PSA: Google may penalise you for using Auto-Backup

tl;dr: if you upload a large number of photos Google may stop you uploading new photos to Google Plus. I’m not sure how long the penalty stays in place or if it is lifted at all.

A few weeks ago I decided to use the desktop Auto Backup tool to make a copy of my photo archive on G+. I have over 155,000 photos but I have a relatively slow upload speed of about 50KB/s so I knew it would take a while.

The upload was working fine, Google Awesome started doing it’s #Awesome job making animated GIFs and enhancing photos. Old photos I hadn’t seen in years popped up in stories and animations and I shared some of them too. It all came to a crashing halt last weekend. My photo archive on G+ stands at just over 100,000 images.

First of all the auto backup app stopped working. It did this a few times but by restarting the upload worked again. Not so this time. Then I noticed photos from my phone weren’t being backed up to G+.

I then tried uploading a photo from my photoblog four days ago but that failed too!

Here’s what happens if I try to upload a photo and share it on Google Plus:

Google Plus upload failed

Here’s what it looks like when I try to upload files to the photo uploader:

Google Plus: photo upload server rejected

I did find this post by Brian Rose from 2011 which appears to be the only place a Google employee has discussed these limits. Unfortunately it’s not clear if this is a temporary cool down or permanent ban on uploading.

Hi everyone, thanks for your kindly emails. 🙂 The original issue reported here should have been resolved in July 2011, but our team has created additional confusion because Picasa uses a generic “Server rejected” error message rather than a more specific error code. There are limits to both filesizes per video (up to 1 GB) and to the number of bytes you upload to your Google account in a certain timeframe. I can’t provide exact details about those limits because they help us address abuse, but the more recent reports I see in this thread look more like what is reported at

That’s also a long thread, so to summarize:
If you’re trying to transfer a large quantity of photos (totaling well over 1 GB) in a short amount of time, you may see our Error 17 or Server rejected errors.
Photos that are uploaded to Picasa Web are saved on your Google account, they do not need to be re-uploaded to Google+. A photo you upload to Picasa Web will be accessible from Google+, and vice versa.
This isn’t related to the amount of free space you have in your storage quota, it’s about the number of bytes you’re pushing to your Google account in a certain timeframe. Deleting photos to free up space shouldn’t have any positive effect.
We’re constantly monitoring how many people hit these server errors and making tweaks to improve the experience for people who regularly share many photos or videos. Since this thread no longer addresses the original issue reported, I’ll lock this discussion to new replies but you can continue discussing this on the thread I linked to above at, thanks.

I found out I can upload files to Google Drive and share them from there but that’s hardly a suitable alternative.

So, why doesn’t the Auto Backup desktop app warn us that this might happen? I’m not the only one to hit this. Comments on this post suggests it might be a temporary ban of 14-30 days but I suspect that’s only a guess.


Meanwhile, Google is still trying to get me to use Auto Backup!

9 thoughts on “PSA: Google may penalise you for using Auto-Backup

  1. I still can’t upload any files but somehow photo sphere images were uploaded but I didn’t get any notification of the uploads. It was only when Google Awesome did it’s thing that I got a notification.

    Also, an image sent via Hangouts was uploaded, so that’s a way to get around the upload ban…

  2. I had a similar problem with + and a plugin. My plugin ‘Social Link Machine” takes your articles from your websites and posts them to social links. It is random and i have it as every 24 hrs. Google + sent me an email saying I’m doing something they don’t like. As you know, they will never tell you exactly what you are doing wrong. I simply took + of of social link machine and manually post them to Google+ Look up “dictator” and you’ll see Google’s name.

  3. This evening I can upload to G+ again. My phone backed up two photos I took of the evening sky, and I was able to make a post with an uploaded image!

    So, if you upload too many photos Google will automatically ban you from uploading any more for 2 weeks. Now you know. Except you don’t. I have no idea how many is “too many photos”.

  4. Had this exact experience. All I did was install google auto updater for my desktop. Really annoying and frustrating as I can’t upload any more photos from anywhere.

    What’s odd is that I’m also using google+ for iOS and that my camera roll uploader will still upload videos but none of my photos. Doesn’t say why, just “upload failed”. It’s this kind of lousy google experience that keeps me from switching to android.

    1. I wouldn’t let this stop you switching to Android. I’ve had Android handsets for years and I’m very happy with them!

      You could pick out any of a number of Apple issues to say the same about them.

  5. Is there a way to have auto backup on android devices without having to install Google+ app?

    You would think they could identify if a particular _machine_ is uploading copious amounts of data and block that for a while, which would let your other devices that are snapping photos here and there to continue backing up (without the constant upload drag happening)

  6. I reinstalled the backup app some time ago and it started working this morning so I pointed it at my growing 2015 directory but it only found 113 images. Turns out it doesn’t understand raw DNG files, which is odd because it was able to decode Canon’s proprietary CR2 files. The files it found were DNG files I had converted to demosaiced lossy DNGs.

    I pointed the backup app at my output directory instead which is full of Jpeg files.

  7. This same thing appears to be happening with the new Google Photos. I’ve been using the Google+ Auto Backup on my phone for quite some time without issue. However, recently I installed the Destop Uploader and have pointed it to my 75k photos. It seemed to be chugging away nicely for almost a week. But now, nothing is getting backed up anymore. Not even on my phone.

    I realize that this is a free service, but I just wish they would publish their unofficial limits some place.

    1. Ouch, sorry to hear that Frank. If you remember, can you leave a comment here again when they lift the ban? It looks like it might be for two weeks.

      My upload is dreadful so I’ve only uploaded around 1,000 images, and with Backblaze running too hopefully it’s slow enough that it won’t annoy them. Having said that, a colleague at work uploaded tens of thousands of images without problem so maybe it’s a random thing Google does. 🙁

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