iCloud Photos offers two options for syncing images and videos across your devices and into your iCloud account’s cloud storage: downloading and retaining originals or “optimizing storage,” which means only thumbnails are retrieved—full-resolution media is downloaded as needed, but otherwise not retained to free up storage on your device.
One reader switched to Download and Keep Originals on their iPhone, but didn’t have enough storage space. They believe about 2,000 images are missing. They are worried about switching back to optimized—will that permanently delete those images?
It’s likely they are not, but rather the phone stopped downloading because it lacked storage. iCloud Photos doesn’t delete images in that case; it just stops syncing them.
You can check to see if your media remains intact in one of three ways:
Log into icloud.com with the same Apple ID and check your Photos library there to see if the “missing” items are present.
If you have a Mac also connected to the same iCloud account, check the Photos app.
On another iPhone or iPad connected to the same account and with Optimize iPhone/iPad Storage chosen, see if the thumbnails for the images appear.
If you’re missing images, you might also check the Recently Deleted album, a special location that retains deleted images and videos for about 30 days before they’re removed permanently.
This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by Macworld reader Javier.
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