How to Recover Deleted Files, Contacts, Calendars, and Photos From iCloud

By Chris Hoffman on September 7th, 2015

Apple Inc.

Apple’s iCloud now allows you to undelete files you’ve deleted from iCloud Drive, restore recently deleted photos, and revert your contacts and calendars to a previous state. If you accidentally deleted something, you can get it back.

The data may also be stored elsewhere, too. For example, if you’re syncing your iPhone’s contacts with Gmail, you can restore contacts from within Gmail. But iCloud is maturing and gaining features competitors have had for a long time.

Restore Files, Contacts, and Calendars From iCloud’s Website

Apple now allows you to restore iCloud Drive files, contacts, and calendars. However, you’ll have to visit iCloud’s website to do it. There’s no trash folder in iCloud Drive as there is in other cloud storage services, which means this is the only way to regain access to a file once you’ve deleted it.

To access this feature, visit the iCloud website and sign in with your Apple ID. Verify yourself to gain access to the website, and then click the Settings icon. Scroll down and you’ll see “Advanced” options at the bottom of the page. At the bottom-left corner of the web page, you’ll see links to “Restore Files,” “Restore Contacts,” and “Restore Calendars & Reminders.”

When restoring files, you can choose the individual files you want to restore. Files appear to be kept for 30 days after you delete them.

When restoring contacts or calendars and reminders, you can’t restore individual items. Instead, you’re restoring a “snapshot” of the state of your contacts or calendars at that specific previous date. This is useful if you accidentally delete something.

Restore Photos From iCloud Photo Library

If you’re using Apple’s iCloud Photo Library to store your photos online, you can also restore deleted photos. You can restore these photos on iCloud’s website, on a Mac with the Photos app, or on your iPhone or iPad.

  • Any Web Browser: Go to iCloud’s website, sign in, click the Photos icon, select the “Albums” category, and open the “Recently Deleted” album.
  • iPhone or iPad: Open the Photos app, select Albums, and select Recently Deleted.
  • Mac OS X: Open the Photos app, click the File menu, and select “Show Recently Deleted.” Unlike on other platforms, there’s no “Recently Deleted” album in the Albums view here.

As with files you delete in iCloud Drive, copies of your deleted photos are stored for 30 days.

 

Can You Restore Data From Time Machine on a Mac?

On a Mac, you can potentially use Time Machine to restore files and other data, assuming you’re backing up with Time Machine. For example, if you want to restore files you’ve deleted from iCloud Drive, open the Time Machine file-restore interface and select the iCloud Drive folder. Older copies of your iCloud Drive files should appear here.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to work properly on Mac OS X Yosemite. Time Machine seems to interact with iCloud Drive in a weird way, and may not may not be backing up all the data you’ve stored in iCloud Drive. It’s probably better to use the restore feature on the iCloud website.

Restore From a Device Backup

In a worst-case scenario, you could potentially restore this data from a device backup.

For example, let’s say you never enabled iCloud contact-syncing on your iPhone, but you desperately need to restore your contacts after they’ve been deleted. If you created backups of your iPhone in iTunes, you could restore those full device backups to your phone and get the data — and everything else — back to the state it was in when the backup was created.

You could potentially do this with iCloud backups, too. Restore an iCloud backup to the device and you can restore its contacts, calendars, and other data to the state it was in. However, if you do have iCloud enabled, restoring individual types of data will likely be a better solution.


This isn’t necessarily the only way to restore data, of course. If you’re syncing that data with other services, you can use the other service to restore data. For example, if you automatically upload photos to Dropbox or Google Photos, you can restore deleted photos from those apps and websites.

If you sync your contacts with your Google account, you can go to the Gmail website, open the Contacts view, and use the More > Restore contacts option to restore deleted contacts. Other services may have similar tools.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 09/7/15
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