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How do I get photos from my camera or phone on Windows 10?

get photos from my camera or phone on Windows 10
I... just... want... to get the darn photos onto my computer!

A query from a friend: “Tim, have you got five minutes?” His voice over the phone sounded urgent. “Windows has done one of those [censored] update things and I can’t get my photos anymore. How do I get photos from my camera on Windows 10?”

The idea is that you plug in your camera, phone or USB whatever and Windows is clever enough to go, “Aha, my friend, you want me to move the photos from there onto your PC? No problem.”

The trouble is that, even if you successfully set it up once, Windows updates have a nasty habit of removing all such preferences. Here’s how to get photos from a camera into Windows 10, and how to troubleshoot if it all goes wrong.

Get photos from your camera to Windows 10

The very first time you plug a new device into your computer, Windows 10 will pop up a message that asks you what you want to do. The trouble is that, if you don’t act quickly enough, that message will disappear.

Assuming you do catch the message in time, you can tell it to do one of the following, depending on the type of files Windows finds stored on the device:

  • Import photos and videos
  • Import photos
  • Take no action
  • Open folder to view files
  • Ask me every time
  • Configure this drive for backup
  • Configure storage settings

If it’s a camera, you’ll almost certainly be offered both the “Import photos and videos” and “Import photos” options, along with a couple of others.

You’ll probably find that, if you’ve installed Dropbox, that it has grabbed the preferred spot for this already.

If you’re happy with this, go ahead and let Dropbox take control. If you’re not, head into Dropbox’s Preferences: right-click the Dropbox icon in your taskbar (you may need to press the upwards arrow, because Windows hides lesser-used icons by default), click Preferences and then click Import.

Clicking “Change AutoPlay Settings” will take you to the Windows Control Panel – I cover this in greater depth below.

Import photos and videos where you want them: the simple way

Press the Windows key and then type “Autoplay”. Pressing Enter again should take you to a screen that looks something like this.

If Windows has already recognised your camera or phone, then you’ll see it has an explicit entry – just as I have for my Moto G phone above. Let’s say I want Windows to automatically place all the photos and videos into a particular folder.

I click the down arrow to the right and select “Import photos and videos (Photos)”. Here, “Photos” with a capital P refers to the Windows app called Photos.

Next, plug your device into your USB port. If it’s a phone, make sure it’s unlocked and that you select the “Transfer Photos (PTP)” option when it pops up.

Windows will then search through the images on your device before popping up a dialog like this:

You could just tap “Select all” and all the images would be pumped into the default folder. In our case, it would be called “March 2018” within Windows’ main Pictures folder.

You do have a tiny amount of control though. Press “Change how they’re organised” from below the gallery and you can choose to file them by date (so all photos taken on Tuesday 13 March 2018 would appear in their own folder, for example) or by year.

Or perhaps you don’t want to store your pics in the Photos folder. No problem: assuming you’ve already clicked “Change how they’re oganised”, you’ll see the option to “Change where they’re imported”. From here, select whichever folder you desire.

Import photos and videos where you want them: the more powerful way

If you want to take full control of what happens when you insert a device into a USB drive, you need to head into the Control Panel. Hit the Windows key, start typing “Control” and it will almost certainly be your first option.

Click Hardware and Sound. Then click AutoPlay. You’ll now be faced with a more comprehensive array of options. Let’s say that when you slip a memory card into your laptop that you want it to only import photos using Adobe Lightroom. Select the relevant option from the dropdown menu and it’s done.

There are too many options to go into here, but they’re as self-explanatory as they are worth exploring.

While the Control Panel is now more difficult to find in Windows 10, it offers more power and customisation than the main Windows 10 Settings. It’s also an excellent place to visit if things stop working the way you expect them to: chances are that you can change a setting here and get it back working again.

Main image by lukasbieri on (and yes, we know it’s a Mac… it was just too good not to use!)

Read this next: How do I quickly load Calculator on Windows 10?

About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email

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