Will Apple permanently delete photos?

With iCloud photos, Apple provides users with convenient cloud storage for their photos and videos. However, there may be times when a user wants to permanently delete some photos from their iCloud storage. Common questions around permanently deleting iCloud photos include:

Can you recover deleted photos from iCloud?

When you delete photos from iCloud storage on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, the photos are moved to the Recently Deleted folder where they are kept for 30 days. During this 30 day period, you can recover deleted photos from iCloud by going to the Recently Deleted folder and restoring the photos.

After 30 days, the photos in the Recently Deleted folder are automatically and permanently deleted. At this point, it becomes very difficult to recover the deleted iCloud photos.

Can Apple employees see my deleted photos?

No, Apple employees do not have access to view or recover your deleted iCloud photos. When you delete a photo from iCloud, it is encrypted by your device and Apple does not have the encryption keys to decrypt and view deleted content.

Apple’s access to iCloud data is limited to certain scenarios like responding to legal requests from law enforcement and strictly follows its privacy policies. But Apple cannot access or view your deleted photos.

How can I permanently delete photos from my iCloud storage?

Here are the steps to permanently delete photos from iCloud:

  1. On your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, open the Photos app and go to the Albums tab.
  2. Tap on the Recently Deleted album.
  3. Select the photos you want to delete permanently.
  4. Tap on the Delete button and confirm deletion.

This will delete the photos immediately without waiting 30 days. The photos will no longer be recoverable.

Does deleting photos free up iCloud storage space?

Yes, when you delete photos and videos from iCloud, it frees up storage space in your iCloud account. The amount of freed up space depends on the size and number of photos deleted.

For example, if you have a 50GB iCloud storage plan and delete 10GB worth of photos, your available storage space will increase from 40GB to 50GB.

So permanently deleting unwanted photos is an easy way to free up valuable iCloud storage when you are getting low on space.

Can I selectively delete photos from iCloud?

Yes, you can selectively delete photos you no longer want from your iCloud storage. Here are two ways to do it:

  1. On your iPhone/iPad, open the Photos app, find the photos you want to delete and tap the Delete icon on each photo.
  2. On iCloud.com, sign in, go to Photos, select the photos > Delete.

This gives you full control to choose certain photos to delete permanently while keeping all other photos safe in iCloud.

What gets deleted when I delete photos from my devices?

When you delete photos from your iPhone, iPad or Mac locally, the photos are deleted from that device only. The copy of those photos stored in iCloud is not deleted.

To delete photos both from your devices and iCloud storage, you must select the “Delete Everywhere” option when deleting the photos. This will remove the photos permanently from all locations.

Can I recover photos after emptying Recently Deleted folder?

Unfortunately no, there is no way to recover photos after permanently deleting them by emptying the Recently Deleted folder.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Photos are permanently gone once the 30 day period expires.
  • Apple does not keep copies of your deleted photos.
  • You cannot retrieve photos after emptying the Recently Deleted folder.

So be certain before permanently deleting any photos you may want to keep.

What happens when I reach iCloud storage limit?

Here’s what happens when you reach the storage limit on your iCloud account:

  • You will no longer be able to backup your device or add new photos/videos to iCloud.
  • Your existing iCloud data like photos, emails, etc. will remain stored but unchanged.
  • New photos/videos taken on your devices will only save locally and not to iCloud.
  • You’ll get notifications asking you to upgrade your iCloud storage plan.

So even when your account is full, your data is retained and you can continue accessing it across devices. But you won’t be able to add any new data to iCloud until you delete items or upgrade your storage.

Should I use iCloud or Google Photos for backing up my photos?

Both iCloud and Google Photos offer seamless photo backup and syncing but have some key differences:

iCloud Google Photos
Storage amount 5GB free, paid plans up to 2TB 15GB free, paid plans up to 2TB
Photo quality Original full quality Compressed storage saver quality
Video length No limits Up to 3-5 mins for free users
Sharing features Limited sharing options Extensive sharing abilities
Search capabilities Basic search Powerful advanced search

In summary:

  • iCloud is best if you use Apple devices and value full original quality backups.
  • Google Photos offers more free storage and better search/sharing capabilities.

Can I recover permanently deleted photos from my Mac?

If you have deleted photos from your Mac’s local storage, here are some ways to try recovering them:

  • Look in Trash and restore photos from there if available.
  • Use Time Machine backups to restore deleted photos.
  • Try data recovery software to scan your Mac and retrieve deleted photos.
  • Take your Mac to a data recovery service if all else fails.

However, if you have permanently deleted photos from your iCloud storage, those photos are non-recoverable through your Mac once deleted.

What are the pros and cons of keeping my photos only locally on my iPhone?


  • Full privacy – photos don’t leave your device
  • No recurring subscription costs for cloud storage
  • Keeps storage use focused on device capacity


  • Photos only available on that device
  • Risk of permanent data loss if device is damaged/lost
  • Cannot access photos from other devices

In summary, keeping photos locally has privacy benefits but lacks the access, sharing and redundancy features of cloud backup. Most people are better served using a cloud service like iCloud for photo storage.

What gets deleted when I delete my iCloud account?

When you delete your entire iCloud account, all data associated with the account will be permanently deleted including:

  • Photos and videos
  • Contacts, calendars and reminders
  • Email and notes
  • iCloud Drive documents
  • App data
  • iCloud backup and restore information
  • iCloud website bookmarks and tabs
  • Any other data stored in iCloud

So be absolutely certain before deleting your iCloud account as all that data will be unrecoverable.

Can deleting photos on my iPhone affect my Mac photos?

It depends on whether you have iCloud Photos enabled across your devices:

  • With iCloud Photos on – Deleting photos on your iPhone causes them to be deleted from iCloud and in turn removed from your Mac.
  • With iCloud Photos off – Your iPhone and Mac have separate local storage. Deleting photos on one device does not affect the other.

To be safe, double check if iCloud Photos is enabled before deleting photos from your iPhone that you want to keep on your Mac.

How long are Recently Deleted photos kept before being permanently deleted?

When you delete photos on your iPhone, iPad or Mac, the photos are moved to the Recently Deleted folder in your Photos app.

These deleted photos stay in the Recently Deleted folder for 30 days. After 30 days, they are automatically and permanently deleted by Apple from both your device storage and iCloud storage.

So you have a 30 day window to recover deleted photos before they are permanently gone.

Can Apple employees recover my deleted photos?

No, Apple employees and support staff do not have the technical ability to recover photos and data that you have deleted from your iCloud account and storage.

Here are some key points on why deleted iCloud photos cannot be recovered:

  • All photos you upload are encrypted using keys only available on your devices.
  • Apple has no access to these encryption keys to decrypt your deleted photos.
  • Once photos are permanently deleted after 30 days, the encryption keys are discarded.
  • So there is no technical way for the photos to be retrieved even by Apple.

The only exception is if Apple is compelled by law enforcement to provide data from your account, in which case they can only retrieve what currently exists in your account and not deleted data.

What are my options if I accidentally delete photos from iCloud storage?

If you have accidentally deleted photos from your iCloud storage, here are a few options to try getting them back:

  1. Check the Recently Deleted folder on your device and restore the photos from there if available.
  2. Use any local device backups like iTunes or Time Machine that may contain the deleted photos.
  3. Use a third party iCloud recovery app to extract photos before permanent deletion.
  4. Contact Apple support in case they can offer other solutions.

However, there is no guarantee. So act fast and take preventative backups in the future before deleting any photos.

How can I export all of my photos and videos from iCloud?

Here are the steps to export all your photos and videos from iCloud storage:

  1. Go to privacy.apple.com and log in to your iCloud account.
  2. Go to the “Manage your data and privacy” section.
  3. Under photos, select the option to download your photos and videos.
  4. Choose the original full-resolution versions.
  5. Select all photos and videos by choosing the date range.
  6. Click on export to download a ZIP file to your computer.

This will let you fully export a backup of all your iCloud photos and videos to store offline externally.

What are some common user mistakes that result in deleted iCloud photos?

Some common mistakes that end up accidentally deleting users’ iCloud photos include:

  • Enabling the “Optimize iPhone Storage” option which offloads photos to iCloud and deletes local copies.
  • Turning on iCloud Photos on multiple devices which syncs deletions across devices.
  • Accidentally swiping away photos in the Recently Deleted album, thinking they will still be saved.
  • Assuming deleted photos remain in the iCloud backup even when deleted from all devices.
  • Disabling iCloud Photos which stops syncing photos across devices.

Being aware of these common pitfalls can help you avoid accidentally losing any photos you want to keep safe in iCloud.

What happens to my iCloud photos if I don’t pay my subscription?

Here is what happens to your iCloud photos and account if you don’t pay your iCloud+ subscription fee:

  • Your account goes into a grace period first during which everything works normally.
  • Once the grace period expires, your account shifts into a frozen state where you can’t add or edit content.
  • For up to 90 days in frozen state, you can still access and download your existing data like photos.
  • After 90 days, your account will be completely disabled and all data deleted permanently.

So make sure to download any photos you wish to keep before the 90 day period elapses on an unpaid account.


Overall, while Apple does not take any intentional measures to make deleted iCloud photos irrecoverable, practical limitations around encryption mean that photos deleted for over 30 days are essentially gone for good.

So before removing any precious photos from your iCloud storage, think carefully and back them up externally just in case. With proper care, you can safely store your photo memories in Apple’s cloud services.