When you delete content like photos, documents, or contacts from your iCloud account, they are not immediately erased. Apple gives you a grace period where deleted items are stored in a special area of iCloud called the Recently Deleted folder before being permanently removed. This allows you to recover accidentally deleted content if needed. But how long do you actually have before those deleted files are gone forever?
The iCloud Recently Deleted Folder
The iCloud Recently Deleted folder operates similarly to the Recycle Bin or Trash on your Mac or PC. When you delete a file from iCloud, it is moved into this folder rather than being immediately erased. The items will remain in the Recently Deleted folder for 30 days before being permanently deleted by Apple’s servers.
You can access the Recently Deleted folder from within the iCloud web interface or iOS Files app. Here you will see any photos, documents, contacts, calendar events, reminders, or other data that you’ve removed over the past 30 days. This gives you a recovery window if you need to rescue anything that was deleted accidentally.
How the 30 Day Window Works
The 30 day retention period begins from the moment you delete an item from iCloud. For example, if you were to delete a photo on January 1st, that picture would remain recoverable in the Recently Deleted folder until January 31st. On February 1st, the file would be permanently erased from Apple’s servers.
It’s important to note that the 30 day window applies to each individual item that you send to the Recently Deleted folder. If you deleted a document on January 1st and then deleted a photo on January 15th, the document would be erased on January 31st while the photo would remain recoverable until February 14th. The countdown starts when that specific item is deleted.
Recovering Deleted iCloud Items
To recover a deleted file during those 30 days, simply navigate to the Recently Deleted folder in iCloud and click “Restore” on the item you want back. It will be moved back to its original location as if it was never deleted. This is a useful failsafe in case you accidentally erase something important or change your mind later.
On iOS devices, you can access Recently Deleted from the Files app. On Macs, it is available in the iCloud web interface at iCloud.com while logged into your account. You have until those 30 days are up to rescue anything that’s been removed.
Permanently Deleting Items
If you don’t need to recover a deleted file, such as if you intentionally removed something you no longer wanted, it’s possible to permanently erase it before the 30 day window is up. This will immediately free up storage space in iCloud rather than waiting for the automatic deletion to trigger.
To manually delete an iCloud item forever, navigate to Recently Deleted, swipe left on the file, and choose “Delete” rather than “Restore.” This will instantly and permanently erase that file so it cannot be recovered later.
What Happens After 30 Days?
Once the 30 day retention period has passed, deleted files in iCloud Recently Deleted are gone for good. At this point, Apple erases all data associated with the item from its servers. You can no longer recover or restore it even if you changed your mind later on.
So on day 31 after deleting a document, for example, that file would no longer appear in Recently Deleted. The copy previously stored there has been permanently removed according to Apple’s policies. You won’t be able to rescue it after that point.
iCloud Storage Implications
It’s important to know that while deleted items remain in the Recently Deleted folder, they still take up your allocated iCloud storage space. For example, if you have a 5GB storage plan and delete a 2GB video file, that video will continue using 2GB of your iCloud capacity for 30 days.
Only once the file is permanently erased after that retention period will the storage be freed up. So don’t expect to immediately recover a lot of storage space after moving files to Recently Deleted. The space is gradually restored over that 30 day window as items are permanently removed.
Deleted Items on iOS Devices
The iCloud Recently Deleted folder is shared across any Macs and iOS devices connected to your iCloud account. So if you delete an item such as a photo or document on your iPhone, it will be reflected in Recently Deleted on your other Apple devices.
However, iOS devices also have their own local Recently Deleted folders for device-only storage, separate from iCloud. Photos stored locally on an iPhone, for example, will go to its local Deleted folder when erased. This has the same 30 day retention period but is a separate system from iCloud Deleted items.
Deleted Mail in iCloud
iCloud Mail functions a little differently when it comes to deleted items. Any email messages that you move to the Trash folder on an iOS device or Mac will remain there for 30 days. After that point, the messages are permanently erased.
However, unlike other iCloud data, deleted emails are not stored in the Recently Deleted folder. The Trash folder itself serves as the 30 day purgatory before messages are removed forever. You can still recover email for up to a month after deletion.
Third-Party App Data
Developers of third-party apps that use iCloud for syncing and storage can delete inactive user data after 180 days of no usage. If you haven’t opened an app or used its iCloud data for 6 months, its stored information could get erased.
This data will not appear in your iCloud Recently Deleted folder. The purge happens automatically after 180 inactive days according to Apple’s own policies. Check with the developer of any app storing iCloud data for specifics on their retention policies.
Accidental Permanent Data Loss
In very rare cases, files may be permanently deleted from iCloud immediately without going to Recently Deleted. This can happen if there is a severe error when deleting content.
If you experience accidental permanent data loss, you can contact Apple Support and request that they attempt to recover your information. However, there is no guarantee. To prevent this, be very careful when permanently erasing files using the “Delete” option.
Backing Up iCloud Data
To add an extra layer of protection against losing important iCloud data, make sure you have backups enabled. iCloud automatically backs up iOS devices to iCloud every day when connected to power, Wi-Fi, and with the screen locked.
On Macs, enable Time Machine backups to create local snapshots on an external or networked drive. Also consider copying important documents or photos to another device or cloud storage service in case recovery from iCloud Recently Deleted is not possible.
- Deleted iCloud items go to the Recently Deleted folder where they remain for 30 days.
- After 30 days, items are permanently erased and cannot be recovered.
- You can restore deleted items from Recently Deleted during the 30 day window.
- Manually deleting an item instantly removes it forever from iCloud.
- Deleted data still takes up iCloud storage space until permanently erased after 30 days.
- Enable backups and have redundancy for irreplaceable iCloud files.
Knowing how long deleted content stays in iCloud before being purged forever is important for avoiding accidental data loss. The 30 day retention period gives you a month to recover anything erased in error. But be sure to manually download copies of irreplaceable data for redundancy.
With some care when permanently deleting files and a good backup strategy, you can comfortably delete unnecessary iCloud items while safeguarding your most important data.