Apple explains why iOS 17.5 resurrected your deleted photos — what you need to know

iOS 17.5 ready to download in Settings app
(Image credit: Future)

Earlier this week Apple released the iOS 17.5.1 update to fix a very serious bug that saw deleted photos reappear on devices — including devices that were alleged to have been factory reset. Initially Apple claimed this issue was caused by “database corruption”, but has divulged some extra details to 9to5Mac.

Some people reported finding images that date as far back as 2010, meaning they’ve long since upgraded from the device those images originated from. That led some to assume that iCloud Photos may be involved in the glitch, but Apple says this isn’t the case. The glitch all came down to a corrupt database entry on the device’s file system.

The problem was that images were not fully deleted from their original device. However the company claims that the image files were only ever on the device, and were never synced to iCloud Photos. Apparently the only way they could have persisted across devices is due to device-to-device transfers or restoring from a backup — including iCloud Backup.

Now you may have heard the story of people formatting their devices and selling them on, only for older photos to resurface thanks to this bug. Apple says this is false, and erasing the content on a device, and not restoring any kind of backup means those photos wouldn’t be able to resurface.

The glitch is pretty disconcerting, there’s no doubt about that. Once a photo or file has been deleted, and removed from the trash folder, you expect it to be gone forever. You certainly don’t want it popping back up after 14 years. Especially if it's something you deleted for a very good reason.

If it’s any comfort, Apple claims that this problem was rare and only affected a small number of people. Plus the fact that the issue didn’t arise from iCloud Photos, and instead came from your own backups, means your photos weren’t exposed in places where they shouldn’t be.

The fact that iOS 17.5.1 is now available means that this shouldn’t happen again. However you will need to go back through your photos and delete them all over again. Let’s just hope that this time they’ll be gone for good.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.