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Google Photos unlimited free storage is going away this year — Here's what to do

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

Google Photos has been my immediate answer to anyone looking for a basic photo and video storage in recent years. It's completely free for unlimited storage of high-quality photos and video, but unfortunately, that is all coming to an end on June 1.

On that date, the free Google Photos ride comes to an end for everyone except for Google Pixel owners. Any new files added to Google Photos, Drive or Gmail starting on June 1 will count against the 15GB free tier and, after two years, will be deleted completely. Here's a look at what you can do to ensure you don't lose any of your files, whether that means sticking with Google or looking elsewhere.

Everything uploaded before June 1 is free

One critical reason to pay attention to this now, even though it won't go into effect until June 1, is that anything you upload prior to that date is in the clear. You can backup your entire photo and video collection to Google Photos right up until May 30 and it will remain safely stored there in high-resolution for free until the heat death of Google's servers (or it changes its policy). 

Even if you decide to stick with Google One as your backup service of choice, you'll be better served by getting as much of your content on there in advance as possible so it won't count against whatever storage tier you decide to purchase.

Google Pixel exemption

If you own a Google Pixel, you don't have to do anything. The Pixel 5 and below are all grandfathered into unlimited high-resolution photo and video storage forever on those devices, but keep in mind that this only applies to content uploaded from that device. 

Google has already confirmed that it does not plan to extend this offer to future Pixel devices, so the well will run dry for Pixel fans too whenever they choose to upgrade. Google put an end to free unlimited full-resolution Google Photos storage with the Pixel 4, but it's a bit surprising that it isn't going to extend at least the high-resolution storage as a perk for Pixels. Regardless, Pixel owners will get a bit more time to think about this, but will eventually need to consider their options too.

Google One logo

(Image credit: Google)

Google One

If you love Google Photos and want to just stick with it, the good news is that Google has reasonable pricing and you do get some added bonuses as a Google One subscriber. 

Starting at the base 100GB tier, you can share the storage space with up to five other users. At the 200GB tier, you also get 3% back on purchases from the Google Store, and this steps up to 10% at the 2TB and above plans. 2TB plans also include a free unlimited VPN service for their Android phone. 

  • 100GB for $1.99 a month or $19.99 per year
  • 200GB for $2.99 a month or $29.99 per year
  • 2TB for $9.99 a month or $99.99 per year

Obviously, this is the easiest choice if you are a happy Google Photos subscriber at the moment. And with family sharing, this is also going to be the most affordable option for a lot of users. However, if you want out of Google Photos, here's how to stop it from backing up to the cloud and we've even listed some alternative photo storage options.

How to stop backing up to Google Photos

If you choose to go with another service, you'll want to make sure that you stop uploading to Google Photos to avoid using space you might want for Drive and Gmail. It should also help you avoid persistent notifications telling you to upgrade to a Google One subscription for more storage. Fortunately, this is quite easy.

  • Open Google Photos on your phone
  • Tap on your avatar in the upper-right corner
  • Select Photo settings
  • Tap on Back up & sync
  • Toggle the Backup & sync switch to off
  • That's it, you can still use Google Photos to view your on-device photos, but it is no longer backing up to Google One.

Amazon Prime logo in blue on a white background

(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon Prime Photos

For current Amazon Prime subscribers, Prime Photos is probably going to be the best option as you are already paying for unlimited full-resolution photo storage and probably didn't even know it. The big caveat is that it only includes unlimited photo storage; video storage is capped at 5G for the free plan. 

If you want more video storage,e you'll need to upgrade to one of the other storage plans:

  • 100GB for $1.99/month or $19.99/year
  • 1TB for $6.99/month or $59.99/year
  • 2TB for $11.99/month or $119.98/year

If you add these plans to the cost of the Prime subscription, you are obviously going over the Google One pricing, so the math here is a bit dependent on you needing a Prime subscription for reasons other than photo storage alone. The other important thing to remember is that this is purely going to your video storage and that your photo storage as a Prime subscriber will not count toward this total.

With Amazon Prime Photos apps for mobile and desktop, you can easily automate backups from your smartphone or laptop if you are looking to store photos and video from a traditional camera as well.

Microsoft 365 personal and family

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft 365/OneDrive

Another photo storage option that you might already be paying for is Microsoft 365. Each subscription comes with 1TB of OneDrive storage for a personal account or 1TB per user for a family account. If you have considered a Microsoft 365 account previously, but decided it was too expensive, this could be the extra feature that pushes you over the top.

There aren't extra storage tiers to consider in this case, so it's simply a choice between the Personal plan for $6.99 a month or $69.99 per year or the Family plan for $9.99 a month or $99.99 per year. 

Again, Microsoft offers excellent mobile and desktop apps that will allow you to automate the backup of your photos and videos.

Apple iCloud storage app on iPad, iPhone and MacBook Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple iCloud

This is only an option for those with an iPhone as Apple doesn't have an app for Android users to make use of iCloud. If you're an iPhone user who was avoiding paying Apple for iCloud by using Google Photos then the 5GB free tier remains practically useless, but the paid tiers are quite reasonable.

  • 50GB for 0.99 cents a month
  • 200GB for $2.99 a month
  • 2TB for $9.99 a month

While Apple doesn't offer a discount for paying yearly, these rates are otherwise comparable to Google and Amazon's offerings. Just like with Google One, you can also choose to share your storage with your family on the 200GB and 2TB plans. 

Photo and video storage in iCloud is at the original high-resolution, so do be aware that if you are sharing with your entire family or are extremely shutter happy, those files can add up pretty quickly. iCloud storage offers much more than just photo storage with many Apple and third-party apps relying on iCloud storage, meaning you have easy access to everything across all of your Apple devices. And perhaps the best news of all is that you won't get that annoying reminder that you don't have enough iCloud storage to back up your phone.