Photos have been deleted from an iPhone which had iCloud Photo Library turned on so photos were deleted from iCloud as well. Does Apple store backups of iCloud to restore its state at a previous date ?

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    How long ago was this? When I delete photos they go into a deleted folder for a month before being removed
    – GammaGames
    Jun 17, 2020 at 22:10
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    Phil Schiller's meant to every other weekend, but he always forgets to plug the Drobo into the Mac mini before he leaves the office 🤦‍♂️ Jun 19, 2020 at 9:21

4 Answers 4


Does Apple make backups of iCloud?

From an infrastructure management perspective, yes they do. However, it’s not something consumers can access alone and it’s not something Apple support staff and engineers can access alone. Their backups are for service continuity; if something on their servers crash, they can be to and running again. They also have some automation in case people inadvertently make a choice to delete files not realizing that deletion is permanent. Due to how the encryption keys are stored, you would need to create a support pin and then explicitly give Apple consent and a key to unlock your files. Think of a bank offering to store your lock box in their vault. They can look at your box, but may not have the key to open it.

Can you access this back up? No. It’s not for users. In fact, every Apple account is encrypted meaning Apple can’t make sense of the files without your help.

From the customer perspective (yours) iCloud is a synchronization service. If you delete photos, it’s assumed you wanted them gone. Now, you can use iCloud for your own backups, but that’s something you have to setup and manage (For example, my iPhone is backed up to iCloud including photos on it).

IMO, iCloud is good, but not as mature as OneDrive or Azure. In those services, not only do I get the synchronization services like iCloud, but I can purchase a backup plan and even specify where I want it (I could be in the east coast of the US and my data gets backed up to the west coast or even Europe!)

Personally, when it comes to Photos, I have them in the cloud, on my NAS and then backed up from the NAS to a USB drive, so 3 places. Having your own backup is the ideal case as you would not depend on support for recovering files you could have backed up.

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    @MichelAntoine you ate confusing encryption between iCloud servers and the client (your Mac, for example) with encryption of the data itself on those servers. I’m referring to the latter.
    – Allan
    Jun 18, 2020 at 10:21
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    Old Salty Sys Admin saying: If it doesn't exist in at least 3 places, then it never really existed at all.
    – SnakeDoc
    Jun 18, 2020 at 16:24
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    From what I have heard, Apple has a "magic switch" that can recover photos that were deleted even from the "Recently Deleted" folder source, so in this way they do have a "backup" of the photos, provided OP has removed them in the last 40 days. Am I misunderstanding what you are saying?
    – Oion Akif
    Jun 18, 2020 at 17:02
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    Reddit is an “iffy” source so take what they say with a heavy grain of salt. There is a recycle bin function that’s built into iCloud, but it’s not backup. You have X number of days to undelete whatever you deleted then it’s gone. It’s very different from a back up. It’s closer to your Trash on your Mac.
    – Allan
    Jun 18, 2020 at 17:10
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    "(I could be in the east coast of the US and my data gets backed up to the west coast or even Europe!)" Great for those pesky asteroid strikes Jun 18, 2020 at 19:07

Not sure whether it's officially known if Apple does or doesn't make backups of the data stored in iCloud (I would assume they do). But even if they do there is no enduser access to it so you can't use it to recover lost data.

You may be able to get your photos back from the "Recently Deleted" album within Photos if the deletion took place in the past 30 days (and you didn't empty the album manually).

PS: It's important to keep in mind that iCloud basically is a syncing solution, not a backup solution. So having a dedicated backup in addition to it is always recommended.

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    In some sense, a syncing solution is the opposite of a backup: if you accidentally delete something, it makes sure, it is deleted everywhere. Jun 17, 2020 at 18:43
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    @JörgWMittag That's a very common trap I see people fall into. Thinking that automated rsync scripts or RAID are a backup, when in fact they're just incredibly effective ways to make sure a ransom ware attack, bit flip, accidental edit or delete are synced everywhere.
    – Alexander
    Jun 18, 2020 at 13:02
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    @Alexander-ReinstateMonica: See also Why is RAID not a backup? on Server Fault. Jun 19, 2020 at 6:22
  • @Alexander-ReinstateMonica does any ransomware attack foil rsync used with the --backup flag? Wouldn't an rsync run on the backup/destination server, that is, where the source to be backed up is a remote host, and the destination is local would be even harder to nigh impossible for a (in the general case, of a fully automated) ransomware attack to foil (Note: sure, you're left with a mix of old and new, but they're organized, not a mess.) (Second question should perhaps be its own question!? Perhaps, but far from an entirely novel question! stackexchange.com/search?q=rsync+ransomware ) Aug 2, 2020 at 21:03
  • @MatthewElvey Yeah, that sounds like it should be fine, from what little I understand about the --backup flag
    – Alexander
    Aug 2, 2020 at 21:16

Apple support engineers do have access to longer retention and backups even if you intentionally take action to delete all photos, then delete them from the deleted items section and dismiss the warnings that may present.

I would not count on them having a long time period (weeks or longer would be long) to help rescue your photos and would contact them as soon as you can if you discover you don’t have a local backup of the photos that are now deleted or if your library becomes corrupted.


Thank you for clarification and recommendations. The problem indeed is that Apple offers both a synching service and backups through the same cloud and that is misleading users. The worst part is that if one doesn't use iCloud Photo Library (presumably photos are then only on 1 device) then photos are included in the backup...


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