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How to delete Google Photos permanently

How to delete Google Photos permanently
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

It's helpful to know how to delete Google Photos permanently, whether you’re switching to a new photo-sharing service, trading in your phone or you simply want to free up some space on your device. This is particularly true now that Google has stopped offering unlimited storage to Photos users.

Additionally, from a security point of view, you want to make sure that your photos really are gone for good. So whatever your reason for deleting your photos, here’s the best way to delete your Google Photos permanently.

How to delete Google photos: Archive vs Delete

The first thing to remember about Google Photos is that there are two ways to remove your photos from your main timeline: Archive and Delete. However only one of them will actually delete the photos.

Archive is a way to declutter your main photo feed without actually deleting the photos themselves. It will remove a photo from the main thumbnail grid, but you will still be able to access that image in search results and directly from the album they live in. Archiving an image also won’t free up any storage space.

how to delete google photos permanently

(Image credit: Google)

Meanwhile, actually deleting photos is what you want to be doing. That frees up space, and entirely removes images from your Google Photos account. But that’s a multi-step process.

How to delete Google Photos permanently: Delete individual photos

The method for deleting images on Google Photos is the same on your desktop as it is in the mobile app for Android and iOS. Here’s how to get started.

1. Select the photo you want to delete from your main Google Photos feed, or search for the image.

how to permanently delete google photos

(Image credit: Future)

2. Click or tap the Delete button in the top-right corner. It's as simple as that!

how to permanently delete google photos

(Image credit: Future)

How to delete Google Photos permanently: Delete photos from albums

If you want to delete a photo from an album, things work a little bit differently. However this method only works on desktop, and isn’t possible on mobile.

1. Find the photo you want to delete.

2. Click the three-dot icon in the top right corner 

3. Select "Move to trash."

how to permanently delete google photos

(Image credit: Future)

How to delete Google Photos permanently: Delete multiple photos

Selecting and deleting multiple pictures at once all depends on which platform you’re using, though it’s easiest on mobile. Here's how it works.

1. Press and hold an image you want to delete, then tap other images you also want to remove from your account.

how to permanently delete google photos

(Image credit: Future)

2. On desktop, click the circle in the top-left corner of an image, which will turn into a blue tick. Then click any of the other pictures you want to remove.
3. Select the "Delete" trash can icon as before.

That will send your photos to the bin, though it won’t delete them permanently. Not right away anyway, because photos sent to the bin are left in limbo for 60 days. That gives you time to change your mind and restore them, though you can speed the process along.

how to permanently delete google photos

(Image credit: Future)

How to delete Google Photos permanently: Empty the Bin

1. Find the Bin folder. On desktop it’s in the menu on the left. On mobile, it can be found at the top of the Library tab.

how to permanently delete google photos

(Image credit: Future)

2. Select the image you want to delete permanently, and hit the Delete button. It’s a trash can with a cross in it. On desktop it’s at the top of the screen, and on mobile it's at the bottom. 

how to permanently delete google photos

(Image credit: Future)

3. If you want to delete everything in the Bin, you can simply select "Empty bin." On desktop, this option is in the top right corner, and on mobile it’s hiding behind the three dots in the same position. 

how to permanently delete google photos

(Image credit: Future)

And that's how you delete your Google Photos, so that they're completely gone forever. Make sure not to permanently delete any photos you want to keep, unless you have a backup of them somewhere else.

Tom Pritchard

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.