I have iCloud Photos, and for a period had iCloud enabled on my iPhone (6, 12.1.2). Then I had disabled iCloud on the phone to free space. Some photos still stayed on the phone and I didn't delete them for a while. Now after some time again my storage is full on the phone and I wanted to delete these photos, which all perfectly synced to Photos on my other Macs, and which I'd assumed are only local copies.

BUT when I tried deleting them I got this message: "These photos will also be deleted from Photo Stream on all your devices". I've checked and Photo Stream is disabled on the phone. It's not clear to me how things work and why I'm getting this message.

Can I safely delete these photos without deleting them from Photos across all devices?

  • I can see on Apple's docs that "When you delete a photo from My Photo Stream on one device, the photo is removed from Photos and iCloud. The photos that you import from My Photo Stream to your other devices won’t be deleted." It's not clear from this comment whether or not photos imported directly without Photo Stream and synced to iCloud will be deleted. source: support.apple.com/en-my/HT201317
    – krulik
    Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 16:35

2 Answers 2


Your photo library is independent of the photo stream. So is opting in to iCloud storage of your photo library.

The only overlap is if you import items from the photo stream into the library. Deleting an item from the photo stream does not delete it from any library so it's safe to delete if you're sure you already have it imported or never want it imported.

Since everything gets deleted automatically from the stream, you're just accelerating that for the ones you choose to purge early.

  • 1
    Thanks! That's what I thought, and I've read this source. What confused me was this sentence "When you delete a photo from My Photo Stream on one device, the photo is removed from Photos and iCloud".
    – krulik
    Commented Dec 28, 2019 at 17:03
  • 2
    @krulik That statement is both confusing and literally correct - photos shows both the stream and the library - so will iCloud web app. They don't make it clear it's really two different buckets - I'm glad you were cautions and read very closely - A+
    – bmike
    Commented Dec 28, 2019 at 17:04

I suggest that you have a separate folder on an external drive for all photos as a backup.

I do this and even if I make a mistake between any device and iCloud I still have the originals.

When it warns you that the photos will be removed across all devices then it is best to believe it and make sure.

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