Windows 8.1 Importing Photos

One Giant Leap …

This story is more than about Windows 8.1 Pro Preview – it is a tragic tale, oh, just read and weep.

One of the biggest uses for computers by the senior folks is for managing and sharing photos of trips and family. So I wanted to check out how well Windows 8.1 handles photos since Windows 8 was not exactly competent in that area.

After getting some surprising results I stepped back to conduct a series of tests.

My Windows XP machine does not have a USB connector so no testing there.

Windows Vistaimage

Next came a Windows Vista machine. imageWhen the camera was plugged in and turned on this, is what I saw: “Installing device driver software”. Then AutoPlay came up. It offered to import pictures “using Windows” and also showed Windows Live Photo Gallery as an option – I have that installed on the machine.

Nothing unusual there. Windows Vista used to do a good job this way.

On to the next one.

Windows 7image

Nothing unusual there. Windows 7 handles importing photos beautifully. I have Windows Photo Gallery installed and the options set about location, naming of folders and files. Moments after the camera is detected the import process commences. After the pictures are imported Photo Gallery opens to show the newly added photos.

imageThis PC had not handled this camera before, the photo files were in raw (camera manufacturer proprietary) format, so neither Photo Gallery nor any other program could display the photos. A problem? Not in Windows 7. It popped up a dialog saying “Some photos or videos can’t be displayed” and explained that a “codec” needed to be installed. It offered to download the needed driver. In the past this would take you to the manufacturer’s driver download page, but quite a while back Microsoft released a powerful codec that can handle just about anybody’s proprietary formats.   So this is the page that came up upon clicking “Download”:


The download and installation proceeded rapidly and pretty soon the Windows 7 PC handled the raw files just fine, both in Windows Explorer and Photo Gallery.

Windows 8

Now Windows 8 had shown a lack of prowess in this area, but I went through the test once more.image When the camera was plugged in and turned on there was the sound signaling that an attached device had been detected and a message popped up in the upper right corner. It did show the correct camera model designation. The next dialog, however, was rather disappointing. imageYou see, I had already installed Windows Photo Gallery on this machine.

There were just three options: “Import photos and videos [using] Photos”, “Open device to view files [using] File Explorer”, and “Take no action”.

The Windows 8 Photos app is a anemic, impotent, useless toy. It offers absolutely no option for the import process. It decides where the files should go, what the folder names are to be.

But I already said that Windows 8 and its Photos app lacked competence, so I had great expectations of Windows 8.1.

Windows 8.1

Mind you, I was testing the Windows 8.1 Pro Preview. Previews are not feature-complete and may lack a lot of what will be available in the final release. But hey, importing photos is something that Windows has been doing for years. So let’s see.

When the camera was plugged in and turned on there was the sound signaling that an attached device had been detected, but nothing more. It just sat there. imageYes, Windows 8.1 detected the camera and even recognized the model. “This PC”, what is called “File Explorer” elsewhere in Windows 8.1, showed it. Right there as the first item under “This PC” (see the red pointer pointing to it in the illustration).

Well, maybe AutoPlay needs to be configured. Windows 8.1 clearly isn’t smart enough to bring that up by itself. Microsoft managed that back in Windows Vista just fine. Maybe their good engineers all retired. Have the young upstarts forgotten what Windows is supposed to do?

imageSo I press the Windows key to bring up the Start screen and type “autoplay”. This part works nicely. It offers “Choose AutoPlay defaults” and “AutoPlay settings”. imageBoth take you to the “PC & devices” screen.

And there it shows the camera, a “D60”, with an option selection box. Great, yes?

No joy, no joy! Here are the options offered: image

“Open device to view files (File Explorer)”, “Take no action” and “Ask me every time”.

Mind you, I had Windows Photo Gallery already installed on this PC! Not even the option to import using the anemic Photos app showed up! But Microsoft already has made claims about improvements in this app. Sigh.

So next I went to the desktop and opened Photo Gallery. It has an import option. Sure enough, there is the camera listed.


And indeed the Photo Gallery import function could be launched manually. It found the photos on the camera. It showed little thumbnails of the pictures and proceeded to import them. Joy at last?



Sad, sad, downer. When the import process completed this is what came up:


A stack of windows, one for each folder that Photo Gallery had made – as it always does, showing blank picture place-holder thumbnails. Indeed in Photo Gallery each folder shows absolutely nothing. No place holder thumbnail, nothing, just as if the folder was empty.


Nothing about needing a codec, no offer to download a needed driver, nothing.

Now you might think this is were this story ends in disappointment, disillusionment, disenchantment. But we have not yet hit bottom in this dark abyss.

There is something else I tried: I downloaded Picasa, the picture handling program from that nemesis Google. No problem installing or running the program. I next went back to see what AutoPlay might see.


Yes, AutoPlay offers the competitor’s product, but not Microsoft’s own! Can you believe it?!

Not only that, it works just like you would expect. And when the photos are imported, Picasa has no problem showing them, editing them, saving edited copies!


Now you may weep, cry for Microsoft, for this is indeed a giant leap for Microsoft

… toward oblivion


© 2013 Ludwig Keck


About Ludwig

Lending a helping hand where I can. . . My motto: If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.
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28 Responses to Windows 8.1 Importing Photos

  1. Geoff Coupe says:

    Ludwig, as you say, a sorry tale. I suspect that the blame shouldn’t be placed entirely on the Windows 8/8.1 platform team, but rather on the team behind the Photos App. It should be down to them to set the AutoPlay defaults to suit their app (as Picasa does), and to flag up missing codecs. It’s clear that certain features of the Windows platform have changed between 7 and 8/8.1, and app developers need to be aware of this. I suspect that WPG is now frozen, and no development is being done. The focus has shifted to the Photos App. Unfortunately, the team behind it are doing an appalling job, based on all the evidence that we’ve seen. The Photos App for 8.1 appears to be shaping up to be even worse than the crap that was delivered with Windows 8. See

    • Ludwig says:

      Thank you Geoff,
      I have been working on a post about the Photos app and its new editing features, but I had to get that import story off my chest. Microsoft does not allow you to download its codec to a Windows 8 machine, but the camera manufacturer codecs work fine. It is a shame that they are giving up on so many very useful, powerful, and well-liked programs. Pity.

  2. Sergio says:

    Author of this topic is not right…
    open folder/ …view folder options/properties/view/untick “always show icons, not thumbnails”, apply -> profit 😉

    • Ludwig says:

      Thank you Sergio for your comment. I am not sure what you are referring to.
      The final release of Windows 8.1 does include a codec, so my complaints about that in the preview version, thankfully do not apply to the release version. Unfortunately the other items are still as described in my article.

  3. Nancy says:

    Serious trouble when I downloaded Picasa, had it on previous computer and love it. Had to bring to shop for hacking issues, visualB and were installed. So back to 8.1, does this mean there’s no way I can import photos using windows, totally computer illiterate so please be easy on the terminology, thanks

    • Ludwig says:

      Hello Nancy,
      Unfortunately most download sites have started to add a lot of garbage to downloads that you want – as you found out. You should download Picasa only from the official Google Picasa site. Picasa is still a very nice tool.
      Importing photos to a Windows 8.1 PC has been hobbled by Microsoft. Install Photo Gallery and import from there as explained in my posts. It is smooth and easy. Don’t bother with the new Windows 8.1 Photos App. It belongs to the same class as the garbage the download sites try to stuff into your computer.

  4. Andreas says:

    There is a simple solution to add the autoplay option to Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.
    Just go to the new Start Menu (Windows key), then type ‘cmd’ and click on the first entry with the right mouse button and select ‘run as administrator’.
    After this type ‘cd “C:\Program Files\Windows Photo Viewer”‘ (for 64-Bit System), press enter.
    After that type: ‘regsvr32 PhotoAcq.dll’, press enter and then
    ‘regsvr32 PhotoViewer.dll’ and enter again.
    After this procedure, you will be able to select the old photo import assistent (as in Windows 7) from the autoplay list.

    • Ludwig says:

      Thank you very much Andreas for this procedure to get AutoPlay to use the Photo Gallery importer! Readers please note: After you go through these steps select “Import pictures and videos (Windows)” – You will not see an option with Photo Gallery by name.

    • Travis Cook says:

      Hallelujah! It works!!! Thank you!

      • Catria says:

        Thank you……I tried this and received an error message that the system could not recognize the command (C:\ProgramFiles\WindowsPhotoViewer

        any suggestions?

        I am wanting to be able to download my photos from my phone to my Photos folder. I have no idea where to find photos that the 8.1 seems to auto download, who knows where. Thank you

        on a separate topic:
        does anyone know a work around on Google’s messing with attaching photos in Gmail? It used to allow you to attach them from your Photos Folder, and now, you have to Upload those to Google+ and then attach them. I am not keen on uploading them somewhere that others have access to them. If I need to put this on another topic, please let me know

        thank you

      • Ludwig says:

        The Windows downloader puts the photos into the Pictures folder. Look for them there.
        To attach a photo to a Gmail message use the “Attach” option, click the paper click icon, not the the “Insert Photo” option. The “Attach” option works as you would expect, it opens your file explorer.

  5. cedwards13 says:

    thank you. I found this interesting, if sadly, over my head. I’m a Point and Click kind of soul. I wasn’t thrilled with Windows 8 and it seems to “save” “import” my photos in various places, but lately it has been mainly a program that auto pops open when I plug in my iPhone, and it shows all the photos on the phone and checks those that have not been imported, and I can select Import or not. It does label the folder with the current date, but I realized I can change it then, or by going to my Pictures folder and correcting. (I never have received the option of deleting the photos from my phone after, so that is a manual task as well)

    however, lately, (the last four days) I keep receiving and error message “Cannot Import” or similar.

    I am not sure why. Any ideas and how I can fix it?

    Also, as I said, when I go to select a photo to see or edit, especially from the scrolling bar of folders at the bottom of my screen, I am not always presented with edit options. It’s like the machine has a fiddly mind of it’s own. I like my Windows 7 or XP I knew how to navigate it. Windows 8 just truly does, seem to have a mind of its own……thank you

    • Ludwig says:

      I am afraid I don’t have any experience with an iPhone importing to Windows 8. Maybe another reader can help.

      The toy version of handling photos in Windows 8 is rather infuriating. Go to the adult version – the desktop and use Photo Gallery.

      • cedwards says:

        thank you……I’m thinking it’s going to be the same as with a camera (as Windows 8 is recognizing it as a camera)……..have you ever received that comment re: Cannot Import or Didn’t Import

        I read your other blog on the Photo Gallery I pulled it up (certainly not as “intuitive” as this one, but if it actually works more correctly then the extra manual steps are no big deal, but two questions if you don’t mind:

        1 – my Photo Gallery does not pull up the option to Import etc
        2 – If I choose to manually do it through Photo Gallery, how do I stop the Windows 8 process from automatically opening and wanting to Import
        3 – Is there a way to set up Photo Gallery to open automatically when a camera or iPhone is connected?

        thank you

      • Ludwig says:

        Sorry, or should I say, happily, I have not encountered the “Cannot import” problem. As to your questions:
        1 – Photo Gallery does not show option to import – The device has to be turned on before it shows in the import dialog.
        2 – To stop AutoPlay from starting the import process turn it off: In the search bar [logokey + S, will do it], enter “autoplay” click AutoPlay settings. You will see a “Memory card” option and probably also your camera. Click in option window and select “Take no action”.
        3 – Can Photo Gallery be set to run AutoPlay? Yes it can for your camera, I don’t know about your iPhone. But if you do, the options in Photo Gallery do not work (or do not work correctly, which is even worse).

      • Carolyn says:

        Thank you! Please forgive me being a luddite I have the following questions:
        1 – I had plugged in my iPhone / Camera and manually selected Photo Gallery. There was not an automatic option to Import. I searched for it somehow and got it to work
        2 – ok Search Bar? I went to the opening screen that shows all the annoying colorful apps and clicked the logokey plus the S key. The screen seems to go lighter but there’s no bar to key in autoplay. I then went back to the main screen and down to the white bar on the bottom that you used to scroll to the right for more apps and tried to do the logo key plus S….nothing. I then went up to the Apps Search Bar at the top and typed in Autoplay – it couldn’t find that App?
        3 – ok, so once I get AutoPlay turned off, I will just need to manually selecet and import via Photo Gallery, correct? a few more steps sure, but if it works better, and you can select which folders for your million photos, then, it’s worth it

        Thank you so much for your advice. This is all so new and confusing. I left a Mac many years ago due to a PC husband, and got used to it, and Windows 8 drives me nuts and it’s just too visual….too much. If I wanted an Apple product, I would have bought one. I liked Windows because it was straightforward. I have not updated to 8.1 yet.


      • Ludwig says:

        First: Go ahead and update to Windows 8.1. It takes a while, but it is worth the time.
        2 – To get the search bar hold down the Windows logo key on the keyboard and while still holding it down press the S key.
        When you want to import, open Photo Gallery, connect your camera (or memory card), click Import in the Photo Gallery ribbon (upper left).
        Good luck!

  6. David says:

    My newer PC came with Windows 8, not very user friendly to me, but I have managed now to use it. Then I get a notice to download Windows 8.1 and did so. Took quite a while and when finally finished and rebooted, pictures on my desktop where now shows a black picture space that when clicked on will open to the picture. Same as all pictures I have in other albums.
    Very frustrating as to see what is what if the picture was not named and just uploaded from the memory card.

    • Ludwig says:

      I have not seen this problem. Please reboot once more. If you still have this problem please get in touch with me. Click Ask Ludwig in the menu bar at the top of this page, then in the Ask Ludwig blog click Ask Ludwig in the sidebar, upper right.

  7. Christoph says:

    I stumbled over your post when searching a way to deselect a bunch of photos from the import dialog of the new photo app, which is as you said rather useless. Fortunately, there is a way to get the old import dialog back: If the camera shows up in Windows Explorer, one can open it as portable device in the context menu in the tree view on the left. After that, the device is shown a second time. This second occurrence of the drive has the import option in its context menu. It is quite annoying to get there, but at least I can control the import process and deselect more than one picture at a time…

  8. Rosie says:

    Perhaps you could offer a solution to my problem. I only have my windows 8 photo app to import pictures from my camera to my computer BUT when I get as far as checking the picture on the screen (after plugging in my camera) to import that picture and select import on bottom right of screen – I do not have a line that allows me to name the file or a blue box with “import” in it or black box with “cancel” in it. It just does not show up at the bottom of my screen.

    • Ludwig says:

      Hello Rosie,
      Yep, the Windows 8 photo importer is just a cheap, dumb toy. When you click import it goes and makes a new folder in your “My Pictures” folder, and then imports the photos from your camera. Note that the photos that it finds on your camera are shown in tiles and there is a check mark on each. You can uncheck a particular photo (or more). If you want more control, go ahead and install Photo Gallery. You can find it at

  9. John says:

    Windows Essentials?

    • Ludwig says:

      Yes, Windows Essentials is still available and Photo Gallery, Mail, and some other components work fine on Windows 8.1. With these Windows 8.1 is almost as good as Windows 7.

  10. Art Speegle says:

    I just lost my Dell Dimension 2400 WIN XP to blue screen, I was also using external hard drive as backup using Memeo.. it is a Seagate Free Agent GOFLEX Desk 2TB USB 2.0 3.5″. After losing my Dell to blue screen I purchased a Toshiba L75D-7283 WIN 8.1 Laptop. I do not like 8.1…Anyway to get to the problem… I wanted to copy my pictures and documents from the external hard drive into the pictures and documents of 8.1..Got to the Pictures Gallery on the 8.1 and found import and my device (Seagate) and proceeded to import…took a while… 22,120 files. Then the file stopped and home logo came up on picture gallery and clicked on it and there is only one picture on the gallery, one that I had taken from current Facebook page and placed in the file.
    Can not find the files on 8.1 at all and went back to the Seagate and no longer find them there either. Did I just lose all of my pictures and documents trying to import??? H E L P !!!

    • Ludwig says:

      Do not do anything to the Seagate drive!! You photos are still there but may be marked “deleted”. They can be recovered.

      What format are your photos in? Windows 8.1 may not have a codec for your photo format – let’s hope that is the problem. Don’t use the default picture gallery in Windows 8.1 – it is rotten at best. Go to the desktop, open File Explorer – should be on the taskbar. Look in Pictures – My Pictures. The files should be there. Let me know if they are, let me know if they are not. Please contact me – click Ask Ludwig on the menu bar above then in upper right area find “Click here … to Ask Ludwig”. I will try and help you through this crisis.

  11. Art Speegle says:

    Anyone ?

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