Fix iCloud Photo Sync Issues on 10.3

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Updated: July 2017

Problem:  iCloud Photo Sync Intermittently Stops Working for a Device

For the last few months my iCloud photo syncing has been messed up. Maybe it was a result of updating to ios 10.2.1. Most of my devices are on that version, however I just began using the new iPad 5 and that came with 10.3 installed. Prior to receiving it I had just restored my iCloud Photo syncing on all of those 10.2.1 devices using steps similar to those described below.

I discovered this problem also exists in 10.3 because about the 4th day into using my new iPad 5, all of a sudden, Photo syncing on my new iPad stopped. So the steps below describe what I did to restore it. These are very similar to the 10.2.1 steps I used…it’s just that some of the Setting’s locations have moved.

What’s Worked & What Hasn’t

Update Note Sept 30, 2017

All of my ios devices seem to revert back to a state where iCloud photo syncing primarily isn’t functioning. I have roughly 10 ios devices…this is the limit Apple allows users to have under one Apple ID. If I strictly follow the steps outlined here on each device which has lost photo syncing I can fix the problem.

How do I know it’s fixed? Because immediately after I complete the last step I’ll see the small message ‘Updating or Uploading Photos‘ here:

Settings – My Name – iCloud –  Photos

Shortly thereafter all of the (no-longer called) Camera Roll photo albums match…they all display the same photos. But then some while later…maybe a week, maybe a month…one at a time, my devices quit syncing again.

A few months back (Spring 2017) I installed Mac Server on the Mac Mini we bought last summer (2016) on the advice of an Apple Store Genius to address this same loss of photo syncing issue. For a while the Mac mini solution worked for me…but that didn’t stick either. But it did permanently solve the sync problems for my husband who has fewer ios devices, roughly an equivalent number of iCloud photos (40,000), with the man in difference being his photos are often much higher resolution than mine. About half of his photos are artistic shots taken with his Nikon camera, where most of mine are screenshots taken with iPads, that I use for illustrations on my websites and YouTube channel. However, my iCloud Photos also include a large number of videos which he doesn’t have.

The new Mac Mini solved his problem permanently and mine temporarily. The installation of Mac Server had no impact on photos although it did positively impact several other problems I was experiencing with sync in other apps like Apple Notes and Pages.

If anyone has any better methods for permamntly fixing this, or even insight into why it occurs…I’d love to hear them. You can leave a comment at the bottom of the page.

 What to Expect & a Disclaimer

I ran across a set of instructions one day a few weeks back at Apple’s support site which described something similar to what I ultimately did to fix the problem…but when I searched for that again I was unable to find exactly what I’d found earlier. Maybe Apple recently edited this section…I don’t know for sure. But after hours of searching and reading through all of the advice Apple does supply now, I didn’t really find anything all that helpful, or anything that worked for me.

So, this solution is essentially my own memory of what I’d read…but probably it’s different too because memory is faulty. If you can find better steps regarding how to do this on Apple’s support site, or even have come up with your own method, I’d love to hear about. I believe there are probably several different ways to approach this problem, and this method was what worked for me.

I was extremely worried about 2 things. Somehow hurting my iCloud Photo data base in some way…because I’ve heard horror stories about that. 2nd, I was worried that by turning off Photo stream and then turning it back on that would mean my iPad would need to re-download a lot of pictures, or thumbnails, or whatever it needed to reinstate everything. I also worried that this would negatively impact our bandwidth as well as take a long time on that iPad, rendering it kind of disabled until the photos were back. Both worries weren’t realized.

I had no problems with any of the roughly 40,000 photos I have in iCloud disappearing or being deleted…but if I were you I’d still proceed with caution just the same. That means making sure you have your Photos backed up somewhere else in addition to iCloud before proceeding.

This fix also had virtually no impact on our network bandwidth and it just took a few minutes for the iPad to get back it’s full iCloud…which included the additions that had been missing before because the sync wasn’t working properly.

Steps to Fix Photo Sync

Step 1

The First Setting to Check is the Universal Apple ID Sign-in

This is really the only part of this step that you need to follow. Go to the top menu item in Settings ios 10.3. This is a new central location for all the different places you sign into your Apple ID on ios. It shows your name and below that says, Apple ID, iCloud, iTunes & App Store.

Tap on iCloud and then Photos to arrive at the screenshot below.

My iCloud Photo Settings Detail Screen

My iCloud Photo Settings Detail Screen

  • I checked off the box for ‘**Download and Keep Originals**’….meaning I enabled it.
  • Then about a minute later I unchecked the ‘**Photo Stream**’ box

Easily Skipped – The Second Place to Check is Purely Informational

Go to GeneralStorage and iCloud Usage and under the iCloud Section tap on ‘Manage Storage‘ wait for a minute for things to populate and then tap on Photos and look to make sure that iCloud Photos are being backed up.

You could also check out the size of your Photo stream while you are there but using the section above iCloud is Storage – tap on Manage Storage and then Photos to see the size of your Photostream on this device.

Another place in Settings to check for information

Another place in Settings to check for information

You might want to jot down what this says and compare it to your other devices.

Step 2

Do a Hard Reset of Your Device

You probably already know how to do this…but just in case you don’t. Hold down both the Home Button and the Power Button until an Apple appears in the screen.

Once your device is back up go back to what you did in Step 1 and reverse it.

  • Check the box for **Optimize iPad Storage**
  • Turn back on **Upload to My Photo Stream**

Step 3 Do another Hard Reset

That’s it…hopefully when your device turns back on your iCloud Sync will be working and you’ll see some missing photos appearing in the All Photos album.


I love to get feedback from my readers…so leave a comment if you feel inspired! Especially if you’ve found something else that works too.


Reader’s Comments

August 28th 2017

Norm:  Thanks! It worked perfectly! Two hours of frustration before trying it. Five minutes after reading your instructions, all set.

August 28th 2017

vsajewel:  You’re welcome and thanks so much for letting me know! I recently had to use this myself again and it worked for me too. But sadly, it didn’t seem to work for my husband. I need to take a stab at it for him I think! Thanks again :-)

Auguest 10th 2017

Bummed:  It didn’t work for me.

August 10th, 2017

vsajewel:  So sorry. If you find something that does, if you think of it could you share it here? Thanks for visiting and letting me know!

About vsajewel

Hi...I'm the author of 2 main blogs on WordPress...vsatips...where I write tech tips for mobile devices...primarily ios...2nd is vsatrends...where I write less about tech things and more about everything else. I also host a YouThe channel. I use it to better illustrate some of the posts from vsatips and for other random 'How To' topics. I'm a huge fan of YouTube because I think you can learn pretty much anything in the world there. Sometimes I search for something I can't do and don't find anything. A lot of my videos come from that influence...if I do eventually figure out how to do something :-)
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