Google Photos is second to none when it comes to AI capabilities, and it certainly spoiled us for good with its unlimited high-quality uploads offered until some time ago. But with Google’s call to count your media uploads against the Drive storage, many of us with a Synology server turned towards its photos app as a solid self-hosted alternative. The Synology Photos got its biggest upgrade in years recently, making it pretty easy to set up an automatic backup for the media files that are on your phone. But how do you move your entire collection of photos and videos on Google Photos that you’ve curated over the years to your Synology NAS?
Moving your media from Google Photos to a Synology DiskStation is a two-part process. You’ll first need to download all your files from Google Photo’s webpage, so make sure you have a computer with ample disk space available. And then, we’ll look at the process to upload those photos and videos to your network drive.
Depending on the number of media files you’re planning to move, you can either download the images manually or use Google Takeout. The former way works well if you only have a handful of files to download, though bear in mind that you’ll be limited to 500 files in each go. Plus, you’ll have to select your media individually for each day since Photos on the web doesn’t allow a broader yearly or even monthly view.
It’s safe to assume that most of you have more than a few hundred photos and videos in Google Photos that you need to move over to your Synology NAS. In that case, Google’s data export tool Takeout should be the easiest way to have all your media files downloaded. Here’s how you can do that:
- Go to photos.google.com on a computer and click on the cog icon in the top-right corner to enter the settings page.
Scroll down and expand the Export your data section and click on the Backup button against Backup and archive of your data.
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- On the Takeout page, Google Photos should be the only option, but if you see other Google services on the list as well, just uncheck everything except for Google Photos and hit Next step.
- You will see a list of folders marked by years along with some custom folders that Photos created for you. Check whatever folders you want to move to Synology and go to the next page.
- There, Google will let you pick the backup frequency and the exported zip file’s size. Since moving photos to Synology is going to be a one-off thing, I have selected single export and increased the file size to avoid getting multiple downloads. You can pick between 1GB and 50GB from the drop-down menu. After that, click on Create export.
Depending on how much media you’re exporting, you should receive the download link on your email address within a few minutes or hours. Once you get the email, click on the Download your files button and again hit the Download button on the next page. This download link remains active for a week in case something goes wrong.
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Moving your photos and videos to a Synology NAS
Before you can upload your photos to a local Synology drive, you will have to dig into the downloaded folder and move around a few files to make it ready. But the process is pretty straightforward and doesn’t take long. Bear in mind that the steps included here apply to Synology’s latest DSM 7.0, so the process may vary for older versions.
- Open the .zip file you downloaded and open the Google Photos folder. In there, you’ll find all the folders that you selected earlier when setting up the export. These folders contain photos and videos from that year, along with .json files corresponding to each media file. These .json files carry some additional metadata from Google Photos that is of no use in Synology’s equivalent Photos app.
- To get rid of these files in one go, search .json in the Takeout folder, select them all, and toss them into the bin. At this point, you can also restructure the folder directory the way you want, but you don’t necessarily need to do that since Synology Photos will arrange the images by date by default.
- Now open your Synology NAS in a web browser and open File Station to locate the folder that is set up with the Synology Photos package. All you need to do here is drag the Google Photos folder and drop it in there. Instead of accessing it from a web browser, you can alternatively use File Explorer or Finder if you’ve already linked your NAS to your computer’s file manager.
- The upload process can take a while to finish depending on the folder size, following which Synology Photos will start processing your media files for indexing and its various Google Photos-inspired AI features. Once all this is done, your photos and videos should populate the Synology Photos web and phone apps just as they do on Google Photos.
After I moved my personal collection over to Synology, many of my older photos from various years ended up appearing together under the day I uploaded them. Apparently, Google Photos messed up EXIF data on some of the images and replaced their original creation date with the date of the takeout. If something like this happens to you, try redownloading that year’s entire folder or the affected files individually before getting to correct the EXIF data manually as a last resort.
Left: Synology Photos, Right: Google Photos.
Synology Photos on DSM 7.0 has gotten much smarter than before, taking some heavy inspiration from Google Photos. That’s the reason it turned out to be a worthy alternative to Google’s app for my former colleague Rita, who dove deeper into the service to detail how you can set up automatic backups with Synology Photos. That should give you much more flexibility with unlimited full-size backups, given you’ve made peace with the upfront cost.
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