How to Download Photos from iCloud to Mac or Windows PC the Easy Way
One of the most common questions regarding using iCloud and iCloud Photo Library is how to download photos from iCloud once they have been stored there. This is a deceptively simple question, and we’re going to push aside any of the complexities of downloading pictures from iCloud Photo Library within Photos app on the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, and instead we’ll show you the single most direct method of downloading a picture from iCloud to a computer, since that is usually what people are looking to do.
We’ll also show you how to download all photos from iCloud, as well as single pictures or just a group of selected photos.
You have a photo on iCloud, and you want to download that photo your Mac or PC – simple, right? Yes, but it’s done a bit different than you may expect, as we’ll show in the walkthrough here.
How to Download Photos from iCloud to Mac OS X or Windows PC
Have a picture or several photos stored in iCloud and you want the raw file downloaded locally on any Mac, Windows PC, or other device? Here’s how you can do that:
- Open a web browser and go to iCloud.com and login with your Apple ID as usual
- Click on the “Photos” icon once you are logged in to the iCloud website
- Click to select a photo you want to download
- When the picture is loaded on screen, look in the upper right corner of the web browser window for a little download icon, it looks like a cloud with an arrow coming out of the bottom of it – click that to download the photo from iCloud to the computer
- Repeat as necessary for other photos you wish to download from iCloud
And there you have it, look where your web browser defaults to downloading pictures and you’ll find your photo (or photos) in their original resolution there, this is typically the user Downloads folder. In our example, it’s a picture of the Grand Canyon:
That’s how you download photos from iCloud.com onto a computer or device. This works the same with any web browser, so it doesn’t matter if you’re on a Mac or Windows PC, Android, or Linux, you’ll be able to download the pictures from iCloud this way. This is great for the obvious reasons of cross platform access, but it’s also nice for gaining access to a high res picture from another computer or device too.
How can I download ALL pictures from iCloud?
Now, I know what you’re thinking; how can you download all of your pictures from iCloud? And why isn’t there a “download all” button on iCloud Photos? And why can’t we access iCloud Photos through iCloud Drive and copy them like you would from Dropbox on a computer? Those are great questions and certainly worthy feature requests for future versions of iCloud and iCloud Photo management, but what we just outlined above is what is currently available (outside of Photos and iCloud Photo Library anyway), so for now you have to manually download the pictures if you want to get them from iCloud Photos on the web. Hopefully a future version of the iCloud website will offer easy bulk downloading, and maybe even we’ll get comparable features in the Photos apps in Mac OS X and iPhone too.
Here is how you can download ALL photos from iCloud to Mac or PC:
- Go to iCloud.com and login as usual, and then go to “Photos” as usual
- Choose the “All Photos” album
- Scroll to the very bottom of the All Photos album and click the “Select Photos” button in the top of the iCloud Photos bar
- Hold down the Shift key and click on the very last picture in the album, this should select every photo in the All Photos album as will be signified by the iCloud Photos bar saying “WXYZ items selected”
- Now with all of the photos selected in iCloud Photos, choose the blue “Download” button at the top of the iCloud Photos bar
- Confirm that you want to download all of the selected photos (this can be hundreds, or thousands) and click on “Download”
This downloads the number of pictures through the browser, just like downloading any other file. This means the photos will likely end up in your Downloads folder, unless you specify downloads to go elsewhere.
Unfortunately there is no “Select All” button or “Download All” button in iCloud Photos on the web currently, but you can use the shift+click trick to select all of the photos yourself. That is the only way to download all photos from iCloud currently, so it requires a little bit of manual effort but it works.
There are other ways of downloading full resolution pictures from iCloud of course as well, but they require the usage of the iCloud Photo Library feature as well as Photos apps in either Mac OS X or iOS, which puts them off limits to Windows users or from Windows based access. And yes, iCloud Photo Library is supposed to automatically manage and handle photos if you use the service, it will upload them to iCloud, and then download them on demand if requested – but for those who have a large library of pictures or less than stellar internet access, it can be cumbersome or even unreliable. Furthermore, the feature can lead to excess data usage both with a broadband connection and your local device storage, and there are some other curious aspects that can make the feature challenging to use for some specific user situations (for me personally, I like direct file access to my photos in their original format without having to rely on downloading the original, maybe I am old fashioned in that regard).
What about downloading pictures from iCloud backups or iTunes backups?
As you may know, iCloud backups are separate from iCloud Photo Library. If you backup an iPhone or iPad to iCloud, you may like to have direct access to those pictures, but that’s not how iCloud backups work. Instead, they arrive as a complete backup package of the entire device. Thus, you can also get photos out of iCloud and iTunes backups made from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, but it requires either restoring a device with that backup in question in the case of iCloud, or the usage of a third party tool if the backup was made with iTunes. You can learn more about recovering photos from iPhone backups here if you’re interested, but it’s quite a different process from the method outlined above about simply downloading pictures from iCloud.com on the web.
Do you know of another easy way to download photos from iCloud? Maybe you know of a method to bulk download all your pictures, or a group of pictures, in their original format and size, from iCloud to a computer? Let us know your iCloud photo tricks in the comments!