Ask Different is a question and answer site for power users of Apple hardware and software. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have a photo set as my current iPhone wallpaper, which I would like to save. I have forgotten where I stored this file on my computer originally, so I can't easily go back to place it back on my phone. It has since been deleted from my camera roll.

Is there any way to export the photo that is currently set as the wallpaper, so that I can change the wallpaper to something else, but save the other one?

share|improve this question

13 Answers 13

up vote 2 down vote accepted

You cannot export the wallpaper, depending on the pattern (if it were repetitive) it would be possible to take screen shots and after emailing these to your self you could edit in Photoshop (other editing software is available)

You would need to take one shot of a page in iOS with only one app, and then if it is a repeatable patern you can edit out or clone out the app on the screen and the apps at the bottom.

Alternatively you can or tap and hold an app to get to wiggle mode, and go to the far right to get a "clean" page, then screenshot this.

Not great but that is the only way, I'm afraid.

share|improve this answer

As an expansion to Macjack's answer, here's the process I just followed to retrieve the lock screen wallpaper on my phone.

Looking in the /Users/<youruser>/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backups folder is effective but very time consuming, especially if you have a lot of files/images in your backup (my phone a 16GB iPhone 5 that is pretty full had nearly 7000 files in there). However, the majority of them were not photos for me.

So I wrote a small script to extract the photos and rename them so they have the proper file extension. This makes it possible to use the image carousel preview for reviewing the images quickly.

Get the script here. (right click and 'Save link as' and save into your Downloads folder)

Now, open Terminal (type 'terminal' into spotlight). Then copy and paste this into the terminal window:

cd ~/Library/'Application Support'/MobileSync/Backups
chmod +x ~/Downloads/
BACKUP=$(ls -t . | head -n1)
~/Downloads/ "$BACKUP"

What those four lines do, for non-programmers:

  1. "moves" you into the Backups directory
  2. Makes the script I wrote above "executable" (able to be run)
  3. Gets the name of the newest backup
  4. Runs my script, telling it the name of the backup to process

And here is a description of what the script does.

share|improve this answer
I love this solution but I haven't gotten it to work yet. I've hit a snag in the script: mv: rename image-search-yD0wt/png/* to image-search-yD0wt/png/*.png: No such file or directory. Any ideas? – hairboat Jul 10 '15 at 22:20
@abbyhairboat I think the issue is that there are no png files found, and the script is unprepared for that eventuality :) I'll take a look at fixing it. – Geoff Jul 11 '15 at 6:09
@abbyhairboat okay, it should work now. I've updated the link, so you should redownload the script and then follow the instructions in the answer again. – Geoff Jul 11 '15 at 6:21
Script works for me now, but it's not finding any images. Oh, and btw the directory is just Backup for me, singular. – hairboat Jul 13 '15 at 15:03

You may find the photo in the iPhone backup on your computer.

On a Mac press Alt and select Go to in the menu bar. There open Library. Assure that you are in column view in the new window. Got to UserName/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup.

There you will find strangely named folders with all the backed up files. Go through the one, that seems to be one that is the latest backup for your iPhone. You may want to check on which date you have created the latest backup for your iPhone in iTunes first. Some of the backed up files will have the same date.

In the right column you will see a preview of any selected file. Many files will be blank though.

Copy the right one to another location on your computer and add .tiff or .jpg to the file name. Open in Preview other any appropriate program.

With that procedure I was able to recover the background that I had carried over from my first iPhone. I had to go through a lot of files though. The desired one was about number 800 of 4.500 files.

share|improve this answer
You can at least narrow down this extremely long list of files with the command ls | xargs file | sort -k2 | grep image > /tmp/images. – Jim L. Mar 23 at 3:50

One way that may require the help of an octopus is to go to Wallpaper settings click on wallpaper preview that is not the lock screen and pinch the image so it shrinks in the screen - this will get the "Cancel/Set" buttons out of the image. If you let go of the pinch, it'll bounce back, so the trick is to pinch and screen grab at the same time. Then you can crop out the wallpaper setting details in newly captured image in Photos. I was able to do this with four fingers on two hands (no feet required :)) on an iPhone 4s, not sure how dexterous you need to be on an iPhone 6 or 6 plus.

share|improve this answer
Very tricky. I like it. – hairboat Jul 10 '15 at 22:22
Additional, you may take multiple and Photoshop the uncovered area from one to the covered area of the other. and visa versa. For the screenshot, it may help to have another person press the buttons while you pinch. – yesennes May 20 at 3:20

Try this:

I had the same problem, so I took a screenshot, uploaded it on that website and it found my image!

share|improve this answer
Answers on Ask Different need to be more than just a link. It's okay to include a link, but please summarize or excerpt it in the answer. The idea is to make the answer stand alone. – Daniel Sep 6 '12 at 17:11
Very interesting; sadly, it won't work for my wallpaper which was a family photo :) – NickC Sep 6 '12 at 17:21

If your device is jailbroken, you can access the current wallpaper which is stored in:

share|improve this answer

If your home screen wallpaper happens to be the same as your lock screen wallpaper then it is possible to extract the image with a screen grab.

With iOS 7 installed on my iPhone 5 and while viewing my lock screen I plugged a power cable into my phone. For a split second all the text overlays disappeared from my lock screen then a battery power status icon appeared. If you are quick you can take a screen grab of the clean wallpaper.

I had spent a couple hours trying to figure out how to recover my lock screen image since the pic had been deleted from my camera roll long ago. Just as I was giving up and was laying down to bed, I plugged my phone into it's charging cable. That's when I noticed the clear image. It was a life saver. I hope this helps.

Important to note
Before doing this, go to Settings->Wallpaper and make sure "Perspective Zoom" is turned off. Otherwise when setting this newly captured image as a wallpaper it is automatically scaled up so you will lose some information around the edges.

share|improve this answer

I would Imagine, if you jailbreak, you can find where the file is stored on the iPhone's file-system.

This would involve jailbreaking, and then installing a package like Samba. All you would have to do then is mount the iPhone from your desktop, and find the image.

Alternatively, there are a number of pieces of software that allow you to browse the iPhone filesystem over USB, again assuming the iPhone is jailbroken (DiskAid is an example).

Last, there are local file managers for the iPhone, that would possible allow you to find the file and copy it directly on the iPhone.

However, I do not think there is really any way to do this without jailbreaking.

share|improve this answer

As you have set a photo as wallpaper the photo should still be listed under photos on your iPhone. You can email that photo yourself.

share|improve this answer
That is actually not true, since I have synced and removed photos since I set the wallpaper. – NickC Jan 15 '12 at 22:18
Sorry, I did not think that a photo can be deleted as long as it is in use. – Martin Jan 16 '12 at 12:39

I have the same issue. Best thing I found was to take a screen shot (press the Home and Sleep buttons simultaneously. The screen will flash white, a camera shutter "click" will sound, and the picture will be saved to the Camera Roll folder in your Photos). Not ideal as you have the date header and footer but at least you get to keep the original shot. Hope this helps?

share|improve this answer

Tap and hold an app to make all your apps shake (how you delete apps), move all 4 of your apps on the bottom bar (the one that is at the bottom of every app page) to a page with other apps on it so it is blank. Slide over to a completely blank page (you can do this while app delete is activated), then take your screen shot. You will only have a small grey bar across the bottom of your image. If the image you want is on your lock screen instead of your home screen this will not help you.

share|improve this answer

Go to wallpaper preview, turn perspective zoom off, and take a screenshot, then save with perspective zoom off


Turn wiggle mode on, go to a new page and take a screenshot


Double click, remove all apps from recently used, take another screenshot, then edit the 2 photos together, and if done properly, you'll be able to salvage a new version of the background in it's entirety.

This should work for me, hopefully it will work for others, I'm not sure if it will work if the photo was greatly zoomed in initially

share|improve this answer

Always upload your pictures to Google Photos. I found my wallpaper photo from 5 years ago of my daughters by searching on my Google Photos list by my daughter's name. Google photos will index all your photos. Just assign a name to a person in one of your photos, and Google will find all matching photos and assign that name to them. Even group photos will be found under multiple names.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.