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I have an issue where when I connect my iPhone (6S) to my PC via USB in an attempt to transfer photos, only some photos are displayed in the folders.

This isn't to do with the phone being locked (it isn't) or needing to tap the "Trust this computer" option on the iPhone when it is connected.

Some photos are displayed and I can copy them from the device to my PC, but some, which are clearly displayed in iOS Photos, simply aren't there when I browse the file structure under the (the phone's name) > Internal Storage > DCIM > 100APPLE (etc).

I've tried:

  • Resetting the iPhone
  • Restarting the computer
  • Using a different USB port
  • Connecting to a different computer

I can also see the photos in question on iCloud and I can download them from there, but the reason I want to get them from the iPhone is that I also want the .AAE files.

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After much frustration, Googling and trial-and-error, I came to the conclusion that the photos displayed on my phone weren't actually on my phone, but were instead "optimised versions" of photos stored in iCloud and therefore inaccessible through the file structure when connected to my PC.

(It should be noted that the photos did not appear pixelated or blurry in any way in the Photos app on my phone, but the following solution worked which indicates to me that these were "optimised versions"):

  1. Navigate to Settings > iCloud > Photos on the iPhone
  2. If "Optimise iPhone Storage" is selected, you have solved your problem: this means that some photos appearing on your phone are in fact stored in iCloud
  3. Select the option "Download and Keep Originals" - this will ensure all photos are actually stored on your phone, meaning they will appear when connected to a PC via USB.

Note: You may find that selecting this option results in a message that your phone lacks the necessary capacity to download originals of all your photos. I had to work in stages, allowing my phone to download the originals which I then copied to my PC and deleted from my phone, creating more space for more originals to be downloaded.

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  • If it is just about downloading photos to your PC from iCloud the detour through the phone is unnecessary. Open icloud.com in your browser, click "Photos", select the ones you want, then long-click the "arrow from the cloud down" icon top right; a little web dialog field appears that allows you to choose between "most compatible" and "unmodified originals". The latter is probably what most people want. The photos are in a single zip file. I remember that I encountered a size limit, so I had to download in "installments". Aug 9, 2021 at 21:28
  • Thanks Peter. I was dealing with a very large number of photos - some were on iCloud and some weren't, so downloading from iCloud wasn't a viable solution for me because then I would have had to go through a consolidation process where I worked out which of the photos I had downloaded matched those on my phone and then get the remainder from my phone. (From memory iCloud's file naming conventions are different so this is no small task).
    – Luke
    Aug 9, 2021 at 22:12
  • I'd be surprised if the names differed , their name is the usual IMG_xxxx.JPG, xxxx being digits. Another hint is sorting by "date taken" which is an EXIF tag in the file, not an NFS file attribute. That takes longer (each file must be opened just for displaying the folder contents) but that way they are sorted in the "natural" order independent of when they got copied. (Although if they are from the same phone, the name should do the job.) Aug 9, 2021 at 22:31

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