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Deleted Google Photos keep coming back (Android and iOS fix)

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There are many good things going in favor of Google Photos in comparison to other similar services. However, occasionally, some bugs can completely ruin the experience. Imagine batch deleting 1000+ photos you hand-picked only for them to reappear out of the thin air. That’s exactly what happened to some users. Namely, it seems that deleted Google Photos keep coming back and users are livid.

Don’t worry, we have a few suggestions for you along with explanations of why this happens and how to prevent it in the future.

Why do deleted photos keep reappearing in Google Photos?

There are multiple reasons why deleted photos in Google Photos keep reappearing. We suspect that:

  • There’s a second cloud service that keeps restoring deleted photos to your local gallery.
  • You have multiple devices so deleting photos from one, keeps them on the other. It’s an out-of-sync scenario.
  • There’s a temporary issue with Google Photos servers or the Google Photos app.
  • You tried to delete a large batch of photos and the service glitched out. Try with smaller portions.
  • Enable Sync on all your devices and make sure that photos are deleted on each device you use Google Photos on.

So, we suggest deleting photos from your device locally, resetting the Google Photos app, and disabling photo sync on other services (iCloud, Samsung Cloud, Mi Cloud, etc.). In the end, try deleting photos from the Google Photos web client.

1. Delete photos with the local Gallery or File Manager and empty Trash

The first thing is to ensure that the reappearing photos are deleted locally. You want them gone so they can’t reupload over and over again. To avoid resyncing, this is a whole sequence you’ll need to follow.

Let’s start by removing all sync folders in Back up & sync in Google Photos. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Tap on your Profile photo and open Photos settings.
  3. Tap Back up & sync.
  4. Select Back up device folders.device folders backup google photos
  5. Toggle all folders off.
  6. Don’t forget to toggle folders you want to be backed up later on.

Additionally, disable alternative services. On iOS, navigate to Settings > Your Profile/Apple Account > iCloud > Photos and turn off the iCloud Photos option. On Android, do the same for Samsung Cloud, Mi Cloud, or similar proprietary built-in services. What we don’t want is two photo backup services working simultaneously.

Now, if Google Photos is your only Gallery app (you have stock Android), you should check the File Manager. You can use the stock gallery on non-stock Android skins, too, but, to make things easier, just go with File Manager. Every Android skin has a file manager of sorts and iOS has the Files app.

Open any File Manager and look for the DCIM folder in Internal storage for your camera-taken photos and videos. Some third-party apps store photos in separate folders, like WhatsApp, Viber, Snapchat, etc. This might require a bit of digging but, once you locate and delete photos, make sure to empty Trash Bin.

Some File Managers wait 30/60 days before irreversibly deleting photos. Open Trash and clear all photos you deleted from there, too.

Now, of to Google Photos. Delete all photos you want to and then tap Library > Trash. Tap on the 3-dots menu and select Empty Trash. Confirm and that’s it.

2. Remove photos on other devices

The thing about cloud storage is that it syncs on all devices. If you have multiple phones or other devices that source photos and videos to Google Photos, you should delete photos on all devices. So, check Drive for Desktop, other smartphones, or tablets with Google Photos.

When synced, you should see the prompt to confirm deletion on your Android/iPhone. That way, when you delete photos from Google Photos on one device, it should apply to all devices. If you don’t get the prompt when in Google Photos, tap your Account and you should see the Review out-of-sync changes.

Give it a try and, if the issue persists and deleted Google Photos keep coming back, try the next step.

3. Clear cache and data from Google Photos

Some users point towards issues with the app itself. And, like with any other Android app, you can clear all local data to reset it. Yes, it will take some time to resync all photos again into the cloud library so you can see them in the app but that’s the price we sometimes need to pay.

Here’s how to clear cache and data from Google Photos on Android:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap Apps.
  3. Select Google Photos.
  4. Tap Storage.
  5. Tap Clear data or Manage storage.
  6. Clear all data and restart your phone.deleted google photos coming back
  7. Open Google Photos, select preferred options, and grant permissions. Then wait for it to sync.

4. Reinstall Google Photos

If the previous step didn’t work and deleted Google photos keep coming back, you can reinstall Google Photos. In case the app comes as the default gallery (like on Google Pixel or Android One smartphones), you can uninstall updates from it and restore it to its default version.

Here’s how to uninstall updates or reinstall Google Photos:

  1. Open Play Store.
  2. Look for Google Photos.
  3. Tap Uninstall and confirm.
  4. Restart your device and open the Play Store again.
  5. Install or update Google Photos.
  6. Open Google Photos, resync, grant permissions, and check if the photos you deleted reappear.

On iOS, you can uninstall Google Photos from the Home Screen or App Library. Just tap and hold on to the app icon, tap “Remove app” and then “Delete app”. You can reinstall it from App Store after that.

5. Remove Storage permission and grant it again

Firstly, navigate to Settings > Apps > Google Photos > Permissions. Remove Storage permission and grant it again. Choose the highest permission available if there are multiple options.deleted google photos coming back

Now, let’s move to something else. In multiple instances, the problem was concerning SD cards. Over the years, Android changed the way apps access and modify files on external storage. It gradually became more strict and, at the moment, granting Storage permission to Google Photos doesn’t grant full access to SD cards.

There’s a specific option you need to use in order to grant access to an SD card. That way, you can back up, delete, or modify files that are on the SD card from Google Photos.

Here’s what you need to do to give Google Photos access to the SD card photos and videos:

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Tap on your profile photo at the top and open Photos settings.
  3. Select SD card access.
  4. Follow the provided instructions.deleted google photos coming back
  5. Once that’s done, try deleting photos or videos from the SD card.

6. Delete Photos on your PC/Mac

Finally, the last solution we can recommend if the annoying photos you’ve deleted keep reappearing is to do everything on the Google Photos web client. You don’t even need to use your PC/Mac to do it, since you can use the Desktop site option (3-dots menu > Desktop site) in Chrome for Android or Safari for iOS. Although, a desktop device is preferred.

What you need to do is navigate to the Google Photos web client. Sign in with your Google Account if required. Select photos you want to delete in batch and remove them. Open Trash and empty it. On your Android or iPhone/iPad, open Google Photos and you should see the Review out-of-sync changes pop-up. Open it and tap Remove all. Confirm and that’s it.

With that, we can conclude this article. If you’re still unable to get rid of photos that stubbornly keep coming back, reach out to Google Support and report the problem.

Thank you for reading and do tell us if the instructions we provided here helped you address the problem at hand. The comments section is just below.

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in January 2022. We made sure to revamp it for freshness and accuracy.

Picture of Aleksandar Ognjanovic

Aleksandar Ognjanovic

Managing editor at Mobile Internist. @lemmingspain My fascination with mobile technology, particularly Android and iOS, began years ago and continues today. I'm captivated by the constant evolution in the smartphone industry and its impact on our daily lives, always anticipating the next big innovation. That’s the main reason why I found myself writing instructive content on the subject for users who are not as familiar with all the bells and whistles.
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