After you've connected your camera or memory card to your computer, the next step depends on your computer's operating system and settings. Windows, Macintosh and most modern Linux systems have similar software and require similar steps. This page covers the "perfect picture" scenario for how to do this. If you have trouble using these steps, click over to the next page to see how to get past some common problems getting your camera connected and your photos transferred.
By default, your operating system constantly monitors your computer's USB ports to see if you've plugged in any compatible devices. Most modern operating systems respond immediately by discovering the device you've plugged in and mounting it. The system displays a message on the screen indicating it has found the device, and sometimes it will put a new icon on your desktop for that device. If you have connected the camera directly, you may need to turn on the camera before the computer can find it.
If it's the first time you've connected the USB device to your computer, the operating system will also determine what type of device it is (Canon PowerShot SD 400 or iPhone, for example). Then, it'll try to load the device drivers it needs to translate data back and forth with the device. After the device is loaded, it might also trigger one of two things, depending on what you've connected and how your system is configured:
- If you connected the camera directly, the operating system may launch software designed to upload photos from the camera, or ask you to choose between importing photos and other tasks.
- If you connected the memory card using a card reader, the operating system should mount the card's file system, which you can browse in your file manager, like Windows Explorer or Finder (in Mac).
For camera connections, just click the import button and the software will do the rest. If you want to be more selective, look at the options in your software. For memory cards, you can copy or move photo files from the card in your file manager the same way you would move files between local folders. In both cases, you can also delete the photo files from the camera memory to free up space for future photos.
How are you doing so far? If your computer mounts the USB device, but doesn't launch any software, again read the next page for hints on what you should do.
Wireless connections are a little different. If you're connecting over a Bluetooth connection, your operating system should automatically launch software that lets you interact with the device. If you're connecting over a WiFi connection, though, you'll need to use your operating system's native software to browse other computers on your local network. The device should show up on that network if it's connected properly. You can browse to the network device from there and find and copy the files you want.
After you've imported the photos, you can use them however you'd like. Also note that you should safely "unmount" or "eject" the device before disconnecting it so you don't accidentally corrupt any files the computer is still importing.
Note that the images are in whichever file format the digital camera creates, so you may need software designed to read those types of files. The next page covers this as part of checking and setting up the file associations for your camera's photo files.