How many years does iCloud save photos?

iCloud offers users several options for storing photos and determines how long they are saved based on the user’s storage plan. The default storage option saves photos for 30 days, but users can pay for larger storage plans to keep photos for longer periods of time.

Quick Answers

Here are quick answers to common questions about how long iCloud saves photos:

  • The default 5GB iCloud storage saves photos for 30 days.
  • iCloud+ 50GB storage saves photos for 1 year.
  • iCloud+ 200GB and 2TB storage save photos indefinitely until you delete them.
  • Deleted photos are stored in the iCloud trash for 30 days before being permanently deleted.
  • Once you reach your storage limit, older photos will be deleted starting with those over 30 days old.

iCloud Storage Options and Photo Retention

Apple offers several different iCloud storage tiers, each with different photo retention policies:

iCloud Storage Plan Total Storage Space Photo Retention Policy
Free iCloud Storage 5GB Saves photos for 30 days
iCloud+ 50GB 50GB Saves photos for 1 year
iCloud+ 200GB 200GB Saves photos indefinitely until deleted
iCloud+ 2TB 2TB Saves photos indefinitely until deleted

As this table shows, the more storage space you purchase, the longer iCloud retains your photos.

Free iCloud Storage

All iCloud users start with free 5GB of storage. With this base storage plan, iCloud saves photos for 30 days. If you exceed your 5GB limit, iCloud will begin deleting photos over 30 days old, starting with the oldest first.

The free 5GB allotment is relatively small by today’s standards. The average iPhone user may take around 150 photos per week. At this rate, you would use up your free 5GB in a month or two.

To make the most of the limited free storage, you should regularly back up iCloud photos to your computer or another storage service. Don’t rely on iCloud itself to serve as your only photo backup.

iCloud+ 50GB

For $0.99 per month, you can upgrade to iCloud+ with 50GB of storage. This plan retains photos for 1 year before deleting them.

With 50GB of space, you have much more breathing room for storing photos than the free plan. Unless you are a prolific photographer, this plan gives you enough space to store several years worth of images.

The 1-year retention period means you don’t have to worry about constantly backing up photos. You have a large window to download or transfer images you want to keep permanently.

iCloud+ 200GB and 2TB

iCloud offers two higher-tier storage options: 200GB for $2.99 per month and 2TB for $9.99 per month. Both of these plans save photos indefinitely until you delete them.

The 200GB plan provides enough space for most typical consumers’ photo libraries. Even active photographers would be hard pressed to fill up this much space.

2TB of storage is overkill for all but the most extreme power users. The average smartphone user would take over 10 years to fill up this much space with photos.

Since these plans save photos with no time limit, you can store your entire photo library in iCloud. There’s no need to manually manage storage or transfer photos elsewhere.

Managing Storage to Preserve Photos

If you’re on one of the limited storage plans, you will need to actively manage iCloud to ensure your photos don’t get deleted prematurely.

Here are some tips to help preserve photos with limited iCloud storage:

  • Frequently download photos to your computer or an external hard drive.
  • Use another cloud storage provider like Google Photos for overflow storage.
  • Upgrade to a paid iCloud+ subscription for more storage space.
  • Optimize your iPhone storage to offload original photos to iCloud.
  • Delete blurry photos, screenshots, and other trivial images you don’t need to save.
  • Transfer full resolution photos to a computer, then upload optimized versions to iCloud.

With a little effort, you can store as many photos as you need even with the lowest iCloud storage tier.

Deleted Photo Retention

When you delete photos from iCloud, they are not immediately gone forever. Deleted photos get stored in your iCloud trash folder for 30 days.

This gives you a month to recover accidentally deleted photos. After 30 days, the photos are permanently erased.

There is no way to recover photos that have been removed from your iCloud trash. So be sure to restore any photos you want to keep within that one month window.

The iCloud trash retention period applies to all storage tiers. Regardless of your plan, you have 30 days to rescue deleted photos.

One thing to keep in mind is that deleting photos does not free up storage space immediately. The photos still count against your iCloud quota until they fall out of the trash.

What Happens When Storage is Full?

As you reach the limit of your iCloud storage, new photos you take will still save automatically. But older photos will be deleted over time to make room.

iCloud employs a “first in, first out” deletion system. The oldest photos, starting with those over 30 days old, are deleted first.

Photos get deleted in this order until you are below your storage limit again:

  1. Photos and videos over 30 days old
  2. Photos and videos over 1 year old
  3. Photos and videos over 2 years old
  4. Photos and videos over 3 years old

This gradual deletion gives you some time to download photos you want to keep before they get removed from iCloud.

Keep in mind photos only start getting deleted after you exceed your total iCloud quota. As long as you have free space, even old photos will remain.

Can You Recover Deleted iCloud Photos?

If you need to recover deleted photos that are no longer in your iCloud trash, do you have any options?

Unfortunately, there is no way to retrieve photos that have been permanently erased from iCloud. The photos are gone for good.

Your only chance is if you have another copy of the photos saved elsewhere, like on your computer or a non-iCloud cloud storage service.

This underscores the importance of frequently backing up your iCloud photos somewhere besides iCloud itself. Otherwise, it’s possible to permanently lose photos.

Some third-party services claim they can recover deleted iCloud photos, but most of these services do not work as advertised.

Realistically, once photos are deleted from the iCloud trash, they are almost certainly gone for good.

Can You Download All iCloud Photos at Once?

Managing an iCloud photo library can be tedious. It would be convenient if you could download your entire library in one step.

Unfortunately, there is no native option in iCloud to download all photos at once. However, there are a few workarounds.

Here are some methods to download all iCloud photos:

  • Use third-party software like iMazing or iExplorer, which let you export entire photo libraries.
  • Temporarily disable iCloud Photo Library on your iPhone. This will prompt a download of all iCloud photos to your phone’s storage.
  • Connect iPhone to computer and import images to the Photos app (Mac) or the Photos Import app (Windows).
  • Log into, select all photos, and choose download. This will download them as a ZIP file.

While not exactly seamless, these methods do allow downloading all iCloud photos in bulk instead of manually selecting images.

Can You Transfer iCloud Photos to Google Photos?

To simplify managing your photo library, you may want to consolidate images into a single cloud storage service.

It is possible to transfer your iCloud photos over to Google Photos rather than keep them in two separate accounts:

  1. Temporarily turn off iCloud Photo Library on your iPhone.
  2. Your iCloud images will download to the phone’s local storage.
  3. Install the Google Photos app and allow it to upload the photos.
  4. Once uploaded, the photos will now reside in Google Photos instead of iCloud.

This migration can take a while for large libraries. But it will move all photos to Google Photos so you can use just one centralized service going forward.

Third-Party Apps to Manage iCloud Photos

Managing an iCloud photo library can be complex. Some third-party apps aim to simplify the process.

Here are some top-rated iCloud photo management apps:

App Key Features
PhotoManager Pro – Save photos to computer or external drives
– Transfer photos between cloud services
– Set reminders to save photos before deletion
iDrive Photo Backup – Facial recognition search
– Preserve original photo metadata
– Share galleries with other users
CloudPhotos Pro – Cross-platform support
– Offline viewing
– Video support

These apps provide more automated ways to download, organize, search, and share your iCloud photo library.


To summarize the key points:

  • iCloud retains photos based on your storage plan, from 30 days up to indefinitely.
  • Downgrading iCloud storage means older photos get deleted sooner.
  • Remember to back up iCloud photos elsewhere in case you need to restore deleted images.
  • With management and alternative backups, even the free 5GB plan can suffice.

While Apple doesn’t offer single-click downloads for entire libraries, you can use third-party tools to export all your iCloud photos. Consolidating into one cloud storage provider may be easier than juggling multiple services.

With some effort, you can overcome iCloud storage limits and take control of your photo library. Careful management will ensure you always have access to those precious photographic memories.