Are deleted Facebook pictures gone forever?

Social media has become an integral part of our lives. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow us to stay connected with friends and family, express ourselves, and share life’s moments. However, as social media has grown, so have privacy concerns. Increasingly, users are worried about data collection, account security, online stalking, harassment, and more.

One specific area of concern is what happens to content when it is deleted from social media. When you remove a post, picture, or video from a platform like Facebook, is it really gone forever? Or can deleted content come back to haunt you?

In this article, we’ll explore what happens when you delete photos from Facebook. We’ll look at whether deleted pictures are permanently removed from Facebook’s servers, who can still access those photos, and if there are ways to recover deleted images. We’ll also provide tips on how to protect your privacy when using social media.

Deleting Photos on Facebook

The process of deleting photos on Facebook is quite simple. First, log into your Facebook account and navigate to the photo you want to delete. Hover over the photo and click on the three dots icon in the top right corner. This will open up a dropdown menu. Choose the “Delete Photo” option. You will be prompted to confirm that you want to delete the photo. Click “Delete” again to permanently remove the photo.

Or to delete multiple photos at once, select the photos you want to remove. Click on the three dots icon in the top right corner and choose “Delete” from the dropdown menu. You’ll then confirm again that you want to delete the selected photos.

It’s important to understand the difference between deleting and archiving on Facebook. When you archive a photo, it is removed from public view on your profile and no longer shows in your photos section. However, the photo still exists on Facebook’s servers and can be unarchived at any time to restore it. Deleting a photo permanently removes it from Facebook’s servers [1]. The photo cannot be recovered after being deleted.

Are Deleted Photos Removed from Facebook Servers?

When you delete a photo from Facebook, it is removed from your profile and is no longer visible to other users, according to this Quora post. However, Facebook’s data retention policies indicate that deleted content may not be immediately or permanently purged from their servers.

According to Facebook’s Help Center article, “What happens to content (posts, pictures) that I delete from Facebook?” [1], some deleted data is immediately removed from their servers, while other data may take up to 90 days to be fully deleted from their systems and backups. So while photos are removed from public view instantly when deleted, remnants of them may persist in Facebook’s databases for up to 3 months before being permanently purged.

In summary, when you delete a Facebook photo, it disappears from your profile right away but deleted data may linger in Facebook’s systems for a period of time before being permanently erased from their servers and backups.

Can Deleted Photos be Recovered?

When you delete photos from Facebook, they are not immediately erased from Facebook’s servers. According to Facebook’s Data Policy, deleted data may remain in their systems for up to 90 days before being permanently deleted [1]. This means there is a window where deleted photos can potentially be recovered.

During this 90 day period, it may be possible to restore deleted photos using data recovery services. Companies like EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard offer software that can scan your hard drive and recover deleted files. However, this will only work if the photos were saved or cached on your device before deletion [2]. The effectiveness depends on how soon after deletion you run the recovery.

In most cases, recovering recently deleted Facebook photos requires contacting Facebook Support within the 90 day window. They may be able to restore photos from their servers, if still available. However, there is no guarantee deleted photos can be recovered using this method.

Who Can See Deleted Photos?

When you delete a photo from Facebook, it is no longer visible to anyone else on the platform, including your Facebook friends. According to Facebook’s Help Center, “It’s deleted from our servers and backup systems, so we’re unable to retrieve this deleted content.”

However, there is a short period of time right after deleting a photo where it may still be visible to others. This is because of cached versions stored on Facebook’s servers and CDNs around the world. But within a few hours, these caches are cleared and the photo disappears.

You can control who sees your posts and photos through your timeline visibility settings. By default, friends can see your posts, but you can customize this. Even with the strictest privacy settings, any photos you delete will no longer be visible to anyone.

In summary, when you delete a photo from Facebook, it is permanently removed from view after a short caching period. Your timeline visibility settings do not affect deleted photos. The only way a deleted photo could be seen is if someone previously saved or re-shared it.

Deleted Photo Caching

Even after a photo is deleted from Facebook’s servers, copies of the photo may still be cached locally on devices and browsers where it was previously viewed. This is due to the normal functioning of caching systems.

As explained in the research paper An Analysis of Facebook Photo Caching, Facebook uses a multi-layered caching system to improve performance. Copies of photos are cached at the browser level, on the device’s local storage, at regional edge caches, and on origin servers.

When a user deletes a photo from Facebook, it is immediately removed from the origin servers. However, cached copies may still reside elsewhere. Browser caches in particular tend to be long-lived, with caching intervals ranging from days to weeks. As a result, a deleted photo may be visible for some time after deletion to users who viewed the photo in the past.

The only way to immediately purge all cached copies of a deleted photo is to clear the browser cache and local storage on all devices where the photo was viewed. However, preventing access from being regained this way comes at the expense of degrading performance.

Download Your Facebook Data

Facebook allows users to download an archive of their personal data from Facebook, including photos, posts, reactions, comments, and more. This can be done by going to Settings > Your Facebook Information > Download Your Information on the Facebook website. On mobile, go to Settings & Privacy > Settings > Your Facebook Information > Download Your Information.

Once requested, Facebook will compile all your data into a ZIP file which may take a few minutes up to a few days depending on how much data you have. When ready, you’ll get a notification saying your archive is ready to download. The file contains JSON data that can be opened and explored on your computer.

According to Facebook’s Help Center, deleted and expired photos and videos are not included in your downloaded archive. So if you are looking to recover deleted Facebook photos, downloading your archive likely won’t help.

However, some users report that their archives contained photos they had previously deleted. It’s possible Facebook doesn’t immediately remove deleted content from their servers, or the caching process that creates the archives pulls in data that is flagged for deletion but not yet fully removed.

In any case, downloading your archive is still a useful way to backup your Facebook data including photos. Just don’t rely on it as a surefire way to recover deleted items.

Precautions Before Deleting

It’s crucial to take some precautions before deleting photos or your entire account on Facebook to ensure you don’t lose your memories. Here are some tips:

  • Back up all your photos. You can download your Facebook data to get a copy of all your photos before deleting them.
  • Untag yourself from any photos you’re in that you don’t own. According to Facebook’s terms of service, untagging gives you the right to request removal of that content.
  • Save your photos to your device. You can do this on desktop by right clicking on the image and selecting “Save As”. On mobile, press and hold on the image and choose download or save image.
  • Consider sharing albums or photos you want to keep with friends and family before deleting.

Taking a few minutes to take precautions like these can give you peace of mind that your memories will be preserved before deleting Facebook content.

Alternatives to Deleting

Instead of permanently deleting photos from Facebook, there are a few alternatives to consider that allow you to keep your photos accessible while maintaining your privacy:

Make Photos Private – Rather than deleting, you can change the privacy settings on your Facebook photos. Under each photo’s options, choose “Only Me” to restrict the photo visibility to just yourself. You can also adjust privacy settings for all your previous posts under Settings. This allows you to preserve photos while limiting visibility.

Use Google Photos – Google Photos offers unlimited free storage for images up to 16MP and videos up to 1080p resolution. You can easily download your photos from Facebook and upload them to Google Photos for safe keeping. Google Photos has options for sharing, editing, organizing and searching your photos. As an added bonus, photos uploaded to Google Photos don’t count against your Google Drive storage quota.

Store Photos Locally – You can manually download your Facebook photos to store on your computer or external hard drive. This gives you full control over your photos for local backup and removes them from the Facebook platform while still preserving them.

Overall, deleting Facebook photos permanently erases them from existence. But by making them private, downloading them, or using alternative services, you can keep your photos while regaining control over them.


In summary, when you delete photos from Facebook, they are removed from your profile and albums immediately. However, deleted photos may still exist on Facebook’s servers for up to 90 days in backup copies. Facebook also said deleted photos may persist in backup copies for longer than 90 days if necessary for legal reasons.

While deleted photos are removed from public view, they can still be accessed by you, Facebook, and potentially law enforcement via a valid subpoena. Cached versions of your photos may also still appear in Google search results after deletion. Therefore, you should be thoughtful about the photos you share on Facebook in the first place.

If you have privacy concerns about old photos, instead of deleting you can also hide them from your profile, change privacy settings, or download an archive your Facebook data for personal storage. With care and awareness, you can manage your photos on Facebook to align with your comfort level for privacy.