Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Digital cameras are often accompanied with software that you are encouraged to install first. Often it's not required; I'll show you the alternative.

I just bought An Acer NetBook plus a Canon SX 20IS to use on vacation this summer. The software with the SX 20IS cannot be used on the NetBook due to the NetBook resolution of 1024 x 600. Canon needs 1024x768 resolutions. This concerns all NetBooks manufacturers. That means millions of NetBooks lack resolution for new digital cameras. The NetBook manufacturers point the finger and the camera manufacturers and vice versa. Is there a fix somewhere?


I can't fix the software or the netbook, but for most cameras I can fix the scenario.

It feels like some deep dark secret, but for most cameras there's a very simple solution. It's so simple that it's exactly what I've done over the course of several cameras myself.

The not-so-deep-dark-secret?

Use the camera, just don't use the software.

What most people don't realize is that for most current cameras the software that's included with the camera is unnecessary for most purposes. (The same is actually true for many other devices, but I'll focus on digital cameras for this discussion.)

"Use the camera, just don't use the software."

Don't install it.

Great. I can hear you asking "but how do I get my photos from my camera to my computer?"

Typically, one of a handful of ways:

The camera as a disk drive. Connect your camera to your computer using the cable that comes with it (typically a USB cable). The memory card within many cameras may then simply appear to your computer as an additional drive. Fire up Windows Explorer and you may find a new drive - perhaps "G:" or "E:" or some other letter that you previously didn't have, and on that you'll likely find a folder "DCIM", and in there additional folders.

And in there?

Your pictures.

As files. Typically ".jpg" files, sometimes other formats, but they're there. Just files.

Files you can then copy to your computer yourself.

The camera as a device. Connect the camera to your computer and Windows may automatically install drivers (it might ask for drivers in which case I'd let it search Windows Update first, but failing that you can use the CD that came with your camera - if the necessary drivers there only the drivers will be installed). Once completed fire up Windows Explorer. You may find not a drive, but a separate removable device. Double click on it and you'll once again likely find a folder "DCIM", and in there ...

Your pictures.

As files you can then copy to your computer yourself.

The memory card as a drive. If your computer doesn't already have one, get yourself a memory card reader that you can connect to your computer that will read the memory cards used by your camera. This is what I do - I have a 16-in-1 USB reader that will read 16 different kinds of memory cards. I take the memory card out of my camera, insert it into the memory card reader and fire up Windows Explorer. Once again you may find a new drive that you previously didn't have, and on that drive you'll likely find a folder "DCIM" and your pictures as files you can then copy to your computer yourself.

All without having installed any of the software that might have come with the camera.

So why is that software included at all?

A few possible reasons:

  • Sometimes the techniques above don't work. Sometimes, particularly with older cameras, the pictures are maintained in a proprietary non-standard format, and the manufacturer's software is required to access or decode your pictures into the more common formats that you can actually use. Personally, I would now avoid cameras that do this - there's simply no need for it.

  • The manufacturer is trying to be helpful by providing software that they believe is easier to use than the techniques I've listed above. Sometimes it really is, sometimes ... not so much.

  • The manufacturer is trying to install additional software to "up sell" you to services that you may or may not want. You can guess what I think of this practice.

Now I most definitely save the CDs or other media on which the additional software is supplied with my camera. Sometimes you may find later that you do need something from the CD; perhaps a driver (as I mentioned above), or perhaps there is a piece of software that comes with it you may later decide you want.

But as for me: I connect my camera first, and worry about the software later, if ever.

A final note.

Figure It Out! Even if this article didn't help you, work to find something that does.

By that I mean whatever you do, figure out some way to copy the pictures off of your camera. If the pictures are only on your camera and you lose it or the memory card fails, you'll have lost all your pictures.

All of the principles of backing up apply here: if your data (your pictures) is in one and only one place you risk losing it all if that one place is lost.

Back up.

Article C4328 - May 30, 2010 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

May 30, 2010 2:47 PM

All true for simpler cameras. If you have a DLR camera and want to take pictures in RAW format, you will have to use the camera software (or PhotoShop) to process the RAW files. However, you do not have to run the software on the Netbook. You can install it on any computer regardless of what computer you used to unload your pictures.

May 30, 2010 6:18 PM

I have a Canon Powershot, which for some inane reason is based on TWAIN technology. I thought that was ancient history for digital cameras. I use Linux, which means there is NO software available for my computer--probably not even drivers.
Because of the use of TWAIN technology, neither of the first two options you mentioned work, but the third works like a champ. I found a multi-card reader at Cyberguys! which is roughly shaped like a USB thumb drive, so it doesn't add yet another cable to keep up with. I plug my SDHC card into the reader, plug the reader into a USB port just like I would a USB thumb drive, and it's instantly recognized as a drive. Not a byte of added software required.

June 1, 2010 8:27 AM

"All true for simpler cameras. If you have a DLR camera and want to take pictures in RAW format, you will have to use the camera software (or PhotoShop) to process the RAW files."

True, you'll need software to process them but any files, RAW or otherwise, can still be downloaded and stored as described above.

June 1, 2010 8:33 AM

With my Nikon, I use a card reader and simply import my photos into Picassa which is a free photo program.

June 1, 2010 8:34 AM

I tried all of that but the 'extra' drive did not appear in widows explorer. - nothing to open for the DCIM folder.

Went to start ->run ->typed E: and hit enter.

explorer window opened for drive E: with DCIM displayed.

Why no explorer?

June 1, 2010 8:48 AM

For the post-download processing, you can also use Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo or even the free Irfran software, even with RAW files. I also set my Nikon to produce .nef and .jpg files simultaneously. That just takes a little more file space, but give me the .jpg files for ready export to people who can's process the .nef files.

June 1, 2010 9:35 AM

Thanks for the timely info. I was hoping to find a solution that would work in my case. Due to recent camera purchases and one older digital camera, we now have 4 cameras all from different manufactures. I just did not want to load 4 different camera software packages on my computer in order to get our pictures out of the cameras.

June 1, 2010 9:40 AM

I have a Scandisk card reader which worked fine for SD memory cards up to 2 Gig. I am now working with 4 Gig+ cards and the old Scandisk won't read them.
I agree as you suggest, I plug my camera cable/USB (c/w 4 G chip)into the computer and it "takes over" - reads my card directly into BOTH my Photoshop Elements 5 as well as Picasa 3 - no problems.
Ergo - probably won't ever need to buy a card reader again.

Kenneth R. Purucker
June 1, 2010 9:50 AM

My desktop, hp netbook and laptop computers all have a built in SD card readers. I just insert the sd memory card and download into both picasa and kodak photo programs, which I have installed (both free programs) in all three computers, and there I have them ready to process. I also burn CDs of my photos for extra back up. The only hangup is that my older laptop won't accept the newer HC SD chips.

Gerald Allen Watkins
June 1, 2010 9:55 AM

I have the same problem but it is a cell phone and i can not use bluetooth it has blue tooth but wont download the phone is a samsung SCH-u340 and there is no usb access.

Jay Rubin
June 1, 2010 10:50 AM

To the guy who's trying to get photos from his cell phone (that has no USB access, no micro SD card, et. al) onto his computer: E-mail them from your cell phone to your computer. If you don't subscribe to your cell phone service provider e-mail, each e-mail may cost $0.05-$0.10 each.

June 1, 2010 11:30 AM

great Leo, you said exactly what I would have, and have, I recall someone who was bemused after installing the supplied software which came with her camera, she connected the camera, the program started, asked her a question, probably do you want to download etc etc, well of course she did, trouble was, she then couldn't find them. Like you I prefer to be in control, so I showed her how to do it without the cameras program, and removed it, incedentally, 4gb sd card is hdsd, you need a reader branded to read hdsd.
Great site, many thanks

Terry Hollett
June 2, 2010 3:26 AM

Sometimes there is a camera setting that can interfere. My Sister had a camera that had USB settings in the menu. If it was set to camera the software would open automatically, but when set to USB drive it would set up as an extra drive.

Also I like to point out that some printers have the card readers built in as well. I have a Canon printer/scanner combo that has a number of these slots built in.

Joe Karlo Dubouzet Seva
June 2, 2010 4:43 AM

Yes I agree with one of the commenter here. There are picture softwares that can detect cameras when plugged in into the PC one of the many is the ACDSEE softwares. For cellphones without usb connection you can have the files copied on a CD on a Photo developer like Kodak.

Bernard Cawley
June 2, 2010 3:11 PM

We have two Acer netbooks in the house and we have, in the family, three Canon digital cameras. The simplest way is the short version of Leo's third option: Take the SD card out of the camera and put it into the SD slot in the right hand side of the Acer. The card will be mounted as a removable drive and you can go from there to Picasa or Elements or just to copy the files to the hard drive for viewing/printing/manipulating - and of course backup - later.

Kaye Maserang
June 4, 2010 10:23 PM

I have an Olympus digital camera that is older than my Dell 4600 PC. The camera came with a USB cord and and an AC adaptor cord! How do I download the pictures? The computer had Dell Image Expert Supported Camer1.0 preloaded. I open my Irfanview program, choose Dell Image Expert as the TWAIN source, and then select "Acquire/Batch scanning" from the File menu. All of the thumbnails download and I can download a full-size image of each one separately, rename and save to My Pictures, then delete them all from my camera. Later, I open each saved JPG in Irfanview and edit the images.

Henry Barnett
June 8, 2010 10:21 AM

Most camera manufacturers software are just basic ones. I have 2 cameras/ Nikon D80 SD card and a small compact with a Micro SD card and a cell phone also with a Micro SD card. I have always either taken out the cards and plugged them directly into my PC (The micro SD card has to go into a converter first - easily found)Or used a USB connection, pressed the Windows button (keyboard bottom left) and "E" together which opens Explorer. The advantage is that I can choose the folder I want them stored in or make a new one if needed. When you have 10,000 images that's important.I can also use the same software for organizing and editing all my image files. For the cell phone don't forget to get the images onto the card first or bluetooth them over.

Julie M
July 7, 2010 3:35 AM

I had the card reader from the camera go bad.
The software would not work.
BUT, I use the card reader slot that's on my HP Printer and it's no problem at all. A quick and no-cost solution.

Susan P
September 1, 2010 11:34 AM

I cannot get my Nikon D5000 to download pictures to my computer I know the device drivers are installed as they show up when I look but I deleted all the nikon software and when I hook the camera up with the USB cable and turn it on I here a noise but nothing happens. Please HELP

Chances are the camera now simply appears as an additional disk drive on your system. Just copy the files manually.

November 7, 2011 8:44 AM

Hello. After many years I have finally managed to download images from my Goodmans G-SHOT 2027TFT camera with my newly purchased USB Multi Card reader. The software that came with the camera for some reason has never worked on my PC. Also USB to the camera got lost. The problem was never sorted out wth Goodmans. I googled for help and Leo has sorted me out. Thank you

April 3, 2013 8:37 AM

I have a nikon coolpix, I transfer the photos from the camera to the pc. At that point I see that the photos could appear. After removing the camera the pictures are in short cut and later I could not open the pictures It indicates software is supported.
I even connected the camera back but of no use since i formated the camera
How to open the photos /

April 17, 2013 11:06 AM

I've a Canon A1100IS and connect to my XP system via USB. Wizzard automatically comes up, reads all pics on camera, asks me which ones, and where to store, and then FINISH. Perfect - 1-2-3 - all done. I never installed the Canon software having read that my system would automatically read my camera when connected. However, I do have an AVI (video) file which is too large to transfer to a CD, and too large to email. Now, I've erased it from my camera, and its stuck on my almost full disk drive. Ugh...I'm stuck. Can't I send it to the "cloud" somewhere and have them store it?

Mark J
April 18, 2013 12:37 AM

If it can't fit on a CD you can try a DVD. A normal DVD holds 4.7GB , and a double density DVD holds 9.4GB. Otherwise you can get a USB pen drive with a capacity that can hold it. My personal suggestion would be to get an external hard drive, which you can use back up your computer in the event of a crash.

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to to ask your question.