How to import photos from phone, camera, SD card on Windows 11

Here's everything you need to know to import photos from your phone or camera to your Windows 11 computer.

Windows 11 import photos
Windows 11 import photos

Windows 11 makes it super easy to import photos and videos from any external storage source (including an Android phone, iPhone, iPad, digital camera, USB flash drive, and SD card). However, you still need to know the tools to complete the task.

The ability to import files to your computer can come in handy in many situations. For example, when you want to create a local backup of your photos and videos in case the device breaks. The drive is running out of space, and you need to offload the files to make more room. You capped out the cloud storage service and need to access your pictures for editing and more.

Regardless of the reason, Windows 11 includes many ways to import files from your phone or external storage devices using the Photos app, File Explorer, and OneDrive.

This guide will teach you the different ways to import your personal pictures from external storage to your computer.

Import images from Photos app on Windows 11

To import your pictures through the Photos app on Windows 11, connect your phone, camera, or storage device and use these steps:

  1. Open Photos on Windows 11.

  2. Click the Import menu and select the device – for example, your phone, camera, USB flash drive, or SD card.

    Photos import option

  3. Select the photos to transfer to your computer.

    Quick note: The system has to scan the available images, which means it could take some time before you can select the items to import. If you plan to transfer all the photos, check the “Select all” option.
  4. Click the Add button in the top-right corner.

    Picture to transfer

  5. Click the Change button.

    Change import location

  6. Select the location and folder to import the photos.

    Photos select import location

    Quick tip: You can select the location and use the “Create folder” to group the new files in a specific folder.
  7. Click the Confirm button.

  8. Click the Import button.

Once you complete the steps, the photos will import to the destination folder specified. However, the process will only copy the files. The original images will remain in the source storage.

You will need to connect your phone to your computer to complete the transfer. On Android, connect your phone with a USB cable to your computer, open the phone Settings > Connected devices > USB, and select the File Transfer option under the “Use USB for” section.

Import photos from File Explorer on Windows 11

To import your photos through File Explorer, use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.

  2. Click on This PC from the left pane.

  3. Under the “Devices and drives” section, double-click the device with the photos to import.

  4. Browse to the image location – for example, This PC\Pixel 6 Pro\Internal shared storage\DCIM\Camera.

  5. Select the images and videos.

  6. Right-click the selection and choose the Copy option.

    File Explorer copy pictures from phone or camera

    Quick note: Usually, you don’t want to use the Cut option, as if the transfer fails, you may lose some of the images.
  7. Browse to the folder to transfer the files.

  8. Click the Paste option from the command bar.

    File Explorer import pictures and videos

After you complete the steps, the selected images will be imported into the computer.

Import all pictures at once

Alternatively, if you have a phone or camera, you can transfer all the photos with the File Explorer import option with these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.

  2. Click on This PC from the left pane.

  3. Under the Devices and drives section, right-click the storage device (phone, camera, USB flash drive, or SD card) and select the “Import pictures and videos” option.

    File Explorer import pictures and videos

  4. Click on More options.

    File Explorer import all new images

  5. Click the Browse button and select a folder destination for the “Import images to” option.

  6. Click the Browse button and select a folder destination for the “Import videos to” option.

    File Explorer import pictures settings

  7. Under the “Other options” section, check the “Open File Explorer after import option to access the files immediately after the transfer” option.

  8. (Optional) Check the “Delete files from the device after importing” option if you’re trying to free up space on the drive (not recommended).

  9. (Optional) Check the “Rotate pictures on import” option.

  10. Click the OK button.

  11. Select the “Import all new items now” option.

    Quick note: If you select the “Review, organize, and group items to import” option, it could take a long time, and the process may even freeze if you have a lot of files to transfer, so this option is not recommended.
  12. Click the Import button.

Once you complete the steps, every image on your phone will transfer to your computer.

Import photos from OneDrive on Windows 11

The easiest way to import photos from your mobile device (Android phone, iPhone, or iPad) is to upload the files to OneDrive and then access the contents from File Explorer. If you only use iCloud, you can also install the iCloud client for Windows 11 for a similar experience.

To import photos from a mobile device to Windows 11 using OneDrive, follow these steps:

  1. Open OneDrive on mobile device.

  2. Click the + (Plus) button in the top-right corner and select the Upload option.

  3. Select the images to import and click on Select.

    Android OneDrive import picture selection

  4. Open File Explorer on your computer.

  5. Click on the OneDrive folder in the left pane.

  6. Confirm the pictures are available on your computer.

Once you complete the steps, the selected images will upload to the cloud, and they will become available in the OneDrive folder as long as you are signed in with the same Microsoft account.

Transfer pictures automatically

OneDrive also includes an option to keep your pictures and videos synchronized automatically across devices, so you don’t have to import anything all the time.

  1. Open OneDrive on mobile device.

  2. Click the Me button in the bottom-right corner.

  3. Click on Settings.

  4. Click on Camera backup.

  5. Click the “Back up device folders” setting.

  6. Check the folders with pictures (such as Camera, Pictures, WhatsApp Images, etc.)

    OneDrive pictures and videos auto import

  7. (Optional) Turn on the “New folder notification” toggle switch to allow OneDrive to prompt to transfer files when apps create a new folder with pictures.

After you complete the steps, photos you take with your phone will upload to OneDrive and sync automatically to your Windows 11 device.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 15 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 21 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].