What is the safest way to transfer photos from camera to computer?

transfer photos from camera to computer
Don't snap: computer card readers are not the safe option

You’ve spent all day taking those irreplaceable photos at that family wedding. You get home, remove the memory card from the camera and slot it into your laptop, only to be told your card is corrupted. You throw the laptop through the nearest window. Want to save both your treasured photos and the cost of a new laptop? Then here’s how to safely transfer photos from camera to computer, starting with the safest methods first.

1. Plug your camera into your computer

By far the least risky method of transferring photos from camera to computer is to plug the camera into the computer. Most cameras will come with a USB cable that you can plug into your computer, although modern laptops are increasingly doing away with traditional USB ports.

If you’re using a laptop such as one of the new MacBooks which only has the slim USB-C port, you may want to invest in a cheap adapter to get yourself a proper USB port back, such as this USB-C to USB 3 adapter on Amazon.

Why is this less risky than popping the memory card into the laptop itself? For two reasons. First, memory cards are fragile little envelopes of plastic. The more you pop it in and out of different sockets, the greater the chance of wear on the connectors or of even snapping/cracking the card itself.

Second, the card readers built into laptops are often cheap and nasty, the lowest cost component the laptop manufacturer could source. They’re not as reliable as the card reader inside your camera and are more likely to corrupt cards. Trust me, I speak from bitter experience.

2. Transfer photos wirelessly

Most cameras bought in the past few years will either have built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. These facilities can be used to beam the photos from your camera to the computer. Check your manual for instructions.

This is a safe method of transfer because you’re once again reading the photos from the camera, which is highly unlikely to corrupt the card and poses no threat of physical damage to the memory card.

However, it can be slow – certainly much slower than a cable connection – and the Windows/Mac apps that facilitate the wireless transfer are often clunky.

3. Use a USB card reader

Why would you use a USB card reader instead of the memory card slot in a PC or laptop? Because most of those computer slots are spring-loaded. They’re more likely to result in damage to the card as you attempt to pop it in and out of the slot. If the spring snaps, the card’s also stuck in the computer.

The Anker USB 3.0 8-in-1 Card Reader costs only £8.99 and doesn’t have spring-loaded slots, making it less likely cards are going to splinter as you place them into the slot.

4. Use the PC/laptop’s card reader

This really would be my last resort, if there were no other options available and I needed the photos off the card quickly. 99 times out of 100 it will be fine, of course. But it’s that one time – inevitably when you’ve shot a once-in-a-lifetime event – that things will go wrong.

Now read this: How do I digitise old photos?

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at

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