How to Recover Permanently Deleted Photos From iCloud

How to get your old pictures back

What to Know

  • If your photos were saved on your device, restore from an iCloud Backup.
  • To check, go to Settings > Photos. If iCloud Photos is turned off, your photos are saved on your device.
  • Third-party data recovery apps may be able to retrieve your photos shortly after deletion.

This article will explain how you can try to recover photos that were permanently deleted.

How to Recover Permanently Deleted Photos Using a Backup

The process of recovering deleted photos is tricky. Before you dive in, let's quickly check the Photos app on iPhone or Mac.

  • On the iPhone: Open Photos. Tap Albums and swipe until you find (and then tap) the Recently Deleted item under Utilities. If you see the photo(s) you want to get back, tap the photo and tap Recover in the lower right corner.
  • On the Mac: Open Photos. In the left side bar, click the Recently Deleted icon/label. If you see the photo(s) you want to get back, click the photo and then click Recover at the top of the window.

If the photos weren't there you'll have to do a bit of fancy footwork to see if they are yet still recoverable. The first step is to see how your photos were stored. If your photos were stored on your device (and not synced with iCloud Photos), you can restore your device from an iCloud backup. It takes a little while, and you will lose any new data from your device. If the photos are worth the trouble, here’s how to hopefully get them back.

  1. Open the Settings app, then scroll down and tap Photos to verify where your photos are saved. If you haven’t turned on iCloud Photos, your photos are stored on your device.

    If iCloud Photos is enabled, your photos are automatically synced to iCloud. That means your photos aren’t included in your iCloud Backup, and you'll need to rely on different method of possible recovery. If that's the case, skip to the next section.

    Down arrow, Photos, and iCloud Photos in the Settings app on an iPhone
  2. Create a new backup. Because there may be new or important data on your device since your last backup you should make a backup now. Why? We're about to overwrite your current data with an older backup that hopefully has your deleted photos on it. But that means we're going to have to write over the current/existing data. Once the backup is complete, go to the next step.

  3. Erase your device. Go to Settings > General > Transfer or Reset iPhone. Choose Erase All Content and Settings > Continue. After you enter your passcode or Apple ID password, your device will erase. This can take a few minutes.

    Transfer or Reset, Erase All Content, and Continue in iPhone settings

    Keep in mind, this will erase all the current data on your iPhone. It's important to back up your current data before following the instructions in this step.

  4. Set up your iPhone as new. Your device will behave as if it’s completely new, so you’ll need to turn it on and follow the setup steps.

  5. When you reach the Apps & Data screen, choose Restore from iCloud Backup.

  6. Sign in to iCloud with your Apple ID.

  7. Choose the correct backup. Each backup is marked with a date or size. Choose a backup created before you deleted your photos.

  8. Finish setup. Depending on how much content you have stored on your device, it could take a few hours to finish restoring your data.

    Keep your phone connected to Wi-Fi and plugged in as often as possible to let the recovery process complete.

  9. Find your photos. If your photos were saved on your device at the time of this backup, they will be restored.

How Do I Recover Permanently Deleted Photos from iCloud Photo Library?

After you permanently delete photos from your device, it takes a little while for Apple’s servers to actually delete them. That means you may be able to recover them with third-party data recovery software if you act quickly.

Consider your options when choosing a third-party data recovery program. Retrieving your photos will require logging in with your Apple ID and password. Most of these programs will require payment to retrieve large numbers of photos. Since you may not be able to see or choose which photos are being recovered, you might pay $20 or more for photos you didn’t want.

Giving third-party programs access to your Apple ID presents a security risk. To be safe, change your password after you’re finished using the third-party software.

Before using a third-party data recovery tool, check the reviews to see if other users successfully recovered their photos. Here's how the process worked for the one we tried, CopyTrans.

  1. Download and install CopyTrans.

  2. Log in to your iCloud Photo Library. You will need to enter your Apple ID and a verification code.

    Verification Code entry on CopyTrans Cloudly
  3. Select Rescue. Many third-party data recovery programs like this can also download your photos from iCloud.

    Rescue highlighted in CopyTrans Cloudly options
  4. Wait for the program to recover any photos it finds.

    Most third-party data recovery programs will recover a limited number of photos for free. You will be asked to pay for additional ones.

    CopyTrans Cloudly downloading photos from iCloud Photo Library
  5. Select Open Containing Folder to check your photos. If the program was unable to recover your photos from the iCloud Photo Library, they have been permanently deleted and cannot be recovered.

    CopyTrans Cloudly wasn't able to recover photos deleted the previous day. It only recovered photos deleted in the previous few hours.

    Open Containing Folder in CopyTrans Cloudly

How Do I Recover Permanently Deleted Photos from iCloud After 30 Days?

When you delete photos, you have 30 days to recover them from your deleted files. After that, they are permanently deleted. If it has been more than 30 days since you deleted your photos, third-party software won’t be able to retrieve your photos. If they weren’t saved on your device, you won’t be able to restore them from a backup.

Are Permanently Deleted iCloud Photos Gone Forever?

Yes, in most cases, if you don’t act to retrieve your photos immediately, they’re gone forever. To preserve your photos in the future, download your photos from iCloud and save them in multiple locations.

  • How do I view my iCloud photos on a PC?

    To access your iCloud photos on your PC, install iCloud for Windows. Then, go to Photos > select Options > iCloud Photo Library > Done > Apply.

  • How do I upload photos to iCloud?

    To turn on iCloud automatic photo syncing on your phone, tap Settings > Apple ID > iCloud > Photos and turn on the iCloud Photos toggle. To upload photos from your computer, open the iCloud app, go to Photos, and select the Upload icon (cloud with an up-arrow).

  • How do I delete photos from my iPhone but not iCloud?

    To delete photos from your iPhone but not iCloud, turn off automatic iCloud photo syncing, then delete the photos on your iPhone. The photos will remain in your iCloud.

  • How do I turn off iCloud photos?

    To turn off iCloud Photos, disable automatic syncing, or go to Settings > select your name > Sign Out. Enter your Apple ID and tap Turn Off to completely sign out of iCloud.

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