Use the Google Settings app to turn photo backup on and off, even after Google Photos is uninstalled

Backing up all of your photos somewhere online is a good idea. Phones get lost or broken, SD cards can go bad, and sometimes a picture is a priceless memory. We think you should be using any of the various services to keep everything stored in the cloud in case you ever need access to a remote backup.

Google Photos is one way to do just that. You can read all about the pros and cons of using it, but it's also important to know where the settings for the backup service are.

David Arnott, an editor at the Nashville Business Journal recently found this out. He wanted to try Google Photos, decided it wasn't for him, and uninstalled it. When he found his photos were still being uploaded after he uninstalled the Photos app, he was rightfully surprised.

We're here to help keep you from being surprised.

Backup settings

When you open the Google Photos settings to tell your phone when, how and which network to use to back things up to your Google cloud, it takes you into the Google Settings app on your phone. Google Settings (the grey gear icon in your app drawer that's been around since 2013) is one of those apps that most of us don't look too hard at, and maybe even an app that we hide in the launcher. But there's plenty of stuff there about the services we use — like Backup and Location — and ways to manage your Google data. You should take a minute or two and look around.

The settings for the photo backup service, which were moved to the centralized Google Settings from Google+ when you installed the new Google Photos app, are available when you tap on "Google Photo Backup" in the Google Settings app. In here you can turn things on or off, as well as set the upload size, account to use and give permission to backup when you're not on Wifi.

What happened to Mr. Arnott, and could happen to anyone who assumes that services are tied to a particular front-end, is that he uninstalled the Photos app but never turned off the backup component. This is possibly because Photo backup was originally part of Google+ (and is still accessible via the Google+ app settings), but in any case you don't have to use the Google Photos app (or even Google+) to use the backup service. Remember that Google Photos is available on other platforms, and it's not unreasonable to think you'd want to keep backing up photos from your phone to view on your tablet or the web.

So whether you're going to have the Google Photos app installed or not, check your Google Settings to manage your photo backups. We're not sure if this is the right way to handle services and their settings, or the wrong way. Just be sure to turn it off if you decide you don't want to use it.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • I have a device folder called "wallpapers" on my phone and every time I try to back it up I get a message saying "unfortunately Google play services has stopped". Don't know what to do to fix it. It allowed me to back up a folder of videos with no problem Posted via...The One
  • I had the same problem with a few folders. I fixed it by clearing data of Photos, then clearing data of Google Play Services.
  • That works. Thank you very much Posted via...The One
  • Thank you sooooo much. That worked perfectly. I couldn't upload my Whatsapp Pictures folder.
  • Lol I have the opposite problem. I have set my wallpapers folder to NOT backup, as well as most other photo folders on my devices. Yet Google photos keeps backing up everything anyway
  • I've got this problem too and looking for a solution
  • Question, I have 30,000 photos and some videos "Family stuff" that's located on Droid turbo photos app and in G drive(not in photos folder in G drive). I'm thinking of downloading everything to a PC and deleting everything else and re-uploading to the empty photos app folder on G drive. Will it get auto sorted into folders for easy searching? Or is there a better way to organize my photos?
  • Unless something has changed or updated you have to organize things yourself into collections. Posted via Morse Code
  • From personal experience in this exact situation, if you download all the photos and clear your gallery online, you will have to reorganize the folders/collections. Also, please keep in mind if the file date changes for the photos once they're on ur computer, once you re-upload them, the date will be changed. For example, if one of the photos you download was from two years ago and you download it today, once you upload it back the photo will be sorted using today's date instead of the original date unless you're able to manually modify the file date (which can be done in Picasa).
  • Another I've noticed is you better stay on top of your Google photos of you want to keep things organized. Posted via Morse Code
  • I love Google photos. I even pay the $2.00 a month (for 100gb) so all my pics and videos will be saved in high resolution. Hopefully Google will never get hacked or start selling our photos. Note 4/AC App
  • Looked at those Google Settings even though I hadn't installed Google Photos. Looked at "Connected apps". Old uninstalled apps still had permissions. Not any more.
  • This is a weird way to handle these settings, but at the same time, it's nice that you could choose to use a native Gallery app but still sync to Photos for the desktop/etc... That said, the fact that Photos is likely to be baked in like other Google Apps doesn't exactly make it possible get rid of (aside from hiding it in your launcher) so I'm not sure it makes much difference. Ah well, I like Photos, so I'm fine with having it work as it does. Posted via the AC App on my Nexus 6
  • I feel exactly the same. Posted via Morse Code
  • Gogole Posted via Android Central App
  • I just caught that. Typo LoL Posted via Morse Code
  • the Photos app sucks and is confusing IMO.. behavior is confusing/ not consistent. sometimes pics show up in "Photos", sometimes they don't. sometimes they show up in "Device Folders" sometimes they don't. sometimes after deletion they end up in "Trash", sometimes they don't. Photos, Collections, Device Folders - too many Fkn folders and automagical fancy shit taking control. i'd like to keep it simple and these math nerd programmers feel the need to overcomplicate everything into a fkn puzzle to solve.
  • It takes some time to get everything straightened out and running the way you want it but once everything is setup Google photos of quite nice. Posted via Morse Code
  • Dropbox w/ Carousel app is a better option for me Posted via the Android Central App
  • It's really not that hard to understand. Device folders is the physical photos on your phone. Photos is the backed up photos in your account. Collections is automatically grouped photos that were backed up. When you delete a pic from the Photos section it deletes it from your account and your phone storage. When you delete a pic from device folders it only deletes it from your phone not your account. I love this setup so I can still have tons of pics to show people but not have 3 gbs of pics on my phone. It's the way of the future and once you've used it and been explained how it works not that hard to grasp. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I really like the new Google Photos and its really convinced me to upload my pictures. But I mostly don't use my phone to take photos that I need in my photo cloud but rather snaps like links I want to look up later so I turned backup & sync off in the app AND in the Google account settings. For some reason that I haven't been able to figure out my photos are still being automatically uploaded. Odd as well is that when I move those photo out of my camera folder they disappears from Google Photos again....
  • I noticed it is tied into Google play services not the app itself.
    Whenever I flash a new rom it wants to backup all my photos again and it mixes up the order..... Posted via Android Central App on 1+1
  • Hi .How many beers did you have , Jerry , before you wrote this post ???
    Incompreheniable , useless etc !!!
  • Why does it backup photos if I already delete and uninstall the app?