Look out! This is a warning to everyone who has ever bought a digital camera, and for all those future digital camera purchases. Don’t install the software! The first thing many readers are saying is, “Wait if I don’t install the software, how do I get my photos and movies off the camera?”

Here’s a secret the camera manufacturers don’t want you to know, you already have that software in most cases. That’s right, the cat is out of the bag. Now any good hardware company will argue you “need” their software but in reality  you don’t. Unless of course you do, tricky camera makers.

A few weeks ago a Techlife reader was taking their new camera out for a spin. They shot some photos and recorded some video and got back to the computer to transfer it. Lo and behold they had never installed the included software so they asked me if they should. What do you think I would say? The title of this column should clue you in.

“How do I get my photos and video off the camera then?” they asked.

Cameras are big thumbdrives

Cameras are truly big storage device enclosures with a lens. Obviously they do much more, but to your computer they are just another drive. If you pop out the portable storage often times an SD card,  a computer can accept them with a USB card reader. The camera company often preaches for a user to connect the camera via included cable directly to the PC. Of course then the more modern operating systems attempt to detect the type of camera and then offer a dialog asking what you want to do.

Since most start up guides explain you should install their software first, the dialog box has you naturally choosing the “camera software”. But look at the dialog box from the Techlife computer (see image). Notice the Secure Digital Storage Device, that’s the card taken out of the camera and put in the computers SD card reader.  I then have three Picture Options and some other General Options.  The simplest option is often the best.

How to get your Photos without Camera Software

  1. Under General Options choose Open folder to view files
  2. You will see a basic folder view with all the files
  3. Simply choose the images you want and copy them to the folder on your computer
  4. Then delete the files off the SD card

No additional software was needed. It was easy and something most users are comfortable with doing; copying files from one place to another.

Camera Makers Fight Back

Bringing us back to the Techlife reader, who followed this How to with ease for their photos. Then asked about the movie files.  After careful review it seems the camera shipped from the manufacturer set to record in a non-standard format. Worse there was no mention of this anywhere and the only way to access the few movies were, you guessed it, the software that shipped with the camera. The simple fix, switch the camera to record in a standard movie format and ignore the installed software once again.

New Camera? File Basics

For all new camera purchases, take a few test shots and test movies before you do anything.  If your the files are easy to copy to your computer with the additional software great. You’re done. If they aren’t, change the file format the camera saves in and try again until you do.  In the end the camera should have files that allow you do use the software you want to modify the still images and the movies, not the other way around.

And what of our Techlife reader? Happy to report the movies are now set to record in a standard format, and we should see a lot of new cat videos on YouTube.