A lost or stolen smartphone is easy enough to replace, but unless you’ve been backing up your photos, those magic moments are gone forever.
Fortunately, Android offers many ways to back up your photos automatically. Whether you prefer to store them on a local hard drive or in the cloud, here are a few good methods for keeping the contents of your camera roll safe and sound. (Still: Create redundancies. Using more than one backup method will reduce your odds of losing everything, so don’t be afraid to mix and match.)
Don’t let the social network scare you; Google+ can automatically back up an unlimited number of photos online, even if you never intend to share them. You can also automatically fine-tune your photos with effects such as red-eye reduction and color balance, and create animated gifs out of a quick sequence of images. (Don’t worry; you can disable these features as well.)
To get set up, just install the Google+ app on your phone. You should see a prompt to set up auto-backups when you first run the app, but you can also manually turn on that feature through Settings > Auto Backup.
Pros: Unlimited uploads for photos and videos under 15 minutes long; convenient access from many other devices; helpful auto-enhancements.
Cons: Photos get shrunk to “standard size” of 2048 pixels long—you can upload full-resolution photos, but they count toward your Google Drive storage limit.
The cloud storage service Dropbox can automatically upload photos and videos as you take them, and they’ll remain stored online. You can view them through Dropbox’s apps and website, or use the Dropbox desktop app to easily pull your photos over to local storage or an external hard drive. You’ll see a prompt to set up photo backups when you first run the app.
Pros: Full-resolution uploads; easy batch file transfers.
Cons: Free service only comes with 2GB of online storage, so you’ll need to be vigilant about moving or deleting files to avoid the paywall.
Cloud storage has its perks, but nothing beats local storage for reliable access and cost efficiency. If you’d rather keep copies of your smartphone photos tucked away on a laptop, desktop or networked hard drive, BitTorrent Sync does the job.
To set it up, download the app and go to the “Backup” section. Tap on the folder icon, and locate your phone’s photo directory. (It’s usually something like “DCIM” or “Camera.”) E-mail yourself the provided secret code. Finally, install the desktop software, and select “Add a Sync Folder” under the “Folders” tab. Enter the secret key in the first line, and on the second line hit “Browse” to select where you want your photos to go. BitTorrent Sync will back them up whenever you’re on the same Wi-Fi network.
One other tip: To avoid draining battery life, go to the app’s settings, hit Battery Saver and slide the scale up above 90 percent, so syncing only happens when you’ve got a full charge.
Pros: The only storage limit is the size of your hard drive; no NSA data hoarding to worry about.
Cons: Setup is a bit cumbersome; your hard drive’s more likely to die before Dropbox’s servers do.