Apple blames corrupted database for bug that restores deleted photos

Issue affects only a small number of files and is not caused by iCloud Photos, company says

Apple, which has made security and privacy a key selling point, does not have access to user photos and videos. Getty Images
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Apple has said the bug causing deleted photos to apparently reappear on iOS devices is "rare" and in an update to correct the issue blamed a "database corruption".

Users claiming that old, deleted photos began reappearing on their devices after the iOS 17.5 update on May 13. Images from as far as 2010 were being restored.

Apple said a corrupt database entry prevented some photos from being fully deleted from iPhones and remained in the file system.

That eventually caused those files to reappear in users' libraries. Apple also stressed that iCloud Photos was not to blame for the problem.

Apple fixed this with the iOS 17.5.1 update, which "provides important bug fixes and addresses a rare issue where photos that experienced database corruption could reappear in the Photos library even if they were deleted", according to initial patch notes.

In a subsequent explanation, first shared with Apple-centric news site 9to5Mac, the California-based company said the affected photos won't be synched to iCloud Photos, but may be included when the file system itself was copied.

These instances include backing up an iPhone to an external hard drive with a device-to-device transfer, or using iCloud backup when not using iCloud Photos.

The bug only affects a "very small number" of photo files, Apple said.

Photos or videos deleted from an iOS device are sent directly to the Recently Deleted folder. Users are then given 30 days to recover those files, otherwise they are permanently deleted once that time period has elapsed.

The Recently Deleted folder also gives users options to restore or permanently delete files. Apple recommends doing the latter to purge them "permanently and immediately". Photos can also be saved on iOS backups or iCloud uploads.

In addition, users can permanently wipe out all iPhone data by using the Erase All Content and Settings function on the device.

Apple, which has made security and privacy a key selling point, does not have access to user photos and videos.

The company has also confirmed that a Reddit user claim that deleted photos on an iPad had resurfaced was false. The user has since deleted the post.

Updated: May 26, 2024, 9:25 AM