally.


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