iCloud Photos offers a great way to access all your media across all your devices and at iCloud.com. Some people find it doesn’t meet their needs and want to disable it, but they’re worried about a potential edge case, described as follows:
- They disable iCloud Photos on their Apple devices and retain images and videos variously based on storage. This unlinks their device-based Photos libraries from iCloud synchronization among them, and between them and iCloud.com.
- They go to iCloud.com and delete images.
- Unintentionally, iCloud Photos is re-enabled on a device.
Will step 3 result in images deleted from iCloud.com in step 2 also being removed from the accidentally re-enabled device in step 3? Apple doesn’t document this particular case, but the answer clearly seems to be no. iCloud retains no record of deletions that’s applied when and if sync becomes re-enabled.
Consider that deleting media in iCloud Photos more like moving media. That is, when you delete an image or video, via iCloud Photos in iOS, iPadOS, or macOS or at iCloud.com, you receive a warning that looks something like this (or in a plural form):
Delete 1 item from all your devices? This item will be deleted from iCloud Photos on all your devices.
However, that’s not what happens. Instead, the Photos native app or web app moves your deleted items into the Recently Deleted folder. After about 30 days, they are automatically deleted. (You can navigate to Recently Deleted, select items, and delete them immediately, and they are never recoverable from that moment forward.)
When you re-enable iCloud Photos on a device, by error or intention, iCloud merges photos and movies across your devices and iCloud.com, producing a superset of all images.
This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by Macworld reader Dan.
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