40+ ways to save storage space on iPhone and iPad

By , Jan 29, 2016

iOS Lock screen storage almost full iPhone screenshot 001

Is your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch stuffed to the gills with cruft, making it problematic for daily use? Are you running out of space? Have you already been greeted with a “Storage Almost Full – You can manage your storage in Settings” message? You’re not alone. Many of us have been there. Apps and games you download, content you create and media you consume on your device can all take up a ton of space, even if you own the most capacious iOS device now available in the marketplace.

And as if that weren’t enough, various caches, temporary files, logs and pretty much everything else in your ‘Other’ storage can be really difficult to manage.

That’s why we set out to create this master post with the hope of giving you sound tips for getting rid of all the cruft that has accumulated on your iOS device, so you can reclaim big chunks of storage space lost to unnecessary things you can do without.

How to save storage space

Restart your device regularly

Restarting your iPhone or iPad once a day not only ensures smoother than usual performance, it also gives iOS a chance to clear caches that are clogging up the ‘Other’ storage section, visible upon connecting an iOS device to iTunes. Cached files are created when streaming or viewing content like music, videos and photos.

iTunes Other iPhone storage Mac screenshot 002

You cannot delete these system caches manually as iOS automatically removes them when it needs more space. Restarting a device may prompt iOS to clear at least some cached content. To restart your device, hold down the power button until a “Slide to power off” message appears, then slide to restart.

Force-restart from time to time

Force-restarting your device forces iOS to wipe clean its temporary files and purge caches. To perform a force restart, press and hold the Sleep/Wake and Home buttons simultaneously until an Apple logo appears. In addition to clearing caches, this method may help your device run a little faster for some time.

Uninstall unwanted apps and games

If you don’t use an app, delete it. This rule sounds simple enough yet many people just don’t bother removing multi-gigabyte games and apps from their device even though they might no longer use them. To delete an app, hold your finger on its Home screen icon until the icons start wiggling, then tap “X” to delete it.

App Usage

However, a more efficient app deletion method exists, one that provides a quick look at how much storage each app takes up on the device: go to Settings → General → Storage & iCloud Usage. Now tap Manage Storage under the Storage heading, select an app and then hit Delete App.

TUTORIAL: How to delete apps in iOS

Delete documents in apps

Documents created in third-party apps count toward your storage limit. If you’ve accumulated a bunch of personal documents that are no longer needed, delete them inside apps that created them. Keep in mind that some apps move deleted items into a special folder as a precaution so you may need to take an extra step of emptying that folder in order to permanently trash your content.

iOS 9 Manage Storage iPhone screenshot 004

RELATED: How to recover ‘Other’ storage on iPhone

Remove pending iOS updates

iOS automatically downloads a new software update over Wi-Fi and prompts you to install it. Should you decide to skip installing a downloaded software update, you can regain anywhere from a few hundred megabytes to a few gigabytes of storage simply by deleting the pending iOS installer.

Delete software download

Go to Settings → General → Storage & iCloud Usage, select Manage Storage under the Storage heading, tap the software download in the list and select Delete Update. To stop iOS from automatically downloading firmware updates to this device, go to Settings → iTunes & App Stores and disable Updates below the Automatic Downloads heading.

Update iOS using iTunes

Applying an software update may require a significant amount of free storage due to an over-the-air iOS firmware download and temporary files created as part of the update process, some of which may not be fully removed post-update.

iTunes Check for Update Mac screenshot 001

To avoid this, update iOS using iTunes.

iTunes will download a firmware update to your computer, extract it locally and then deploy the files to your iOS device. Just plug your device into a computer, select it in iTunes, click Check for Update in the Summary pane, and then click Download and Update.

If you’ve initiated an over-the-air update and don’t have enough free storage, don’t be surprised to see a prompt go up offering to temporarily delete some apps and data. Don’t worry, this is a new feature in iOS 9 and the system will automatically restore your apps and data after an upgrade is successfully deployed.

iOS 9 App Deletion iPhone screenshot 001

Delete old voicemails

Don’t leave those old voicemails piling up in your inbox and wasting your iPhone’s precious storage space. To delete unwanted voicemails, go to Phone → Voicemail, tap a message and then hit Delete.

iOS 9 Delete Voicemail iPhone screenshot 001

Deleted voicemails won’t free up storage unless removed permanently from the Deleted Messages folder within the Phone app: tap Deleted Messages → Clear All.

TUTORIAL: How to permanently delete iPhone voicemails

Delete Messages attachments

Over time, video and audio attachments in your Messages chats  consume valuable storage space on your device. You can easily bulk-delete attachments from a conversation in the Messages app without deleting the entire conversation.

bulk delete messages attachments steps 2

Start by tapping Details in a chat, then hold on one of the attachments to reveal an action menu. Tap More, bulk-select attachments, hit the Trashcan icon and confirm by tapping Delete Attachments.

TUTORIAL: How to bulk-delete attachments in Messages

Set texts to be kept for 30 days

In addition to removing attachments from your chats, you should consider  adjusting message expiration which defines for how long texts will be kept on your device. In Settings → Messages → Keep Messages, change the default Forever setting to 1 Year or 30 Days.

iOS 9 Settings Messages expiration iPhone screenshot 002

This will prompt Messages to permanently delete all text messages, along with their attachments, that are older than 1 year or 30 days.

TUTORIAL: How to set texts to be kept for 30 days or 1 year (not forever)

Set audio/video messages to expire after 2 minutes

When you send or listen to/watch an audio/video message in the Messages app, it will be stored permanently in its database. You can change this behavior by switching from Never to After 2 Minutes in Settings → Messages → Expire for both audio and video messages.

iOS 9 audio video message expiration iPhone screenshot 001

This will ensure that audio and video messages will be automatically removed from your conversation history two minutes after they have been interacted with, thus freeing up valuable storage space.

TUTORIAL: How to set audio/video messages to expire after 2 minutes

Delete old photos and videos

Regaining additional storage lost to unwanted photos and videos is dead simple: go to an album or Camera roll in Photos, tap Select and choose items you want deleted. To make selecting photos faster, you can slide your finger across the screen. Now tap the Trashcan icon and confirm the operation.

select photos to delete from iPhone

Deleted items are moved to a special album on your device, meaning you must take an extra step to purge them permanently: tap Albums → Recently Deleted → Select → Delete All. Confirm a message which warns you that clearing this album cannot be undone.

Removing a bunch of old images and videos can be a tedious task so you might want to use third-party apps that take the pain out of bulk photo deletion.

TUTORIAL: How to delete old photos and videos

Disable Photo Stream

When Photo Sstream is turned on, the photos you take with your iOS devices or import to your computers appear automatically on all of your devices in the My Photo Stream section, or in All Photos if iCloud Photo Library is turned on.

iOS 9 Turn off My Photo Stream iPhone screenshot 001

Disabling this option will help conserve storage space: in Settings → iCloud → Photos turn off My Photo Stream or Upload to My Photo Stream.

Disable iCloud Photo Sharing

iCloud Photo Sharing lets you share photos and videos and subscribe to other people’s shared albums. Albums you’re subscribed to are automatically pushed to your device so turning off this feature will help regain some storage space.

iOS 9 Turn off iCloud Photo Sharing iPhone screenshot 001

Simply disable iCloud Photo Sharing in Settings → iCloud → Photos. Turning this option off will immediately delete all shared photos from this device.

RELATED: iCloud Photo Sharing: one of Apple’s best kept secrets

Turn off HDR duplicates

When you take HDR photos, iOS also stores their normal versions, doubling the storage usage. To only keep HDR versions for new photos you take, disable Keep Normal Photo in Settings → Photos & Camera.

How to turn off HDR photo duplicates iPhone screenshot 001

Turning off HDR duplicates will not remove non-HDR versions of your previously taken HDR images so make sure to delete them manually. HDR images in the Photos app are marked with “HDR” in the corner.

TUTORIAL: How to turn off HDR duplicates

Use iCloud Photo Library

Using iCloud Photo Library can rally slim down the size of your photo library by storing your photos and videos in their original resolution in iCloud while keeping their optimized versions on your device. To get started, enable iCloud Photo Library in Settings → iCloud → Photos and select Optimize iPhone Storage. You will probably need to upgrade to a larger iCloud storage plan.

enable iCloud Photo Library

Depending on the size of your library and bandwidth, the initial syncing process can take hours, or even days. This feature requires that the device be plugged to power, connected to Wi-Fi and you must keep the Photos app open.

Transfer photos and videos to online services

Assuming you’re willing to change your photo workflow, transferring all your photos and videos to an online service like Dropbox, Google Photos, Flickr or OneDrive may be the best way to free up a few gigs of on-device storage.

RELATED: Best ways to store photos and videos in the cloud

Delete content in iBooks app

Electronic books downloaded from the iBooks Store, especially textbooks with enhanced features like audio and video, can eat up gigabytes of storage space. To remove books you no longer need, launch iBooks, tap Edit, select some books, hit Delete and confirm the operation.

How to delete iBooks Sync Collections disabled iPhone screenshot 001

To stop new iBook Store purchases made on other devices from automatically downloading to this device, go to Settings → iTunes & App Stores and disable Books below the Automatic Downloads heading.

TUTORIAL: How to delete content in iBooks app

Delete content in Videos app

Your personal videos along with high-resolution movie and TV show purchases can really strain your storage. To remove downloaded, or synced, content in the stock Videos app tap Movies, TV Shows or Music Videos tabs and then hit Edit.

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Now tap “X” on an item you wish to delete, and confirm the operation. Tap Done then finished deleting videos. Purchased videos not yet download to this device have a cloud icon and don’t consume storage space unless downloaded.

TUTORIAL: How to delete content in Videos app

Delete content in Podcasts app

Most people subscribe to podcasts not realizing that Apple’s Podcasts app won’t automatically remove episodes after they’ve been played. To prevent this from happening, enable Delete Played Episodes in Settings → Podcasts. To further optimize storage consumption, set Download Episodes to Only New and Limit Episodes to Most Recent.

iOS 9 Podcasts defaults

To delete episodes yourself, launch the Podcasts app, tap My Podcasts and select a podcast to see its episodes. Now tap the ellipsis next to a downloaded episode you wish to remove, choose Remove Download and then tap Remove Download.

iOS 9 Podcasts delete episodes iPhone screenshot 001

Episodes not downloaded to this device are marked with a cloud icon.

Use Apple Music

Do you seriously want to own your music in 2016 and fiddle with song downloads and file syncing? Not only does renting your music do away with all that jazz, but lets you enjoy iTunes’ vast catalog of 30+ million songs for a low monthly fee that’s less than a price of a new album release.

Apple Music all devices teaser 001

To get started, tap Settings → Music → Apple Music, and also enable iCloud Music Library to see your music library on all of your devices. Streamed songs are temporarily stored on your device for quicker access, but iOS manages storage automatically. You can also mark any song to store it permanently for offline listening, as long as your subscription is active.

Apple Music settings iPhone screenshot 001

To free up storage space lost to offline songs, disable and then reenable iCloud Music Library in Settings → Music. To remove individual songs and items marked for offline listening from the device, tap Settings → General → Storage & iCloud Usage and then Manage Storage below the Storage heading. Now tap Music → Edit to cherry-pick songs or albums you want to delete.

iOS 9 Manage Storage iPhone screenshot 002

Apple Music plans for individuals are priced at $9.99 per month, or $14.99 for a family of six. Apple Music has virtually all the music you’ll ever want to listen to, is available on Android and benefits you from its tight integration across the entirety of the Apple ecosystem so you can enjoy it on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV, Apple Watch and Mac or Windows PC.

Check out Apple’s website for Apple Music country availability.

Clear Safari’s offline Reading List cache

Reading List is a great read-later feature in Safari for accessing saved articles without an Internet connection. But it’s all too easy to get carried away and keep adding articles to your Reading List without realizing you have a problem on your hand as today’s graphics-rich websites are heavy on Retina-optimized assets.

To clear this cache from your device, go to Settings → General → Storage & iCloud Usage and tap Manage Storage under the Storage heading. Tap Safari in the list, hit Edit and then the minus sign next to Offline Reading List.

iOS 7 (Safari, Offline Reading List, Delete 001)

Clearing this cache won’t remove any items from your Reading List.

Your Reading List lives in the cloud, but offline assets are stored on your device. To delete an individual webpage from your Reading List, which also removes it from all your devices, tap Safari’s bookmarks icon, then hit the glasses icon to access your Reading List.

You can now swipe an item and tap Delete to remove it from Reading List.

TUTORIAL: How to clear Safari’s Offline Reading List cache

Clear Safari cache and website data

In addition to building a history of websites you visit and searches you perform, Safari also lets websites you visit, such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Google Docs and others, save caches and offline data to your device.

Safari clear history website data

To reset your browsing history and remove all website data from your device, tap Settings → Safari → Clear History and Website Data below the Privacy & Security heading, and confirm by tapping Clear History and Data.

Keep in mind that clearing browsing history on one device will remove it from all your other devices that have Safari turned on in iCloud settings.

TUTORIAL: How to clear Safari browsing history and website data

Reduce app caches

Many apps that download data from the Internet permit you to adjust the size of their caches, which are used for keeping temporary files, items favorited or marked for offline use and more. Some apps are quite liberal with their cache so reducing it to a more acceptable level will increase the amount of storage available to you.

Individual data for some apps can also be cleared in Settings →  General → Storage & iCloud Usage section, then tap Manage Storage below the Storage heading. You will see a list of apps installed on your device, sorted by how much storage each is taking up.

iOS 9 Manage Storage iPhone screenshot 003

Drill into specific app information to see if you might be able to delete caches yourself, along with app documents and other data.

Reinstall space-hogging apps

If an app keeps eating up your storage at an alarming clip, and none of the aforesaid methods remedies the situation, deleting and reinstalling it is a 100 percent safe way to get rid of any app-specific junk. Before proceeding, however, save your app content in iCloud, send it to Dropbox, OneDrive or some other cloud-storage service, or beam it to your computer via AirDrop.

Clear temporary files stored by apps

iOS was designed to clear caches and temporary files that apps create as needed, but doesn’t do it aggressively enough, so they pile up in your ‘Other’ storage.

I could’t recommend more an app called PhoneExpander to get rid of temporary files that apps have marked as safe to delete. Download PhoneExpander, open it on your Mac and connect an iOS device to your computer with a USB cable.

PhoneExpander Clear Temporary Files Mac screenshot 001

Now click Clear Temporary Files and make yourself a cup of coffee because identifying and deleting a residue of temporary files from your device will take some time, in some cases up to ten minutes or even more.

PhoneExpander Clear Temporary Files Mac screenshot 002

This app is also great at identifying storage hogs on your iPhone, removing old songs and podcasts that you don’t listen to anymore, backing up the pictures and videos that take up the most space on your device and more.

Other apps such as iMyfone UmatePhoneCleaniFunBoxiMazing, Decipher Phone Cleaner and more will also deeply scan your device and clean junk files to help release lost storage space. Google them and don’t forget to share your favorites with fellow readers in the comment section.

iMyfone Umate, pictured below, is available for both Mac and Windows, has lossless photo compression to save space on your iPhone and will automatically back up original photos to your computer.

iMyfone Umate Mac screenshot 001

DISCLAIMER: Uninformed use of these tools is highly discouraged. Apple prohibits users from accessing the iOS file system for a very good reason. Not really knowing what you’re doing might mess up your device.

Lastly, if you’re jailbroken there are even better ways of managing your storage such as Ryan Petric’s useful cache-cleaning tool.

However, it’s important to remember that clearing the cruft that’s been clogging up your iOS device is a temporary solution because caches and temporary files will be created again over time by virtue of iOS and your app usage.

Adjust iOS features

You should also consider the following space-saving techniques:

  • Delete items in the Screenshots album, as well as photo duplicates and visually similar images in the Photos app.
  • Delete, or transfer to a computer your high-resolution panoramic photographs which tend to take up quite a lot of storage space.
  • Trash or export images from apps like Camera+ and VSCO which default to storing photos inside their private Documents folder.
  • Turn off high-quality voices in Settings → General → Accessibility → Speech → Voices and disable Alex, a high-quality U.S. English voice the delivers natural sounding results but takes up nearly one gigabyte of storage.
  • Disable system languages you don’t use in Settings → General → Language & Region.
  • Remove third-party keyboards you don’t need in Settings → General → Keyboard → Keyboards and delete their container apps.
  • Delete custom keyboard shortcuts you no longer need in Settings → General → Keyboard → Text Replacement.
  • Restrict background activity to as few apps as possible in Settings → General → Background App Refresh.
  • Remove and add back your email accounts in Settings → Mail, Contacts, Calendars in order to reclaim storage lost to attachments database.
  • Delete unwanted voice memos in the Voice Memos app.
  • Convert some Live Photos into stills with third-party apps.
  • Limit video capture to 1080p instead of 4K in Settings → Photos & Camera → Record Video.
  • Clear out Siri’s cache by disabling and re-enabling the feature in Settings → General → Siri → Siri.
  • Delete downloaded iOS dictionaries you no longer need.
  • Be selective about third-party apps in Spotlight by turning them off in Settings → General → Spotlight Search. This will help prevent iOS’s search index from ballooning out of control.
  • Sync your device with iTunes from time to time. This will transfer CrashReporter logs to your computer and delete them from the device.
  • Switch off any item you don’t absolutely need in Settings → iCloud.
  • Turn off automatic downloads for Music, Apps, Books and Updates in Settings → iTunes & App Stores.

Start anew

Why not?

In my experience, it’s the best way to make an iOS device feel like new again while nuking out of orbit all the cruft accumulated over the years and leftover files from previous iOS installations. Before your proceed, however, please make a full backup of your device in iTunes in case something goes wrong.

You should also transfer your photos and videos to a computer, use iCloud to back up your contacts, calendars, reminders, notes and Safari bookmarks, enable iCloud Drive to store your personal files in the cloud, use iCloud Keychain to sync your Safari passwords and ensure that documents created in apps are saved in iCloud rather than on the device.

If you keep all your other stuff in Dropbox, OneDrive or another cloud-storage service that has an iOS app and a storage extension available, all the better. Only then should you tap Settings → General → Reset → Erase All Content and Settings, which will clear everything on your device and reset all settings.

iOS Reset iPhone screenshot 001

Or, you can select your device in iTunes and click Restore in the Summary pane.

After you get to the iOS setup screen, select to set up your device as new. After you get to the Home screen, iCloud should push all synced information back to your device and then you can manually transfer your photos, videos, music, videos and other media in iTunes, using AirDrop or via a third-party app such as WALTR.

RELATED: How to bring back Activity and Health data to iPhone after restore

Needless to say, you should only reinstall apps that you’re absolutely going to be using on a regular basis. Everything else should be kept off your device as you can always re-download your past purchases through the App Store’s Purchased section on a as-needed basis.

Now your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch should feel like new again.

Should something, heaven forbid, go wrong— just restore from an iTunes backup.

Feel free to share storage managing techniques of your own in the comment section and keep those how-to submissions coming at tips@iDownloadBlog.com.

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  • James G

    I recently discovered that Disabling iCloud Drive freed up over 10GB of space on an iPad that only had Facebook installed (no Music, no Photos, nothing). I have over 70GB in iCloud Drive and apparently it stores some of that locally on the device but doesn’t appear ANYWHERE in views about what apps are taking up storage space.

    • That’s probably smart file management. If you have tons of space on your device, iOS probably keeps these documents locally so you can access them very quickly. If you need more storage space at some point, iOS might decide to remove these files to make more room for your stuff. Does that make sense?

      • James G

        It makes sense but iOS doesn’t indicate that’s what it’s doing. Instead I was left on my own to investigate why so much storage was being used. There should be a storage usage row for iCloud Drive to improve visibility into how storage is being used.

  • Blip dude

    Just ste. . . err “borrow” Ryan Petrich’s CacheClearer (if that is the name) and give the option of clearing app cache on stock iOS instead of having to delete and redownload apps.

  • Lt_R

    TL;DR: disable/delete stuff that you don’t use/want/are old.

  • rockdude094

    For jail breakers: Skip the article and download icleaner

    • Nicholas Smith

      Desktop software is not limited to jailbreak. As far as I know, iMyfone Umate is applicable for iOS devices no matter they are jail break device or not.

  • Thanks, this article is of much use to us poor 16gb users 😛

  • Big thanks. Feels like my choking old 16gb iphone 5s being freed up.

  • jay

    First awesome job. But number one should be buy a 128GB iPhone and you never need to worry lol

  • John Smith

    Great article

  • John Smith

    My Whatsapp

  • Rares

    If I select “Optimize iPhone Storage” for icloud photo library, won’t my photos look bad when I open them on my iphone? I mean if the resolution is lower…

    • When you enable Optimize iPhone Storage, device-size versions of your originals will be kept on your device, which in most cases means downscaling photos to 2048px width so they look crisp on iPad Retina screens. But yes, if you zoom in on them, device-optimized photos will look blurry. Still, Photos will download the original version from iCloud when you tap the Edit button so your edits will be applied to the original-resolution photo.

  • J™

    iCleaner

  • lookHOWMADheis

    I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE!

  • Chrisjniles

    While I highly recommend restarting your iOS device now and again, I would not r commend force restarts unless absolutely necessary. It’s the same thing as unplugging a desktop while it’s on and can lead to file system errors/directory damage. Which can in turn lead to erratic, unexpect d behavior and a need to restore the device.

  • Alex Lee

    Wow, it is very useful and helpful. Thanks for your detailed guidance and useful tips. It’s very comprehensive. I think most of people who read this article can learn much about how to save space on iPhone and iPad. I used the iMyfone Umate you referred, it is very easy to use, and it combines more than 25 analyzation techniques and technologies that target and eliminate over 30 kinds of junk files. It helped me save more than 3 gb space. I like it.

  • laxman

    Disable everything. Delete all. Remove all of it. Let the fun die.
    Switch to Nokia and use a mobile phone to call people only and see your life change 😀