What is the difference between Google Photos and Google Drive?

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Aina Martin
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Aside from the name, what's the difference between Google Photos and Google Drive? Synchronize and archive photos and videos. Both work in the cloud. They both have free storage as part of your overall Google account. So which one should you really pick for what?

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Google is in the shape of providing apps that perform very similar tasks and this is just one example. Two cloud products that offer ample free storage for files and photos. Both accessible from the Google page and both able to synchronize with other devices. Let's take a quick look at each.


Google Photos is optimized for images and mainly supports image file formats. Unlike Google Drive, Google Photos only supports image, video, and GIF file formats, so other files are unusable in Photos. 

Also, unlike Drive, if you select High-Quality Image Storage, you'll get unlimited storage rather than the generous but unlimited share within Drive.

Google Photos looks like most Google apps. A simple white interface with a menu on the left, a settings icon in the top right, and your images and folders in the center. 

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From here you can open, slightly edit the images to suit your needs. There is also the ability to share pictures, create a slideshow and create albums.

The features of the app are purposely lightweight. What it does, it does well. It's photo storage after all, so editing features are minimal, some filters, color tweaks, and rotation tools, but that's it. 

For videos and GIFs, there are no real editing options. Just the opportunity to tweak or view within the app.

What Google Photos does well is to make it as easy as possible to store your content in the cloud. Uploads and downloads are fast, there's a sync app you can use if you like it or you can sync manually. Open Google Photos, drag and drop your photos, and let the app do the rest.

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Google Drive is my favorite cloud storage app. Even if I use Windows, OneDrive is too thin and too prone to crashes or errors. Google Drive just works. Where it differs from Google Photos is mainly in the types of files it handles. 

As far as I know from experimentation, Drive can handle all types of files including images and videos.

Google Drive has the same minimal feel as other apps and keeps key features in the foreground. The white UI isn't exactly attractive, but it keeps the focus on files, which is to manage your storage and files. 

Google Drive has the same layout as the Photos gallery with files in the center and menu options on the left.

While you can store images in Google Drive, there are no photo editing features. This is pure memory, so any changes will need to be done locally on your computer or within Photos once transferred. You can link the two apps if needed.

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Where Google Drive differs from photos aside from the file type is in file management. In Google Photos, images are automatically loaded and sorted into folders or take the hierarchy from the source from which they were synced. 

In Google Drive, you can freely move, add or create folders and copy or move files as you see fit. It's a small thing but it simplifies memory management.

As mentioned in Google Photos, depending on how you use your Google apps, another key difference is that everything you store in Google Drive counts towards the storage limit. Unlike photos where the High Quality selection doesn't count towards that limit, everything you store on Drive does.

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If you have pictures stored in Photos and want to view them in Drive, you can. How can you sync pictures stored in Drive to Photos.

  1. Log into Google Drive and select the gear icon.
  2. Select Create a Google Photos folder and turn on “Automatically put your Google photos in a folder in My files”.

If you are using an Android phone, do the following:

  1. Open the Google Photos app and select the three-line Settings icon.
  2. Activate Google Drive.
  3. Select Google Photos in Settings and select Add automatically.

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Both will allow you to view images stored in Google Photos while signing into Google Drive.

So what's the actual difference between Google Photos and Google Drive? Actually not much. Google Photos is optimized for image storage and has minor editing features. Google Drive can store anything and has no editing function. 

You can link the two together and see the images stored in Photos on your Drive app. This is what I can say!

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