A Case of Lost iCloud-Stored Photos After Using MacOS Ventura Beta koingosw.com

Josh Hill:

During a Europe trip in May 2022, I uploaded over 6,000 photos and hundreds of videos to the cloud. Upon editing and deleting some of the photos, I encountered an issue with Photos.app, which ultimately led to the complete wiping out of my entire cloud library. Despite my efforts to recover the lost data using tools such as Disk Drill and contacting Apple support, no useful recoverable files could be found. Unfortunately, Apple support refused to escalate the issue to the engineering team due to the use of a beta version of macOS Ventura.

The loss of my lifetime memories and tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of intellectual property is one of the most devastating experiences of my life. I believe it is crucial to highlight the importance of backing up all data, including cloud content, to prevent such a catastrophic loss.

This is among my worst nightmares and I feel terrible for Hill. It feels like an echo of problems of the past.

Via Michael Tsai:

Cloud syncing is not a backup. Apple doesn’t provide a way to directly download a backup of your photos, so you need to have Photos set to Download Originals to this Mac, which for most people means that they need to fit on your internal SSD. Then you can back them up yourself with Time Machine or to another cloud provider.

I agree with this on principle; in practice, though, a company like Apple probably has a better backup regimen than you or I do. I lost about a year’s worth of photos I took on my phone — from about mid-2013 through mid-2014 — because I backed up my iPhone to my computer, restored it, and it proceeded to overwrite the backup because it had the same UDID. Lesson learned: always back up your backup.

I expect big cloud providers have more redundancies than most of us do, which makes it all the more disappointing that none of this stuff comes with a guarantee. That is, even if Hill were only running production operating systems, Apple — like every major provider of consumer cloud services — does not obligate itself to perform data restoration. iCloud Photo Library may only officially be a syncing service, but it is easy to think of it as something more robust, especially when it is described as “safe”, where your photos are “always available”, “without worrying about space on your devices”. Not sure about you, but after reading Hill’s experience, I am less concerned about disk space and more concerned about whether those photos are actually as safe as they ought to be.