When using Google Photos on Android, many users, including myself, have noticed an unexpected behavior: screenshots are also backed up automatically. This happens even if the app is set to back up only camera photos. From my experience with both Redmi Note and Samsung Galaxy devices, this issue seems common. This article will explain why this happens and provide workarounds to tackle the issue and prevent Google Photos from backing up unwanted screenshots on an Android device.
Why does Google Photos keep backing up screenshots?
Google Photos typically backs up images stored in the DCIM (Digital Camera Images) folder on Android devices. This behavior is standard for most photo storage apps, as the DCIM folder is primarily for camera photos. However, the challenge arises with certain Android devices that store screenshots in the DCIM folder, sometimes in a subfolder named “Screenshots“. Google Photos doesn’t differentiate these screenshots from regular camera photos and backs them up as well.
This automatic backup occurs regardless of whether the screenshots are in a dedicated subfolder or mixed with other images in the DCIM folder. Not all Android devices exhibit this behavior, but for those that do, it leads to an unintended backup of screenshots, cluttering your Google Photos with unwanted images, particularly concerning if there are screenshots you wouldn’t want others to see.
Solution 1: Changing the default screenshot location
The first solution to prevent Google Photos from backing up screenshots is to change the location where your phone saves these screenshots. However, this option is not universally available on all Android devices. Many models, such as the Redmi Note 12, do not offer the ability to modify the default screenshot directory. Screenshots are automatically saved in the DCIM folder, and without the option to change this, they get backed up by Google Photos.
If your device does allow changing the screenshot save location, you can set it to a folder outside the DCIM directory. Common alternatives include creating a new folder in your device’s internal storage, such as “Pictures” or a separate “Screenshots” folder.
By relocating screenshots to these locations, you can avoid automatic backups by Google Photos, as it typically only backs up images from the DCIM folder. It’s worth checking your phone’s settings or searching online to see if your device supports changing the screenshot save location. If it does, this solution can effectively resolve the issue.
You might also like: How to Find Someone By a Picture
What happens when you manually move the Screenshots folder?
If you manually move the screenshots folder out of the DCIM directory, rather than through an actual setting, here’s what will happen:
- Google Photos will not back up any new screenshots that are no longer in the DCIM folder. However, if your screenshots have already been backed up before you moved them, they will remain in your Google Photos library.
- Your Android device will automatically re-create a new “Screenshots” folder in the DCIM directory upon taking a new screenshot. Consequently, even after moving the folder, new screenshots will end up in the DCIM folder and be subject to backup by Google Photos.
- Moving the screenshots out of the DCIM folder may also affect how other gallery apps on your device display these images. Some gallery apps may not show the screenshots if they are not in the standard location.
In summary, manually moving the screenshots folder might seem to be a temporary fix to stop backups of existing screenshots to Google Photos. However, it does not prevent your device from creating a new screenshots folder in the DCIM directory for future screenshots, and it may affect how other apps interact with these images.
Solution 2: Manual sync and deletion using a folder synchronization app
A more hands-on solution to prevent Google Photos from backing up your screenshots involves using a folder synchronization app. This approach requires you to set up a sync task within the app, which moves screenshots from the DCIM/Screenshots folder to a different directory, such as Pictures/Screenshots.
Here’s how it works:
- Selecting an app: Choose a folder synchronization app that allows you to set up periodic syncs. Ensure the app is reliable and offers the flexibility to customize sync intervals and specify custom folders for syncing.
- Configuring sync intervals: In the app, create a sync task that periodically checks the “DCIM/Screenshots” folder. Set the task to move files from this folder to another location outside the DCIM folder, such as “Pictures/Screenshots”. The sync frequency can be set to every minute or so, depending on how quickly Google Photos accesses the DCIM folder for backup. This sync ensures that new screenshots are moved to the designated folder outside of DCIM before Google Photos can back them up.
- Automatic deletion post-sync: Ensure the app is set to delete screenshots from the DCIM folder after they are synced. This step is crucial to prevent Google Photos from backing them up.
- Balancing sync frequency with device performance: The frequency of syncs should balance the need to quickly move screenshots out of the DCIM folder with the impact on your device’s battery and performance. More frequent syncs offer timely removal of screenshots but can consume more resources.
Using a folder synchronization app in this manner can effectively prevent Google Photos from backing up your screenshots. However, it requires a bit more effort to set up and manage compared. It’s a viable option when other methods aren’t suitable or available on your device.
Related resource: Sync Files Between Two Folders or Computers
Solution 3: Adding a .nomedia file in the Screenshots folder
A widely discussed solution among Android users, especially on platforms like Reddit, involves using a
.nomedia file. Placing a .nomedia file in the Screenshots folder can effectively stop apps, including Google Photos, from scanning and backing up images in that folder.
Here’s a closer look at how this works:
- Creating the .nomedia file: The
.nomediafile is a simple, blank file that you can create using a file manager or text editor. Its presence in a folder signals to media-scanning apps to ignore the contents of that folder. Tip: You can create the .nomedia file on a PC and then transfer it to the Screenshots folder on your phone.
- Implementing the file: Once you’ve created the
.nomediafile, place it inside the Screenshots folder within the DCIM directory. This prevents Google Photos from detecting and backing up new screenshots stored in this folder.
- Impact on Gallery apps: An important consideration is that the
.nomediafile also affects other media apps, including your device’s gallery app. It will prevent these apps from displaying the screenshots, limiting your ability to view them through these usual channels.
- Viewing screenshots if you use this method: After implementing the
.nomediafile, the primary way to view your screenshots will be through a file manager. This might be inconvenient if you frequently access screenshots through gallery apps.
The .nomedia file solution is a powerful and simple way to control media backup and visibility on your Android device. However, it comes with the trade-off of reduced accessibility to your screenshots through standard media apps. It’s an effective method for those who prioritize preventing backups over easy access to screenshots via gallery apps.
Manually removing screenshots from Google Photos
While not a preventive measure, manually removing screenshots from Google Photos is an effective method to clear unwanted backups. This approach is particularly useful if the above solutions are not feasible for your device. Here’s how to do it:
- Searching for screenshots: Open Google Photos and use the search bar to look for “screenshot”. This search will typically pull up all images recognized as screenshots.
- Selecting screenshots for deletion: Carefully select the screenshots you wish to remove. Google Photos allows for bulk selection, making it easier to delete multiple images at once. To select all the images in bulk, click on the first image, then hold the Shift key and click on the last image.
- Double-check before deleting: It’s crucial to review your selection before deletion. Ensure you are not accidentally removing important photos that may be named similarly to screenshots or have been misidentified by Google Photos.
- Deletion process: Once you’ve confirmed your selection, delete the screenshots. They will be removed from your Google Photos backup but will remain on your device unless you’ve deleted them manually.
This method is straightforward and can be done periodically to keep your Google Photos library organized. It’s a practical solution for those who may not have the technical means or the desire to implement more complex solutions. However, it requires regular maintenance and vigilance to keep screenshots from accumulating in your Google Photos backup.
The issue of Google Photos automatically backing up screenshots on Android devices is bounded by limited solutions. Until Google Photos introduces an update allowing users to exclude the screenshots folder in the DCIM directory, or until Android OS provides an option to change the default screenshot storage location, we are restricted to the workarounds discussed.
For many, the most practical approaches will be using the
.nomedia file to prevent backups or periodically clearing out screenshots from Google Photos in bulk. These methods, while not perfect, offer a balance between managing your photo backups and dealing with the current limitations of the app and device settings.