How does one remove photos from an iPhone 4S?


How does one remove photos from an iPhone 4S? My “camera roll” folder is full of photos and videos (about 1500). Apple is saying that I need to buy more iCloud storage, which I don’t want to do. I plugged the device into a Windows 7 computer and the phone shows up as a drive. I was able to copy all of the photos onto a local disk for backup, but not able to delete any (an easy operation on an Android phone, which functions like a legitimate USB drive when plugged in).

I’ve Googled around a bit and there does not seem to be a straightforward way to delete all of the photos on the phone without selecting each one (1500!) with a touch. There was a hint that someone who purchased a Macintosh ($1000+?) would be able to delete photos by regarding the phone as a disk drive, but I can’t find anything for the Windows crowd.

Thanks in advance.


  1. CCN

    June 19, 2012 @ 2:30 pm


    Windows should treat the iPhone like a digital camera. Just import the photos like you would from any digital camera and there should be an “Erase After Importing” option.

  2. Z. Constantine

    June 19, 2012 @ 3:24 pm


    Use iTunes (if you don’t mind signing your soul away with the EULA):

  3. Mike H

    June 19, 2012 @ 3:24 pm


    I can delete photos from my iPhone 4.

    When I open the phone as a disk drive, using windows explorer, I can copy photos from the phone to my computer, and i can select multiple photos and delete them at once.

    You can’t move files from the phone to the computer, you can only copy. Selecting move results in a copy.

    When you select multiple photos and hit delete, it does not work?


  4. Trevis Rothwell

    June 19, 2012 @ 3:41 pm


    When I just plug my iPhone 4s up to a Windows computer, it shows up in the Windows file explorer as a drive containing the photo files (e.g., IMG_1348.JPG). If I select and delete those photo files, they disappear from the camera roll on the iPhone.

  5. Matt Henderson

    June 19, 2012 @ 3:45 pm


    On the Mac, there’s an application called Image Capture, that when launched, shows the photos and videos on all attached devices. From there, you can easily select all, and click delete — removing all the images and videos from the camera roll.

    If you don’t find a Windows solution, you can at least solve your problem if you find someone with a Mac, as Image Capture is installed by default.

  6. Aang

    June 19, 2012 @ 3:48 pm


    With the iPhone 4S to delete directly from phone , go to photos–>camera then you will see an arrow point to the upper right on the upper right of the screen. From there select the photos you want to delete then on lower right push delete. Im surprised that u ran out that quickly. I have had at one point upto 2500 pictures on my camera roll. iCloud is not based on picture amounts it’s based on total data. Check your latest backup to see what apps are taking up the most space. If you have a service like spotify and have music downloads saved to the app those songs count against Ur space

    Hope this helps

  7. philg

    June 19, 2012 @ 3:54 pm


    CCN: Thanks for the suggestion. I did what you said, including the Erase After Importing box. Windows successfully imported all the pictures, but the Camera Roll folder on the iPhone is as large as ever. Nothing was deleted from the phone.

    I thought that it might be possible to clear these out with iTunes but I didn’t see any way to do that.

  8. philg

    June 19, 2012 @ 3:58 pm


    Aang: I don’t want to manually select all 1500 photos. Hence my original post.

    Trevis: The folders (under DCIM) do show up on my Windows machine when I plug in the iPhone and I can view photos but not delete. Could it be because I have Photo Stream turned on? Do you have Photo Stream enabled on your phone?

    Mike: Same question for you. It does not work from the Windows Explorer even to delete one photo, much less a batch.

  9. Trevis Rothwell

    June 19, 2012 @ 4:22 pm


    Philip: I did not have Photo Stream turned on. I turned it on, and I could still delete (though I wouldn’t be surprised if it would eventually “recover” a deleted photo back to the iPhone).

    When I upgraded to the iPhone 4s from an earlier iPhone, I spent a while deleting every photo by hand from the camera roll, and then iTunes recovered them all for me! I managed to delete them again through some non-obvious method on an Apple computer, but they sure don’t seem to make it easy to clear out your camera roll…

  10. Les morton

    June 19, 2012 @ 4:59 pm


    Buy iPhoto for 9.99 and then you can delete photos to your heart’s content.

  11. David Berkowicz

    June 19, 2012 @ 5:34 pm


    Your mention of a message from Apple leads me to believe you have a photo stream as well as a camera roll on your phone. Turn off iCloud services for photograph to remove the photo stream. Settings/iCloud/photographs. Apple will stop bothering you to buy more iCloud space.

  12. philg

    June 19, 2012 @ 5:52 pm


    David: I do have the Photo Stream on my phone. I am actually happy to have it. I like that the photos will eventually show up on my Windows hard drive. But on the other hand, I want to clear out the accumulated crud in the camera folder and it seems that this is not an easy thing to do…

  13. Joe Crawford

    June 19, 2012 @ 6:11 pm


    Does this Apple Support document help? iOS: Importing personal photos and videos from iOS devices to your computer – it has a section with Windows 7.

  14. Phillip Zedalis

    June 19, 2012 @ 6:33 pm


    You can ‘reset’ your photo stream which is effectively deleting all the photos from iCloud – but you will want them backed up elsewhere. To do this go to, login, click your name at the top right, click advanced settings and there’s the option.

    Again, make sure you have your photos elsewhere from your photo stream.

  15. philg

    June 19, 2012 @ 6:39 pm


    Joe: Thanks for the support doc. It would help except that I did everything suggested and the photos were not deleted. Let me try from another Windows machine…

  16. philg

    June 19, 2012 @ 6:46 pm


    Just plugged the iPhone into another Windows 7 box. The computer makes noises when the phone is plugged in or removed, but the device never shows up as a drive at all nor is there any Autoplay pop-up.

  17. philg

    June 19, 2012 @ 10:44 pm


    Hmm… okay. It looks as though it simply takes the iPhone an hour or so to delete 1500 images. I think that perhaps my first import to Windows did work. But the phone went into a background frozen state such that it wouldn’t let itself be mounted as a USB drive.

    It isn’t an ideal solution because this also wipes out stuff that I wanted (put aside into albums). I do have a backup for it all, but now I have to reload and reorganize a few photos.

    Thanks for everyone who helped. And I guess I should thank Microsoft for its picture import tool that was able to delete the photos!

  18. Anthony

    June 20, 2012 @ 8:02 am


    It should not delete albums after an import. That is either a windows bug, iOS bug, or from another attempt to delete it.

  19. philg

    June 20, 2012 @ 9:18 am


    Anthony: It did not delete the albums, just the photos within the albums. All of the albums are still there, but empty. I think this might be because the albums are virtual. A photo can be in more than one album, right? So if everything on the camera roll is deleted then all of the albums will be empty?

  20. John

    June 21, 2012 @ 6:39 am


    The photos in the albums on my iPhone are links to photos in the Photo Library. Deleting the Camera Roll should not delete the files in the Photo Library.

    Since I’m on a Mac, I use iPhoto to manage the pictures. I don’t know anything about iPhone/Windows interaction.

    I also don’t use iCloud Photo Streaming but sync from iPhoto to the phone via iTunes but use iPhoto to import the photos from the iPhone to the computer. Albums are created in iPhoto. I don’t know how you created your Photo Albums via windows.

  21. Joe Clark

    June 22, 2012 @ 7:58 am


    If any platform is apt to demonstrate nonstandard handling of standard operations, it’s Windows. You can try two things: Different software that downloads images (like almost any picture editor), or Adobe Photo Downloader, which, despite its atrocious interface, works better with iOS cameras than anything else I’ve tried. (Admittedly, on Mac.)

    This is a curiously weak area in general. I have had loads of trouble with even A-list software like Photoshop when it comes to downloading and deleting photos from cameras.

  22. Dave Shaver

    June 25, 2012 @ 8:57 pm


    I have a 4s. Only big secret is to unlock the phone prior to plugging it in. I then use Windows Explorer and select then cut photos. Paste onto hard drive. This moves all photos. 1,000 photos move in less than 10 minutes? Then all photos gone.

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