Internet Technology Explained

How Often Is Google Earth Updated?

Joe Keeley Updated 08-07-2020

Google Earth is a program and online tool to view the Earth in 3D. You can spin the globe and visit anywhere you want, right from the comfort of your home.

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Not only can you view the Earth from above, but you can also roam its streets too. You might be wondering how Google Earth collects all these images.

We’re going to tell you how Google Earth gets its images and how often Google Earth is updated.

What is Google Earth?

Google Earth

Google Earth lets you view a 3D representation of the Earth. You can freely spin the globe and zoom in to explore places. Alternatively, you can input a location name, address, or coordinates.

It’s different from Google Maps. “Google Maps is about finding your way. Google Earth is about getting lost,” says Gopal Shah, Google Earth’s product manager.

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You can even go on a virtual tour of the world with Google Earth Google Earth Tour Guide: 14 Virtual Tours You'll Want to Check Out Here are some of the best Google Earth virtual tours available. Travel to the world's most exotic places from your couch! Read More .

Google Earth combines all of Google’s powerful mapping tools. You can see place names, road markings, weather data, and more, all from within the tool.

Not only can you view flat satellite imagery, but you can also tilt the camera to get a 3D perspective. This isn’t available everywhere, but it’s an awesome experience for major cities and landscapes.

Google Earth is available for browsers How to Use Google Earth in a Browser Google Earth is available as a desktop app and mobile app, but what if you want to use Google Earth in a browser? Read More and for desktop. The desktop version offers more features, so that’s the one to use if you want to get the most from Google Earth. However, Google eventually intends to make the browser version the de facto choice.

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The History of Google Earth

Google Earth’s technology was first developed by Intrinsic Graphics before the turn of the millennium. The company was focussed on 3D gaming software libraries and it developed a demo of the spinning globe that you could zoom into.

Intrinsic Graphics span out into another company called Keyhole, which sold mapping software to companies in industries like urban planning and defense. The company was struggling until it struck a deal with CNN. Keyhole’s logo was prominently displayed during the analysis of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which gave them a needed publicity boost.

A year later, more than 25% of Google searches were related to maps or directions, and so Google bought Keyhole and went on to create Google Earth.

How Are Google Earth Images Collected?

Google Earth collects images through a variety of methods like satellite, aerial, and Street View photography.

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Satellites give the 2D global view of the Earth. These images are collected through lots of different third parties. As you view Google Earth, look at the bottom of the screen and you’ll see the copyright data. This tells you which company (or companies) provided those images.

For 3D photography, Google flies special aircraft that have lots of mounted cameras that can capture the necessary data and detail. This is only possible in areas where local and federal regulations permit it.

The Street View photography is what you might be familiar with from Google Maps. This is collected by cars mounted with cameras that literally drive around and capture the images.

How Often Is Google Earth Updated?

Google Earth doesn’t provide live imagery, so you can’t zoom in to your current location and wave at the camera. Instead, it creates a whole image of the Earth by piecing together millions of static images.

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Google collects some of its images from third parties, so the rate at which it can update parts of Google Earth is reliant on others.

There’s no schedule for how often Google Earth updates its images and there are various factors to take into account. Here are the main ones.

1. Location

Areas of interest or high density are more likely to be updated than rural villages. This is because these areas are prone to greater change, but also because these areas are the most frequently searched and viewed by users.

For example, New York will often be updated with high detail images because Google can fly their aircraft to collect imagery and there will be many third-party companies to provide satellite imagery.

2. Security

Some locations are rarely or never updated due to security reasons. The images of these places may be old, blurry, or entirely blacked out. This is often due to requests from governments or personal lawsuits.

Google might also stop updating a certain area if they discover that the imagery is being used for military intelligence or crime. The same goes for “no fly” zones and conflict areas.

3. Time and Money

Time and money are scarce resources. When you zoom in on Google Earth, to the point where you can see your car very clearly parked on your driveway, then that’s the work of aerial photography. However, if your house is a barely discernible brown blob amidst a landscape of psychedelic blurs, then that’s the work of a satellite suspended above the equator.

Obviously, it takes time for these aircraft to run those photography update missions. They are also run by a number of private companies, not by Google itself, so getting all these images pieced together takes even more time.

Not only does it take time, but it also costs money to collect these images, compile them, edit them, and upload them.

4. Weather

There’s no point snapping photos of a place that is constantly covered by clouds. There’d be nothing to see! As such, it can sometimes take time for Google to get clear shots that aren’t impeded by the weather.

An example of this is London. When Google wants to fly their aircraft to snap high resolution photos, they have to wait a long time to capture photos when it isn’t raining or overcast.

Request an Update to Google Earth Images

Google Earth feedback

You can ask Google to update an image on Google Earth.

First, navigate to the area that you would like to see updated. You then need to use the feedback tool. On the browser version, click the three horizontal lines icon, then click Feedback. On the desktop, go to Help > Send Feedback.

In the text field, input: I would like to recommend an imagery refresh.

Google compiles these requests to understand user interest. Sending a feedback request doesn’t guarantee that the image will be updated soon since it still depends on factors like image availability from third-parties and weather conditions.

How to View Historical Google Earth Images

Google Earth historical images

You must use the desktop version of Google Earth if you want to view historical images.

To do this, navigate to the area that you want to see historical images for. Then, click the clock icon in the top toolbar.

This places a slider in the top left of the screen. Click and drag this slider to move between different date ranges. Remote or less populated parts of the world will probably have fewer date ranges to choose from.

Since Google Earth compiles its images from various sets, the date range shown is the earliest from that set. Hover your cursor over the Earth and look at the Imagery Date information at the bottom of the screen to see the exact date of when that section was updated.

Also, take note that the 3D buildings won’t disappear automatically when viewing the old images. This means you’ll see things like the London Eye, which completed construction in 2000, appearing alongside 1945 images of London. To resolve this, deselect 3D Buildings on the Layers section to hide these for accuracy.

View Your House Using Google Earth

Google Earth is an incredibly powerful tool. We’re lucky to be able to view some of the world’s wonders and hidden corners with just a click. As it gets updated, it’ll continue to be an excellent historical record of how our Earth has changed.

For more tips on using Google Earth, here’s how to get a satellite view of your house with Google Earth How to Get a Satellite View of Your House Using Google Earth Want to go beyond Google Earth's satellite view of your house? Take advantage of Google Earth's high-definition satellite images. Read More .

Related topics: Geotagging, Google Earth, Google Maps.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Neil
    November 5, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    According to the Google Imaging folks, you can request an imagery update of an area by showing it on the screen and clicking Help > Send Feedback and telling them what you want. No guarantees, though.

  2. Gayle Schoville
    June 5, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    Living on the Big Island of Hawaii, it would be nice to have an update since the lava flow. Many areas are gone, streets have changed or have disappeared. So have many beaches, parks and homes.

  3. John Weaver
    December 22, 2018 at 11:25 am

    I have Google Earth Pro. However, the street/ground view imagery is still of 2003. I live on a large housing estate near the centre of Bridgend town in South Wales, so not in the backwoods or near a high security location. After 15 years, I would have expected an update. Any advice?

  4. Tommy Wilson
    August 29, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    And the area close to Tuscaloosa Alabama has not been updated since 2013.

  5. anonymous
    May 21, 2018 at 2:13 am

    Well google maps needs to be updated because I was looking for Puterko's Family Pizzeria and the photo on google maps looks nothing like what the family pizzeria looks like now. Puterko's family pizzeria is a new restaurant and if you look it up I would not look at it on google maps!

  6. Jamie hutchison
    March 29, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    I have not seen an update of the Glasgow Missouri area.. I would love to see an update of this area because I have owned it for 5 years now and would love to see the changes that has perspired..

  7. Deb
    February 8, 2018 at 2:54 am

    Our place in Texas hasn't been updated for over 5 years.

  8. Yusif
    January 18, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Ismayilli,Azerbaijan has not updated never.The satellite view related 2005.

  9. Jack
    October 18, 2017 at 8:20 am

    Our place in South Australia hasn't been updated for some five years or more. Still blurred.

  10. ALijah
    September 29, 2017 at 12:03 am

    I live in the suburbs of powder springs ,Georgia and it hasnt been updated in around 5 to 9 years

  11. Fran
    September 15, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    I live in a suburb of Montreal, Quebec, around 30 kms' distance. I'm surprised to see my little town get updated on a fairly regular basis. I am aware of at least 3 times, the most recent being sometime after July 15th, 2016 after we had our windows changed. The leaves are still on the trees and very green, so it was before autumn.

  12. Bev
    September 10, 2017 at 10:45 pm

    Saskatchewan, Canada has not been updated for approximately 8-10 years. On google earth the 4 lane highway is not open yet and that has been done now for at least 9 years! An update would be appreciated although I realize we are not a highly populated area.

    • M
      October 23, 2017 at 5:24 am

      Totally agree!!!!! Saskatchewan needs an update!!

    • M
      October 23, 2017 at 5:26 am

      Totally agree on Bevs comment about Saskatchewan!! Our province definitely needs an update!!

  13. Se
    September 3, 2017 at 12:45 am

    London , ilford area needs a good update. Its way to blurry

  14. Pat dpz
    August 14, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    Our city, legazpi city Albay have not been updated for 3 years and half of the city have imagery which is 10 years old. I would like to know how to, atleast call the attention of those who updates satellite imagery, I mean top view satellite imagery.

  15. Bob Guiliano
    July 20, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    I have checked our house and our little store and the picture are over six years old. Nothing updated. This good for general use

  16. Gareth Faulkner
    June 20, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    I would like to see 3D imagery in Ashford and suburban areas. I notice you have one or two buildings in 3D but not much else. Maidstone is covered and so is Canterbury it seems, are Ashford & Folkestone due for this conversion or will it stay 2D?

  17. Alison
    February 15, 2017 at 12:40 am

    My area has not updated for more than 5 years! Is there any way to prompt an update?

  18. Jason James
    January 21, 2017 at 3:39 am

    We were updated in the last 3-5 years. Thanks Google ;)

  19. Heather
    January 4, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    My house was last photographed in 2009. It's 110 years old. It is now 2017, and anytime anyone looks my house up, they're shocked by what a dump it is. In the last 5 years since I bought it, it has become a wonderful, landscaped home. Online, it looks like the unibomber lives in it. There's really nothing I've been able to do but hope people don't like me for my house.

  20. Rob
    December 4, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    I was looking at up and coming communities in Hudson Florida and all I see is sand when there are houses for sale. I'm curious if real estate is real or fake but last update there was feb 2008.

  21. Julia
    November 30, 2016 at 4:44 am

    In Sahuarita, AZ, many houses have been built and one of the middle schools has added fake grass. This was at least 4 years ago! I have moved since then but have visited the area so I know what it looks like. Google should update the images there. Also, a vacant lot is shown next to a super market which has been filled since the .

  22. Joe Swanson
    October 5, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    Blob

  23. Nancy M
    September 15, 2016 at 7:08 am

    This is September 2016 and our zip code 99676 has not been updated in 10 years!. It is a very
    picturesque area and we would like it updated.

  24. Chris D
    September 6, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    The picture of my farm in Somerset, England is pretty good, but is six years old and they've named it wrong as it shares the same postcode as the farm next to mine. I realise that big cities and more heavily populated areas need updating more often, but countryside areas need to be kept up to date as well, and named correctly.

  25. Anonymous
    August 13, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    My neighborhood hasn't been updated since 2012, a real bummer.

  26. J L
    May 29, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Imagery for my home is 4 years old. (Chino Valley, AZ)

    • Julia
      November 30, 2016 at 4:45 am

      Same for Sahuarita, AZ

  27. Anonymous
    July 26, 2015 at 11:14 pm

    One distorted and blurred area near us is The Broken Horn, a saddlery and horse tack store. I can't imagine why an establishment like this would be blurred out! Most users like to see our relatives homes, such as where did Aunt Mary and Uncle Ed move to when they retired to Florida, or look at our elementary school back east. Few of us of the general users want to look at Area 51 any more. Come to think of it, if it is an innocuous army base, why is it blurred out?

    • Anonymous
      April 16, 2016 at 12:21 pm

      It isn't blurred out.

  28. Anonymous
    June 12, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    I live in a subdivision in Madison, North Carolina... hasn't been updated since 2008. Google Earth view is way obsolete... nearly half of the houses in the area aren't shown. My address is tagged to the wrong house.

  29. Donnie McIntosh
    April 7, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    My address 39618 Twin Lakes RD Menahga, MN 56464 is located about
    A quarter mile east of where it actually is on Google Earth.

  30. Linda
    March 14, 2015 at 5:14 am

    looks like at least 7 years for me. Alaska wilderness.

  31. Fran
    February 25, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    My house in the Nevada desert hasn't been updated for over five years!

  32. Patricia Foster-Bissonnette
    January 25, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    Marquette michigan hasn't been updated since 2005 so when I'm researching vacation stops I assume they haven't been updated since 2005. I now use a map atlas since they update every year.

  33. tyler
    January 25, 2015 at 1:13 am

    they need to update Alabama

    • Fortina
      February 2, 2015 at 3:28 pm

      Alabama first needs to be brought into the 21st Century.

  34. John Stewart
    April 13, 2010 at 10:52 am

    I live in a small village called Hochstetten in south west Germany. A foot bridge over the local main road was opened in 2003 but the current Google Earth image of our village does not show the bridge. So, the current image is at least seven years old - quite out of date it would seem.

  35. Bernard Cooper
    March 23, 2010 at 7:16 am

    I see that you have Wrexham UK as in 'Clwyd'. The county of Clwyd was abolished some ten years ago and Wrexham is a County Borough (Unitary ~Authority).

  36. Saba Kamran
    March 22, 2010 at 12:11 am

    Great article!! I'm a fan of makeuseof.. :) I'm just a blob coz im from Pakistan. :p

  37. AJ
    March 11, 2010 at 6:28 am

    I have a place in Bulgaria, start build was 2006, still just a big field, looking forward to a new look

    AJ

  38. Bernd
    February 22, 2010 at 12:04 am

    I live in my house (in Germany) since 8 years and still the area is urban in google. According to your report I am at a very remote place. But that is not true.

    • Dean Sherwin
      February 23, 2010 at 4:02 am

      What is the population of your area? Maybe not many people there use Google Earth (if it;s an older demographic) so there isn't demand despite it being an urban area?

      Or maybe Google just haven't got around to it yet. In such large operations, there will always be places over looked unfortunately.

      - Dean.

  39. Tintent
    February 20, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    I've always found this a little strange. I live in a little town in SE Scotland. Google has never given us a picture we could make anything of. It's a satellite image, so has the "landscape of psychedelic blurs" you describe above but to add further insult, the picture was taken on a cloudy day!!!

    For years us locals had a theory that the lack of definition had something to do with the Nuclear Power Station just two minutes down the road. This theory was then blown apart by that other large American computer company who produced an aerial image I can almost read my number plate on (and that's when the car's parked outside the power station!).

    I guess we're just really boring!!

  40. FoxtrotRU
    February 16, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Very nice article!
    Always thought that Google update images depending on total views, search and zooms of areas.
    For me though it is very strange that one picture of Baikal Lake in Russia has never been updated - you can see something like a shoe lace on it 82 km long and 2km wide ;) 109,1025377866271E 53,85331381911297N

    • Dean Sherwin
      February 23, 2010 at 4:00 am

      Theres loads of places all over Russia and China which are never updated. Many people think it; because they have unreported submarines or installations there and their governments told them to 'stay away'. And Google does have to tread lightly. They're already backing out of China it would seem due to censorship, the last thing they need is to annoy the Kremlin.

      Anyway, I'd say it just because the areas are too remote and all these images which arouse suspicious are just shadows, ridges etc...

      - Dean.

  41. Bob H
    February 16, 2010 at 10:01 am

    My brother lives in the state of Washington and his subdivision used to be on Google Earth, but the current picture reverted to a pre-subdivision bulldozed piece of ground over three years ago and has never returned. The "Historical Imagery" feature now available allows him to go back to when GE did show his house, but the current view shows nothing at all. Attempts to bring this to the attention of GE via their web site have been to no avail.

  42. Dustin Harper
    February 16, 2010 at 8:25 am

    My town is fairly small, but it has been updated at least within the past 4-5 years. Not that great, but a lot better than I expected. Street view is funny, though. My town is considered a "gas station town"... And, that's exactly what the Google car did. Pulled into town, got gas, and left. :)

    I do notice that some high security areas (missile complexes, nuclear enrichment facilities, secret experiment area... Not too secret to locals, but supposed to be) aren't blurry. Probably because they don't show anything... Hanford, WA (nuclear fuel for weapons); Umatilla, OR (chemical weapons storage); NIKE missiles, Boeing test area for UAV's, bombing range, etc.... Not new images, but somewhat recent.

    Of course, I'm not sure about the accuracy. My brother in law's grass was green... Not sure if that was in this century or last.... :D

    • Dean Sherwin
      February 23, 2010 at 3:56 am

      Hi,

      From researching the topic, and trust me its a VERY grey area, Google only seem to distort images which could be used aggressively by others especially paramilitaries and terrorists.

      Arial images of things such as testing sites could easily be gotten my your or I by building a $250 homemade UAV or aerial photography balloon like those made by MIT.

      So I think they only blur the really sensitive areas.

      -Dean

  43. Radhika
    February 16, 2010 at 6:58 am

    Google Earth loosing importance,,,not updating

  44. Ylod Sean
    February 16, 2010 at 5:02 am

    Well it would be impossible, even for Google, to offer fresh images of every corner of the world. It makes sense to update more frequently the high searched areas, like New York

  45. DeLarge
    February 15, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    My city (Monterrey, Mexico) just got street view, meaning a great update on maps and google earth. Google earth history feature shows updates every 2-3 years, average, not bad for a non-US City.

    • Dean Sherwin
      February 23, 2010 at 3:53 am

      I'm still waiting for Street View to come to Dublin. Will be cool.

      Although I've used it to show relatives places they used to live when they were in the US. It's a really cool feature. Let;s hope Google keep expanding it!

      - Dean.

  46. Ian
    February 15, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Google has the only photographs of Arkansas, period, so I guess I can't complain too much.

  47. Peret
    February 15, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    A friend and I were playing around with GOogle Earth one night and looking for our homes....obviously done by a car driving by. Followed the camera pics down my road, until they got to the intersection just before my home...literally I could stand in my yard and throw a stone and hit the traffic light... instead of following the main road past my house, they hooked a left, and went off into the back remote area....and came out on the other side of my home and continued on the main road. I felt so gyped... they went right around my home!!!! I'm not there!

  48. D
    February 15, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    When indulging a curious moment, I was using google earth around the beverly hills area. How much do some celebrities pay to have google earth blur their estates? There were some that were definitely being blurred to the general public. Can't say I don't blame them.

    vpike.com is eerie. They get down to street level and take a picture of your neighborhood. They don't specify which house is a specific address so I onl;y hope I don't live across the street someone is looking for!

    • Dean Sherwin
      February 23, 2010 at 3:50 am

      I've never heard of celebrities paying to have their estates blurred. Bu I guess it makes sense - they wouldn't want the tabloids etc... having a birds eye view of their property and what they own etc...

      Interesting.

      Thanks D!

  49. Jonas
    February 15, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Very good article :) Can I translate it into French for my blog (xoodeo.com) ?

    • Dean Sherwin
      February 23, 2010 at 3:51 am

      Hi Jonas,

      MUO policy is to not allow reprints of articles. However, if you wish to have it reviewed on a case basis if you think you site will bring traffic, I suggest contacting Aibek, Mark or Jackson.

      Thanks.
      Dean.

  50. Nick
    February 15, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    My house doesn't even exist according to Google Earth. The dirt lot is shown, but the house itself is nowhere to be seen. But, my house was only built two years ago, so I guess it makes sense :P

    • prattmic
      February 15, 2010 at 7:28 pm

      Half of my neighborhood isn't even built in my image. Google Earth says it is from Feb 2002, which sounds about right.

  51. JK III
    February 15, 2010 at 11:44 am

    1 to 3 years! Now suddenly Google Earth seems less fun :(