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This article was published on December 23, 2021

Google Photos no longer offers unlimited storage — so what are your options?

To switch or not to switch, that is the question

Google Photos no longer offers unlimited storage — so what are your options?
Ivan Mehta
Story by

Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

Google Photos’ unlimited storage plan for your “high-quality” photos ended on June 1, 2021. The company made the announcement the previous November, without specifying reasons like whether it was running out of server space, or just wanted to sell you a Google One subscription for extra storage.

You might be angry that Googlekille off another super handy feature. But there are no free lunches. So what are your options? We’ll address all your questions such as exporting your data and choosing an alternative service in this article.

How much stuff have you got on Google Photos?

Before you storm out of Google’s image storing service, you need to know how much stuff you’ve stored on the service. The easiest way to do it is by heading to this link. The photos and videos part is indicative of images and clips stored on Google Photos.

Google Photos storage indicator

Google offers 15GB of free storage for your account across various services. You could remove unnecessary files and large emails from Drive and Gmail to free up some space. Compressed images on Google Photos take roughly 1-4 MB space each. So you can easily squeeze in more than 300 photos per GB.

The company said in November 2020 that more than 80% of users wouldn’t hit the 15GB limit for another 10 years. So, if you’re one of them, you might not need to worry about moving away of the service.

Exporting your data

Here’s how you can export a backup of your Google Photos account:

  • Head to Google Photos on your desktop and click on Settings.
  • Scroll down to the “Export your data” section, and click on the Backup button under it.
  • On the next screen, select your export frequency (one export in this case), type of file for the export (.zip or .tgz), and maximum size of a file.
  • Click on the Create Export button.
Export screen for Google Photos

It might take at least a few hours for Google to create your backup files. You’ll get an email when your files are ready to be downloaded.

Choosing an alternative service

Google’s not the only one offering photo storage services, but its unlimited photo storage plan was appealing. The only downside was that it compressed images to store them on the cloud — but the quality difference wasn’t striking for most use cases.

While Google’s 15GB limit is still substantial, here are some of the options you can choose to store your snaps and clips as alternatives:

  • Google One (15GB free storage): If you want more storage from Google, and don’t want to bother exporting your photos to another service, Google offers paid plans starting from 100GB for $1.99 per month.
  • iCloud (5GB free storage): This is the best option for many iPhone users as there’s the minimum amount of legwork you have to do to upload your photos in the cloud. But it’s important to remember that iCloud also hosts your iPhone and Mac backups, files, iMessage chats, and passwords. So your photos might have to fight for their storage. You can add 50GB of storage to your account with a $0.99 per month payment. And that might be sufficient for a lot of people.
  • Dropbox (2GB free storage): While Dropbox offers different file storage options, it also has a dedicated photos product to backup your images from iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac. The company has many plans for personal and professional use starting from $9.99 per month for 2TB of storage. Unfortunately, there are no cheaper plans that offer a few hundred GB of cloud storage.
  • Flickr (1,000 images): Flickr is different from iCloud and Dropbox in the way that it’s a dedicated service to store high-quality photos. There’s a free tier of uploading 1,000 images without any storage limit. But if you have a ton of photos to store, you can opt for the pro plan priced at $5.99 per month — if you pay for it annually. The best part about this plan is that it offers truly unlimited storage, so there are no bounds on the amount and quality of photos you can backup.
  • ImageShack (no free tier): If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to Flickr to store unlimited photos, ImageShack is the service for you. It doesn’t have a free tier, but it gives you unbounded uploads for $3.99 per month or $37.99 per year.
  • OneDrive (5GB free storage): Microsoft’s storage service gives you 5GB free storage, and to get more you can pay $69.99 per year in exchange for 1TB cloud space. Plus, it gives you access to some Microsoft Office apps such as Excel, Word, and PowerPoint.

If you don’t have thousands of high-quality photos, Google Photos is still a good choice as you’ll get a big chunk of 15GB of free storage to host your images. Alternatively, Flickr and ImageShack offer unlimited image storage if you don’t want to worry about how much you upload.

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