Can’t delete photos on your iPhone? Here’s what you need to do

Are you trying to delete photos on your iPhone, but just aren’t able to? We’ve heard several complaints about an issue where the Trash icon in the Photos app is greyed out and doesn’t let you delete photos/videos. If you’re facing this issue, then worry not, there’s a simple solution to it.

In this post, we’re going to show you how you can delete photos on your iPhone when the Trash icon is grayed out.

Trash icon grayed out in Photos app on iPhone

Also see: How to recover deleted photos on iPhone or iPad

Why can’t I delete some photos and videos on my iPhone?

Pictures you shoot on your iPhone, download from the Internet, receive via AirDrop, email, iMessage, or chat app have the delete button. Anytime you wish to get rid of them, open the Photos app, select the images and tap the blue trash icon.

But if you ever synced, transferred, added, or imported images to your iPhone from a Mac or PC using iTunes or Finder, you cannot delete these images on your iPhone. Such photos do not show the delete option, or if they show, the Trash icon is gray, and you can’t tap it.

The only way to delete such images is to connect your iPhone to the Mac or PC and unsync or remove these images. If you can’t do that, you will have to erase your iPhone, which will remove everything, including these images.

Photos with gray trash icon iPhone
In the center image, you can see the trash icon is gray. In the right image, you can see that the trash icon is missing.

Related: How to know which app created or saved that photo or video on your iPhone

How to delete grayed out photos on iPhone, iPad

1) Connect your iPhone to a Mac or PC.

2) On Mac running macOS Catalina or later, open Finder. On other Mac and Windows PC, open iTunes.

3) Inside Finder or iTunes, click your iPhone name or the tiny iPhone icon.

4) Click Photos.

5) Uncheck Sync photos to your device from to remove all synced photos and videos. Alternatively, you can also just uncheck the selected Albums or People you wish to remove.

Sync photos to your device from Finder on Mac

6) Click Remove.

Remove grayed out photos from iPhone

7) Finally, click Apply from the bottom right and let it finish.

Apply to delete grayed out iPhone photos

Note: At one time, an iPhone, iPad, or iPod can only be synced with one computer (Mac or PC). If the non-deletable images on your iPhone are from any other computer, most likely, the “Sync photos to your device from” option will be unchecked.

In this case, check this box, and then Finder or iTunes will ask if you wish to remove media synced previously. Proceed with this to remove previously synced media.

Next, you can sync an album from this computer to your iPhone and then remove it (steps above). This will delete all previous photos whose delete icon was missing or grayed out.

Synced photos deleted from iPhone
In the right image, you can see the photos synced from Mac are removed now.

On macOS Mojave 10.14 or older

For those who are still using macOS Mojave 10.14 or older, then you’ll still have access to iTunes and are probably using it to sync you iPhone. Follow the steps below.

1) Launch iTunes on your computer and connect your iPhone.

2) Click on the iPhone icon in the top left corner and navigate to Photos.

3) The Sync Photos option should be checked along with All photos and albums.

4) Select the option ‘Selected Albums’ under Sync.

5) Uncheck the photos or albums you don’t want on your iPhone and then sync your device by hitting the Apply button.

All the photos you didn’t select will now be only available on your computer, and will disappear from your iPhone. If you want to delete all photos and don’t want to sync photos to iTunes, then uncheck the Sync Photos option.

Disable iCloud sync on iPhone

In case you’ve turned on iCloud Photos on your iPhone, then the photos will remain as they’re synced to iCloud and are available on all synced devices. You’ll need to disable iCloud Photos and here’s how you can do that.

1) Open Settings app on your iPhone.

2) Tap on your Profile name and select iCloud.

3) Select the Photos option and disable iCloud Photos.

iCloud Photos iPhone

You should now be able to delete the photos on your iPhone and the trash icon should no longer be greyed out.

Wrapping up

The Trash icon in Photos app being grayed out is a common issue, but can be rectified easily. This happens because the iPhone has been synced via iTunes or iCloud Photos is enabled. The photos are not really available on the iPhone, but stored on the cloud or on the computer. Therefore, the Trash icon in the Photos app is unavailable. Hopefully, this simple guide has helped you fix this issue on your iPhone or iPad.

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