Reports from iOS owners have recently surfaced claiming their device is bringing back old deleted content out of nowhere after updating to iOS 17.5. A Reddit user on the iOS subreddit said they saw pictures taken in 2021 reappear even though the images were “permanently deleted.” 

The same thing happened to a former iPad owner who sold the tablet to a friend who then called them after vacation photos from September 2024 returned.

And it’s not just first-party software that’s being affected. User ssmithdev on X (the platform formerly known as Twitter) posted an image of their iPhone XR showing 26 voicemail notifications on WhatsApp even though he had already deleted them a long time ago. 

People are understandably freaked out. You'll see comments in Reddit posts of users experiencing the same thing – old deleted photos from as far back as 2010 coming back. What’s worse is that some of the content at the heart of this problem is highly sensitive. 

New bug, old problem

At the time of writing, this problem doesn’t seem to be widespread. Reports currently originate from social media platforms only. However, if it is affecting a lot of people, Apple will certainly need to address it with a fix.

No one knows exactly why this is happening, but iPhone owners are pointing the finger at iOS 17.5. Each of these reports states that the deleted images started to reemerge after installing the latest update. It’s also worth mentioning this bug has been known for some time. Over on the iOSBeta subreddit, you’ll find posts from testers saying the same thing – previously deleted content is returning without direct input. This issue goes as far back as nine months, so it’s not a new problem. 

Theorycrafting

Similarly, no one knows exactly how this is happening, although there are theories.

TheVerge states that the returning files could be originating from an iPhone’s on-device storage. They mention how “computer data is never actually deleted.” Also, “[Operating] systems simply cut off references to it,” so they may continue to exist in some dark corner on your phone. iPhones may keep these files tucked away and this bug is making them resurface. 

Other people think that there's an “obscure photo library corruption issue. MacRumors believes this is the result of Apple attempting to fix a photo syncing bug in iOS 17.3. But instead of properly patching it, the company just made another problem. A few think it’s less severe, blaming improper deletion. Perhaps these users didn’t fully wipe their devices clean, and iCloud brought everything back.

There is a lot of speculation going on, but unfortunately, no one has an official answer. We reached out to Apple, asking if they’re aware of this issue and if they would like to comment on it. At the time of this writing, they have yet to respond, but we’ll update this story if we hear back.

While we have you, be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best photo storage and sharing sites of 2024.

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