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How to Transfer photos from iPhone to a computer (Mac or Windows PC)

You can easily transfer Photos from your iPhone to your computer, and the process is very similar whether you are on a Mac or PC. The Mac treats the iPhone like a digital camera, and Windows can treat the iPhone as either a digital camera or a file system, depending on how the photos are accessed. Regardless of what OS you are using, to get started you will need your iPhone, the included USB cable, and a computer to plug the device into.

If you want to jump directly to the transferring photo guides on this page for OS X or PC, use these links:

There are a few means of copying pictures from iOS to computers, we’ll cover more than one each so that you can decide which method is appropriate for you. We’ll cover the Mac OS X methods of how to copy pictures from an iPhone to a Mac first, and then how to copy pictures from iPhone to Windows methods second.

Before beginning, make sure the iPhone is unlocked.

For OS X, the fastest and simplest way to copy pictures from an iPhone to a Mac is with Image Capture and Preview. We’ll discuss how with both apps.

Image Capture for copying pictures from an iPhone to a Mac

Using Image Capture to Import Photos in OS X

Image Capture is a fast and efficient way to pull photos off the iPhone, which treats the device as a digital camera:

  1. Open Image Capture from the /Applications/ directory (or through Launchpad)
  2. Connect the iPhone to the Mac through USB
  3. Select a folder from the menu (default is Pictures folder) and then click “Import All”
  4. OR: Select individual photos, and click “Import” to only copy those pictures over

Using Image Capture to transfer photos to a Mac from iPhone

Image Capture is my preferred method because it’s fast, efficient, no frills, and allows users to quickly and easily copy the images from an iPhone (or iPad, or any camera), directly to the Mac. You simply choose where in the file system to copy the pictures, and it transfers them for you.

You can also transfer pictures to your Mac with Photos app, iPhoto, or Preview, which is just as simple and actually has a virtually identical interface for initiating the transfer. Here is how to import with Preview:

Copying Photos to the Mac with Preview in OS X

Though Preview is usually thought of as an image viewer, it can also serve as a fast importer:

  • Plug your iPhone into your Mac
  • Launch Preview
  • From the File menu navigate down and select “Import from iPhone…”
  • Select “Import All” to get all the pictures, otherwise individually select pictures and click ‘Import’
  • Look in your /Pictures/ folder for the photos from your iPhone

transfer photos from iphone

Optionally: Click the checkbox with “Delete after import” if you want to delete the photos after they have been copied over to the computer.

The benefit of using either Preview or Image Capture is that these apps are on virtually every version of OS X since from the very beginning of the OS, so you won’t find a Mac version without them. iPhoto on the other hand is generally limited to the consumer model Macs, thus making it not always available on pro models, but it does work as well, and iPhoto will also serve as a photo manager of sorts.

On a Windows PC the easiest way to get pictures from your iPhone is to just use Windows Explorer, but there are two ways to go about this. In either case, unlock the iPhone before beginning, or else the photos may not be visible.

Using Windows to copy pictures from an iPhone to a PC

Using Windows Plug & Play to Transfer Pictures from iPhone to Computer

This utilizes the AutoPlay pop-up that shows by default in Windows when a device is connected to the computer by way of USB. This is the easiest way to access and copy pictures from iPhone to a Windows PC:

  1. Plugin your iPhone to the computer without iTunes running
  2. Wait for the AutoPlay popup asking you what you want to do with the device
  3. Select “View Content” or choose a device option like ‘Import pictures and videos’
  4. Find your photos through the folders that are displayed
  5. Copy the images from Windows as usual

Transfer photos from iPhone to a Windows computer

Note that in Windows 10, Windows 7, and Windows 8, you will often find the iPhone mounted under “Portable Devices” but it can also be found listed under “Digital Camera”. Opening either will work to copy the pictures over, but typically Digital Camera opens directly to the DCIM directory whereas Portable Devices will sometimes require minor navigation within the folder to copy the files.

Using iPhone as Digital Camera in Windows Explorer to Transfer Images

If your iPhone is already plugged into the PC, you can also try this method:

  • Open “My Computer”
  • Find the iPhone, it will appear as any other camera would
  • Open iPhone to find your Photos
  • Select the pictures you want to copy to your computer and copy/paste them into the desired location on your PC

Transferring Photos from iPhone to a Computer The Windows approach treats the iPhone more like a file system, just like it does with standard digital cameras that are connected to a PC. That generally makes Windows even easier for moving pictures back and forth if you like to cut & paste things directly from one folder to another in My Pictures or My Documents. Nonetheless, you can also use your favorite photo importing application to pull the pictures from the device as well.

Remember, if the iPhone pictures are not showing up in Windows, make sure the iPhone is unlocked first. Otherwise the iPhone will be found in ‘My Computer’ but all of the content on it will be invisible and inaccessible. If you run into that, all you need to do is touch the iPhone, unlock the screen and enter the passcode, and all of your stuff will be visible as expected.

Finally, you can also sync your photos using just iTunes on either Mac OS or Windows but that is more for iPhone backup purposes and doesn’t really serve as a means of accessing individual pictures.