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My iPhone fell into water and is now broken, completely! I desperately try to recover my photos via iCloud. I downloaded the iCloud manager for Windows since I never backed up my iPhone with my computer.

In this manager I can see that I have an online backup file of about 4.5 GB. iCloud is almost full. However, when I check the Photo Stream folder that got created, I only can see about 130 pictures. (I assume the 4.5 GB must be the rest of my pictures.)

Are my other pictures included in this online backup and how can I get to them, like backup to my new iPhone? Since this one has another ID can I restore only the pictures without messing up the data of my current iPhone?

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3 Answers

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Photo Stream and iCloud Backup are separate — your photos are stored in your iCloud Backup and many of them are duplicated and stored in Photo Stream (unless you deleted them from your camera roll in which case they're not duplicates).

The iCloud backup can be restored whole to your device. You can't restore parts of it — it's all or nothing.

However, there is a workaround:

  1. Make a backup of your new device to iTunes.
  2. Reset your device to factory settings and restore the iCloud backup.
  3. Use Image Capture or iPhoto/Aperture to import the photos.
  4. Reset your device to factory settings and restore the iTunes backup.
  5. Copy the photos back to your device.
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alright! that sounds very good, thanks for your help! –  Frank Dec 29 '13 at 0:48
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Thing I tried that DID work

1) Did not plug the phone into my MacBook, I used the wall charger only to prevent any iTunes sync activity

2) Erase all settings and data, restore from the iCloud backup and input passwords in all the pop up windows once it reboots.

2) Open photos app gallery to see photos downloading and show the progress message "downloading xx of x,xxx"

3) Left it on this photo screen and did not touch the phone at all for the entire restore. I did not close the photo galley/camera roll app once, open any other apps.

Finally this time round it work and all my photos and apps restored in full. I am going to go back to syncing with iTunes as I don't trust iCloud for restores. It seems that iCloud does not handle photo restores that well, especially if the gallery is large. In short: Wall charger only, restore from iCloud, open Photos app, don't touch. Really hope this works for you too if you've had the same issue.

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I guess this is what you could do if someone you know could spare you an iPhone for a day or so:-

  1. Get an iPhone and take a backup of the same on your system - use iTunes to do that
  2. Now (this is really critical and follow it at your own risk) log into your iCloud account on the phone and restore that phone while pointing to the iCloud backup. In this was you will have all of the iCloud data in that phone

  3. Mail the photos from the restored iPhone to yourself; or use Dropbox (or similar) to sync them off the system

  4. Restore iPhone from backup taken in step 1

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