iCloud Storage FI-LM

Effective Ways to Free Up iCloud Storage

What is Apple’s iCloud Storage

iCloud is responsible for syncing your data across your Apple devices. iCloud storage is the amount of space Apple gives you to do that. You can store photos, videos, files, device backups, third-party app data, and more.

If you’ve had your device for some time, I’m sure you’re aware that you only get 5 GB of free iCloud space when you create your Apple ID. For most users, this isn’t nearly enough. However, if you enjoy taking Photos, this will fill up your iCloud storage quickly.

Once the storage is full, you’ll receive the option to buy more. But not everyone wants to do that. So, let’s look at how you might free up iCloud space and keep syncing new content.

Why is my iCloud Storage Full

Depending on what you store on your device, these could be the main culprits

  • Messages and Attachments
  • Voice Memos stored in the Cloud
  • Photos and Videos backed up to iCloud Photos
  • Backing up all your desktop and documents folders on your Mac to iCloud
  • iCloud Notes with media
  • Third-party apps
  • Storing PDFs, documents, and such in iCloud

Checking Your iCloud Storage

When iCloud gets full, you’ll be reminded with pop-ups saying “Not Enough Storage,” “iCloud Storage Full,” etc.

To find the free space available on iCloud:

  • Tap Settings
  • Your Name at the top
  • iCloud

You’ll see a bar graph indicating the amount of storage used and what storage is free. To understand what’s taking up your storage, tap Manage Account Storage.

As you can see on the screenshots, I’m on a 2 TB plan. I’ve already gone way past the free 5 GB. Most of my iCloud is taken up by Photos, Messages, iCloud Drive, and Backups. I also have on third-party app DevonThink To Go, which uses 3.8 GB.

What Happens if you Don’t Manage iCloud Storage

If you don’t free up storage, the following issues will happen:

  • Your device will no longer be able to back up
  • iCloud Photos will no longer be saved to the cloud
  • If you are using iCloud Drive, you’ll no longer be able to add new files
  • Shortcuts won’t sync
  • You can’t use iCloud email to send and receive new emails

There may be other issues I’m not aware of.

Features that will Continue to Work When iCloud Storage is Full

Several features will work even when iCloud Storage is full:

  • Contacts
  • Calendars
  • Reminders
  • Safari sync
  • Stocks
  • News
  • Home
  • Wallet
  • iCloud Keychain
  • Mail Drop

iPhone features like sending and receiving iMessages, FaceTime, calls, texts, and app downloads will all continue to work.

How to Free Up Storage in iCloud

Photos are the most significant reason our iCloud space fills so quickly. That’s Apple’s fault. 5 GB isn’t enough to store the massive amounts of information available today.

To free up space, open the Photos app and delete unnecessary images. This will delete them across all your devices if you have iCloud Photos turned on. Make sure to remove them from the Recently Deleted area as well.

Now, transfer the photos and videos to a computer, external hard disk, google drive, or google photos.

Note: This can become a tedious process, and I find it easier to pay the money to Apple to have all of my photos backed up to the cloud and synced across all my devices.

Follow these steps to turn off iCloud Photos but beware that you’ll need to keep backups of your photos elsewhere:

  • Open Settings
  • Tap Photos
  • Turn off iCloud Photos


Your photos will no longer be backed up to iCloud, so be sure to have another option to back them up.

Remove Files from iCloud Drive

Another option to free up space is to remove files and documents from iCloud Drive.

  • Open the Files app
  • Tap Browse
  • Choose iCloud Drive
  • Tap the more icon (circle with three dots) upper right corner
  • Choose Select
  • Now select all the files and folders you want to delete
  • Tap the trash icon to delete them


  • Go back to the Recently Deleted, tap the more icon, choose select, tap Delete All

Set Safari Download to Local Storage

To prevent Safari from downloading content to iCloud Drive and taking up iCloud Storage:

  • Open Settings
  • Tap Safari
  • Choose On My iPhone instead of iCloud Drive

Also check Remove Download List Items. I have mine set to After One Day.

Manage Device Backups

Backups can take up lots of storage. The following options are available to manage this process:

Turn off iCloud Backups: This would mean you have to back up your device another way. But, again, I don’t recommend this because your backups are essential to save your data.

Choose only essential apps to backup to iCloud: This is easy to do: 

  • Open Settings
  • Tap your name at the top
  • Choose iCloud
  • Select iCloud Backup

  • Tap on the device you are using: give a few seconds to populate your apps
  • Select Show All Apps

Scroll through your apps and determine which ones aren’t necessary to back up. For example, you might want to turn off apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Skype. Unfortunately, toggling off the switch will not only stop it from backing up but also delete the data.

Delete Old Device Backups: This is an easy choice. If you have more than one iPhone or iPad backup, delete the old one of the device you’re no longer using. You’ll see this under All Device Backups.

Delete Attachments from iCloud Mail

Emails with attachments can increase your iCloud storage. If an email has a paper clip icon, there’s an attachment. Delete any of those emails that aren’t necessary. Regular text emails take up very little space and so there’s no need to delete all of them.


After following all or even some of the recommendations above, you should see an improvement in your iCloud space. Suppose you do not wish to delete photos, apps, files, or backups and want a seamless experience. Pay for iCloud Storage. Plans start at $0.99 for 50 GB and go up to 2 TB. If you have Family sharing turned on, with Apple One, 4 TB is available. Paying for iCloud storage is worth it to keep your data syncing and safe.

Need help with your device? I’m always available Free Consult.

Like Video instead? Head to my YouTube channel for more great tips.

Hi, I'm Ellen!

I help mature adults master their iPhone and iPads, even if they aren’t  techie! 

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