I’ve been a Windows convert for a little over a year now and I can honestly say that I don’t miss much about my iMac. Windows 10 was an adjustment in the beginning, but Microsoft has put a lot of effort into improving the user experience and the Anniversary update is fantastic. A little attention to privacy details and I am thoroughly comfortable with my transition to Windows.
Now, on to the point of this post. I started writing this post almost a year ago, but I just felt like I hadn’t found a solution to the problem. Let’s face it. If you are coming from the Apple ecosystem using a Mac and iPhone with iCloud you will be disappointed with the Windows alternatives for photo management. The seamless integration provided by Photos and iCloud is something I started to miss quickly on my Windows PC.
First, let me just put it out there that I know iCloud exists for Windows, but it doesn’t come close to offering the same features as on Apple products. Since I, and my household, still use a lot of Apple products, my goal is to integrate my PC into the ecosystem without breaking Photos for our other devices.
The first thing I did was install iCloud for Windows. Whoops. Look, I’m not an Apple hater. Hell, I was an Apple fanboy just a few years ago, but iCloud for Windows is terrible. Once its installed, you better not want to uninstall it. I’ve seen malware that was less persistent. I don’t use Outlook, so email and calendar integration was useless. Aside from the fact that it will sync photos to my hard drive, I didn’t want any of the other features. I could turn them off, but I just didn’t want all the overhead that goes with iCloud for Windows just to download my photos.
If you do decide to go the iCloud route, here are a few of my observations. Any future pictures are just dumped into the iCloud Downloads folder unorganized. Syncing is one way. Changes or deletions I make to photos on my PC are not synced back to iCloud. Surely there has to be a better way right?
Now the obvious question is what Photo management software is available for Windows? I wanted something that was similar to Photos or Aperture on my Mac. I used to use Picasso back even before it was purchased by Google, so going with what I know, I went to download the program only to find that Google has discontinued it in favor of their Google Photos service. I’m not a huge fan of Google and I try to limit my use of their services, but Google Photos looked pretty promising. I downloaded the upload assistant and was off. The first decision I had to make was whether to keep my original pictures or allow Google to compress them. To be fair, a vast majority of my photos and videos were below the compression limit, so I probably would never have known the difference, but I chose the uncompressed option requiring me to pay $1.99 a month to upgrade my storage to 100GB instead of the free 15GB. The upload took about a day and I started to play with Google Photos.
I’ve been using Google Photos for about 9 months now. Overall, I can say I’m extremely happy with it. It integrates seamlessly with Photos on my iPhone and iPad. I can still sync photos to iCloud for compatibility with my family’s devices, but have a cloud solution that offers the same level of access on my Windows PC. For simple edits, the website is good enough. If I have to do more extreme editing, then I use Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.
The moral of this story is there is more than one way to skin a cat. I thought I wanted to replicate the Photos/iCloud integration of the Mac ecosystem on my Windows PC, but instead I found a cloud solution that solved 99% of my goals. I’m not even concerned about the other 1% anymore. Bonus… I have a cloud backup of all my photos in two places.