Google Photos free unlimited storage has ended: What you need to know

Chris Davies - Jun 1, 2021, 11:30am CDT
Google Photos free unlimited storage has ended: What you need to know

Google Photos no longer offers free, unlimited photo and video uploads, with the controversial change to how backup counts against your account storage coming into effect today. Until now, Google had allowed an unlimited amount of photos and videos to be saved to Google Photos – at “High Quality” – without that taking up space in your free or paid storage.

If you wanted to save the original quality media, that would count against the 15GB of free storage that comes with each Google account, but if you were fine with Google’s compression it was a cloud backup free-for-all. Problem was, Google decided that was unsustainable, and last year it confirmed that the free lunch was coming to an end.

The deadline for the switchover is today. Existing content you’ve already uploaded to Google Photos will remain, under the old policy, but anything new you back up to the cloud will be counted against whatever free or paid storage you have.

The “High Quality” setting is being renamed, and will now be known as “Storage Saver” instead. Functionally, though, it does the same thing, applying compression to photos and videos so as to make them smaller. Alternatively you’ll still be able to use the “Original” setting, without compromising on quality, but of course that will be a bigger hit on your overall storage limit.

If you hit that limit now, you won’t be able to upload any more photos or videos in Google Photos. It’s worth bearing in mind that, since the account storage is shared across all your Google services, that situation will impact other things you may use too. Google Drive, for instance, shares your quota, so if you fill up your Google Photos then you won’t be able to add to Drive, or vice-versa.

If you go over your quota for 24 months, meanwhile, and have been inactive for that two year period, Google may take more drastic steps. All content may be removed from that specific product, it says, though it’ll warn you at least three months before anything is deleted. The same policy applies for Gmail and Google Drive, and it’s worth noting that “activity” is judged on a per-product basis: if you use your Gmail, but don’t access your Google Photos for two years, Google might decide the latter is officially inactive.

Google would obviously prefer you to upgrade to one of its paid Google One storage options. In the US, they start from $1.99 per month for 100GB. Those with a Pixel 5 or earlier Google smartphone will also continue to get the same free unlimited storage as when they bought their device.

Alternatively, you can use Google’s new media management tool, which promises to highlight any excessively large videos you’ve backed up, as well as blurred or otherwise potentially-unwanted photos. There are also quite a few Google Photos alternatives, including some you might already be paying for as part of other services.


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