– Ben Martens


Apps like OneDrive and Dropbox are good at syncing your files to the cloud, but what if your scenario is a little more complicated? I ended up with one such scenario due to my cheapskate reasons for wanting to keep an old Pixel phone for its free Google photos storage.

My old Pixel 4a has lifetime free photo storage on Google Photos. Any photo I upload from that phone is free whether it originated there or not. So that means that I need to take all the photos off of our new phones and push them to the old phone. I also like to keep a full resolution copy of all our photos on our file server. I had a manual way of making this work before, but this past week, I found something that seems to be working a little smoother.

There is an open source app called Syncthing. It’s available for most platforms, and while it’s not as user friendly as other options, it is pretty straightforward and has a lot of knobs for adjustment. The basic setup is this:

Syncthing runs on each of our phones. It’s configured to watch for any camera photos or other image files like screenshots or text message pictures that we save. When we’re connected to WiFi, those files get sent to our file server at home which is also running Syncthing. The file server saves them all to disk and then also sends them out to the old Pixel 4a. The Pixel 4a is also running Syncthing and is setup to receive files from the file server. It writes them to a folder on the phone and then Google Photos sees those new files and uploads them to our Google Photos account. Every file goes new phone to file server to old phone to Google Photos. It’s a lot of movement, but it’s automated.

The only hiccup is that the old Pixel 4a runs two user profiles (one for Tyla and one for me.) So I have to periodically flip back and forth between the profiles to let the syncing happen, but that’s a lot easier than it used to be.