iPhone Shows Photos in Storage, But None on Device? Here’s Why!

Apr 20, 2019 - 19 Comments

iPhone shows photos in Storage when there are none

Have you ever looked in the iPhone Storage section of your iOS Settings and discovered that the Photos section shows that it’s taking up storage space, but you don’t have any Photos in the Photos app?

If you have deleted the photos from your iPhone but the iPhone Storage section shows that Photos are still on the device, there’s probably a good reason for that, and it’s not a bug. Read on to learn more about what causes this problem, and how to fix this issue so that storage is not taken up by photos that were deleted.

Why does iPhone show Photos in Storage, but none exist because they were deleted?

First, let’s understand what causes the iPhone to show that Photos are taking up storage when there are no photos on the device because they have been deleted.

When you delete a photo from the iPhone (or iPad), the photo does not actually delete itself instantly by default. Instead, the photo goes into a “Recently Deleted” folder on the iPhone.

Thus, when you delete a photo or multiple photos from the iPhone, it’s moved from the main Photos app Camera Roll and albums to the “Recently Deleted” photo album, where they will delete themselves automatically after 30 days, or if storage on the device gets too tight, or if the user chooses to immediately and permanently delete the photos from the iPhone or iPad.

Now you might be asking, what’s the point of that? Well this is for good reason! The “Recently Deleted” folder is intended to allow the iPhone to be able to recover deleted photos easily, usually in case they were deleted accidentally.

How to Fix iPhone Showing Photos When None Exist on the Device

You may have guessed by now that the solution to this problem is quite simple; you need to permanently delete the photos manually from the iOS “Recently Deleted” album. This will permanently and completely delete the photos from the iPhone or iPad so be sure you want to do this, it is not reversible.

  1. Open the “Photos” app and go to the ‘Albums’ view
  2. Scroll all the way to the bottom to locate the “Recently Deleted” photos album
  3. The Recently Deleted album

  4. Tap on “Select” in Recently Deleted
  5. Tap on “Delete All” to delete all photos from the iPhone or iPad
  6. Confirm that you want to permanently remove and delete the photos from the device, this will recover the storage space in iOS
  7. Confirm to delete the recently deleted photos to clear Photos storage

That’s all there is to it, if you return to the “Storage” section of Settings you will find that the Photos app no longer shows taking up any storage because the photos have been permanently deleted from the device.

There is no way to recover permanently deleted photos, without restoring the iPhone or iPad from a backup anyway.

Are there other reasons why iPhone or iPad may show Photos in Storage that don’t exist?

It’s certainly possible, but perhaps not too likely. For example it’s possible that a crash or bug or something of a technical nature might erroneously show Photos as taking up device storage when they are not. Simply rebooting the iPhone (or iPad) may resolve those type of issues and is certainly worth a try too.

Have you ever encountered this before? Was the reason your Photos were showing as Storage because they were in the Recently Deleted album, or was there another reason? Share your experiences in the comments below.


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting


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  1. Krystal says:

    I have deleted almost all of my photos on my phone (backed up on ICloud) and still the storage is full of photos. I even went to “Recently Deleted” and deleted all of them from there and still showed up with IPhone Storage full. I am upset that I can’t see what’s taking up soo much space with most of all my Gallery deleted. I don’t know if it’s a bug or what I just want to fix it!!

  2. Pete says:

    My itunes says I have 9800 photos on my phone taking up over 14GB. But I have less than 300 photos on my phone. I learned about the RECENTLY DELETED folder years ago and have pretty well kept up with it.
    Right now there are zero photos in there.
    What’s up with that? The number on itunes photos and the used space continues to rise?
    A fix?

  3. Worthwords says:

    my old iphone 4 has virtually no memory left showing,
    no apps on it,
    500mb emails and virtually nothing else, no music, nix, nada ,
    it shows 500mb photos storage, when there are none, not in recently deleted or anywhere. I got rid of the lot so i could keep the phone working
    None of the date change stuff works, itunes is no help.
    Presumably there is a lot of electronic fluff in the ageing circuitry and it need dropping down the loo

  4. AlexReynard says:

    Does not work. There is no “Recently Deleted” folder.

    • Paul says:

      Open the Photos app and go to Albums, there you will find the “Recently Deleted” albums folder of your photos.

      The Recently Deleted folder is a feature on all modern iPhone and iPad, it exists I assure you.

      • alex says:

        It only exists if there are images in it. I deleted all my images from the “recently deleted” so the album itself is also gone.

  5. Jo says:

    I recently increased file storage space on iCloud so I could store photos there and free up space on my iPhone (5s). Inspite of activating the ‘optimise iPhone storage’, this does not seem to have made a difference to the phone space. Yet the photos are also in iCloud. If I try to delete one it tells me all copies will be deleted. So what to do? I thought the idea was only low resolution ones would remain on the phone. Please help

  6. Blaze says:

    I have been fooled by this a few times, getting a message that I am out of space, even though (I thought) I just deleted a few hundred photos.

  7. Joseph says:

    If you have a shared album and turn off that feature IOS says the images will be deleted off the device. I’m pretty sure they aren’t, or at least sometimes are but mostly not. Try it with a large shared album for your self and see.
    turn it off and on and watch the storage multiply lol

    Also dunno if it counts album artwork as pictures. With a large music library this can add up to a bit

  8. Phil Davis says:

    The design Geeks at Cupertino have gone out of their way to make the iPhone complicated and unintuitive…they think its a big joke on older users….. Apple used to make products that operate simply…but that’s gone….Copy Paste has not been updated in OS8…sometimes it works and some times it does not…ability to find anything on the mac works sometimes and other times not…same with apple mail….they have lost sight of the basics and are focus more on bull like emojis.

    • Grey says:

      You should take an English class before you publish any more of your inane crap on a public forum.

      • Jane says:

        I understood everything Phil wrote above. Apple has made their products more difficult as time has progressed. I agree 100%.

        To not be able to delete files on a device is ludicrous. I’ve spent the better part of today trying to help a neighbour with her iphone. Good Christ, I wished she’d have picked up a cheap Android– Apple’s phone is simply a nightmare. The fact that there are no less than THREE “cloud” locations (which are different though it’s not quite explained exactly how or why one is better than another) with similar naming structure points to “Apple geeks” just not understanding their own customers. You can’t convince some Apple fans of how bad their phone is, even when they’re standing there begging you to help them. Apple counts on that. Unreal.

  9. Amy says:

    Why is it that when I try to watch videos older than 1 month old there is an exclamation point in a circle on the screen? When I press the “!” I get a message that says “Download error”.

  10. User says:

    To me, calling what is effectively a Trash folder “Recently Deleted” is unnecessarily confusing. Why not just call it Trash when all the icons associated with it are trash cans?

    But here’s a real stumper in a similar vein — my Watch running iOS 5, newly wiped and restored, no photos ever synced to it — says there are 15 photos in storage.

    I don’t even use Photos, on my Mac or the Watch, and when the latter is opened, it says there are no photos on the watch.

    Anyone know the explanation for that?

  11. Mr Burns says:

    I have only six photos left on my phone. ALL other folders are EMPTY. But I am showing Photo Storage as 1.59 gb’s. (Gigabytes!) There must be other reasons, I bet I’m not the only one. How about tackling this one? You only give obvious reasons to us. We would like some actual help for those of us that are slightly more advanced. I have tried everything including a full reset. Thanks

    • Noah says:

      This is a known and common bug (and weird that osxdaily doesn’t mention it). Backup your phone, restore it to it’s original state, then restore your backup. You should be good.

    • Russ Fordq says:

      I had the same problem and the date fix, reboot, etc didn’t work. I downloaded a program called iFunbox which lets you look at files on the device and after looking in the various photo folders I found two 700mb files which were for thumbnails. Given the device didn’t have any photos on it, I know I didn’t need them, so deleted them both and I recovered all of my lost storage space.

      I’m no techie and ordinarily wouldn’t go looking at system files, but it was clear they were causing the problem, so I was happy to delete them and I haven’t had any problems.

  12. Anne says:

    Using iPad: I’ve noticed Recently Deleted, even used it once in a while. How can I know when I have too many photos?

    I have about 7,200 now and I keep trying to keep it from growing. The names (that I can see only from the desktop) are named IMG_xxxx with xxxx being numbers.

    That would put the maximum at 10K, but many of mine have different names assigned by Photoshop Express. I wish the iPad had better photo handling abilities. I can finally find the size in pixels, but only from PS.

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