I have found what I believe is a bug in Google Photos and Google Backup and Sync.

UPDATE: I got this tweet from Google which basically answers the question, though I think it's still unintuitive at best. If I download a photo from Google Photos to a random synced folder, not explicitly to a folder synced to Google Photos, I would not expect the activity of that new child image file to supersede and control what happens to the original back in Google Photos. I still think people should at least know. I can't be the only dumb-dumb doing this.

In short, I backup just about my whole computer with Backup and Sync. When I download photos from Google Photos to my computer (which will be a synced folder under Backup and Sync because I backup my whole computer), and then delete them when I'm done, they get deleted from Google Photos. This is bad from at least a UI/UX perspective, and is really bad for my workflow where I have to attach images from my phone to emails written in Outlook.

Note that I was only able to produce it when deleting multiple photos. One seemed to be OK somehow (unless that was an error as well).

Has anyone found this problem? Do you have solutions or intuitive workarounds? Can some of you try this out to prove it to yourselves and see that I'm not crazy? I really think this could be a really big deal for a lot of people and we just don't know because the photo disappears after we've used it.

There are a few typical responses when I bring this up, so here are the standard answers:

  • Tell Backup and Sync to not delete everywhere.
    • When Backup and Sync asks if it should delete a file after you've deleted it on your machine, it only asks if it should delete it from Google Drive and not "everywhere." And certainly not explicitly in Google Photos.
    • I want my backup to reflect the state of my computer. So when I delete a file from my desktop, I want it deleted from the backup of my desktop. If I need an old version, I can dig that up separately in the Trash folder on Google Drive.
  • You said you wanted to email the photo. Share the photo directly from Google Photos, then.
    • I may need to send the photo through Outlook on my work account.
    • Emailing the photo was one example. Perhaps I downloaded the file to crop it for a profile picture.
  • Why do you want to delete the file if you are saving it on Google Photos.
    • Perhaps I downloaded the file simply to crop it for a profile picture. I don't need to keep the file on my computer forever, especially if I think it's on Google Photos.
  • Create a special un-synced folder for downloading photos.
    • OK, this is becoming too much. Shouldn't deleting a photo on your own computer simply not cause you to lose the photo forever everywhere (especially on a service that does not share the same evident folder hierarchy)?

This can't be just me. Here are a few use cases I've thought up or have impacted me directly. These all assume that we backup all or most of our computer through Backup and Sync.

  • Insurance photos: You take photos or your smashed-up car with your phone after an accident. When you get home, you download the album through Google Photos to email them to your insurance agent. When you're done, you delete the files off your computer. When you follow up in a month and the agent asks you to re-send the pictures, they turn out to be gone.
  • Profile Pic: You have a photo, originally taken with your phone, that you want to crop and use as a profile pic. You download a couple files to test, crop them with desktop photo editing software, and delete the source files since you don't need them now. It turns out that they all disappear at that delete step.
  • Inspection Reports: If you use your phone from time to time to take work photos, you should be able to download some photos, put them in a report, and delete them so they don't clutter your computer (or your backup for that matter).
    • I know I had more but I can't think of them at the moment.

For your information, here is a Google Photos Community thread on it. There is a lot of discussion there.

  • I’m voting to close this question because it is about a desktop app. Too old to migrate to Super User
    – Blindspots
    Oct 25 at 12:12

1 Answer 1


Google Photos automatically detects duplicates, and does not show the duplicates in the library. However, deleting the photo anywhere will delete that one photo.

I also sync my computer with Google Drive, but I recommend leaving out your Desktop folder from the sync. Then, whenever you download a photo from Google Photos for editing, download it to your Desktop (I suggest changing the setting in your internet browser to require it to ask you where to download files).

You can then think of your Desktop as being the only folder than does not sync with your Google Drive. It will be like a temporary folder. If you edited the photo with software on your computer and you subsequently want to save it, cut the photo from your Desktop and paste it into your file system. Google Photos will think it's a different photo if it has been edited.

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