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How to move your Google Photos pictures and videos to a Synology NAS

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Synology DiskStation DS220+ tray have inserted in the front

Google is the best app to manage your growing photo and media library. Google’s photo backup service is free, but the storage isn’t. You get 15GB of storage shared across your Google account. You’ll exhaust this space in no time if you click a lot of pictures and videos using one of the best camera phones. You can pay for additional storage or back up your photos and videos to a Synology NAS. You don’t need to pay for a subscription for a Synology Photos, as it bundled with your enclosure.


Is Synology Photos free?

Yes, Synology Photos is free, but you must own a Synology NAS to access it. Think of it as the various apps and services Apple bundles without additional charges when buying an iPhone. This also means you will spend a substantial amount on purchasing the hardware instead of renting storage space with Google One for a small fee.

The app makes it easy to import your entire Google Photos library. Synology Photos also has automatic face tagging, sharing, and other features that are similar to Google Photos, so it’s pretty easy to use.

If you’re only intereted in backing up your photo library, you may want to think twice before you buy a Synology NAS. A basic Synology DiskStation DS224+ NAS costs $300 before taxes and discounts. You’ll also need to purchase hard drives separately, so it’s a pretty big investment. That said, an NAS can do several advanced things, from running a mail server to offering a full surveillance suite.

Stick with Google Photos if you only want to host your family photos and videos. You’ll save money even if you go for the paid Google One tier. For instance, the 2TB plan on Google One costs $100 a year, which is cheaper and more sensible than spending upfront on a NAS just for Synology Photos.

Moving your photos and videos from Google Photos to a Synology NAS

There are two ways to move your media from Google Photos to Synology Photos: an automated and manual process. We’ll start with the automatic sync tool, which works well but has limitations.

Move your Google Photos media to Synology Photos via the automated method

Synology Cloud Sync automates the process of syncing your photos from Google Drive to Google Photos. You’ll install Cloud Sync on your NAS and link it to your Google account. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Install the Cloud Sync app from the Package Center and open it.
    Installing Cloud Sync app on Synology NAS from Package Center

  2. Select Google Drive and click Next.
    Setting up Cloud Sync on Synology NAS

  3. Use the pop-up window to sign in to the Google account where your Google Photos are.
  4. Select Allow to give Cloud Sync to access your Google Drive.
  5. Click Agree on the next page.
  6. Set up a new sync task on the DSM page. Assign the Local path, the folder on your NAS where you want to store files from Google Photos. Enter the Remote path, the source folder in Google Drive that you want to sync.
    Setting up Google Drive cloud to local sync on Synology NAS

  7. Set how you want the sync to work using the Sync direction option and select Next.
    Setting Sync direction in Cloud Sync on Synology NAS

  8. Give your selections one last look before clicking Done.

You can check the sync status from the Cloud Sync app. The sync can take a few seconds to a few hours, depending on the size of your library. When complete, the selected destination folder populates with your photos, which also appear in Synology Photos.

Google Photos to Synology Photos

Google stopped syncing Google Photos to a specific Google Drive folder in 2019, so you can’t sync anything added to Google Photos after that point. The best way is to sync everything only until 2018, so you don’t have to mess with exact dates and use the manual method for everything you photographed since 2019.

Use the manual method to move Google Photos media to Synology Photos

Moving your media manually from Google Photos to a Synology DiskStation is a two-part process. First, download your files from Google Photos, so ensure you have a computer with ample storage. Then, upload it to your Synology NAS.

Downloading media from Google Photos

Depending on how many media files you plan to move, you can download the images manually or use Google Takeout. The former works well if you have less than 500 files. Google Photos doesn’t allow you to download more than 500 photos and videos simultaneously. This process is also tedious. You’ll select your media for each day since Photos on the web doesn’t offer a monthly or yearly view.

Google Photos: Can't download box when trying to download over 500 images

You may have over a few hundred photos and videos in Google Photos to move to your Synology NAS. Google Takeout is the easiest way to download your media. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Go to Google Photos on a computer and click the cog icon in the upper-right corner to enter the Settings page.
  2. Scroll down and expand the Export your data section.
  3. Go to the Backup an archive of your data option and click the Backup button.
    Google Photos - Exporting your data

  4. Google Photos should be the only option on the Takeout page. If you see other Google services on the list, uncheck everything except for Google Photos and select Next step.
    Google Photos Takeout page

  5. A list of folders appears marked by years, along with custom folders that Photos created for you. Check the folders you want to move to Synology and click OK to go to the next page.
    Selecting year-wise data to download from Google Photos

  6. Choose the backup frequency and the exported zip file’s size. Select Export once to move the photos to Synology only this time and increase the file size to avoid multiple downloads. Choose between 1GB and 50GB from the drop-down menu.
  7. Click Create export.
    Exporting Google Photos data using Google Takeout

  8. You’ll receive a download link via email within a few minutes or hours, depending on how much media you export. Click the Download your files button in the email you get.
  9. Click the Download button on the page that opens. This download link remains active for a week in case something goes wrong.
    Downloading Google Photos data using Google Takeout

Moving your photos and videos to a Synology NAS

Dig into the downloaded folder and move around a few files before uploading your photos to a local Synology drive. The process is straightforward and fast.

  1. Open the .zip file you downloaded.
  2. Open the Google Photos folder.
    Google Photos Takeout folder extract

  3. The folders selected earlier appear when setting up the export. These folders contain photos and videos from that year and the JSON files corresponding to each media file. These JSON files carry additional metadata from Google Photos that isn’t useful in Synology’s equivalent Photos app.
    Google Photos Takeout folder contents

  4. To get rid of these files, search for .json in the Takeout folder, select them, and move them into the bin. By default, Synology Photos arranges images by date, so removing the metadata doesn’t affect how the pictures display.
    Deleting JSON files from Google Photos Takeout folder

  5. Open your Synology NAS in a web browser.
  6. Open File Station and locate the folder set up with the Synology Photos package. Instead of accessing the File Station from a web browser, use File Explorer or Finder if you linked your NAS to your computer’s file manager.
  7. Drag and drop the Google Photos folder.
    Dropping Google Photos folder to File Station in Synology NAS

  8. The upload process can take a while, depending on the folder size. Synology Photos then processes your media files for indexing and its Google Photos-inspired AI features.
  9. When this is done, your photos and videos populate the Synology Photos web and phone apps just as they do on Google Photos.

If a group of photos is categorized with the incorrect date, Google Takeout may have flubbed the EXIF data. Download the affected folders or images again. Manually update the metadata for each image if a second download doesn’t fix the issue.

Setting up the Synology Photos app on Android

Install the Synology Photos app after moving your library to Synology Photos. The app has many of the same features as Google Photos. The app is also a more accessible way to see your photos than visiting the web interface through DSM.

The app asks for your NAS’s local IP address or its QuickConnect ID and your login details the first time you open it. Enter those details, and you’re in. The interface displays the photos you uploaded through the web UI using the steps above.

Getting acquainted with Synology Photos

The interface looks similar to Google Photos, down to the pinch-to-zoom option on the homepage and the menu bar at the bottom. The similarities allow you to quickly adapt to the Synology Photos app when switching from Google’s counterpart. The options are where you expect them to be, and the bottom bar is arranged to avoid confusion.

Left: Synology Photos; Right: Google Photos

You can group photos in albums, which are accessible through the Albums tab at the bottom. That’s also where you’ll find your media files tagged by faces and places. Synology’s AI isn’t as adept as Google’s, so you may notice a few slip-ups with duplicate or wrong facial tags, which you’ll have to fix manually.

Go to the Sharing tab to see and control the media files you shared with others either on the network or externally. You can share individual photos or albums with other accounts on the NAS or with user groups you created. You can also share your library with a publicly accessible link. When you want to show those photos to your family on a big screen, beam them to a Chromecast through the Android app.

The capacity of Synology Photos is limited by the storage capacity of your NAS, so you can back up your media in full resolution. For your peace of mind, Synology Photos automatically backs up your photos, like Google Photos does.

How to automatically back up your photos to Synology NAS using Synology Photos

Setting up automatic backup on Synology Photos is straightforward.

  1. Tap More (the hamburger menu).
  2. Select Photo Backup, and then tap Enable Photo Backup.
  3. Select the Backup Destination and Backup Source folders.
  4. Tap Done at the top. Your media backs up to Synology Photos.

Go to the backup settings in the app to automatically delete backed-up media files from your phone to free up space, similar to what you get on Google Photos.

Should you leave Google Photos entirely?

Synology Photos is meant for users who own a Synology NAS. If you don’t have one, stick with Google Photos. The features Google Photos offers are irreplaceable as a package. If you aren’t keen on manually editing individual attributes of a photo, use Google Photos’ suggested enhancements to make your images look better immediately. All it takes is a tap and a little AI magic behind the scenes.

Google Photos becomes a more powerful tool if you put it in the larger Google ecosystem. You can share your memories with anyone with a Gmail account without leaving the app or create albums that are automatically updated and shared with your family or partner. With Google Lens built-in, you can copy text from your photos or look up matching places to visit.

You can cast your photos to Chromecast from the app. You can also ask Google Assistant to show your memories from a trip on the TV, and it will get it exactly right. With so many ecosystem advantages, it’s impossible to ditch Google Photos for good, especially since the app is improving with new features every day.

The perfect middle ground between Google Photos and Synology Photos

It’s hard to live without Google Photos. You can use Google Photos and Synology Photos to back up photos and videos. Google’s solution can be your primary media app for everyday use and your family’s sharing needs. Use Synology Photos for full-res uploads and to keep a backup of your media. This way, you can enjoy the benefits of Google Photos without giving up your full-res photos and 4K videos.

You might get away with Google’s free 15GB storage tier by modifying your backup routine. When you feel you’ll go over the free quota, get rid of your old photos. You have a copy of them in Synology Photos.

Considering both apps support convenient auto backups, you’ll never have to worry about your media after setting them up once. It doesn’t get better than this. If you plan to get a NAS, check out the best Synology NAS worth your money. After you get the desired model, set up Synology Photos and take your NAS usage further by self-hosting Synology Drive as your Google Drive alternative.

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