How to delete facebook without losing everything

Like most millennials, I created a Facebook account in 2007 to see what my crush was up to and click through photos from parties I wasn’t invited to. Even a decade and a half later, a trail of fleeting moments from high school through adulthood could be found on my Facebook page in the form of photo albums, song lyrics, and messages.

The nature of the platform has changed, as have Facebook’s early users, but getting off isn’t exactly easy.

Deleting a Facebook profile is a deceptive challenge: every photo and status update must be deleted manually; if you’ve had an account for 13 years, this can be extremely tedious. A complete fresh start seems easier, but what about all those memories, not to mention the third-party accounts you signed up for with your Facebook login?

Fortunately, there is a way to opt out of Facebook without losing the important stuff.

What information does Facebook store?

In a nutshell, everything. The social media giant that instigated our tendencies to overshare has been keeping our data since before we really knew what it meant. Likes, logins, personal information, and messages are just a sampling of what Facebook knows about its users. From the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, we learned that Facebook has played a role in user data misappropriation (not to mention the platform’s actions that spurred the current #StopHateForProfit campaign). Suffice it to say, you should consider the potential consequences of sharing your data with Facebook and with third-party applications that you may have voluntarily given access to your account information. Here you can see some of the information that Facebook stores. You can check which third-party apps also have access to your account by going to the App Settings page (more on that below).

Here’s how to download a copy of your data

The good news is that you can make a local copy of anything you’ve posted on Facebook to regain a sense of ownership.

  • First, go to facebook.com/settings.
  • Select here Your Facebook information and then Download your information.
  • You can select a specific date range or All my data choose.
  • You can also set the quality of pictures and videos. Choose between an HTML or a JSON version. JSON format lets you paste your data into another application; HTML is easier to read and view.
  • Choose which items to download, including photo albums, videos, messages, comments, and any other interactions you’ve had on Facebook.
  • Select Create file. After a few minutes you will see a .zip file sent to you by email, which you can then download to your desktop.

To view your archive from the .zip folder to

To view the HTML version of your profile, click on the index icon after unzipping your archive folder.htm to open a browser window. On the left side you will see the different categories of your data, such as "Posts", "Events" and "News". Of course, this version won’t look exactly like your profile, but will be text-only, but you’ll be able to navigate through it easily. All your photos and videos will be stored in a separate folder on the drive you downloaded your archive to.

How to revoke permissions from apps that have access to your data

While it’s tempting to use your Facebook login to sign up for an app, gone are the days of thoughtlessly letting your privacy slip out of your hands. (PS: If you’re doing this because you’re tired of creating new passwords, it’s time for a password manager.)

A few years ago, we may not have been as vigilant about protecting our Facebook data. In fact, the New York Times reported that 270.000 users whose information was obtained as part of the Cambridge Analytica scandal had given permission to a third-party personality quiz app to access their Facebook data. According to Buzzfeed News, developers request various "data points" from Facebook users, such as your religious beliefs or relationship status, to better target consumers. If you have already given an application permission to access your data, you can revoke it.

  • Go to the App Settings page, hover over a specific app and edit the access (you can choose what kind of data the app gets) or remove it altogether.

Unfortunately, your data may have already been stored by the developer, but there is a feature that allows you to contact them directly to have it deleted.

  • Within the app settings, click Report App, then, I want to send my own message to the developersand ask them to delete your data.

To disconnect Facebook and third-party accounts

If you are preparing to delete your Facebook profile completely, you may be worried about losing access to other apps. Every application is different. Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) allows you to disconnect from your Facebook account by going to Settings>Account>Linked Accounts>Facebook>Disconnect>Confirm.

Spotify, for example, requires you to send the developers a request to manually transfer your information. When you email the support team, they backup your music, playlists, and followers, and unlock your email account so you can log in via email.

Certain apps, like the dating app Bumble, can continue to be used even after you deactivate your account, as long as you don’t sign out of Bumble. Once you have done that: Game over. Fortunately, most dating apps allow you to sign in with a phone number (this wasn’t always the case), and many other apps and accounts now offer users the option to sign in with just an email address.

When it’s time to say goodbye

Once you’ve safely downloaded your Facebook data to your hard drive and found ways to log out of third-party apps without losing data, you can delete your Facebook account.

  • Select Settings& Privacy > Settings.
  • Click on Your Facebook information in the left column and then select Deactivation and deletion.
  • Select Delete account permanentlyand then click Continue to account deletion. Click on Delete account, enter your password and then click on Continue.

But moment! Not so fast. Facebook will allow you to delete your account, but nothing will actually be deleted for at least 30 days. (Facebook’s website says it can take up to 90 days for all your information to be permanently deleted.) If you sign in again within those 30 days, you can select this option Cancel deletion, as if nothing has happened. And in the fine print, it says that some of your data may remain in a backup storage for more than 90 days. According to Facebook, backup storage is used "for recovery in the event of a disaster, software error, or other data loss". Your data may also be kept for legal matters, due to violations of the terms of service, or for damage prevention purposes. You can find Facebook’s full privacy policy here.

It takes sheer willpower to let those 30 days pass without weakening, but as someone who deleted Facebook almost two years ago, I can say with full confidence that it is possible and you can do it.

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