How to Delete Photos From Mac (But Not iCloud)

Photographs are lovely for capturing special moments with family and friends. It’s great to look back at old pictures and remember special occasions.

Unfortunately, photo files are quite large and can quickly use up Mac’s internal storage, leaving little room for much else. But how can you delete photos while keeping them saved in the iCloud account?

You can delete photos from a Mac without deleting them from the iCloud by turning off the syncing functionality in System Preferences. By unchecking photo sync, users can safely delete photo files from the Mac while safely keeping them in the iCloud. The Mac will prompt the user to delete photos after the sync box has been unchecked.

Deleting photos from your Mac will help save on much-needed storage space while still ensuring your images are safely stored and accessible through iCloud.

If you need additional storage space on your computer, you can explore the “Reduce Clutter” feature or “Optimize Storage” feature in the Apple menus to make even more space.

If, after performing these tasks, you still don’t have enough room on your Mac, utilizing an external storage device, like a hard drive, may be the best option to maximize space.

Why Would Someone Want to Delete Photos from a Mac and not iCloud?

Using iCloud as a backup storage option to help keep your documents and photos protected is a wonderful idea. Not only will iCloud keep your documents and photos safe, but you’ll be able to access them from anywhere in the world with just an internet connection.

Having the photos safely stored in iCloud means you can delete documents and photos from your Mac without permanently deleting them from your life.

Deleting photos from your Mac is one of the fastest ways to free up storage space on your computer. Although computers have come a long way with storage capacity, they still have a limited amount.

Photographs are extremely large files that eat away at storage space quickly. By deleting your photos from your Mac but still keeping photos on your iCloud account, you can ensure your photos stay safe, accessible, and protected, leaving plenty of room on your Mac computer for more important files and photographs.

How Do I Delete Photos From My Mac, but not iCloud?

Luckily, a simple setting to adjust on your computer will allow you to remove photos from your Mac computer while keeping the images safe in iCloud storage. To delete photos from your Mac while keeping your iCloud photos secure, you need to:

1. System Preferences

First, you’ll need to open your System Preferences on your computer. In the top right corner is a small icon shaped like an apple. This icon is “Apple ID.” Click the apple and select the section for the iCloud. Next, select the iCloud settings option.

2. Uncheck Photos

While in the iCloud System Preferences option on your computer, you’ll see a list of apps connected to the iCloud. Look for the Photos app. Next to the name of the app, uncheck the box. By unchecking the box, you are turning off the sync functionality for your iPhotos.

At this point, your computer might ask if you want to delete the Mac’s photos. If you click “Yes,” you will delete all the photos from your Mac computer.

3. Delete Photos

Turning off the sync functionality for photos will delete your photos from your Mac. Don’t worry; the photos will not be deleted from iCloud.

If you didn’t choose to delete all the photos from your Mac when prompted in the last step, you’ll still have a chance to go through your computer and delete the photos individually. This way, you’ll be able to choose which photos to delete from your computer by individually selecting them.

By removing the sync option between the iCloud and your computer, you’ll be able to safely delete the photos from your Mac computer without deleting the photos from your iCloud account. Rest assured, your photos are still safely in the Cloud, accessible from just about anywhere.

Can I Un-Delete Photos?

As you work through deleting your photos from your computer, there may come a time when you delete a photo you want to save. Luckily, there is an option to un-delete a picture you may have inadvertently trashed. Photos that have been deleted within 30 days can still be found in iCloud under your account.

You’ll want to log into your iCloud account to locate deleted photos. Next, go to your photos. Inside the photos tab, you need to select the “Recently Deleted” album located on the side menu. Inside this folder, you’ll find the photos you have recently deleted. To un-delete a photo, simply click the photo you want and select “Recover.” Your photo will be restored to your iCloud photos.

Keep in mind that if you let your photos sit in your computer’s trash for more than 30 days, the chance of un-deleting these photos and recovering them is not good.

What Else Can I Do to Save Storage Space?

Photos are essential to remember special occasions, but they take up much space on a Mac. Deleting photos from your computer while keeping them safely in the cloud is one of the easiest ways to free up storage space on your computer.

While deleting pictures from your computer is undoubtedly an option, there are other solutions to help save storage space on your Mac. To optimize storage space, you can try:


Utilizing the iCloud functionality is one of the fastest and safest ways to keep valuable documents and photos while keeping your computer storage intact. Be sure to enable the “Store in iCloud” function for your files and photos.

When you enable “Store in iCloud,” all of your files, photos, and messages that haven’t been recently used will be stored on iCloud until needed. You can download files from iCloud easily and use them, but it won’t take up space on your Mac.

You can always check how much space you have left in the iCloud by selecting “About this Mac” from the small apple icon on the menu bar. Click the “Storage” option to display your available space in your iCloud account.

Optimize Storage

If your computer is getting bogged down with recent TV shows and movies saved to your laptop, the Optimize Storage function may be the perfect way to save space. This feature is similar to storing in iCloud but helps with Apple TV programs and email attachments.

To enable this functionality, go to “About this Mac” found in the apple icon in the top menu bar. Select “Storage” and then “Manage.” You’ll want to click the option called “Optimize Storage.”

By clicking this option, the TV shows and movies you have already watched will be sent to the cloud, so they don’t take up so much space on your Mac. If you have already downloaded the show or movie and don’t want to keep it anymore, you can permanently delete the downloaded content at this point.

But if you have too many images and videos you love, think about upgrading your storage. A bit unrelated here, but I just recently got a data plan for my Apple watch because I wanted to be able to upload stuff right from my watch.

Reduce Clutter

If only there were a way to have your computer find your clutter so you can delete it for good. Luckily, Mac computers have the “Reduce Clutter” option. This feature allows you to sift through photos, emails, messages, and files to delete what you don’t need or use anymore. This way, unwanted files are quickly deleted, freeing up some much-needed space on your computer.

To enable this tool, go to the “About this Mac” system preference by clicking on the small apple icon in the top menu bar. Next, click “Manage” and select “Reduce Clutter” at the very bottom of the menu. From here, you can select which files and photos you no longer want to save.

External Storage Option

Once you have worked through the steps to Optimize Storage and Reduce Clutter and you still don’t have space to save the photos you want, it may be time to invest in an external storage device.

Typically, these devices will plug into an available port on your computer and allow you to save your wanted files and documents to external storage that won’t pull from your Mac’s internal storage.

Be sure to keep your external storage device in a safe place. An external storage option, like an external hard drive, is a great way to save a backup of your photos in case you get locked out of your Apple account or damage your device.