For most people, the camera on their iPhone is the best they ever owned. But that doesn’t count for much if you can’t save those beautiful photos to your PC, as is the case for many users who found their iPhone DCIM folder was empty!
The DCIM folder is where your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch saves its Digital Camera IMages. You should find all the photos from your device in the DCIM folder when you connect it to a PC.
So how can that DCIM folder be empty if there are hundreds of photos on your iPhone!? That’s what we’re here to find out.
We’ve summarized this post into a few quick tips in case you don’t have time to read the full details:
- Turn off iCloud Photos or choose to Download and Keep Originals.
- Turn off Photo Stream for all your iDevices.
- Reset Location & Privacy settings on your iDevice.
- Reinstall the Apple Mobile Device USB Driver on your PC.
- Show hidden files in File Explorer on your PC.
- The definitive guide to iCloud Photos in 2019
- How to export photos from iPhone to Windows PC with date
- How to view iCloud Photos on iPhone
- What to do if you can’t transfer photos from iPhone to PC
How do I find my iPhone DCIM folder on a PC?
For those who don’t already know, let’s take a minute to explain how to connect your iDevice to a PC and find the DCIM folder. Feel free to skip this section if you’re already familiar with the process.
How to open the DCIM folder on a PC:
- Power on and unlock your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
- Use the cable that came with your device to connect it to a PC.
- If prompted, tap Trust This Computer on your device.
- Open File Explorer on the PC and go to:
- You should now see folders with all your photos in them.
You can also import photos from your iDevice to a PC using the Photos app. As explained on the Windows Support website.
Why is my iPhone DCIM folder empty?
You aren’t the only one to find an empty DCIM folder on your iPhone. Over 2,000 other users have had this happen to them. Yet, contrary to how it seems, there probably isn’t a problem with Apple’s software. This is an intended feature.
And I’m not calling it a feature ironically. It’s one that many of us benefit from every day: iCloud Photos.
Why does iCloud Photos mean my iPhone DCIM folder is empty?
iCloud Photos serves two major functions:
- It synchronizes your photos and videos across all your devices.
- It saves internal storage on your devices by uploading those photos and videos to iCloud.
As you may have guessed, it’s the second function that empties the DCIM folder on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
With iCloud Photos on, your iDevice only stores previews of the photos in your library. It downloads the full-resolution version from iCloud whenever you open a photo, shown by a white loading circle in the lower-right.
The DCIM folder stores photos that your iDevice recently downloaded or hasn’t uploaded to iCloud yet. Usually, this is a small selection of your photo library. That’s why the DCIM folder is empty when you connect your iPhone to a PC.
If you’re certain you turned off iCloud Photos, skip to our troubleshooting section below.
How do I download iCloud Photos to my PC?
I know, I know. This doesn’t actually help matters. Sure, now we know why your iPhone DCIM folder is empty. But you’re no closer to transferring those photos to your PC.
Well, we’ve got a couple of solutions to that as well:
- Change your iCloud Photos settings.
- Download photos directly from iCloud Photos.
How do I change my iCloud Photos settings to transfer my photos?
The part of iCloud Photos that keeps all your photos and videos stored in the cloud is optional. Of course, for some of us it’s better that way: I can’t fit my 100GB photo library on my 64GB iPhone without iCloud Photos.
But if you’ve got ample free storage and you want your photos stored on your iDevice, you just need to change a setting and wait for them to download. Then you can copy them from your DCIM folder to your PC.
Turn on Download and Keep Originals on your iDevice:
- On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch go to Settings > Photos.
- Under the iCloud section, choose Download and Keep Originals.
- Your iDevice downloads photos whenever connected to Wi-Fi.
- This could take several days depending on your Internet speed and library size.
- Check the progress of your download by scrolling to the bottom of the Photos app.
As your photos and videos are all downloaded, they populate the DCIM folder on your iDevice. You can then connect it to your PC and transfer the photos across.
How do I download photos directly from iCloud Photos to a PC?
Why not cut out the middle man? If you store your photos on iCloud, download them straight from the cloud to your computer. There’s no need to transfer through your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch at all!
Download a small selection of photos from the iCloud website:
If you only want to transfer a selection of photos to your PC (less than 1,000 photos at a time), you can do it directly from the iCloud website.
- Sign in to the iCloud website using your Apple ID details.
- Go to Photos.
- Click a photo to select it, or hold shift to select multiple photos.
- Click the Download icon in the top right of the window.
Download all your photos using iCloud for Windows:
The easiest way to download your entire photo library is using iCloud for Windows.
- Download, install, and open iCloud for Windows on your PC.
- Sign in to iCloud with your Apple ID details.
- Next to Photos, click Options… and turn on iCloud Photos.
- Under Download new photos and videos to my PC, click Change…
- Choose where you want to save your downloaded photos and videos.
- Open a File Explorer window.
- Under Favorites, click iCloud Photos from the sidebar.
- Near the top-left of the window, choose Download photos and videos.
- Select All and click Download.
What if iCloud Photos is turned off?
Some of you may find your iPhone’s DCIM folder remains empty even when you turn off iCloud Photos. This may seem like the end of the line, but we haven’t run out of tricks yet.
Try the troubleshooting suggestions below, and let us know in the comments which one works for you.
Watch out for Photo Stream
Even if you turned off iCloud Photos, you might still be getting fooled by Photo Stream. This iCloud feature lets you view recent photos from all your iDevices in the Photos app, regardless of where they’re actually saved.
That means, with Photo Stream turned on, some of the photos you view on your iPad might actually be on your iPhone. Or vice versa. You need to find out which device has your photos on it and connect that device to your PC.
The easiest way to find out where photos are actually stored is to turn off Photo Stream on all your devices.
Turn off Photo Stream on your iDevices:
- On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch go to Settings > Photos.
- Turn off Upload to My Photo Stream.
- This doesn’t delete any photos, but now you can only view a photo on the iDevice that took it.
Make sure your iDevice allows your PC to access it
It’s possible your PC doesn’t have permission to view the DCIM folder on your iPhone, which is why it appears empty. You can reset this security preference using the Reset Location & Privacy option in your iDevice settings.
After you reset the Location & Privacy settings, connect your iDevice to your PC and tap Trust This Computer when prompted.
Reset Location & Privacy settings on your iDevices:
- On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch go to Settings > General > Reset.
- Tap Reset Location & Privacy.
- If prompted, enter your passcode.
- Confirm you want to Reset Settings.
Check your Apple Mobile Device USB Driver
Although you don’t need iTunes to transfer photos to your PC, you do need the small pieces of software that come with it. These include the Apple Mobile Device USB Driver, which teaches your PC to speak to Apple devices.
Make sure you’re running the latest version of iTunes on your PC. Then follow the steps below to reinstall the Apple Mobile Device USB Driver.
Reinstall the Apple Mobile Device USB Driver on your PC:
- Connect your iDevice to the PC, close iTunes if it opens.
- Right-click the Start button and open Device Manager.
- Find your iDevice under Portable Devices.
- Right-click your iDevice and choose Uninstall device.
- Tick the box to Delete driver software for this device.
- Click OK, unplug your device, and restart your PC.
- The driver reinstalls when you connect your iDevice again.
The DCIM contents might be hidden
Don’t ask me how. Don’t ask me why. Just know that some users discovered the photos on their iDevice were hidden from their PC. That’s why the DCIM folder showed as empty on their iPhone.
Mysterious as it is, it’s easy to solve using the options in Windows File Explorer.
Show hidden items in File Explorer:
- Open File Explorer on your PC.
- Go to View > Show/Hide.
- Check the Hidden items box.
Is your iPhone DCIM folder still empty? You could still transfer photos to your PC using the Photos app. Or if that doesn’t work, take a look at our extensive troubleshooting guide for transferring photos.
And, as always, let us know how you get on in the comments!
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