A Stupid Trick to Quickly Remove All Photos from Camera Roll on iPhone with Preview
Removing all photos from the Camera Roll on an iPhone can be notoriously slow, particularly for Mac users with large picture libraries. Deleting all images from an iOS device with Image Capture can literally take hours, and deleting more than one photo directly on an iPhone itself is time consuming and a very hands-on process as you have to tap each picture you want to ditch.
Using the OS X app Preview you can speed up the removal process quite a bit with the help of a fairly silly adjustment.
- Connect the iPhone (or iPad or iPod) to the Mac with a USB cable
- Launch Preview app and pull down the File menu to choose “Import from iPhone”
- Copy the images over if desired (recommended!) and then hit Command+A to select all
- Now for the stupid trick that speeds up removal: increase the size of thumbnails shown with the slider bar, then shrink the window size to as small as possible
- Finally, hit the red (\) delete button at the bottom of the Import screen to start removing everything
Removing pictures this way still takes a while, but you’ll notice the thumbnails will go blank and groups of 2-3 images will be deleted at a time rather than 1 image at a time like the Image Capture method. The reason this probably works faster is because the draw time for each thumbnail is reduced, and they’ll quickly stop displaying entirely which makes the Camera Roll clear out even quicker.
In a strange twist, while removing all photos is faster this way, importing them to the computer seems slower with Preview than with Image Capture. Go figure.
The Preview portion of this tip was left by Dana in our comments, and I accidentally discovered the the thumbnail and screen resize trick. I deleted an image library of 1400 photos in about 6 minutes, still not as fast as Windows users can remove photos but it is indeed much faster than Image Capture or the endless tap-and-delete approach on the device itself.
We’re hoping Apple adds a bulk delete function to the iOS Photos app soon, but until then this will do.
If anyone knows a better or faster method, by all means let us know in the comments.