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  • David M. Chandler

    Web app developer since 1994 and Google Cloud Platform Instructor now residing in Colorado. Besides tech, I enjoy landscape photography and share my work at ColoradoPhoto.gallery.

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How to backup or move Picasa albums

Posted by David Chandler on November 7, 2009

Update Aug 13, 2012: as of Picasa 3.9, it is no longer necessary to backup Picasa albums separately using the technique discussed here. They are stored in the same folders as your photos, so you can simply copy all your photo folders to a new machine and you’re all set.

I’ve been very happily managing my photos with Picasa since version 2. Many machines ago, I began storing photos along with all my other portable data in a directory separate from the normal Windows user folder to make it easy to back up and move files between machines with an external hard drive. So far so good.

The problem is how to back up and/or move Picasa albums to a new machine, as these are not stored with your photo files like Picasa edits and captions are. Picasa 3 now offers a way to export the entire photo database; however, it is very slow and results in a very large file (multi-GB) when you have 10 years’ worth of digital photos. It’s not practical to export the entire database to make a weekly backup, so I was delighted to find this technique on a forum which allows you to move just your album data:

Restore Picasa albums

I’ve done it many times and it works. This way, you can continue to use an incremental backup solution for photo files and backup the tiny amount of data in C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Google\Picasa2Albums\ to save your albums. The only catch is that when you rebuild the Picasa database as instructed in the link above, the photos referenced in the album must be in the same directory location as they were when the album was created.

In order to ensure that my photos stay in the same directory structure even when Microsoft changes the location of the Users folder between, say, XP and Vista, I keep all my photos in a directory outside the Windows user directory (I use C:\@My\Photos). When I get a new machine, all I have to do is:

  1. Copy the whole C:\@My directory to the new machine
  2. Install Picasa
  3. Copy the Picasa2Albums directory into place under the Users folder (C:\Users\David\AppData\Local\Google\Picasa2Albums\ in Vista)
  4. Rebuild the Picasa database as instructed above using the Shift+Ctrl+Alt combination.

Of course, this technique may not be supported forever, and hopefully won’t be needed as Google continues to improve Picasa. But for now, it allows me to backup my albums on a regular basis and know that I’ll be able to move my photos, albums and all, to a new machine when needed.

6 Responses to “How to backup or move Picasa albums”

  1. Francesco said

    Hi, I am interested in the technique you are using for backup of picasa.

    Anyway it is not clear to me what does it mean

    Rebuild the Picasa database as instructed above using the Shift+Ctrl+Alt combination.

    If I got it well yuo say to backup with an incremental backup tool a windows folder (like C:\Mypictures) and then copy the content ofPicasa2Albums folder… So where do the Piacsa Baclup comes into picture? I hope you are so kind to explain this better to me.

    Hello from Italy


  2. Oliver said

    Here some info about the new Picasa 3.5 (current version 3.6) and windows 7. Maybe is a valid solution:

  3. Michel Quadro said

    I’m using Picasa 3.9 and I can’t see albums in my photo folders which are all under a unique root folder. Where should I go to find albums records ?

  4. Les Deemer said

    I backed up my photos from my pc onto and external hard drive – then reinstalled windows 7 and brought my files back to pc. When I went to Picasa the photos were not there – after a lot of frustration I realized that Picasa just points to a location for the photos (where they are saved) – in the tab under General for Tools (bottom option for putting in a file location). Enter the location of your photos here and then it is just like it was before backup. Also did not realize you can backup through PICASA – may do that next backup – hope this helps someone.

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