This is a follow-on question from this earlier one.

I want to be able to have iPhone <--> PC photo syncing such that when I delete a photo from the synced folder in Windows Explorer on the PC, it is automatically deleted from the iPhone 'in sync'. The premise for this is that after taking dozens of shots in a photo shoot and then editing on the Windows PC, and then deleting the ones I don't like etc. (or all of them in moving them outside the folder to be edited elsewhere on the PC), I'm not left with unwanted photos on the iPhone device which I no longer want.

I've downloaded and set up iCloud Control Panel 3.1 for Windows; when I delete a photo from my iPhone camera photos, it correctly syncs the 'deletion' of that photo to the Windows PC - but not the other way around. Is this limitation deliberate, or a bug of some kind, and if the former, short of jailbreaking the iPhone for an unofficial third-party solution for this, is there any way to do what I want to do?

N.B. I do not plan on using Mac OS for my aforementioned Desktop image editing needs.


As per the requirements and criteria of my question's description:

The premise ... is that after taking dozens of shots ... and then deleting the ones I don't like ... I'm not left with ... photos on the iPhone device which I no longer want.

I can answer that NO, Apple does NOT provide a way to two-way sync iPhone device photos. iCloud's two-way syncing between a PC and an iPhone only works for the 'My Photo Stream' folder. What I was looking at on the iPhone, where I was not seeing photos being deleted by PC two-way sync, was the Photos tab in the iOS Photos app - the default view of the Photos app when the user first starts using iOS. This is actually the Camera Roll folder, and there is no way to do two-way sync with these original iPhone images on the device using iCloud (or any other service).

However, to answer the question's (more open) title itself: YES, Apple DOES provide two-way sync between the iPhone and a PC, BUT only for sharing/syncing selected photos from the device (and only for 30 days at that) - NOT for editing, or managing the original set of Photos on your iPhone device. To see the (near simultaneous) two-way sync in action on the iPhone, go to the Albums tab in the Photo app where in the My Photo Stream folder you see as it currently designed. To manage or delete original photos themselves, you will have to manually delete and edit them via non-cloud-syncing methods.

  • Perhaps I missed it above, but could you state exactly what didn't work about the My Photo Stream solution? Was it the huge inconvenience of having to back up your My Photo Stream folder? Or was it that you are forced to deal with a folder other than the Camera Roll? In principle, if you elected to manage your photos directly from the My Photo Stream folder, you could "forget" about the Camera Roll once you have uploaded all your photos from the Camera Roll to the My Photo Stream folder. In this case, the only "manual" (one-way) deletions would be wiping your Camera Roll from time to time. – bunting Jan 8 '14 at 6:50
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    It's that I want to be able to manage the iPhone's photos AS THEY ARE on the device, not some seondary copy of them, which, I remind (and from what I've read), ONLY last for 30 days on iCloud(?). How that can be seen as an adequate solution I do not know....certainly for my needs, it fails. – user46942 Jan 9 '14 at 6:41
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    Understood. I didn't mean to imply My Photo Stream was an adequate solution for your exact needs; I was merely looking for a solution that hopefully wasn't too far off from what you requested. Sorry to hear it fails your needs, and I don't blame you for not wanting to use My Photo Stream since it falls short in so many ways. If you ever find something on iOS that comes remotely close to your requested functionality, please remember to post it here as an (unaccepted) answer, or create a new question and answer it there yourself. – bunting Jan 9 '14 at 17:17

I have good news for you this time: this functionality is possible by setting up a Photo Stream on iCloud. The only downside to this method is that you will need to back up your Photo Stream every once in a while.

Follow these set up instructions, and then use this troubleshooting guide and FAQ page if you have any follow-up questions. The set-up instructions are comprehensive, but I've summarized the steps below:

  1. On your iPhone, in your settings, tap iCloud > Photo Stream, then switch My Photo Stream on.
  2. On your PC, open your iCloud Control Panel, then check the Photo Stream checkbox, then click the Apply button.

Note: Photo Stream was reworded to Photos between iOS 6 and iOS 7; same for Windows 7 and Windows 8.

Now, to directly answer your concern about deletions, this deletions guide explains how to delete photos from the Photo Stream depending on what device you want to delete them from. Below I've summarized the relevant pieces of information:

Note: The following assumes you have iCloud Control Panel 3.1 for Windows, iOS 7, and Windows 7; if you have other specs, refer to the entire deletions guide link above.

Delete photos from iPhone

  • Open the Photos app, then tap Albums > My Photo Stream > Select, then tap one or more photos, and then tap the Trash icon. Then confirm the number of deleted photos by tapping the Delete N Photos dialog box, where N is the number of photos your checked to delete. The changes should then be reflected once you view your Photo Stream on your PC.

Delete photos from PC

  • Open a Windows Explorer window, and select Photos under Favorites in the side panel. Then double-click My Photo Stream to open it, and then select the photo or photos you want to delete. Right-click and select Delete. The changes should then be reflected once you view your Photo Stream on your iPhone.

Once again, to confirm, I asked an Apple Support rep the following question:

I want to use iCloud to do two-way photo synchronization between iPhone to PC so that when I sync photos from my iPhone to my PC, I can edit/delete them on my PC, and then have those edits/deletions be reflected automatically on my iPhone.

The response I got was the following:

Two-way photo syncing is possible using Photo Stream between iPhone and PC.

In case you ever do switch to a Mac, I believe two-way syncing is also possible between an iPhone and a Mac computer.

Lastly, you must occasionally archive and back up your Photo Stream

As specified in the FAQ page (linked above):

The photos on iCloud via My Photo Stream are only available for download for 30 days.

This is because your Photo Stream storage is separate from your iCloud storage. Therefore, you must archive your data to back it up permanently. The instructions for archiving and backing up are a bit long to get through, but hopefully it will be worthwhile in the long run.

  • Superb answer, I will check your instructions and edit this comment with success/failure results :).....thx and will answer back soon! – user46942 Jan 3 '14 at 6:55
  • Yes, please do follow up with your results; I temporarily don't have access to an iPhone and I'm curious if this works as the support rep claimed. If not, I will continue looking as I too could use this functionality. – bunting Jan 3 '14 at 6:59
  • FYI I have followed up with my full findings as an official answer. Hope that helps. – user46942 Jan 8 '14 at 6:16

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