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Question: iCloud lost all my Photos folders and albums

I had dozens of organized folders and photos albums in Photos which I organized on my Mac.


These stopped syncing to my iPhone so I disabled iCloud on the phone and re-enabled it in order to re-sync it.

After several days suddenly all my albums I previously created have disappeared from iCloud (and also from Photos on my Mac).


I assume iCloud things my empty iPhone has the latest updates and is removing all my albums from iCloud. Is there really no way to restore these folders and albums using iCloud? e.g. 'revert iCloud photos to the state from a day ago'?


If the answer is 'start using Timemachine to backup' then iCloud is only a (not very reliable) convenient syncing service but not a backup solution.

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Mar 10, 2018 7:40 AM in response to shovelr In response to shovelr

If the answer is 'start using Timemachine to backup' then iCloud is only a (not very reliable) convenient syncing service but not a backup solution.

You are perfectly right. iCloud is a syncing service, not a backup. Apple recommends in the user guide to keep a backup of the library, even if you have iCloud Photo Library enabled. https://support.apple.com/guide/photos/back-up-the-photos-library-pht6d60d10f/ma c

Even if you use iCloud Photo Library, it’s important that you always back up your library locally using one of the following methods:


The syncing of albums is having glitches. I noticed a few times, that whenever I disable iCloud Photo Library on my iPhone or my iPad and turn it on again later, most of my folders and albums will vanish from my Macs. The photos will all be there, but the albums and folders lost.


You should be able to restore the albums by restoring the library from your last Time Machine backup. But do not enable iCloud Photo Library on the iPhone, after you restored the albums. Enable iCloud Photo Library on the iPhone before you restore the Mac library.

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Question marked as Helpful

Mar 10, 2018 7:40 AM in response to shovelr In response to shovelr

If the answer is 'start using Timemachine to backup' then iCloud is only a (not very reliable) convenient syncing service but not a backup solution.

You are perfectly right. iCloud is a syncing service, not a backup. Apple recommends in the user guide to keep a backup of the library, even if you have iCloud Photo Library enabled. https://support.apple.com/guide/photos/back-up-the-photos-library-pht6d60d10f/ma c

Even if you use iCloud Photo Library, it’s important that you always back up your library locally using one of the following methods:


The syncing of albums is having glitches. I noticed a few times, that whenever I disable iCloud Photo Library on my iPhone or my iPad and turn it on again later, most of my folders and albums will vanish from my Macs. The photos will all be there, but the albums and folders lost.


You should be able to restore the albums by restoring the library from your last Time Machine backup. But do not enable iCloud Photo Library on the iPhone, after you restored the albums. Enable iCloud Photo Library on the iPhone before you restore the Mac library.

Mar 10, 2018 7:40 AM

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Mar 10, 2018 7:45 AM in response to léonie In response to léonie

Thanks, great reply.


So it’s a sync service which doesn’t work well (at least in my case for this album data) and not a photos backup service.


It’s a bit confusing as it is a backup service for other things (iOS device backups etc.).


It’s a shame, I don’t want to have to switch to google photos or similar but seems like it’s the only option as paying for a cloud service to store your data but not being able to rely on it to store this data is a bit poor.

Mar 10, 2018 7:45 AM

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Mar 10, 2018 8:22 AM in response to shovelr In response to shovelr

I have never lost a photo or video because of iCloud, only albums (but that is bad enough).


The reason why we need to backup the photo library: iCloud Photo Library is your main working storage. You will need a backup to protect you from user mistakes. Everything you do in your library will immediately sync to iCloud and from there to all other synced devices. If you accidentally delete ar photo, it will be deleted everywhere. If you modify the keywords, or titles it will update everywhere. It is not possible to correct a user error and to revert to a previous version, because there is no version history in iCloud for the Photos Library.

Mar 10, 2018 8:22 AM

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Question: iCloud lost all my Photos folders and albums