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Google Photos Stuck on “Setting Up Your Photo Library”? Here’s How to Fix It

Google Photos is a great way to store your photos and videos. Features like powerful facial recognition and smart search make it a joy to use. It only takes Google Photos a couple of minutes to retrieve your photos when setting it up on a new device, that is if you manage to not run into the infamous “Setting Up Your Photo Library” bug.


What seems like a helpful prompt indicating that the app has been trying to gather all of your media can turn into a never-ending wait. If you’ve been unable to access your photo library on Google Photos due to it being stuck on this message, we have a few solutions that ought to fix the issue.

What Does “Setting Up Your Photo Library” Mean?

Every time you install Google Photos on a new Android device or perhaps log into another account, the app takes a while before it displays your photos and videos. This is a pretty standard delay that is to be expected while syncing media files stored in the cloud. Typically, the “Setting Up Your Photo Library” prompt goes away on its own once your photos are all loaded.

This depends on your internet connectivity as well as the size of your Google Photos backup. With a decent internet connection, you can expect your photo library to be ready in 5-10 minutes.

However, if a significant amount of time has passed with no new photos being added to your library, chances are that Google Photos needs a little assistance from your end to complete the job.

The Culprit: Zero-Byte Files

The most likely reason for this bug to arise is the existence of zero-byte images and videos from a WhatsApp backup stored on your device. Simply put, zero-byte files are those that have no data stored in them. These may be documents, photos, or videos that serve no purpose other than hindering other apps from accessing your phone’s internal storage.

Deleting these redundant files has proven to fix the broken photo library in Google Photos. You can either connect your phone to a computer and delete these files manually, sorting them by size, or use a terminal app and a few commands to do it directly on your Android device.

However, we will be keeping this step for the end, since there are other easier workarounds that just might do the trick for you.

1. Update the Google Photos App

Apps on our smartphones have always relied on updates and bug fixes to provide the best experience. Publishers like Google spend a good amount of time adding new features to their apps and squishing known bugs. When setting up a new device, preloaded apps such as Google Photos are often an update or two behind. Updating them to the latest version available is a good place to start when facing such issues.

  1. Open the Google Play Store on your phone.
  2. Tap on your avatar to the right of the search box and select the Manage your apps & device option. This is where you can see any available app updates.
  3. Simply tap on update all. Alternatively, you can choose to update just the Google Photos app for the time being—assuming it has an update available.
  4. Launch the Google Photos app after the update’s done and see if this fixes the issue.

2. Enable Network Access for Google Photos

With the growing concern for privacy and security, Android has seen remarkable improvements in how the system handles permissions on a per-app basis. This can, unfortunately, prevent some apps from accessing needful permissions.

Both the Network Access and Background Data permissions are required by the Google Photos app to load up your photo library in one piece and keep it updated.

  1. Open Settings on your phone and navigate to Apps > See all apps.
  2. From the extensive list of apps you’ve got installed, select Google Photos and tap on permissions.
  3. Make sure the network or Data Usage permission is allowed.
  4. Head back to the app info page, tap on Mobile data & Wi-Fi and check the background data toggle.
  5. Now relaunch Photos and see if your images will load.

3. Clear App Data and Cache

Clearing an app’s data sets it back to its default settings and is a process similar to uninstalling and reinstalling the app. This is a popular troubleshooting method widely used when tackling specific app issues.

  1. Open Settings and navigate to Apps > See all apps.
  2. Select Google Photos from the list and tap on Storage & caching.
  3. Tap on the Manage space or Clear Data option and select okay. Alternatively, you can clear only the cache to see if that’s enough to fix the issue.

4. Delete Zero-Byte Files Using a Terminal App

If all else fails, you can use terminal commands to delete zero-byte files stored in the WhatsApp media folder. A Terminal app allows you to use commands to automate Android tasks that are otherwise monotonous and time-consuming.

You can download any one of the many good terminal apps for Android, but for the sake of this demonstration, we will be using Termux.

Download: Termux (Free)

  1. Open Termux and grant it Storage Permissions when prompted. In case the app doesn’t ask for any permissions, you’ll have to do it manually.
    1. Go to Settings on your phone, navigate to Apps > See all apps, and scroll down to find Termux. Tap on it to open the app info settings, and under the permissions tab make sure that the files and media permission is allowed.
  2. Open Termux and type in the following command to target the WhatsApp folder:
    cd /storage/emulated/0/Android/media/com.whatsapp/WhatsApp/Media
  3. Finally, enter the command below to find and delete all zero-byte files contained in the WhatsApp folder:
    find . -type f -size 0 -delete
  4. If everything went as it should, the terminal should display no errors. A quick reboot is all it is going to take before Google Photos springs back into action!

Enjoy Using Google Photos

Google Photos is an exceptional service when it’s not broken. While bugs like these might seem scary, you can sleep soundly knowing your photos and videos are stored safely on the cloud. In any case, we hope this guide was able to fix the problem for you to be on your way to enjoying the many features Google Photos has to offer!

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