Deleted iPhone photos show up again after iOS update

iPhone owners are reporting that photos they’d deleted are now back on their phones, after updating to iOS 17.5.

With so many users reporting similar oddities, it would seem something went wrong, or at least different than to be expected. Here are some examples from Reddit:

“When in conversation with my partner, I went to send a picture and saw that the latest pictures were nsfw material we’d made years ago”

“I have four pics from 2010 that keep reappearing as the latest pics uploaded to iCloud. I have deleted them repeatedly.”

“Same thing happened to me. Six photos from different times, all I have deleted. Some I had deleted in 2023.”

When you delete a photo from an iPhone or iPad, it goes into a “Recently deleted” album for up to 30 days to make it easy to recover if the photo is accidentally deleted. However, the above examples vastly exceed this timeframe, and it’s unclear exactly what’s happened here.

When you delete a file, actually all that happens is you remove the pointer that tells you where exactly the file is located. This makes it hard to find, but not impossible. Until the system uses the location of the deleted file and replaces it with other data, the file can be retrieved.

Apple’s last update for iOS 17.5 and iPadOS 17.5 came out on Monday with a warning to update your iPhone as soon as possible. That’s because iOS 17.5 fixes 15 security vulnerabilities, some of which are serious. Please don’t let this article stop you from installing the update, but it’s good to be prepared for some unexpected behavior.

At the time of writing, Apple hasn’t commented on the issue.

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