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How do I go about deleting all photos from my iPad Pro (A1701) and still have them on iCloud?

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You don’t need to worry about deleting your photos. If you download apps and things, photos will dynamically remove pictures to free up space. It knows it is backed up in iCloud, so it doesn’t worry about keeping your photos saved on device.

edit: If you absolutely must have them gone, i'd suggest turning off iCloud photo library for the device in question. go to setting and tap on your name, click on iCloud, then photos. Turn it off and tap remove from this device. remember you won't get any further photos synced to that device until you turn it back on.

  • Be very careful. iCloud is a syncing service. It wants all devices to have the same photos. I suggest before you go about deleting anything, you create a backup of the device. – historystamp Dec 20 '18 at 0:40
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I just did this to clean up my iPad where I didn’t want to erase everything, just let iCloud get a fresh download.

  1. Turn off iCloud sync for Photos - turning off all options:
    1. Turn off Shared albums - choose delete if you get that option.
    2. Turn off Photo Stream - delete if it’s an option
    3. Turn off iCloud Photo Library - delete local copies
  2. Use Image Capture app to delete all remaining photos from the iPad.
  3. (Optional) Sync down a fresh copy from iCloud or establish a USB sync to completely install a new library if you wish.

Step 2 wasn’t obvious for me. The reason I wanted to delete wasn’t to start a new library but to get a clean download from iCloud only. I was a little hesitant to delete things for fear it might still delete from iCloud, so I powered off the iPad and then took a couple pictures from my iPhone (or optionally log into https://iCloud.com/photos from a computer and upload a photo or two) to confirm my cloud library was still intact and functioning. Then I powered on the iPad and confirmed it wasn’t getting any new photos from the stream and that if I deleted a couple photos they wouldn’t dissapear online.

The next step was to connect the iPad to a Mac and use Image Capture to select all the photos and delete them. In my case I still had over 28,000 photos on the iPad so I couldn’t delete them all in one chunk. About 5,000 per purge seemed to work reasonably fast and clean things up.

Once all the photos were gone, I was left with all these empty albums, but deleting them was a real hassle, so I could either sync with an empty library over iTunes or trust if I turned on iCloud again, it would replace my “phantom library” with the correct one.


If your photos came from a library instead of iCloud before you started, you could also uncheck that sync once iCloud was disengaged.

I’m guessing I had this before iCloud and I actually had a couple libraries commingled which I needed to unravel to let one iCloud library cover all the photos on my iPad.

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