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Is there a way I can download my entire iCloud Photo Libary to my windows PC then clear the iCloud Photo Libary to free up space on my iCloud account?

I have spent the past hour researching this and I'm still no further on...

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    Did you manage to do this ? I have the same issue
    – Ash
    Mar 14, 2016 at 18:09
  • Yes, download the latest iCloud software, it now has the option to download your entire library but no option to clear the iCloud Photo Libary
    – Michael LB
    Mar 14, 2016 at 21:51
  • I did that, was not able to see any old pictures :-(
    – Ash
    Mar 16, 2016 at 13:40
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    @GeekDunkman - Sorry but I can't help any further. I think Apple still have some improvement work to do in this area...
    – Michael LB
    Mar 17, 2016 at 14:46
  • The underlying Windows technology to do this has changed since the question was asked. Oct 16, 2020 at 16:54

3 Answers 3

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This strategy works at the time of writing using nothing but the PC.

  1. Install iCloud for Windows
  2. Open File Explorer and open the context menu (right-click) on the iCloud Photos entry in the left-hand-side panel (image below)
  3. Select 'Always keep on this device', and wait for the green progress bar across the path to disappear - every file should now have a green tick as its 'status' indicator

Explorer context menu

  1. Once this is done, copy files across to a part of your hard drive that isn't managed by iCloud
  2. Open iCloud, untick 'Photos', activate via the 'Apply' button, and confirm 'Delete from PC'.

Your iCloud Photos are now un-synced from your PC but all the files will be in the location you chose in step 4.

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Apple doesn't have a Photos app for PC, so the easiest way would be to borrow a Mac and log in to a new user and download all the photos to the Mac.

At that point, you can export the entire library to storage that's readable by your PC.

If you only have easy access to an iOS device, then you'll want to look into apps that can ingest all the local versions of the library and upload it to their cloud. Flickr, google, dropbox all come to mind with native apps that want to store all your photos in the cloud. You could try those to see how easy their export from cloud to PC is.

The share sheet on iOS 9 and the Photos app on iOS look like they will save entire albums to DropBox, but you could run into storage issues and have to chunk things a few GB at a time.

If I were to do this, I'd probably use the Workflow app to automate the saving of the files to the location of your choice. It has built in save to iCloud Documents which would work with iCloud software on PC.

Lastly, you could try using iTunes to copy the files to your PC. I don't have a PC to test, but that might be the simplest option if it works.

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    Thanks, do you think they've purposely made it this difficult so that you just continue to buy iCloud storage off them?
    – Michael LB
    Sep 14, 2015 at 8:05
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    @MichaelLB yes, definitely
    – Ash
    Mar 14, 2016 at 18:09
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Yes, as of July 2018, using the iCloud for Windows software, you can download your entire iCloud Photo Library in a single operation using the Download photos and videos feature, which appears as a button in the toolbar of the iCloud Photos folder in Windows Explorer.

From the Apple support article:

  1. Open a File Explorer window.
  2. Under Favorites, click iCloud Photos.
  3. Click Download photos and videos.
  4. Choose the photos and videos you want to download and click Download.

Your photos and videos download to the location you set in iCloud Photos Options.

This feature isn't easy to find, but works as advertised. Note that in Windows 10, you might not see a Favorites folder, but you will see Quick access instead.

To answer the second half of your question, you can delete the complete contents of your iCloud Photo Library directly on your iOS device. Simply open the Photos app, navigate to Albums and open All Photos. From there, press Select, and using a diagonal motion, select all of the images at once. You might need to try a few times to accomplish this as the gesture is tricky to pull off. Once you've selected all of the photos, press the Trash can to remove the photos from your library.

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