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iOS 17.5.1 and iPadOS 17.5.1 Fix Photo Reappearance Bug

Apple has quietly released iOS 17.5.1 and iPadOS 17.5.1 to address what it says is a “rare issue where photos that experienced database corruption could reappear in the Photos library even if they were deleted.” Apple hasn’t yet updated either set of release notes with the text in the screenshot below, and I would be surprised if the company offered any explanation.

iOS 17.5.1 release notes

Reports of this problem surfaced on the Internet last week, with some people talking about deleted photos reappearing and others saying they saw blank photos. I don’t know if there’s an easy way to tell if you’re affected—I certainly couldn’t tell you if a few deleted photos reappeared in my library. (Look, Tonya’s blinking in that one!) There’s no way of knowing how widespread the problem is—the extent of database corruption across all iPhone and iPad owners would be impossible to quantify—but even a rare problem could impact many people.

While the exact cause remains unknown, reports suggest Apple may have been attempting to fix a problem that caused photos to be lost if the iPhone crashed during upload and corrupted the database underneath the Photos library. In addressing the database corruption, iOS 17.5 inadvertently brought back old images whose database entries had been deleted even as the original files remained in local storage.

Two questions:

  • Is there any connection to iCloud Photos here? Some people who have experienced the bug do not use iCloud Photos, so it’s not required. However, it would be more troubling if deleted images were retained online instead of just locally.
  • What happens to the corrupted images after updating to iOS 17.5.1 and iPadOS 17.5.1? Are they kept or deleted? There’s no obvious correct answer here, so caution would suggest retaining the photos, preferably putting them in an album to be reevaluated.

Regardless of the answers, I encourage everyone who has already moved to iOS 17.5 to install these updates in Settings > General > Software Update. What if you’re still using iOS 17.4.1? That’s a trickier question since you have no way of knowing if your Photos library is already suffering from database corruption. Personally, I would update.

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Comments About iOS 17.5.1 and iPadOS 17.5.1 Fix Photo Reappearance Bug

Notable Replies

  1. After reading about those incidents here and there I had been holding off upgrading my iPhone to iOS 17.5. Now I’ll upgrade!

  2. With me, 11 photos I already have showed up again all of a sudden. And I don’t use iCloud Photos.

  3. Where do these photos actually reappear? In Camera Roll Recents? I haven’t seen anything myself, but then again, I don’t even know if I’m looking in the right place.

  4. My eleven photos appeared in the regular camera roll right after the most recent shots I took. As if I just took them!

  5. Was the Reappearance Bug also part of any other Apple OS, including for example legacy macOS Monterey 12.7.5?

    Perhaps coincidentally, Apple just released an update to tvOS:

    MacRumors reports that this tvOS update also fixes a Reappearance Bug:

  6. I really don’t understand how tvOS was susceptible to the photos reappearing, but there it is in the release notes:

    This update addresses a rare issue where photos that experienced database corruption could reappear in the Photos library even if they were deleted.

    I’ve chatted with a friend who saw two blank photos after upgrading to iOS 17.5, and he said that the photos are still present after upgrading to iOS 17.5.1, which suggests that the update retains those deleted photos. That’s probably the safe thing to do. The implication is that if he had skipped 17.5.0, he wouldn’t have had the problem, but there’s no way to know.

  7. I’m not sure if this is related to the reappearing-photos bug, but after upgrading to iOs 17.5.1 and iPadOS 17.5.1, I discovered that a lot of deleted books had reappeared in my Books library. (Everything stayed normal on my Mac, thankfully.)

    I solved it by turning off iCloud Drive syncing for books in Settings, which deleted everything from my iPhone/iPad libraries; then turning it on again, letting the libraries download again but without the deleted books.

  8. Reappearance bug explained

    UPDATE May 25, 2024 7:53 AM

    For the more technically inclined …

    Pixel Envy reports that Synacktiv “reverse-engineered the bug fix release and compared it to the original 17.5 release” and Synacktiv concluded ::

    The 17.5.1 update removed the scanning of the filesystem that was added in 17.5 to prevent deleted photos stored outside of the photo library to re-appear. According to our analysis, no code was added to purge the imported photos from the library as well as the “deleted” pictures lying on the filesystem.

    Based only on this analysis, it is not possible to conclude how the photos remained on the filesystem in the first place, but this comment on Reddit has some plausible explanations.

  9. Thanks, that answers what I was concerned about, that iCloud Photos was not involved, and what my friend reported, which is that undeleted photos stick around after the update and must be deleted again.

  10. Interestingly, the bug may have done some people a good turn, returning photos that had mysteriously disappeared recently. Alternatively, the fix for the disappearance was overzealous, and that was the bug.

  11. This Reddit comment indicates that:

    They all reappeared in the original places in the Recents section from where they were deleted months/years ago.

  12. My husband just updated to iOS 17.5.1 and it wiped out the list of his voicemail messages. He had to reset network settings to get them to reappear.

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