Mobile

How to Free Up Space on Your iPhone or iPad

How much space is left on your iOS device? Do you hit a wall whenever you try to update your OS or download new apps? What’s the best way to move files you want to keep in order to free up space? And how can you make smart decisions about what to keep and what to delete? Follow these few simple steps, and you’ll be on your way to a less overloaded, more organized iPhone or iPad.

Check Your Total Usage

First, assess how much space you have. Go to Settings > General > [device] Storage. At the top, you’ll see a color-coded bar chart that outlines how much space certain categories of apps are taking up on your device.

iPhone Storage screen under Settings

You don’t need to understand these numbers deeply. To update iOS, you’ll want to have up to 6GB of free space. If you simply want to have enough free space so you can take new photos and install new apps without worrying about hitting an obstacle, give yourself at least 2GB of free space.

Note that when you add your available space and the used space, they won’t add up to the total size of your phone’s storage. That’s because it doesn’t factor in the space being used by the operating system.

Find Apps Taking Up the Most Space

If you continue to scroll down under Storage, you’ll see a list of all your apps, in order of how much space they consume.

Select any app, and a new page shows the usage in two parts: the amount of space the app itself uses (in light gray at the top) and the space used by the app’s data and documents. For example, the Podcasts app shown takes up 1.63GB total: 25.3MB for the app and 1.6GB for documents and data (that’s all those podcasts).

iPhone Settings screen with App Size

Sometimes, this information helps you see that it’s not the app that takes up space, but rather what you store in it. In this case, you can see that podcast episodes and photo-heavy Messages are taking up the bulk of the space on the device. In the case of podcasts, episodes can be quickly deleted from this menu by swiping left.

Target Apps You Don’t Use

Delete Them

Spotify Settings screen

On that device storage page, look for apps you don’t use. It’s much easier to do this here than on your home screens, where apps are likely to be scattered across several pages and bunched into folders.

If you find apps you don’t need, tap them and select Delete App. Any app you’ve purchased is always available to re-download again at no extra charge from the App Store.

To delete apps from the home screen, place your finger on an app you want to delete and hold. Apps will start to wiggle and a small X appears on each icon. Press the X, and confirm to delete. To stop the wiggling, press the home button on devices that have it or tap Done on the top right for those that do not.

Offload Them

If you want to temporarily disable an app without deleting its settings, like when you have to free up space to install an iOS update, Apple lets you offload them. They’ll remain on your home screen, but you’ll need to tap to re-download to get back in. Find the app on the storage list, tap it, and select Offload App.

You can also set up the automatic removal of apps you don’t use often. Go to Settings > General > iPhone Storage > Offload Unused Apps and tap Enable.

Check Your Photo and Video Use

The Photos app often takes up a lot more space than people realize, so let’s deal with that app directly. Under Settings > General > [device] Storage, find Photos to see how much storage it’s using. If you have more than 1GB here, you should consider copying photos and videos to a cloud storage service so you can delete them from your device.

If you have a Google account, an easy option here is Google Photos. Download the app, sign in, and tap the hamburger menu. Select Settings > Back Up & Sync and toggle Back Up & Sync to on. Make sure Google Photos has access to Photos (Settings > Google Photos > Photos) and then, every photo you take with your device will be automatically backed up to Google Photos when you’re online and accessible across your devices and on the web. Google used to offer unlimited photo storage via Google Photos, but that deal is dead, so plan accordingly as photo and video uploads count against your Google account storage. (Read Tricks to Master Google PhotosTricks to Master Google Photos for more.)

Backup and sync screen

You can also offload your iPhone photos via Dropbox, OneDrive, Amazon Photos, really any cloud-based syncing and storage service you like. Ideally, you want the service to have a mobile upload feature in its iPhone app. Better yet, upload to multiple services for redundancy.

Once iPhone photos have been uploaded to your cloud service of choice—double- and triple-check that they’re there—delete them from the Photos app. Google Photos will even delete them for you as they get uploaded, if you trust that option. Then navigate to Albums > Recently Deleted. Tap Select, and then at the bottom tap Delete All. If you skip that last step, you won’t free up any space for a month, as your iOS device hangs on to deleted photos for 30 days, just in case you change your mind.

You can also choose to keep lower-resolution photos on your phone while allowing the full-resolution ones to remain in iCloud. Go to Settings > Photos > Optimize iPhone Storage and make sure it has a checkmark next to it.

Wade Out of the Stream

Photo Stream is a seamless way to share photos across iOS devices. Activate it on your Apple devices, and any time they are on the same Wi-Fi network, photos that were taken on one device, like your iPhone, will appear on the others, like your iPad.

Upload to my photo stream screen

It’s a handy feature, but Apple allows up to 25,000 My Photo Stream uploads per month, so it can eat up space. If storing your photos on one device is enough for you, turn Photo Stream off by going to Settings > Photos > My Photo Stream and toggle it off.

Remove Unwanted Music

Multimedia, such as audio tracks and videos, takes up a lot of space. There are two ways to delete audio files and videos in Apple’s own Music app/service.

From Settings

Go to Settings > General > [device] Storage > Music. At the bottom will be a summary of all the songs and albums you have stored on your phone. Delete albums or tracks you don’t listen to by swiping left. You can also use the Edit button to delete multiple tracks and albums in one shot.

Music storage screen

From Within the App

Open the Music app. Go to Library > Downloaded Music, where you’ll see music that’s stored locally and taking up space. If you want to delete an entire album, press on it and a pop-up menu will include a Delete from Library option. You can do the same for specific songs within an album; tap Remove.

If you want to put the music back on your device, open the Music app and tap Library. Find the song or album you want and re-download it by tapping the cloud-arrow icon on the right.

Consider Streaming

If you want to have thousands of tracks at your disposal, use a music-streaming service like Spotify (which is obviously also an option on Apple Music). If you’re a Premium subscriber, however, keep an eye on how much you download for offline use. Storing all those playlists on your device can also eat up space.

Get (Rid of) the Message

Unless you like to hang onto conversations for sentimental (or legal) reasons, delete all “running late” or “what do you want for dinner?” texts to free up some space. You’ll free up even more if you’re heavy into sending video and photos and audio files via Messages.

If you like to live dangerously, set texts to automatically delete. Go to Settings > Messages > Message History and choose to keep messages for 30 days or up to one year.

Empty Your Browser’s Cache

Another smidgen of junk to wipe off your iPhone or iPad is the cache for the Safari web browser or other mobile web browsers you use. For Safari, go to Settings > Safari. Tap Clear History and Website Data.

For Chrome on iOS, open the app, tap the three dots on the bottom-right corner and select History. Then tap Clear Browsing Data to wipe everything out or Edit to erase specific sites. You can also navigate to Settings > Privacy > Clear Browsing Data, which will let you delete browsing history, cookies and site data, cached images and files, saved passwords, and autofill data—or everything at once. For more, read How to Clear Your Cache on Any BrowserHow to Clear Your Cache on Any Browser.

A Note About

Even after all of this, you might find yourself still trying to find some space. That’s when you notice it: Other. The category is under your device’s storage settings, a light gray box. What makes up Other? So many things but mostly cache. The cache from images and videos in texts, music and video streaming, and browser activity among other things.

Other in iPhone Storage

While you can’t eliminate this other, you can reduce it. Go to Settings > General and go through your apps that have the most data.

If your streaming or other apps occupy a couple of gigs and you don’t have anything downloaded on those services, uninstall the apps and reinstall them. This will clear out the cache.

You might have the ability to get rid of some cached items directly, if you come across a Review Downloaded Videos section on this page. Clicking on it will show you cached videos, which you can delete one by one. You might also see Review Large Attachments which will show you file-by-file images, videos, PDFs, and other things that have been cached in Messages. These files appear in order of how much space they take up and you can delete them one at a time.

For Messages, follow the steps above for shortening the amount of time that images and videos are saved. The less time, the less space they take up in Other.

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