IOS 14 Photos issues - photos deleted at random

The Photos app on my iPhone on iOS 14 has been behaving strangely. Initially, it stopped being able to return search results - for example filtering photos by location, theme (e.g. “snow”) or people - including people it suggested. This issue was intermittent.

However, the latest issue is that is has deleted around 7,000 photos from the 22,000 I had. These are nowhere to be found on the device. I’ve been using iPhones since 2007, and the ability of my phone to store all my photos is pretty important to me, which is why the last few I’ve bought had the maximum storage (512 GB), including my latest iPhone 12 Pro.

Have any of you experienced similar issues? Can any of you offer any advice? I’ve had a couple of chats with Apple technical support and Photos engineers when the issue was only related to search, but it’s clearly got worse since then.

My suspicion is that the photos database got corrupted, and the app scrambled to delete some photos to recover. This is a bit of a dealbreaker for me. If I can’t trust the integrity and completeness of my data, I’m going to switch.

I have full archived backups, but as far as I can tell, getting to the photos would mean fully restoring those backups onto a device, copying the photos to iCloud Photos, then copying them back onto the iPhone. Since I no longer have a spare device with that kind of capacity, I’d have to delete my main iPhone and work from there - which means the whole operation would take me at least a full days’ work - not exactly what I though I was paying for when I bought into this echosystem - thanks, Apple! Unless Apple is willing to lend me a spare device.

Grateful for any useful suggestions!

There was one time when it was “indexing” when I tried to search for something. Not sure if any photos have been deleted though. How did you notice that they were gone?

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Can you see the missing photos at

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Hi both, thank you for your suggestions.

I was actually looking for some old Christmas photos on Christmas Day, and noticed that some of the oldest ones from 2007 were no longer there. Then I noticed that the number of photos on my phone had dropped from over 22,000 to under 16,000.

No, I only recently told my phone to begin backing up photos to, actually on instruction from the Apple engineer while we were trying to sort out the Search issue.

I always steer people to for Apple related woes. There’s a Q and A forum you can search and post questions, and the guy who runs it is incredibly helpful and knowledgeable about Apple products and software.


Thanks @Anarchist. Great resource. R-

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I don’t understand this bit. Where are the backups? Are these photos that were taken on a camera and side loaded onto your phone?

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For me, a full archived backup is when you perform a complete backup to iTunes, which can be restored, but only in its entirety.

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With the amount of photos you have that must take a year and a half to back up!

It’s a mystery how photos disappeared and slightly concerning as I’ve just switched to iCloud from Google photos

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Thank you. :+1:Will check it out when I get home in a few days - that’s where I keep my NAS and backups and everything.

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I use both. My phone backs up to iCloud every night, and I manually back up to Google Photos whenever I remember.

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I’m trying to de-Google my life after their recent changes to Drive/Photos TOS

It’s still probably backing up in the background but I will delete it at some point in 2021

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@ndrw , it feels like a corruption, which has then led to loss of data. In my mind, there’s no substitute for a good physical backup. Some of my files once went missing from iCloud, and it’s only because I noticed within 30 days that I was able to undelete them.

Performing a full backup to a NAS takes me around 18 hours, so I now keep my most recent iPhone backups to iTunes on a UBS SSD drive, which reduces the time to around 90 minutes.

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Good point.

I have also experienced data getting lost from iCloud. In my case it was my entire Voice Memos library and, on a separate occasion, some photos which due to slow internet hadn’t backed up to iCloud Photos and then when I restored my phone (due to an unrelated problem) they obviously weren’t there like I expected them to be.

I did try to diagnose the Voice Memos issue with Apple Support but never managed to get them back which was a shame.

The Voice Memos problem must have been an iCloud or CloudKit bug.

I also lost the photos forever, but at least it wasn’t my whole library! (Although I accept that the photos getting lost was basically my fault)

Hi @Justin

Just been speaking to a friend at some length about the issue you’re reporting here.

This isn’t an issue Apple are currently aware of or tracking, so suggest you get in touch with support who can escalate your account to the engineers in Cupertino who will very much want to investigate this and work with you, hopefully with the goal to get your photos back, or at least prevent it from happening to others.

Perhaps, if you can, get back in touch with the photos engineer you were previously talking with to escalate this further.

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Thank you for investigating on my behalf, @N26throwaway. When I reported the initial issue with Photos search, I was indeed put in touch with one of the Photos engineers, who took me through a few steps to troubleshoot and seek to remediate. However, the same afternoon, search began working again, and after that, the engineer was taking some annual leave, so we’ve only since exchanged a couple of emails.

When we initially spoke on the phone, I’m almost sure that all or many more of my photos were still on my device. However, difficult to be 100% certain.

I did email him again on Christmas Day to report the loss of photos, but indicated I wouldn’t have access to my equipment (MacBook and USB SSD drive) until early in the New Year, since I’ve been abroad since mid-December. I also expect that like most of us, he took some leave over Christmas. However, I do expect him to get back to me for the conversation to resume.

It’s quite troubling to me that data can be lost in such a manner (though reassuringly justifies the lengths and expense I’ve gone to in order to maintain so many backups!) so I do believe Apple will take this seriously. It is useful too that my new iPhone is only a couple of months old, so fully covered by support.

Apart from the loss of data and hassle, the most annoying part of this is that it will require restoring backups to an iPhone. Since only my primary iPhone has this much capacity, unless Apple lend me one, I’ll have to use it to restore all the data to, which will mean wiping it, and later reinstalling all the Apple Pay cards, all the banking apps, and all the other apps that require 2FA, which is hugely time consuming - and of course, there’s no guarantee that it’ll work first time. Obviously, however, worth it to get the data back.

I’ll keep you updated. Do please let me know if you have any further thoughts.