Why can’t I see deleted photos on iCloud?

When you delete a photo from your iPhone, iPad, or other Apple device, you might expect that photo to no longer be present in your iCloud storage as well. However, that is often not the case. Deleted photos can still show up in your iCloud Photos library, which can be surprising and frustrating if you expected removing a photo from your device to remove it from your iCloud backup too.

How Does iCloud Photo Library Work?

To understand why deleted photos may still appear in iCloud, it helps to first understand how iCloud Photo Library works. iCloud Photo Library is Apple’s cloud-based photo storage solution that syncs photos across all your devices connected to the same iCloud account.

When you take or save new photos on your iPhone, iPad, or other Apple device, those photos are automatically uploaded and stored in your iCloud Photos library online. This allows you to access your entire photo library from any Apple device logged into your iCloud account. It also provides a backup of your photos in case you lose or replace a device.

iCloud Photo Library automatically uploads and stores your photos in their original, full resolution. This includes any photos you might delete off your devices. Just because you delete a photo from your iPhone’s camera roll does not mean it gets permanently deleted from your iCloud Photos storage.

Why Deleted Photos Remain in iCloud

There are a few key reasons deleted photos may continue to appear in your iCloud Photos library, even when no longer present on your devices:

iCloud Syncs Across Devices

iCloud Photo Library aims to keep your photos synced and available across all your devices. When you delete a photo from your iPhone, it will be removed from that iPhone’s storage. However, it will likely still exist in your iCloud Photos online storage, as well as any other connected devices like your iPad or Mac where you haven’t specifically deleted that photo.

iCloud Acts as a Photo Backup

In addition to syncing, iCloud Photo Library also serves as a backup of your images. Just like you would not expect a file deleted from your computer to instantly disappear from an external hard drive backup, deleting photos from an iCloud-connected device does not mean they get permanently deleted from your iCloud Photos backup online.

Automatic iCloud Backups

Your Apple devices likely have iCloud Backup enabled. iCloud Backup provides periodic, automatic backups of your device’s data and settings to iCloud whenever your device is plugged in, locked, and connected to WiFi. These backups include your photos – even deleted ones that may no longer appear on the device’s camera roll but still exist in your iCloud Photos library online.

Storage Efficiency

Finally, the way iCloud Photo Library manages storage space means removed photos may continue to be retained. Rather than immediately and permanently deleting a photo from your iCloud when you remove it from a device, iCloud will keep those deleted photos stored for a period of time in case you need to access them again later. This is more storage-efficient than constantly deleting and re-uploading photos.

When are Deleted Photos Removed from iCloud?

Deleted photos are not stored forever in your iCloud Photos library. Typically, a deleted photo will remain accessible in your iCloud storage for up to 40 days. After that time, the photo will be permanently deleted to free up storage capacity.

The length of time a deleted photo is retained in iCloud may depend on a few factors:

  • If you have iCloud Backup enabled, deleted photos can remain accessible in your iCloud backups for longer than 40 days.
  • If you reach your maximum iCloud storage capacity, deleted photos may be permanently removed sooner to free up space.
  • Deleting the photos on all synced devices at the same time means they will be deleted from iCloud sooner.

Manually Deleting Photos from iCloud

Rather than waiting for deleted photos to eventually disappear from iCloud, you can proactively remove photos yourself to free up space and ensure certain images are no longer stored. Here are a couple ways to manually delete photos from your iCloud Photos library:

On Your iPhone, iPad, or Other Device

If the photo still appears on one of your synced devices, you can manually delete it there. Go to the Photos app, find the image you want to remove, tap to select it, and choose the Delete option. This will delete the photo from all synced devices and your iCloud Photos library.

On iCloud.com

You can also log in to iCloud.com and access your iCloud Photos library online. Simply find the images you want to remove, select them, and choose the Delete option to permanently delete them from iCloud.

Adjust iCloud Photo Settings

In addition to manually deleting photos, you can also adjust your iCloud Photo Library settings to optimize storage and remove unwanted images:

  • Enable the Optimize iPhone/iPad Storage setting, which keeps full resolution versions of your photos in iCloud but smaller versions on your devices.
  • Turn on iCloud Photo Sharing to manually select just certain photos to store in iCloud.
  • Disable iCloud Photo Library and choose specific images to keep saved only to your devices’ local storage.

Other iCloud Storage Questions

Wondering what else gets stored in your iCloud beyond just photos? Here are some other frequently asked questions about what types of data persist in iCloud when deleted from devices:

Do Text Messages Stay in iCloud When Deleted from My iPhone?

Much like with photos, your iMessage and SMS text conversations remain stored in your iCloud backup even when you delete messages from your iPhone or other device. Texts remain in iCloud for up to 40 days after deleting before being permanently removed.

Does Deleting an App Also Delete Its iCloud Data?

When you delete an app from your iPhone or iPad, any app-related data saved to your iCloud backup will also remain accessible in iCloud. This data can be restored if you reinstall the app later. App data remains in iCloud for up to 40 days after deletion.

Are Contacts Still Saved in iCloud After Deleting from My Device?

Contacts deleted from your iPhone or other device will continue to be stored in your iCloud backup for up to 40 days. This allows you to restore lost contacts if needed during that period. Turn off contacts syncing in iCloud if you do not want contacts backed up.

What About Calendar Events, Notes, or Other iCloud Data?

Similar to the above examples, calendar events, notes, saved WiFi passwords, and other data synced to iCloud will persist in your iCloud backups when deleted from a device, often for around 40 days. Turn off syncing for specific apps if you do not want their data backed up.


In summary, deleted photos may continue to show up in your iCloud Photos library even after removal from your iPhone or other devices. This occurs because iCloud acts as a backup and syncing solution for your Apple gadgets. Deleted photos and other data can remain accessible in your iCloud for up to 40 days before being permanently removed in most cases. If you want to ensure certain photos are not stored in iCloud at all, your best option is to manually delete them from the iCloud Photos library itself via iCloud.com or adjust your iCloud backup and sync settings accordingly.