I am updating this article for the first time since 2011 because I get a lot of requests for help on this particular topic. The original article (now crossed out below) is 6 years old and likely doesn’t apply to newer model iPhones.
Now then, with that bit out of the way, here’s some updated information about DCIM folders and accessing pictures on your iPhone using a PC running Windows in 2017. There are a few important distinctions that should be understood:
- The Photos App on iOS shows an aggregate of images from both your phone’s camera roll and pictures stored in the iCloud. That means not all the photos you see in your Photos app may actually be on your phone.
- When using the Photos App, there is no easy way to determine whether a specific photo is located on the device’s camera roll or in the iCloud. So there’s no easy way to find out which of your Photos are on the device vs. which ones are in the iCloud.
- If you’ve turned on iCloud Photo Library and Optimize iPhone Storage, then your phone may not store many photos on its camera roll at all. Optimize iPhone Storage is a space saving feature in iOS which works by taking photos on the camera roll, optimizing them, uploading them to the iCloud and then deleting them from the phones camera roll to free up space. This occurs silently in the background when your device is connected to Wifi.
Now then, accessing the camera roll or DCIM folder on your Apple iPhone 5, 6 or 7 running iOS 10 or higher from a Windows PC requires the following:
- You will need to install iTunes first. Installing iTunes will also install the drivers necessary for your Windows 7, 8 or 10 PC to recognize the iPhone hardware when connected to the computer.
- Your phone will need to be unlocked when connected to your PC in order for you to be able to access it from your PC. So if you’ve got a passcode or lock code, enter the code to unlock, then connect the device.
- The first time you connect your phone to any computer, on the iPhone’s screen you’ll be asked if you want to trust this device (the connected computer). If you do not select Trust, your PC will not be allowed to access your phones storage including your DCIM folder.
- If at any point you accidentally selected Don’t Trust, you must reset your trusted devices before proceeding. To do this, unplug your phone, go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Location & Privacy. After resetting go back to [Step 3].
- Once your iPhone is unlocked and connected to your PC using an Apple lightning cable, you should hear audible sounds indicating that you’ve connected a USB device to your computer. Once your iPhone has been recognized by your PC and properly configured (may take a few moments), you will see the following item under This PC. You may also see a notification asking you what to do with the newly connected device.
- Double-clicking the device yields the following structure where folders named 100APPLE contain images on your camera roll and folders named 100CLOUD contain images downloaded from the iCloud to your phone.
- Ok, so now you’ve copied all the pictures from the DCIM folder to your PC and you’re finding that there seem to be some pictures you’ve definitely seen in your Photos app missing from the ones you copied. Here’s what could have happened:
- Those additional photos may not have been cached on your iPhone and may only exist in the iCloud. This would allow you to see them in the Photos app but would explain why they are not in the set of pictures you copied from the iPhones DCIM folder to your PC.
- To get these iCloud photos, one option is to install the iCloud for Windows tool. This tool allows you to sync all your iCloud photos to your windows PC without having to ever connect your phone. NOTE: It may be a good idea to ensure that your computer has enough space for all the photos in your iCloud first.
Hope it helps.
When you plug an iPhone into a Windows VISTA/7 computer, it should recognize it as a camera device even if you don’t have iTunes installed. This can be useful if you just want to transfer some of your pictures quickly off of the iPhone without installing iTunes and syncing and all that. If your screen locks on the iPhone, however, and if it was locked while you plugged it into your computer, then the DCIM folder that typically contains all the pictures on your camera roll will be empty (security). Here’s how to your pictures:
[step 1] Unplug your iPhone from the USB port. [step 2] Unlock your iPhone screen. [step 3] Plug your iPhone back into the USB port and open the Camera DCIM folder using explorer. NOTE: your images are now visible.