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Google Photos backup tool

Project description

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Google Photos Sync

Version 2.0 Major Upgrade

Google has released a new Google Photos API and this project is now based on that API. The myriad issues with the previous approach using Drive API and Picasa API are now resolved. However, see new known issues below.

In addition to this, the new code uses parallel processing to speed up downloads considerably.


Google Photos Sync downloads your Google Photos to the local file system. It will backup all the photos the user uploaded to Google Photos, but also the album information and additional Google Photos ‘Creations’ (animations, panoramas, movies, effects and collages).

After doing a full sync you will have 2 directories off of the specified root:

  • photos - contains all photos and videos from your Google Photos Library organized into folders with the structure ‘photos/YYYY/MM’ where ‘YYYY/MM’ is the date the photo/video was taken. The filenames within a folder will be as per the original upload except that duplicate names will have a suffix ‘ (n)’ where n is the duplicate number of the file (this matched the approach used in the official Google tool for Windows).

  • albums - contains a folder hierarchy representing the set of albums and shared albums in your library. All the files are symlinks to content in one of the other folders. The folder names will be ‘albums/YYYY/MM Original Album Name’.

In the root folder a sqlite database holds an index of all media and albums. Useful to find out about the state of your photo store. You can open it with the sqlite3 tool and perform any sql queries.

This has been tested against my photo store of nearly 100,000 photos.

Currently Download Only

gphotos-sync currently does not have upload features. I do intend to provide an upload facility so that it would be possible to download your library and upload it to another account, or to upload new photos. Full two way synchronization capability is a much bigger challenge and at present I’ve not come up with a robust enough approach for this. UPDATE: there are a couple of limitations on the API that will stop me from bothering to do upload until they are addressed: (1) all uploads count against quota - Google probably won’t address this (2) you can only add media to albums at upload time, not rearrange existing media into albums.

Primary Goals

  • Provide a file system backup so it is easy to monitor for accidental deletions (or deletions caused by bugs) in very large photo collections.

  • Make it feasible to switch to a different photo management system in future if this ever becomes desirable/necessary.

  • Provide a comparison function so that your current Photos library can be verified against a historical backup.

Known Issues

  • There is no way to discover modified date of library media items. Currently gphotos-sync will refresh your local copy with any new photos added since the last scan but will not update any photos that have been modified in Google Photos. A feature request has been submitted to Google see

  • Some types of video will not download using the new API. This mostly is restricted to old formats of video file (in my library it is a subset of videos shot before 2010). Google is looking at this problem see

  • The API strips GPS data from images see

  • Video download transcodes the videos even if you ask for the original file (=vd parameter) see My experience is that the result is indistinguishable visually but it is a smaller file with approximately 60% bitrate (same resolution).

Install and configure

To install latest published version from PyPi, simply:

pip install gphotos-sync

To work from the source code, clone the git repository and run from the source directory. (if required use a virtualenv)

git clone
cd gphotos-sync
sudo python3 install

In order to work, gphotos-sync first needs a valid client id linked to a project authorized to use the ‘Photos Library API’. It is not provided in the distribution. Each client id is given a (large) limited number of free API calls to Google Services. If this distribution shared the client id, all users would share this resource limit. This is a little fiddly but only needs to be done once.

To do this:

Also note that for Windows you will need to enable symbolic links permission for the account that gphoto-sync will run under. See Enabling SymLinks on Windows.

How to use it

Once the script is configured, you are now ready to use it using the simple following command line:


The first time, it will give you a link to an authorization page in order to authorize the client to access your Google Photos.

For a description of additional command line parameters type:

gphotos-sync --help

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