How to Connect a Camera to a Computer

A digital camera plugged into a laptop

Allison Michael Orenstein / Getty Images

 When you purchase a new digital camera, following the correct initial setup procedure is important. With most point and shoot models, it isn't overly difficult to learn to use your camera correctly, but it can be a little tricky if you've never done it before.

This article will show you how to properly connect a camera to a computer and download your photos. By following the correct steps every time, you can avoid problems later.

of 10

Connect a Camera to a Computer

Keep in mind that every model of digital camera is a little different. This article will not exactly follow every step you need to use with your particular brand and model of digital camera. This article is designed to provide general guidance in working with your new camera. For exact instructions, look toward your new digital camera's user guide or quick start guide.

of 10

Collect All of the Needed Components

laptop with digital camera and cord next to it
Collect all of the components needed to download photos to your computer.

To download photos to a computer, you really should only need a USB cable, a computer with a USB slot, and your camera.

You cannot use just any USB cable to download your photos. Most point and shoot cameras use mini-USB connectors, and only certain USB cables will contain the correct connector for your camera.

Your camera manufacturer should have included the correct USB cable in your camera's box. If you cannot find the correct cable, you may need to take your camera to an electronics store or an office supply store and purchase a cable that has the correct size USB connector.

of 10

Find the USB Slot on the Camera

USB slot on camera
Finding the USB slot on your camera can be a little tricky sometimes.

Next, you'll need to find the USB slot on your camera. This step can be a little tricky because camera manufacturers sometimes hide the slot behind a panel or door, and they usually try to make the panel or door blend into the overall design of the camera.

With some cameras, such as this one, the panel will have a USB logo on it. You also might see the USB logo next to the panel. Some camera makers place the USB slot in the same compartment as the battery and memory card.

Look on the sides of the camera and the bottom of the camera for the USB slot. If you cannot find the USB slot, consult your camera's user guide.

of 10

Connect the USB Cable to the Camera

USB connected to camera
Carefully connect the USB cable to the camera; it shouldn't require much force.

When connecting the USB cable to your camera, don't use a lot of force. The USB connector should slide into the camera's USB slot fairly easily, without much force required.

To avoid problems, be sure you have properly aligned the USB connector with the USB slot. If you try to insert the USB connector "upside down," it won't go into the slot properly. It might fit with a lot of force behind it, but if you force the connector into the slot upside down, you'll likely damage the USB cable and the camera.

Additionally, make sure the panel or door that hides and protects the USB slot is completely out of the way. If the panel is too close, you could pinch the panel between the cable and the slot, and the connector will not insert fully, leaving the USB cable unable to operate.

Finally, make sure to insert the USB cable into the USB slot, rather than another slot, such as an HDMI slot. Often times, the camera manufacturer will include both a USB slot and an HDMI slot behind the same panel or door.

of 10

Connect the USB Cable to the Computer

Digital camera connected to laptop
Insert the other end of the USB cable into a standard USB slot on your computer.

Next, connect the opposite end of the USB cable to the computer. The other end of the USB cable should have a standard USB connector, which should fit in a standard USB slot.

Again, you shouldn't need a lot of force to make the connection. Be sure to insert the USB connector with the USB logo facing upward, or you'll end up trying to insert the connector upside down, and it won't work.

of 10

Turn on the Camera

With the USB cable connected to both devices, make sure the computer is powered up. Then turn on the camera. With some cameras, you'll also need to press the photo playback button (which usually is marked with a play icon as you'd see on a DVD player).

If everything is connected correctly, your camera may give you a "connecting" message on the​ LCD screen, as shown here, or a similar type of message or icon. Some cameras give no indication, though.

of 10

Camera Is Recognized

When the computer recognizes the camera, you should see a popup window similar to this one.

If the computer/camera connection is successful, you should see a popup window on the computer screen, similar to this one. The popup window should give you a few options for downloading the photos. Just select one and follow the on-screen instructions.

of 10

Install the Software

Girl and Camera

Benoist Sébire / Getty Images

With most newer computers, the computer should automatically recognize and find the camera after you've connected it, without requiring you to install any additional software.

If your computer cannot recognize your camera, however, you may need to install the camera's software. Insert the CD that came with your camera into the computer and follow the on-screen directions for installing the software.

of 10

Download Your Photos

Once the download is taking place, you should see progress bars on the computer screen.

Once you tell the computer how you'd like to download the photos, you should be able to tell the computer where to store the photos. Then, click the download or save button, and the download process should start.

With most computers, you should see progress bars that tell you how quickly the download is taking place. You also might see small preview windows that show you what each photo looks like.

of 10

Finish Organizing the Photos

A photographer looks at his photos

JGI / Tom Grill/  Getty Images

Once all of the photos are downloaded to the computer, the computer might give you the option of deleting the photos from the camera's memory card or viewing them. I would recommend not deleting the photos from the memory card until you've had a chance to make a backup copy of the newly downloaded photos.

Look through the photos — while it's still fresh in your mind where you shot them and what you are trying to accomplish with the photos — and delete any poor ones. Taking a little extra time now will save you time in the long run.

Most of the time, the camera gives automatic, generic names to the photos, such as "Sept 10 423." It's always a good idea to give the photos a name that will be easier for you to recognize as you're looking through them later.​

Finally, if you simply cannot make the connection between the camera and the computer — even after you've consulted your camera's user guide for instructions specific to your camera — you have the option of taking the memory card to a photo processing center, which should be able to copy the photos onto a CD. You then can download the photos from the CD to your computer.