How to go back in time on Google Earth

Google apps like Earth, Street View and Maps have completely changed the way we navigate and allows us to find, watch and “visit” places around the world from the comfort of our own home. While people use Maps and Street View more often than not, Google Earth is intended for the occasional “traveler”. It opens up the world with satellite and aerial images to provide 3D images of places. What if you wanted to see what a region looked like 10, 20 or 30 years ago? Google Earth also allows you to do this. Here’s how to go back in time on Google Earth!


To go back in time on Google Earth, you will need to download and use the desktop app. Use the Research bar in the left panel to find a location and see its current images. Click the clock icon in the toolbar and use the time slider to go back in time. This feature is not available when using the Google Earth mobile app or website. But you can use them to watch predefined time intervals of historical events.


How to Go Back in Time on the Google Earth Desktop App

Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority

Go Back in Time is only available with the desktop app, so you need to download Google Earth Pro first. Open the Google Earth website and click on “Google Earth Pro for desktop”. The site should automatically detect your system’s operating system and download the correct version. Follow the onscreen instructions to install the app.

google earth clock toolbar

Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority

After launching the application, use the Research at the top of the left panel to find the location you want to return to in time. You can search for general sites, specific addresses and contact details. Type a location and click Research to find its current images on Google Earth.

Google Earth uses the time slider

Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority

Click the Clock icon (with an anti-clockwise arrow) in the toolbar at the top. Use the time slider to jump back to any available time. Depending on the location, you may be able to go all the way back to the 1930s. You can use the zoom buttons to narrow your search to specific days and times. Google Earth’s other features are still available, so you can find and measure distances, change the information you see, and more.

It’s a fun way to see what cities and towns looked like before major construction, historical differences in natural landmarks, and much more.

How to go back in time on Google Earth

google earth web browser mode

Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority

The Google Earth website lets you search for locations and view 2D and 3D images. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with historical imaging functionality, which is limited to the desktop app. However, Google Earth has a few predefined time intervals of different natural and historical events that you can check out.

google earth web open timelapse mode

Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority

Open the Google Earth website and click the helm icon (boat steering wheel) in the left panel. Open the Nature tab and select Accelerated in Google Earth. Some time-lapse stories are listed, such as the evolution of forests, urban construction and expansion, etc. Click on a featured story to watch the time-lapse.

google earth web timelapse featured locations

Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority

You will also find more options in the Featured locations section. Categories include agriculture, deforestation, glacier movements, infrastructure, megacities, waterways, and more. Although you can’t find a time-lapse of every location on the Google Earth website, these preset options are a great way to look at major changes that have happened in just a few years.

How to go back in time on the Google Earth mobile app

The Google Earth mobile app is also not compatible with historical imagery. But, like on the website, you’ll find preset time-lapses with the same options.

Open the Google Earth app and tap the helm icon (boat steering wheel) at the top. Go to the Nature tab and press Timelapses in Google Earth. Like the web app, you’ll find time-lapse stories and locations to select and view.


Yes, Google Earth is free. You can access the web app or download the desktop and mobile apps to your devices. However, keep in mind that the historical imagery feature is only available with Google Earth Pro on desktop computers.

No, Google Earth does not provide real-time satellite images. Google updates images once a month. But that doesn’t mean that the images for each location are updated as often.

Most devices should be able to easily handle running Google Earth. Image rendering may take a little longer if you have an older GPU or a slow network connection.

A slow network connection can cause blurry images and long loading times. If you’re using the web app, Google recommends using the Chrome browser for best results.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top