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

Digital cameras often include software to download pictures. Good or bad, the big secret is that you may not need software to download pictures at all.

I bought a digital camera. I installed the driver and all was well, but when I went to transfer the pictures I'd taken, I got the blue screen of death. I've tried everything. Did I do something wrong? Is the driver corrupt? Or is the camera just a piece of junk?

It's unlikely that you did anything wrong, and it's also unlikely that your camera is a piece of junk. Both are possible, of course, but unlikely.

You can see where my suspicions are heading: the software.

Let's look at what you might try. I'll also cover what I think is an important criteria when selecting a digital camera: no required software to install.

You didn't indicate what camera you're using or from what manufacturer. I would definitely start by visiting the manufacturer's web site and seeing if there are update drivers and software available for the camera.

Another resource, while you're there, are support forums. Many camera manufacturers include discussion forums where owners can ask questions and get support from each other and often company representatives.

I'd also make sure that Windows itself was up to date. This is less likely to affect photo downloads, but it can. A visit to Windows Update is a good thing to do anyway.

There's one more option that I alluded to earlier - in fact it's my preferred way of downloading photos from my camera.

I don't use the download software at all.

"If you're having trouble with your transfer program, you may be able to bypass it completely and simply copy the photos yourself."

Most digital cameras store their photos on removable media. Many format their media such that they are compatible with PCs, and simply store each photo or video clip as a file on the media. In this case, there's often no need for transfer software at all. You can simply copy the files.

As an example, my Canon SD600 (which I'm exceptionally pleased with, by the way) saves images on to an SD RAM card. So, instead of cables or confusing (or broken) software, I simply remove the SD card from the camera, insert it into an SD card reader on my PC, and copy the files from the card to my PC's hard disk. From there I can use my favorite photo viewing or editing software, or upload the photos to the web. In fact, I can do pretty much everything that I could had I used the bundled transfer software.

If you're having trouble with your transfer program, you may be able to bypass it completely and simply copy the photos yourself.

Personally, it's now my requirement that any camera I purchase have this ability. It boils down to only those two things:

  • The camera uses standard removable media

  • That removable media can be read by a PC

In my case I have a USB 8-in-1 reader that handles SD-RAM cards as well as Compact Flash, Memory Sticks and probably several other types I'm not even aware of. In fact, these adapters are inexpensive, so I keep two connected to two different computers at home, as well as another adapter with my laptop for when I'm on the road.

So if I never even install the bundled software, what am I missing, and why do they include it at all? There's typically a big scary label that says "Install Me First!" on the CD, one would think it was critical.

More often than not, it's not required.

Now, to be honest, file copying isn't quite for everyone. I believe it's an important skill to understand, but not everyone wants to learn about files, USB adapters and so on. They just want to plug the camera in and have it work. The quality of the software varies dramatically from vendor to vendor, but that's one of the goals of the bundled software - plug the camera in and have it work. Quite often that's quite literally all you need do: plug in your camera and the right software automatically starts up and leads you by the hand through the process. (Unless, as in your case, it crashes or blue screens - hence my comment on the quality varying widely.)

Another reason for the bundled software is to upsell you on additional services and features. Rarely is a photo transfer program the only thing that gets installed. Often included are offers and advertisements for services, add-ons and other extra-cost features. Sometimes they're quite well targeted - photo finishing services, for example, for people that might want hard copy of their digital pictures. Personally, it's just more advertising that I don't need or want cluttering my machine.

Article C2812 - October 16, 2006 « »

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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.

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