Not so simple: how to transfer videos from an iPhone to a PC

Or, how my morning was sucked up trying to do something that could (should) be very simple but turned out not to be.

It’s always the same, isn’t it, when you’re in a rush or have a million things to do, that one of those jobs, theoretically the most simple, chews up all your free time. So it is when trying to backup an iPhone with a PC.

I’ve taken some lovely videos lately. Originally I had iCloud running, backing up all my photos and videos automatically, but turned that off a short while ago when I exceeded the limit of my free space and was expected to pay for it. No, thank you. Alternatives I looked at were Dropbox, but I quickly hit the free space limit again, particularly as I used it to backup all the pics from my old Android phone, and paying for space – £7.99 or more a month – is not something I want to do, given we’re living in budgetville for the forseeable future. Having read  around the subject I decided to start copying my images to Flickr, which comes with a terrabyte of space – lovely – using the iPhone app and that’s been going well, except that it doesn’t seem to have been backing up any videos*. Whaaat?? With my iPhone close to running out of memory and video playback starting to get a bit sketchy, backing up the videos was becoming one of those jobs that I might regret not doing if I kept putting it off. Which leads me to here.

I started by doing the obvious thing and attaching my phone to the PC with a cable. Did it show up in Explorer, as any “normal” device would. Well, of course not. So I Google it. Several options are available, it seems. It turns out there are five options; three, if you discount, as I already have, Dropbox and iCloud. Actually, it’s two, since the cabled connection wasn’t working in Explorer the way the article explained. By this point I’m starting to feel the rest of my morning – if not the day! – slipping away.

I immediately discount option #1: downloading an app to perform the task over Wi-Fi as I have iTunes installed and trust that more than any third-party software. So I open it up. Lo and behold I immediately fall into a new software wormhole because my iPhone software needs updating (and it’s the first time I’ve connected it to this PC) so I set that process running and put the kettle on. Ten minutes later I’m back in the game, but now I see that I can backup the iPhone to my PC via iTunes. Great! Perhaps that will enable me to get to my photos? I set that running and sit here sipping my coffee. I run out of coffee. The backup has finished so I look for the backup folder on my PC. I can’t find it. There’s nothing in Settings telling me where to find it. I change tack.

Picasa! Can you find it? Yes, phew! Picasa allows me to import from my iPhone, but it only seems to see 628 images and there are well over 1,000 listed in Photos on the phone, so there’s something wrong there. Hmm. After changing the settings so it doesn’t delete anything from the card, I go ahead and import the 628 images anyway. All is looking good. I check the folder with the downloaded images in it. There are 568 images. Brilliant. So that didn’t quite work. What next, I wonder?

I’m all out of idas by now, so it’s time to give in and go for a third-party app. I downloaded and installed something called Simple Transfer and set it running on my videos folder. Unfortunately, the free version limits you to the first 50 files in any folder but it’s slick and seems to do what it says on the tin (connects to the PC via Wi-Fi so you can download from a webpage) so I pay the £2.25 in order to, hopefully, just get the hell on with it and get on with my day. It’s working – phew! It looks good. Why, then, does it think there are only 30 videos on my phone? There *were* 68. I check the phone. The phone now thinks there are only 30 videos! By now I’m nearly in tears. Then I remember iCloud. The videos that have gone are old ones and, luckily, were backed up to iCloud before I ran out of space. I select all my video files in iCloud and start to download them, hoping that between iCloud and Simply Transfer, I’ll have them all.

Which brings us right up to the present time. My videos are downloading from two different sources and the next job will be to sort them out by removing duplicates and the like, my iPhone is backed up to somewhere random on my PC, and my whole morning has been wasted, except for the baby snuggles (DS has been either snoozing or wriggling in my lap the whole time) and this blog post. And now we’ve run out of coffee. Thank you, Apple. You really know how to show a girl a good time.

*UPDATE: Within 20 minutes of writing all the above, while sitting here, still waiting for my downloads to finish, I found this thread in the Flickr Help Forum. Two short minutes  laterI was staring at a complete list of videos I’d uploaded to my camera roll, which conveniently includes all the ones I was struggling to find from my iPhone. They were there all along! Now they’ve been tagged and added to a new album so they’ll be easier to find in future. Brilliant.


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