How to get Apple iCloud Photo Stream working with your Windows PC

How to get Apple iCloud Photo Stream working with your Windows PC

There’s two parts to this post really – first, did you know that you can synchronize your iPhone/iPad photo stream with a Windows PC?  and second, how to get the iCloud syncing it to work properly because it is sort of flaky to get set up.  Also , don’t forget that you will need an active iCloud account.

If you have both an iPad and an iPhone and have configured the iCloud on both devices, you’ve probably noticed that photos taken on your phone will appear in the “Photo Stream” on your iPad (and vice versa).  But how can I get those photos – my Photo Stream – on to my Windows PC too?  The answer is with some free software from Apple called the iCloud Control Panel.

Don’t install it yet!

I couldn’t get it to work properly at first and after several failed attempts, I finally found the solution – and it requires a little configuration ahead of time.

You’ll be creating two folders on your Windows PC.  One of these will be the “Downloads” folder (aka “Photo Stream” folder).  This will mirror the Photo Stream on both your iPad and iPhone.  The second folder is for “Uploads”.  This will be similar to the “Camera Roll” on your iPhone.  Anything you place into this folder will be copied to your downloads/Photo Stream.  Notice that it will be copied and not moved.. just like your camera roll, you will have two copies of the photo and will have to delete from the “uploads” folder manually.

You need to create these two folders ahead of time, because you will have to set some permissions on them in order for the “upload” sync to work properly.  I’m not 100% sure why, but I tried every other option before finding this solution — and there appears to be hundreds of users hitting this same issue (at least at the time of writing this post).

OK. So, here are the steps to get this installed and working:

1. Create a Photo Stream folder.  You need to create a folder into where the download and upload folders for Photo Stream will live.  For me, I keep all my photos in “\Photos” and so I created a folder called “Photostream” within that.

 

2. Change the permissions of the PhotoStream folder and give full permission to “Everyone”.   This, it appears, is the critical step in order to make the “Uploads” part of the sync to work.  I was able to consistently get Photo Stream downloads, but it wasn’t until I did this step that uploads started to work.  To do this:

  • Right click on the new PhotoStream directory that you created in step 1.
  • Select “Properties” from the menu
  • Click on the Security tab.
  • Click on “Everyone” (which should be at the top of the “Group or user names:” list)
  • Click on the “Edit..” button below that list.
  • When the new window pops up, click on the Allow option next to “Full Control” (at the very least click on Modify).
  • Click on the OK button to accept those changes.
  • Click on the OK button to close the “Properties” dialog box.

 

3. Create two folders – “Downloads” and “Uploads” within the PhotoStream folder.  This where your Photo Stream images will be kept and synchronized.

 

4. Download the iCloud Control Panel.  You can download the iCloud Control Panel software here.

 

5. Install the iCloud Control Panel.

 

6. Configure Photo Stream Options.   Once it has finished installing, you will run the control panel.  First login to your iCloud account and you will be presented with

(click to enlarge)
Select the Photo Stream option and then press the “Options..” button.
  • Change the “Download folder” to be the location of the Downloads folder that you created in step 3 above.
  • Change the “Upload folder” to be the location of the “Uploads” folder that you created in step 3 above.
  • Press OK to accept these changes.
  • Now press “Apply” on the main iCloud Control Panel options to accept these changes:

 

That’s it.  You should start to see your Photo Stream loading into the “Downloads” folder and if you copy a photo into “Uploads” you should see it appear on your iPhone and/or iPad.

Perhaps with time, Apple will fix the problem with this software so that you don’t have to make the permission changes..  but this has been the only way that has worked for me and I hope it works for you too.

 

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  • Joangugg

    What happens if you have already installed icloud — I can’t get pictures to upload but when I look at properties for new folders I do not have an Everyone. I am using Windows 7

  • 1MattHopkins

    If you already installed the iCloud software?  I would uninstall – set the permissions and then reinstall.  I had to do this a couple of times to get it to work (hence the post).

  • Jeff

    Will give this a go, i’d done most of this some months ago but doesn’t appear to be as i’d expected. What i really want is the Photo Stream Viewer that is available for Mac’s on my PC. Why cant they release a PC version?

  • Cyndi

    Matt, I don’t have an “Everyone” folder either in Windows 7. I have, Authenticate, System, Administrators and Users/(ComputerUsers) I followed your directions and chose Users. The folders are empty. And help would be appreaciated.

  • Cyndi

    Uploads works, downloads doesn’t. How is that possible. Sigh…

  • 1MattHopkins

    Curious if this started working again for you? There was a recent update to iCloud and I seem to have less intermittant problems than I used to

  • Andrew

    Still struggling on this too. Can’t seem to make it work despite trying the above.