Friday, March 13, 2015

iPhone: Repair black/white and corrupt photo thumbnails in camera roll

The iPhone camera roll photo thumbnail database can become broken and corrupt. This results in either black/white thumbnails and fully functional photos or functional thumbnails but black/white photos. Typically this happens when the users backup their iPhone camera roll photos to a computer without using iTunes, which is not even available for the popular Ubuntu/Debian/Fedora Linux distributions. The fix, which is described here, is to regenerate or repair the photo thumbnail database.

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Everyone should ensure that they back up the photos on their phones from time to time. Whether this is done to the cloud or to their home computer, a working routine is extremely important to prevent irreparable damage if one loses the phone. For iPhone users, backup to iCloud of the camera roll photos can be easily set up, although in the long run this is not a sustainable solution due to the space limitations on the iPhone itself as well as on iCloud. Simply put, keeping all photos ever taken on your iPhone is not a sustainable solution. Therefore, users should occasionally backup their photos to a computer to free up the storage space of their iPhone as well as iCloud account.

The process of backing up the iPhone photos from the camera roll can be performed through iTunes, although many users find it slow, bloated and sluggish. For Linux users, such as the popular Ubuntu and Debian users, iTunes is not even available. Thus, the use of a file manager to transfer the data in the DCIM folders is preferred by many for its transparency, and effectiveness. Unfortunately, it has been shown that backing up photos in this way may corrupt the photo thumbnail database, causing it to lose its sync with the camera roll. This results in either non-existent (black/white) photos, or black/white thumbnails when the users attempts to access their iPhone photos. This tutorial shows how to fix and repair the camera roll photo thumbnail database.

How to repair photos and thumbnails in camera roll

The likely most thorough fix to repair the iPhone photo and thumbnail database is to completely regenerate the database. This may sound like a daunting task, although the process is in actuality completely safe and every modified file can (and should) be backed up until the user can ensure that the photos and thumbnails in the camera roll are properly functioning.

For Windows and Mac OS X users, a utility (file manager) which can explore the file system is needed. Good free alternatives here are iFunBox, iExplorer and iMazing. It really does not matter which one you choose, since we will simply delete a few files in a directory on the iPhone itself.

For Linux users, access to the file system is already implemented in the popular file managers, for example, Nautilus in Ubuntu and Debian.

Regenerate and repair iPhone photo and thumbnail database in 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Now that we have the proper utility to modify the iPhone file system, applying the fix is a relatively simple task. On the iPhone, use your favorite file manager and navigate to:
Media -> PhotoData
Step 2: In the PhotoData directory, delete (or move them to your computer) the following three files:
- Photos.sqlite
- PhotosAux.sqlite
Step 3: Once the files are deleted, simply reboot your iPhone.

Do not be alarmed if upon rebooting your iPhone you find that your camera roll is empty. This is expected as iOS will completely regenerate the thumbnail database that will link to all photos on the iPhone. Give the iPhone some time and the thumbnails will pop back into the camera roll as each photo in the camera roll is indexed!

For me who use several operating systems every day, relying on iTunes for anything is extremely impractical. Hopefully this tutorial will help some of you out there to repair your photo database in case you have managed to corrupt it!


  1. I did this and it helped restore the thumbnails but a lot of photos have got deleted

    1. Sorry to hear that. However, this fix will not modify the contents in the DCIM folder which contains the actual photos. The explanation to what you are seeing could be one of the following:

      1. The thumbnails take some time to be generated. Give it a while and wait to see if the photos pop up.

      2. The fix will force iOS to regenerate the thumbnail database and does not modify the DCIM folder containing the photos at all, and any photos that are actually corrupt or non-existant will be removed from the thumbnail database and not show up in the camera roll. Hence, something must have happened to your photos, either they have been deleted or become corrupt. This is also probably the reason why you saw corrupted thumbnails in the first place.

      Let me know if it makes sense!

  2. Thanks for great tips! I usually use PC editing tools for fix my photos even from iphone. For mac user best will be from macphun I think.

  3. This was really a great help for my Iphone6. I used Iexplorer and it worked perfectly for 2500 images.

  4. This post is fantastic. This is one of the best posts that I've read on your blog in a long time. You have all the skills to become the top writer of this era. I hope you'll put those skills to a good use. Laga iphone 6s Norrköping

  5. Hi, I downloaded iExplorer to my PC running Windows 8, I've backed up my DCIM folder and I also made a copy of the PhotoData folder. So u get to the next step,but when I look in my PhotoData list, the only file I can actually see is Photo.sqlite (can't see the other two?) and it won't allow me to delete this file at all. Any clues what I'm doing wrong??

    1. If you cannot see the other two files, it is still fine. They will be regenerated when needed. This means that you only need to delete Photos.sqplite. If you cannot delete that file, try closing all apps on your phone and reboot your phone, then try deleting Photos.sqlite again.

      Hope it helps!

    2. Thanks I'll give that a try and let you know how I go! TIA

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  7. I am thoroughly agreed with you that while the users backup their iPhone camera roll photos to a computer without using iTunes, iPhone camera roll photo thumbnail database can break as well as corrupt. Whenever I need any kind of repairing, I always go with iPhone reparasjon oslo and got 100% satisfactory results.

  8. did the deletions, but no success. thumnail database on iphone still corrupt.

    1. Did you reboot your phone afterwards? It takes a while to regenerate the DB.

  9. yep, still thumbnails not repaired and files can not be transfered to iMac