Where are my documents and photos stored?

This is not always obvious and it depends on a few things and the device you are using!

Documents created on a “Windows” device (desktop or laptop) will usually be stored on your “C” (local) drive in “Documents” but you can save them directly to Google Drive (or Microsoft One Drive). If you have a “Home LAN”, you can also save documents on to a network share – General, Household etc.This is similar with “Linux” systems e.g. Android, Ubuntu, SUSE etc

To access your Documents using your “Windows” device (desktop or laptop) :-

  1. Stored Locally – use “File Explorer” and navigate to “Documents”, this is normally the default location.
  2. Stored on “Google Drive”– Use the shortcut to “Google Drive” found in Quick access or right click on the “Backup & Sync” icon bottom r/h corner of screen or use a browser to access “drive.google.com”. NOTE, Photos are now copied to “photos.google.com, not “drive.google.com”.
  3. Stored on Network Share – use “File explorer” and navigate to the “Shared Folder”. Network Shares are often “Mapped Drives” e.g. “P” but could also be just a “Network Location” with a suitable name e.g. “Music” or “Household”.

When using a “Windows” device and you are trying to find a “recent” document, one way is to use the “Task List”, this shows what documents you have accessed in the past month or so (if enabled). Another option is to use the App that you used to create the document and select “Recent Documents”, the “Jump Lists” are a nice feature. Ultimately, when you create a new document; you need to be mindful of where you are saving it 🙂

Photos / Videos (relevant to Google / Android but not “Windows” devices that use OneDrive)

Photos taken using your (Android) phone are copied / uploaded to Google Photos – “cloud storage”.

Your phone and tablet (if you have one) synchronise photos via (Google) Photos “the App”, so any photos  you take with using your phone will be available on your phone and tablet.

NOTE, the (Google) “Photos” App is not available for “Windows” but is available for IPad.

Photos taken using your iPhone will usually be copied / backed up to iCloud,

To access your photos from your (Windows) device, you can use the (Google) “Backup & Sync” App. This is basically only a “Link” to the Cloud and works the same way as opening a browser and then going to “photos.google.com”

NOTEBackup & Synconly synchronises the contents of the “locally stored” “Google Drive” folder. Google Photos “cloud storage” DOES NOT synchronise with “Windows” devices.

If you want to view or copy any of the photos to your “Windows” device, you will need to go to “photos.google.com” (you might need to log in). Just click on a photo to view a larger image. To copy to your laptop download it / them by :-

  1. Select the photo(s) you want – to get a tick.
  2. Go to top r/h corner of window and click on the 3 vertical dots.
  3. Select “Download” from the pop up menu.
  4. Select where to save them on your Laptop – default will be “Downloads”.


The “Backup & Sync” App creates a “Google Docs” folder on your (Windows) device and anything you put in there IS Synchronised – e.g. it squirts it up to Google Drive – (cloud storage) and will be available to your phone and tablet. This very useful, in that you can create a new document on your “Windows”  desktop or laptop and save it in the “Google Docs” folder. You can then edit it using your tablet and vice versa.

To create and / or edit documents on your tablet (“Windows” device), you can use the Google App called “Docs” and if you want to play with spreadsheets, you can use the Google App called “Sheets”. The Google App called “Drive” should also be installed.

Note about Google “Services”.

Google originally started out by creating a search engine to be used with any “web” Browser. Idea being to search the World Wide Web for “relevant content”. So “to Google” just means search web (pages) for content that you are looking for.

There are other search engines, Microsoft use “BING”, but others are “DuckDuckGo”, “Ask” and a few more..

Web Browsers, you also have choices. I prefer Firefox but Android (by default) use “Chrome”, my iPad uses “Safari”. You could use Edge (which now uses a Microsoft version of Chrome and some say it works better than the Google Chrome).

Many of the “Search Engines” incorporate a browser into their design so that complicates things a bit but to search the WWW for content, you need a (web) browser. Most of the well known “Browsers” allow you to specify which “Search Engine” to use.

I tend to use the Firefox Web Browser and set the “Homepage” to “Google.co.uk” so that I can get to the search engine and other Google services quickly.

Over the years, Google have become a conglomerate and are pushing “Cloud Services”. Basically they want you to store your “stuff “ in the “Cloud” and use their multitude of services they have created, which all originally worked by accessing all of your stuff on “Google Drive” (Cloud Storage). Google lean towards the “Linux” operating system and have implemented their own version of Linux, this is called (Google) “Android”. So basically all “Android” devices are designed to make best use of “Cloud Storage / Cloud services” and to share / access your stuff from different (Android) devices.

The Internet is basically an “Infrastructure” made up of cables, routers and switches and provides a “means of” accessing the many “Cloud services” like WWW, Email etc.You need a connection to the Internet to enable you to access the WWW and Email etc.

Google are now a multi faceted conglomerate that mainly provide “Cloud Services”. You could think of Google being a “Block of flats” in the cloud and each flat / office / apartment provides a different service.

Google Drive Is Googles (Cloud based) File hosting / storage facility and they currently give 15GB of Free storage for your documents (much better than Microsoft who have reduced this to 5 GB of free storage – on OneDrive)

Google Photos. was part of Google Drive but it is now a separate part ( a different location from Google Drive). It is still in the Google Cloud “block of flats” but is in a different “office”.

For Android devices, this is “seamless” because the “Photos” App on Android devices is automatically linked to the new location and works flawlessly. However, if you want to access the photos taken on your Android phone (which are automatically uploaded to Google Photos), They won’t be automatically downloaded / synchronised to your Windows Laptop. So you need to use the (Google) “backup & Sync” App to access your photos or just use a browser to access “photos.google.com”.

(Google) Docs, is an App that allows you to create and edit documents that are stored on (Google) Drive, using your Android device (or iPad).

(Google) Sheets, is a App that allows you to create and / or edit Spreadsheets that are stored on (Google) Drive, using your Android device.

Note. Docs & Sheets are also available as a “Web Service”! This means you can use any device to to access Google.com (services) using a browser. The “Apps” are then used from within your browser without having to install anything on the device you are using.

In summary.

To answer the question “Wheres my stuff”, the answer is “It Depends” 🙂

If you create a new document on your (Windows) desktop or laptop, it will by default, be saved to “Documents / My documents” on your local “C” drive and will only be accessible on the device you created the document. (Ignoring file sharing)

You could decide to save the document to a “network share” and this would then be able to be accessed by any device on the LAN (with permissions)

You could decide to save the document to the “Google Drive” folder, (on your local device) this would then be uploaded to “Google Drive” (Cloud) which would then make the document available to any of your devices (Android Tablet or iPad other Windows desktop / laptop) to edit.. You could also “share” the document with family and friends so they can Edit or just view the document in the cloud. That is a very useful feature!

Wheres my photos! Any photos you take using your Android phone will be stored on your phone and if enabled, they will be automatically uploaded to “photos.google.com”. These will then be available to your Android tablet, if you have the “Photos” App installed. This is similar to photos you take using your iPhone and sync with iCloud and Microsoft Onedrive, if you backup your photos to OneDrive.

If you want to access the photos using your (Windows) device (desktop / laptop), you will need to use your browser to access “photos.google.com”. If you want a copy of the photo(s), you will need to download it to your laptop or you could just connect your phone to the “Windows Device” using a USB cable and then copy the photos you want to a folder of your choice.

NOTE, I’ve concentrated on Google Photos because Android phones seem to be the most popular and these, by default, use “Google Services”.

My Wife has an Android phone and tablet and a “Windows” laptop. She tends to use the “Google Services” because she shares videos (of her poetry readings) and her poems with others and “Google Services” seems to be the easiest for her.

I have an Android phone but use Microsoft Launcher, so I basically have a “Windows Phone” running on Android 🙂 I also have an iPad Air and a “Windows” desktop and a “Windows” laptop. I tend to use Microsoft “OneDrive” to backup my photos on the phone and also have the “OneDrive” App on the iPad but I do also use “Google Services” e.g. Drive, Docs and Photos on my iPad to enable me to edit docs saved to “Google Drive”.

Our household also has a “Home” LAN and includes a “File server” in the form of a device that runs (Linux) CentOS and SAMBA. This enable us to have “Network Shares”, which are “Folders” that are shared to all devices connected to the LAN. One of the “shares” is the “folder” that contains 50GB+ of MP3s (our music collection), One of the shares is a “Folder” that has our “Household” stuff e.g. Utility bills etc. The “Network shares” are on a “Raid 5” (Hot Swappable) 2 TB data array and are backed up to a USB drive on the CentOS server and an USB drive on a spare “Windows” desktop. Did someone say “Geek” 🙂

Hopefully, you will now know where “your stuff” is and hopefully it be backed up!

Check out Backups revisited.