Q: I have recently been “elected” to do some video recordings for a friend working for an admirable environmental cause. Is there a way that I can download the videos from her iPhone 4S to my PC for editing/processing? I have seen several “explanations” online which assume that the iPhone will show up on my computer as a video device or external storage device when connected by USB, but that simply does not happen. I have tried via iTunes as well, with no luck. She needs to have a presentation ready soon, including excerpts from her public presentation, and I am really stuck for a solution. Any guidance that you can provide will be greatly appreciated!

– Anonymous

A: The explanation that the iPhone should be accessible when connected via USB is essentially the correct one, and this is the most straightforward way to copy the original, full-resolution photos and videos off of an iPhone or other iOS device.

Specifically, an iPhone should appear as a camera device, using the Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP). This means that it will not show up as a removable storage device, but should appear as a camera from which photos and videos can be imported in most photo or video processing apps. It should also appear, when connected, at the top level of Windows Explorer or in “My Computer” as a camera or portable device. Note that iTunes has nothing to do with this process, and actually cannot be used to import photos and videos from an iPhone.

For security reasons the iPhone will not show up as a camera if it is locked with a passcode; you will need to turn the screen on and enter the passcode before connecting the iPhone to the USB port on your computer—if you’ve already connected it, disconnect it, unlock it, and then reconnect it while still unlocked. Once connected, you should be able to simply browse into the iPhone via Windows Explorer, find the files you want, and copy them off from there. Windows may also offer to import the content for you automatically as soon as it detects the iPhone, depending on your configuration.

If you’ve tried these steps and the iPhone is not appearing properly on your computer, then the most likely cause is a configuration problem such as a conflict with another device driver that you have installed, such as a camera or scanner driver. You can troubleshoot this problem if you wish by uninstalling any unnecessary device drivers that you may have in Windows, or try using a different computer to see if you can transfer the videos there.

Alternatively, if troubleshooting the problem requires too much effort, you can look to third-party apps that can transfer your photos over Wi-Fi, but you will want to ensure that these do so in native resolution, rather than downsampling the videos. For example, videos sent out using the iPhone e-mail app are converted to a lower quality, as are videos uploaded from the Photos app to services such as YouTube. On the other hand, more purely file-oriented apps and services such as Dropbox will allow you to transfer the original videos up to cloud storage unmodified and they can then be downloaded from there. Even if you’re not already a Dropbox user, you can sign up for a free 2GB account and install the free Dropbox app just to facilitate this process, but note that it will take somewhat longer to transfer the videos as compared to a direct USB connection.