Importing Pictures from a Camera or Mobile Device into Windows 7

Windows 7 makes keeping track of your pictures incredibly easy, thanks to the Libraries feature. But if you want to add pictures from a digital camera or mobile device to your Windows 7 Pictures Library, you'll have to import them. Luckily, this is incredibly easy to do and we're going to show you how.

Connecting Your Device and Setting up AutoPlay Options

Begin by connecting your camera or mobile device to your computer. You can connect it directly via USB, or, if it takes a memory card, you can insert the card into a card reader connected to your computer. Either way, Windows 7 will open the AutoPlay dialog the first time you connect your device or insert a card.

Here, you'll have the option to either 'Import pictures and videos using Windows' or 'Open device to view files with Windows Explorer'. If you want to import all of your pictures, go ahead and choose the first option. If you'd rather pick and choose individual photos, choose the second.

NOTE: If you want to save yourself some clicks for next time, check 'Always do this for this device' before clicking 'Import...' and your pictures will automatically import with your default settings when you plug that device in. You can always undo this if you change your mind (see below).

Import Pictures

NOTE: If you are using Windows Live Photo Gallery as to manage your pictures library, you can use it also to import pictures. Here's a tutorial on how it works: Importing Pictures & Videos From a Camera into Windows Live Photo Gallery.

Import pictures and videos using Windows 7

First, let's walk through the process of importing all of your pictures. If, for some reason, the AutoPlay dialog doesn't show up, just go into Windows Explorer, right-click your device and choose 'Import pictures and videos' for the exact same result as above. If you used the AutoPlay dialog, go ahead and ignore this step and the screenshot below.

Import Pictures

Next, a window will pop up asking you if you want to tag your pictures. This is optional. If you do choose to tag them, however, NOTE that all the pictures imported will be given this tag, so make sure it applies to all of them. If you're ready to go, click Import to begin. If you'd rather fiddle around a bit more, click 'Import settings'.

Import Pictures

The Import Settings window gives you a few more options. Most of these are self-explanatory, but we can run through them quickly:

  • The top drop-down menu changes the device to which the Import Settings apply.
  • The next two menus change where your pictures or videos will be imported to. You can choose separate locations for videos and pictures and Windows 7 will automatically sort them out.
  • The next two menus let you customize the folder and file name. An example of how the file name will appear is shown in the screenshot below.
  • Check/uncheck 'Prompt for a tag on import' if you want to be asked to tag pictures before importing. Unchecking this option will skip this step when you plug in your camera for faster importing (and you can tag them later).
  • Check 'Always erase from device after importing' to delete pictures off your camera after copying them to your hard drive. If you leave it unchecked, you'll have an opportunity to delete them later (see below).
  • Check 'Rotate pictures on import' if you want Windows 7 to make a guess regarding the correct orientation (i.e. portrait vs. landscape) of your pictures and save it accordingly.
  • Checking 'Open Windows Explorer' after import will automatically show you the folder where your freshly imported pictures are located once they are copied over.
Import Pictures

Lastly, NOTE that there's a shortcut that lets you change your default AutoPlay options. Click this if you've set up AutoPlay to automatically import your pictures or made other changes that you'd like to undo. When you click 'Change default AutoPlay options' it'll bring you to the Control Panel where all of your devices are shown. Scroll down to find your device and change the options accordingly.

Import Pictures

Click Save and return to the Import Settings window and click OK. When you're satisfied with all of your settings, click Import to copy your pictures onto your hard drive.

NOTE: While your pictures are importing, you'll be shown this dialog. If you check the box next to 'Erase after importing', Windows will delete the files off of your camera once they are successfully copied onto your computer. This is a quick and easy way to free up space on your camera, but be aware that after doing this, the only copy of your picture will be on your computer. Be sure to backup the originals if you plan on editing your pictures.

Import Pictures

As long as you chose a folder that's included in your Pictures Library locations, they'll automatically show up in any program that uses your Pictures Library the next time you launch it or apply your media information changes. By default, your pictures go into My Pictures, which is the default location for your Pictures Library, so if you don't touch a thing, you'll be fine.

Open device to view files with Windows Explorer

If you don't want to import every single picture from your camera, you can choose individual pictures to copy from Windows Explorer. If you choose the second option in the AutoPlay dialog, you'll automatically be taken to your device in Windows Explorer. Otherwise, simply open Windows Explorer and navigate to your memory card or camera. From here, drag and drop individual photos into your My Pictures folder on the left or another folder that's included in your Pictures Library. Do this just as if you were moving files between folders on your hard drive.

Import Pictures


That about wraps up the basics of importing pictures into your Pictures Library. As you can see, you can copy and backup all of your digital pictures with Windows 7 without any third-party software. Once you've imported your pictures, you can then access them from any program that uses your Windows 7 Pictures Library, including Windows Media Center and Windows Media Player 12. For more hints and tips on handling pictures in Windows 7, check out some of our related articles.

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