Why aren’t my photos downloading from iCloud?

Having issues downloading photos from iCloud? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. iCloud photo syncing can sometimes be tricky to get just right. In this article, we’ll walk through the most common reasons why photos aren’t downloading from iCloud and show you how to fix it.

Checking iCloud Settings

The first thing to check is whether iCloud Photos is enabled correctly in your settings. Here’s how to check your settings:

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Tap on your name at the top of the screen.
  3. Tap on iCloud.
  4. Make sure that the toggle for Photos is turned on (green). This means iCloud Photos is enabled.

If the Photos toggle is turned off, turn it on and give your device some time to upload any photos to iCloud. It may take a while if you have a lot of photos stored locally on your device. Once finished, your photos should start downloading normally to your other devices.

While you’re in the iCloud settings, also check that you have enough available iCloud storage space for your photo library. Apple provides 5GB of free space, but if you have a large library you may need to purchase additional storage.

Checking Internet Connectivity

In order for photos to sync across your devices, both the sending and receiving device need to have an active internet connection. If either device is offline, your photos will not download successfully.

On your receiving device (the one you want to download photos to), make sure that you are connected to WiFi or cellular data. Open Safari and try loading a web page to double check that you’re online.

Also make sure the sending device has an internet connection too. If the device with your iCloud photo library is offline, your photos can’t be sent up to the cloud and synced down to your other devices.

Try manually uploading any pending photos from the sending device while it’s online, then check if the photos appear on your receiving device.

Allowing Time for Uploading and Downloading

Depending on your photo library size and internet speeds, it can take some time for photos to upload to iCloud and then download to your other devices. iCloud will methodically work through uploading and downloading your photos in the background.

If you just recently enabled iCloud Photos, your entire existing library needs to be uploaded before the photos can download to your other devices. This initial upload can take hours or even days depending on the size of your library. Be patient and keep your devices on WiFi to allow the upload process to complete.

After your entire library is uploaded, newly taken or added photos should upload and download much quicker. But still allow some time for the process to happen in the background rather than expecting it to be instant.

Also keep in mind that larger photo and video files will naturally take longer to sync across your devices than smaller files. So don’t panic if it seems to be taking a while, the photos are likely still making their way to iCloud and your other devices behind the scenes.

Checking Remaining Device Storage

In order for your device to download photos and videos from iCloud, there needs to be enough local storage available. If your receiving device is low on storage space, iCloud may not download the full photo library.

To check your remaining device storage, go to Settings > General > Storage. Make sure you have at least several GB free. If your device is nearly full, you’ll want to free up space before photos can successfully download from iCloud.

Here are some tips for freeing up storage space:

  • Offload unused apps
  • Save photos/videos to another device or storage service
  • Delete old messages and emails
  • Remove music not recently listened to
  • Consider upgrading your iCloud storage plan if needed

Updating to Latest Software Versions

Having both devices updated to the latest iOS, iPadOS, or macOS versions ensures maximum compatibility with iCloud photo syncing. There are often bug fixes and performance improvements included in software updates.

On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, go to Settings > General > Software Update to check for available updates. On your Mac, go to System Preferences > Software Update.

Make sure both your sending and receiving devices are fully updated, then try syncing your photos again. Updated software optimizes the iCloud sync process between your devices.

Turning iCloud Photos Off and Back On

If you’ve double checked all the steps above but are still having issues getting photos to download from iCloud, one last thing to try is toggling iCloud Photos off and back on again. This essentially restarts the syncing process and clears out any stuck caches or temporary glitches.

To do this:

  1. Go to Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud > Photos and turn off the switch.
  2. Wait about 1 minute, then open Photos and confirm your iCloud photos disappear.
  3. Go back to Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud > Photos and turn the switch back on.

Give iCloud some time to re-upload your library and resume downloading to your devices. This kick start often gets things flowing smoothly again.

Contacting Apple Support

If you still can’t get your photos to download from iCloud after trying all of the above steps, your last resort may be to contact Apple support directly. Explain the issues you are having with iCloud photo syncing.

You can contact Apple support by phone, chat, email, or scheduling an appointment at an Apple store. Some options to reach out to Apple support include:

  • Call 1-800-275-2273 (United States)
  • Start a live chat at getsupport.apple.com
  • Email support questions to [email protected]
  • Make a Genius Bar appointment at an Apple Retail Store

Apple support can troubleshoot iCloud syncing logs on their end and work with you to pinpoint what might be going wrong. They have additional tools at their disposal to get iCloud photos back on track downloading correctly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are my photos taking so long to download from iCloud?

It can take time for photos to upload to iCloud from your sending device and then download to your receiving device, especially if you have a large photo library. Initial syncing can take hours or days before your full library is available across devices. Ongoing syncing happens in the background, so also allow some time for new photos to make their way to the cloud and your other devices.

Do all my photos download from iCloud to my iPhone?

By default, your full iCloud photo library will download to a new iPhone or iPad (as storage space allows). However, on some older devices with low storage you may need to enable the “Download and Keep Originals” setting in order for your full library to sync.

How can I speed up my iCloud photo downloads?

Uploading and downloading will be fastest on WiFi. You can also try disabling iCloud Photos, waiting a minute, then turning it back on again to reset the syncing. Make sure you have enough available storage space on your receiving device as well.

Why do my photos disappear from my iPhone when I enable iCloud?

When you first enable iCloud Photos, your device begins uploading your existing library to iCloud. As this upload happens, your local photo storage is temporarily cleared. Your photos should reappear on all your devices once the iCloud upload completes successfully.

What happens if I run out of iCloud storage space?

If you reach your iCloud storage limit, your photos may no longer sync across devices. You can either purchase more iCloud space, or you can manage your storage by deleting items or disabling iCloud for some services.


To recap, common iCloud photo download issues involve incorrect settings, lack of internet connection, low device storage, software incompatibility, or delays in syncing a large library. After verifying basic settings and connectivity, allow ample time for uploads and downloads to occur.

Toggling iCloud Photos off and back on again can reset the syncing process if needed. For persistent problems, contact Apple support for assistance getting your photos to download properly from iCloud.

With some diligent troubleshooting, you should be able to get your photos syncing seamlessly across all your Apple devices using iCloud. Then you’ll be able to access your photo library everywhere – on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, and online at iCloud.com.


iCloud photo syncing can encounter hiccups at times, but a bit of patience and methodical checking of settings and connectivity will typically get your photos downloading properly again. Just remember to verify your iCloud storage space, internet connections, software updates, and device storage. With a few troubleshooting steps, you’ll have your photos floating effortlessly between all your devices in the cloud.

Apple provides iCloud as an easy way to keep your photos, files, and other data synced across devices. When it’s working well, you don’t have to worry about backups or manually managing your libraries. But when things go awry, it may require some tinkering to get synced content downloading again.

By following this guide, you now have a better understanding of how to diagnose and fix iCloud photo issues. The key is to double check the fundamentals like settings and storage space. Allow time for uploads and downloads as needed. And if problems persist, reach out to Apple support to get qualified help resolving any ongoing iCloud headaches.

Just remember – a little patience and diligence goes a long way when it comes to tackling technology and cloud-based services. With the right steps, you’ll be on your way to buttery smooth iCloud photo management across your collection of Apple products.