Can you recover fully deleted photos on Apple?

Recovering deleted photos from Apple devices like iPhones and iPads can be challenging, but is possible in many cases with the right tools and techniques. When a photo is deleted on an Apple device, it is not immediately erased from the storage. Instead, the operating system marks the space occupied by the photo as available for new data. The actual photo data remains on the device until it is overwritten by new files. This provides a window of opportunity to use data recovery software to scan the device and retrieve deleted photos before they are lost forever.

Quick answers

Here are quick answers to some common questions about recovering deleted photos on Apple devices:

  • Yes, it is often possible to recover deleted photos from iPhones, iPads and Mac computers with data recovery software as long as the storage space has not been overwritten.
  • When a photo is deleted, the operating system marks the space as available but does not immediately erase the data. This provides a window of opportunity for recovery before the space is reused.
  • The best chances for recovery are immediately after deletion, before new data writes over the deleted photos.
  • Specialized data recovery software can scan Apple devices and find deleted photo files that can often still be restored.
  • Backup copies of photos in iCloud or iTunes can also allow recovery of deleted photos.
  • The longer you wait after deletion and the more you use the device, the lower the chances of successful recovery.

How are photos stored on Apple devices?

To understand how deleted photos can be recovered from Apple devices, it helps to know how photos are stored in the first place. When you take a photo with an iPhone camera or save an image to an iPad, the photo data is written to the internal flash storage.

This storage is organized into a complex file system that manages how data is saved, accessed, and deleted. When the photo is taken, metadata about that image such as date, size, and location is written to the file system to catalog the new file. The actual photo data itself is then written to empty “blocks” of storage that are assigned to the file.

When looking at photos on the device or external apps, you are actually viewing this cataloged metadata pointing to the data blocks containing the photo, not the raw image data itself. This allows for quick access and management of photos.

What happens when you delete a photo?

When you delete a photo through the Camera Roll or Photos app on an Apple device, it is removed from this file system catalog but the actual data blocks containing the photo are not immediately wiped. Instead, they are marked as available space to be overwritten in the future.

Because the link between the photo metadata and the blocks of data is severed, the photo appears deleted from the user perspective. However, the actual photo data still resides in the storage until the operating system reassigns those blocks for new files.

This is the critical gap that data recovery software leverages to scan the raw storage and restore deleted photo files. Although the metadata managed by iOS or MacOS no longer points to the photo, the data itself often remains intact if it has not yet been overwritten.

Factors affecting recoverability of deleted photos

Whether deleted photos can be recovered depends on a few key factors:

  • Time since deletion – The sooner you attempt recovery after deletion, the higher the likelihood the photo blocks have not been overwritten. As time passes, overwritten data is less recoverable.
  • Device usage – If you actively use the device to take new photos, download apps, or save files, the deleted photos have a higher chance of getting overwritten. Minimal device usage improves recoverability.
  • Available storage space – A device with lots of available storage has lower risk of overwritten blocks than a nearly full device.
  • File system – Different Apple file systems handle deletion and overwriting differently. Generally, newer systems like APFS make recovery harder than older ones like HFS+.

While there are never any guarantees, your best chance of recovering deleted photos is to act quickly after deletion and avoid storing new data on the device.

Can you recover photos without special software?

There are a few ways users attempt DIY photo recovery on Apple devices without special data recovery software:

  • Device backups – If you backed up your iPhone or iPad to iCloud or iTunes before deletion, you may be able to restore the lost photos from the backup. This only works if the photos were backed up.
  • Recently deleted albums – The Photos app on iOS and Mac keeps deleted photos for 30 days in the “Recently Deleted” folder before permanent removal. This only applies to photos deleted within the app.
  • iCloud – If you have iCloud Photos enabled, any photos uploaded to iCloud before deletion can be retrieved from there.

However, these manual methods have limitations. They may only recover certain photos deleted in specific ways, like using the Photos app. Full recovery generally requires the capabilities of professional data recovery software.

Can data recovery software help?

Yes, specialized data recovery software provides the best chances of recovering deleted photos from Apple devices. Software solutions can:

  • Scan raw storage at the block level to find deleted photo data
  • Rebuild metadata links to restore recoverable photos
  • Extract images even without intact metadata
  • Offer advanced modes for enhanced data access
  • Support a wide range of Apple file systems and operating systems

Advanced Apple recovery software like iSkysoft iPhone Data Recovery can recover photos and other deleted files from iOS and Mac devices. With the right software, DIY recovery at home is possible for many users.

Can you recover photos at a repair shop?

Third-party Apple repair shops with data recovery expertise may also be able to recover deleted photos for you as a paid service. Advantages of professional recovery services include:

  • Specialized expertise from experienced technicians
  • Access to advanced recovery tools and technology
  • Clean room facilities to prevent further data loss
  • Best chance at recovery from damaged or non-functioning devices

The downside is the higher cost compared to DIY software recovery. Prices vary depending on the service provider and complexity of the recovery case.

How can you avoid needing recovery in the future?

Beyond trying to recover deleted photos, it is also important to implement good practices to avoid needing recovery in the future. Some tips include:

  • Regularly back up your iPhone, iPad, or Mac to multiple locations like iCloud, iTunes, external drives.
  • Use iCloud Photos to sync your camera roll online automatically.
  • Offload old photos you don’t need anymore to cloud storage or external drives.
  • Enable “Recently Deleted” album option in Photos app to provide a 30 day safety net before permanent deletion.
  • Avoid capturing extremely sensitive or compromising photos that cannot be risked.
  • Consider using a secure photo vault app to store private photos behind authentication.
  • Before trading in or selling your Apple device, make sure to fully wipe it using Apple’s factory reset to avoid exposing personal photos.

Following best practices for regular backups and deleting unneeded content minimizes risk if photos are accidentally or intentionally deleted down the road.


While Apple makes recovering deleted photos intentionally challenging, it is possible in many cases with the right tools and quick action. However, there is never a guarantee of recovery – the best protection is having good backups and deletion discipline in the first place.