Firstly, let me just say that I do know that similar questions might have been asked, but none seem to answer exactly what I'm wondering, and I cannot afford to guess in this case, as that may result in all my pictures disappearing. Notice that I am wondering about iCloud drive.

I recently noticed that I can go into the camera roll and one by one add the pictures I want to iCloud drive. What I don't understand though, is if they, after this, are saved there in a way that makes it completely safe for me to delete them from my camera roll (on my iPhone 6), without also losing them from iCloud drive. From what I have found online (online forums etc), this is not possible for "regular" iCloud, however I think all the threads I found were a bit old. An example of a thread I found: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/7604440?start=0&tstart=0 I could not find any answers concerning iCloud drive.

Note that I do not allow for my pictures to be automatically uploaded to iCloud/iCloud drive; they are only saved in my camera roll. If iCloud drive can work as its own storage, then I will choose which pictures I want to go there, and then delete them from my phone to free up some much needed space.

Hope someone can help me, I would be very thankful!! And when you answer, I would really appreciate it if you explained all the words, as I have very little knowledge about this stuff. For example, I have no idea what photo stream means (it came up once when I was searching this topic), so if that actually is a factor in this context, please explain it. I don't really understand the "help" pages on apple's homepage..


2 Answers 2


iCloud Drive is just a way to sync photos and other files between all your iOS devices and computers (both Mac and PC). iCloud does not function as a standalone Cloud storage service, hence if you delete photos from your iPhone they will also be deleted from iCloud Drive.

You can however upload your photos to other Cloud services like Dropbox, or simply transfer the photos to your computer (i.e. into another folder or import them into photo management software such as the Photos app on macOS), and then delete them from your phone and these photos will still remain on your computer or Dropbox.


One word: YES

To get to get down to your question, it is important to understand how iCloud storage works - whether you upgrade to a paid storage plan or not, iCloud works the same: the storage is shared among all applications and services using iCloud.

Now, currently there are four ways to store your photos to different services of iCloud and they are all independent. Image duplicates (if any) in all four positions are managed separately.

iCloud Photo Library. (This is what you call ”iCloud” in the question)

  • Camera roll is merged with and replaced as iCloud Photo Library under this method.
  • It takes up iCloud storage space.
  • It has nothing to do with iCloud Drive.
  • Photos stored in iCloud Drive will not show up in Photos app — unlike Dropbox or OneDrive, whose apps list all your photos on the cloud drive.
  • The original image files are stored in the cloud, and you can choose if your device downloads and stores the originals or compressed (“optimized”) ones.
  • Photos are only accessible from Photos app on any device. (Or in Finder on Mac as how the file system works) Photos are not accessible from iCloud Drive (the Files app on iOS, and the iCloud Drive tab in Finder).
  • Photos can only be deleted from Photos app on any of your device or on iCloud.com. If you have previously stored duplicates of photos to iCloud Drive (eg. by using action sheet in iOS to add them to iCloud Drive), they are not affected.

iCloud Drive. (now inside Files app in iOS 11)

  • It has nothing to do with iCloud Photo Library.
  • It works pretty much like a remote disk. It does not have the feature to auto upload photos from Photos app (your camera roll, etc). You have to add (save) photos to it so that it will upload them to the cloud, just as adding regular files.
  • It uses the iCloud storage space as well.
  • The image files, just like all other files in any cloud drive products, are stored in the cloud and can be downloaded to any device.
  • If you select some photos from Photos app (whether it is in your camera roll or other position) and save (export) them to iCloud Drive, you will have your photos in two separate and unrelated positions. Therefore, deleting or modifying the image files in iCloud Drive will not delete the images in Photos — but the photos are deleted everywhere on iCloud Drive.

iCloud Photo Sharing (aka. Shared iCloud Photo Stream)

  • It does not take up iCloud storage space.
  • It stores your photos forever.
  • It is basically Apple’s Instagram, but only with friends and family.
  • It compresses images and videos and even converts their formats. Go to Apple website for details.

iCloud Photo Stream

  • Depricated, or at least old-fashioned.
  • It does not take up iCloud storage space.
  • As the name suggests, it acts as a stream, an intermediate. It does not store photos forever (unlike the other three). Go to Apple website for more info.
  • "deleting or modifying the image files in iCloud Drive will not delete the images in Photos — but the photos are deleted everywhere on iCloud Drive." Can you clarify whether you also mean that when you delete images from the Camera Roll, they will not be deleted in iCloud drive? You say they are separate, unrelated locations (so would be logical), but it doesn't really answer my question for sure, because that depends if it works both ways or not. (You started by answering yes to my question, but based on the example I became uncertain if you had misread my question.) Oct 27, 2017 at 16:28
  • If you have added some photos to your iCloud Drive, and then deleted them from the camera roll, then they will still exist in your iCloud Drive. But not in the camera roll on the device.
    – jackxujh
    Oct 28, 2017 at 0:28

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