If you’ve ever deleted photos from your phone only to have them reappear later, you’re not alone. This frustrating issue is commonly experienced by smartphone users. There are a few potential reasons your deleted photos keep coming back.
You’re not permanently deleting the photos
When you delete photos from your phone’s camera roll or gallery app, they aren’t necessarily deleted forever. Typically, they are moved to a ‘recently deleted’ folder where they will remain for a set period of time before being permanently erased. The length of time varies between devices and apps, but can be anywhere from 30 days to 40 days.
So if you’re seeing deleted photos reappear, it’s likely because they are still hanging out in the ‘recently deleted’ area. To stop this from happening, you need to manually clear out the folder so photos are purged right away.
How to permanently delete photos
Here are the steps to fully delete photos on some popular smartphones:
- Open the Photos app
- Tap on the Albums tab at the bottom
- Scroll down and tap on ‘Recently Deleted’
- Select the photos you want to permanently delete
- Tap the Delete button in the bottom left
- Open the Gallery app
- Tap on the three dot menu in the top right
- Select ‘Trash’
- Tap and hold to select photos, then tap the Delete icon
- Confirm deletion
- Open the Google Photos app
- Tap on Library > Bin
- Tap to select photos then hit the delete icon
- Confirm removal
Your photos are being stored in the cloud
If you have an iCloud, Google Photos or other cloud backup set up on your device, copies of your photos may be getting stored remotely. So even if you delete them from your phone’s local storage, there is still another version living in the cloud.
When you have cloud syncing enabled, any photo you take with your phone camera automatically gets uploaded. That means that deleting the photo locally doesn’t remove the cloud version. The backup service will just sync everything back down to your device again.
How to stop cloud backup of photos
To prevent deleted photos reappearing from the cloud, you need to disable automatic syncing or delete the photos from your cloud storage as well. Here’s how for popular services:
iCloud Photo Library
- Go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud
- Tap Photos
- Turn off iCloud Photo Library
- Open the Google Photos app
- Tap your profile icon > Photos settings
- Tap Back up & sync
- Turn off Back up & sync
Keep in mind turning off cloud syncing means new photos won’t be backed up automatically. You’ll need to manage storage and backups yourself.
Your photos were saved in other app folders or storage
In addition to the main gallery and cloud storage, your photos may have also been saved in other app folders or storage locations. For example:
- Social media apps – If you’ve shared photos on Facebook, Instagram etc, copies may be stored in each app’s internal folders
- Messaging apps – Photos sent via WhatsApp, Messenger, iMessage etc are kept in message history
- SD card – If your device has external storage, photos may be saved there separately
- Third party apps – Photo editing, security and other apps can create their own locally stored galleries
If you delete a photo from your camera roll but it still exists in one of these other locations, it can end up back in your main gallery the next time the app syncs or performs a refresh.
How to remove photos from app folders
To fully wipe a photo from your device, you’ll want to delete it from the main photo gallery as well as any app folders or storage it may reside in. Steps will vary by app, but generally involve:
- Opening the app in question
- Going into its photo gallery or media storage
- Selecting the photos to remove
- Deleting the photos
Be methodical and check any app where you may have shared or saved photos previously. Also double check SD card folders if you have external storage enabled.
Your deleted photos are being restored from backup
Some Android devices enable you to restore your photos, apps and data from Google Drive automatic backups. This can be handy if you are setting up a new phone or ran into issues with your original device.
However, it also means that any photos you deleted will get copied back over if you restore from an older backup. So even though you removed them previously, they can once again reappear on your device.
How to prevent photo restore during device backup
If you want to setup a new Android phone but only restore certain data – not your full photo history – you have a couple options:
- When prompted to restore apps and data during device setup, uncheck the box next to Photos
- Or, open the Google Photos app > Tap your profile icon > Photos settings > Back up & sync > Turn off Back up & sync
This will prevent your Google cloud photo archive from being downloaded to your device storage during the restore process.
Your operating system has photo recovery features
Some Android and iOS devices include built-in photo recovery capabilities that can rescue deleted photos from your local storage under certain conditions. For example:
- Android’s data recovery tool lets you retrieve recently deleted items within last 24-48 hours
- iPhones can recover photos from the most recent iTunes or iCloud backup
If you’ve accidentally deleted a photo, this can be a great feature to help get it back. However, if you’re intentionally removing photos you don’t want to keep, it means they can sneak back onto your device.
How to disable photo recovery
To fully remove photos and stop device photo recovery from bringing them back, you’ll want to:
- Delete photos from device storage
- Clear device trash/recycling bin
- Disable cloud syncing/backups
- Do not use data recovery or photo restore options
Following this process will wipe photos entirely from your phone and connected services, preventing any avenues for the deleted pictures to reappear down the road.
Seeing old photos you deleted come back to haunt you on your phone or tablet is annoying. But in most cases, it simply means the photos are still lingering in a temporary folder, cloud storage or app data that you may have forgotten about.
To permanently banish unwanted images once and for all:
- Manually clear your device’s recently deleted photo folder
- Turn off cloud syncing for services like iCloud and Google Photos
- Remove the photos from any apps or storage locations they may reside in
- Avoid using data restore or photo recovery tools
Following this comprehensive process will ensure the photos are gone for good next time you hit delete.