Google Photos bug isn't actually destroying your old photos — but it certainly looks like it

Angled shot of the Google Photos app logo on a screen
(Image credit: BigTunaOnline / Shutterstock.com)

Google Photos remains one of the best options for cloud photo storage despite the end of its free storage tier last year, so it's no surprise that users were worried when they started seeing strange markings showing up on old photos stored on the service.

Reports of the problem started cropping up online a few days ago with examples on Reddit and elsewhere showing lines, cracks, and blurred areas in older photos uploaded to the service (via Phone Arena).

What exactly is going on with Google Photos?

The issue isn't limited to any specific platform, photos uploaded from or viewed on any device are showing the same markings. What's particularly odd about them is that many of them almost look like natural marks from age or damage to hard copies of photos. The image of a cathedral interior below (posted by user mundeth on Reddit) shows cracking that you might see on a poorly aged photo.

Seemingly damaged photo in Google Photos that shows cracking on a photo of a cathedral interior

(Image credit: Reddit/mundeth)

Another example posted by Reddit user Tushar_007 shows some of the same lines along with what appears closer to water damage to the left side of the photo.

Google Photos image showing lines and what seems like water damage on a foggy image of a branch and pathway

(Image credit: Reddit/Tushar_007)

Other users have shared similar results since then, with some believing it is limited to photos uploaded between 2013 to 2015. Not all users or photos are affected. I've checked my own images uploaded to Google Photos over that same time period and have yet to see any with these flaws.

However, Google has officially acknowledged the problem and is presently working on a fix, although no timeline is available yet. Google made it clear in its statement that "original photos are not impacted," so users shouldn't be concerned that any of their backups are permanently damaged by the bug. According to Google, only edited versions of photos will show the markings; the originals remain unblemished. 

So if you were just getting around to downloading some images from Google Photos or make a collage or scrapbook from 2013 to 2015, then you might want to hold off for now, but it sounds like a fix should be here soon.

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.