How to Connect a Camera to a Computer

Download your photos by following these steps

What to Know

  • Gather the correct USB cable, a computer with an open USB slot, and your camera. Connect the USB cable to the camera.
  • Connect the opposite end of the USB cable to the computer. Make sure the computer is powered up and turn on the camera.
  • A pop-up with photo-downloading instructions appears. Select an option, follow the prompts, and select Download or Save.

This article explains how to connect your digital camera to a computer so you can download photos. This article offers general guidelines. Instructions for your camera's make and model may differ.

Universal Camera Connection Basics

  1. Collect all of the necessary components. To download photos to a computer, you need a USB cable, a computer with an open USB slot, and your camera.

    laptop with digital camera and cord next to it

    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 contain the correct connector for your camera.

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

  2. Next, you 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.

    Many cameras have a USB logo on them. 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 the camera's user guide.

    USB slot on camera
  3. Connect the USB cable to the camera. Don't use a lot of force. The USB connector should slide into the camera's USB slot fairly easily.

    USB connected to camera

    To avoid problems, make sure you align 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 it 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. Oftentimes, camera manufacturers include both a USB slot and an HDMI slot behind the same panel.

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

    Digital camera connected to laptop
  5. Once the USB cable is connected to both devices, make sure the computer is powered up and 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 like you'd see on a DVD player).

    If everything is connected correctly, your camera may give you a "connecting" message on the​ LCD screen or a similar type of message or icon. Some cameras give no indication, though. You should see a popup window on the computer screen, similar to the one below. It should give you a few options for downloading the photos. Just select one and follow the on-screen instructions.

  6. (Optional) Download and install the necessary software. Most newer computers should automatically recognize and find the camera after it's connected 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. If you don't have a CD, you can likely find the needed software on the manufacturer's website.

  7. Once you tell the computer how you'd like to download the photos, you can tell it where to store the photos. Then, select Download or Save to start the process.

    Screenshot Scanner and Camera Wizard

    With most computers, you should see progress bars telling you how quickly the download is taking place. You also might see a small preview window showing what each photo looks like.

  8. Once all of the photos are downloaded to your computer, it might give you the option of deleting the photos from the camera's memory card or viewing them. Lifewire recommends 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 images while it's still fresh in your mind where you shot them and what you're trying to accomplish with them, then delete any poor ones.

    A photographer looks at his photos
    JGI / Getty Images

    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 them memorable names so you can recognize them later on.​

    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 model — 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.

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