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Issue #789: September 4-10, 2022

Q: I am having trouble syncing my Windows 10 HP laptop with iCloud photos. I have spent hours on the phone with Apple help and haven’t solved the problem. I have about 80,000 photos on my computer and decided to use the iCloud to facilitate sharing the photos with our family who use Apple devices. Most of the photos uploaded to the iCloud just fine but lots of them say “Excluded (not synced)” when I put the cursor on the file name. New photos taken with my iPhone go to the iCloud from my phone but they never get synced to my Windows 10 laptop. I can see new photos at Two issues, some old photos don’t upload from PC to iCloud and new photos don’t download to PC from iCloud. The iCloud app on the PC says it was updated Jan 26, 2022. This was the date that I restored all my photos from a backup after the Apple support rep suggested that I logout of the iCloud, delete the app, delete all my photos and reinstall the iCloud app, restore my photos and then log into the iCloud again. It took a couple of weeks to get all of photos restored and most of them uploaded to the iCloud afterwards. I have this problem with HEIC, PNG and JPEG photos.

 – Phil R.
Niceville, Florida

A: There are a few common issues that can cause iCloud to fail to fully sync with Windows, Phil.  I’ll discuss them below, and I hope one of them will solve your problem. Before I get to those discussions, I just have to say: wow!  80,000?  That’s a lot of pictures!  If you took 10 pictures a day, every single day for 20 years, you still wouldn’t have that many.  It’s possible that the sheer volume of pictures is overwhelming your iCloud, especially since you strongly implied that other accounts are also syncing your pictures.

There is a lot of information missing from your question that might have helped me to give a more rational response.  Among these would be how much iCloud space you pay for above and beyond the 5 gigabytes of free storage that comes with each iCloud account.  Another would be the resolution at which you take and store pictures.  A typical iPhone photo is around 3 megabytes in size.  This can easily jump to over 10 megabytes, depending on other features, such as HDR (high dynamic range) and iPhone’s live picture feature.  Even at the average 3 MB I mentioned above, 80,000 pictures would amount to a whopping 240 gigabytes of storage. That’s a whopping 48 times the amount of storage that comes free with your iCloud account.  What I’m trying to say with all these large numbers is that you should check the available storage in your iCloud.  If your storage is full, it figures that photos will fail to upload at some point.

Another thing that can interfere with the synchronization of pictures is the length of each picture’s fully qualified file name.  This is the combination of drive letter, path, filename, and file extension.  The combined length of all these things may not exceed 255 characters, which sounds like a lot, unless you use a lot of long folder names, or a complex folder hierarchy to keep your pictures sorted.  So, check your file paths to make sure you don’t exceed the maximum length when the file’s name is included.

It’s possible that none of the above are the problem.  One possible remedy I read about while researching your issue is to create a new folder and move all the obstinate files into it.  I’m not sure why that would help, but the rules Apple uses to decide which files are “Excluded (not synced)” aren’t fully clear.  Perhaps there’s some limit on the number of files, or the aggregated size, and when that threshold is reached, the rest fail.  If that truly is the case, you will eventually experience the same behavior with the new folder.

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