How to free up iCloud storage space: 5 Tips

Your iCloud storage is full and don't want to buy more? Here's how to clean up your iCloud storage space.

How to free up iCloud storage without paying for more? A selective backup to iCloud may help when iCloud is full. It’s no surprise to anyone that the 5GB that come with free iCloud accounts is not enough for average iPhone users. You’ll run out of storage even faster if you own multiple iOS devices.

iCloud backup is great only if you don’t go over the 5GB limit. Without enough storage, your device won’t be able to back up to iCloud. This is critical if you lose or break your phone then you can restore your data to a new iPhone.

Otherwise, your photos and videos won’t upload to iCloud Photos and iCloud Drive. And you can’t also send or receive emails with your iCloud email address. That shouldn’t be an issue since most iPhone users don’t use it as their primary email.

One way you can reduce iCloud storage is to choose what to back up to iCloud. The Photos app takes a lot of space in iCloud. So if you have a lot of photos, you can use other alternative cloud storage services to back up your photos and keep them safe. 

During your iPhone setup, if you’ve selected to use iCloud for backing up your iOS device, then after you installed your apps, their settings, and data will automatically back up to iCloud. You can, however, choose which apps to back up to iCloud, that way you have more control over your iCloud storage space.

How to free up iCloud storage

Here’re all the iCloud storage tips you’ll learn in this guide.

  1. Manage your backups
  2. Manage your photo and video storage
  3. Delete documents & data
  4. iCloud Drive
  5. Emails

Click the links above to jump to a specific section, or continue scrolling to learn how to free up iCloud storage.

1. Check to see how much storage you have

Before we got to the tips, you’ll want to know how much storage space you’ve used.

To see how much storage you currently have, go to the Settings app, tap the Apple ID banner, then iCloud.

The color graph at the top shows how much storage you have left and which data are taking how much space.

As you can see from the picture below, Messages and Docs are taking quite a bit on my iCloud storage.

checking iCloud storage in iPhone settings
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

1. Manage your backups

As mentioned earlier, your iPhone back up your apps data and settings when it’s plugged in, locked and has a Wi-Fi connection. While this may sound great as it ensures you never lose your apps data, you can run out of iCloud storage quick.

apps using iCloud
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

Here’s what you can do to manage your iCloud storage. Under “APPS USING ICLOUD” disable any apps that store their backups in iCloud. That way you can remove their data on your iCloud storage online. Don’t worry, they won’t be included next time you backup your iPhone.

2. Manage your photo and video storage

Photos and videos are a nice way to capture those moments you don’t want to forget. If you’ve enabled iCloud Photo Library, your photos and videos can quickly drain the 5 GB of free iCloud storage Apple provides.

manage photos and videos storage in iCloud
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

To clean up iCloud storage, turn off iCloud Photo Library, and use other free cloud storage services to store all your photos and videos. You can also save them locally on your iPhone if you have enough storage. But we strongly recommend using a cloud storage in case something happens to your iPhone.

3. Delete documents & data

You can make more space on your iCloud storage by deleting app documents and data. These are browser history, cookies, logs, caches of photos and videos, database files and more stored by your apps. If they’re not important to you, you can delete them.

deleting app data from iCloud
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

While you’re in iCloud, tap “Manage Storage” to see a list of all the apps and how much space they occupy in iCloud. Then, tap an app to delete its documents and data. They can build up quick, so only allow selected apps to store their data in iCloud.

4. iCloud Drive

If you’re using iCloud Drive across all your iOS devices, those files count toward your iCloud storage. You can make more space on your iCloud storage by deleting files from your iCloud Drive.

checking iCloud Drive's available storage space
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

If you wish to not delete anything, you can optimize iCloud storage by transferring these files between your Mac/PC and iPhone.

5. Emails

If you use your iCloud for your email, which we don’t recommend, emails will be backed up using your free 5GB of storage. To clear up iCloud storage, delete unnecessary emails, especially those with large attachments.

how to free up icloud storage
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

To delete an email, open the Mail app, swipe left over an email and tap the trash button. Remember to go to the Trash folder, tap Edit, and then click Delete All. That way you know you’ve truly deleted them. Note, you can only delete emails within the “All Mail” folder. If you go to a specific mailbox you won’t find the “Delete” button when you swipe to the left.

Be mindful, this only apply to Apple’s email, any other email app would use their respective cloud service for storage. So deleting those emails won’t clear out your iCloud storage.

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