How to Clear iCloud Storage

What to do when that 5GB of free storage disappears

iCloud homepage

 Simon Chandler

Apple offers only 5GB of free iCloud storage to back up our photos, contacts, calendars, text messages, and more data that people use (and add to) every day. Given that 5GB isn't all that much, this guide outlines the various steps you can take to free up space on iCloud. You can use a number of methods, including clearing backed up data directly and choosing not to back up certain apps. Whichever ones you opt for, they'll help your 5GB go just a little bit further.

Clear iCloud Backups on iPhone or iPad

The most effective method for clearing iCloud Storage involves deleting your backups. Here's how you do it on your iPhone or iPad.

These instructions apply to devices running iOS 10.3 or later.

  1. Open Settings, and then tap your name and iCloud.

    The iCloud item in iPhone settings
  2. Tap Manage Storage and then Backups.

    Manage Storage and Backups options in iCloud Storage
  3. The next screen shows the devices for which iCloud is storing backups and how much space they take up. Tap one to open a page with more information. Tap Delete Backup to remove the data from your iCloud account.

    Deleting a backup will also stop that device from backing up again to iCloud. You'll have to turn the feature back on manually.

    Deleting a backup from iCloud
  4. After a moment, the backup will delete.

Clearing backups is just one way to clear iCloud space, but it's a quick method to save room. From the main Manage Storage screen, you can also delete and turn off backups for any other app you're using with iCloud.

Clear iCloud Storage on Mac

You can also clear iCloud storage on Mac using your System Preferences. Here's how.

  1. Launch System Preferences, and then click iCloud.

    iCloud setting in Mac System Preferences
  2. Click the Manage button in the bottom-right corner of the window.

    Manage iCloud storage button on Mac
  3. Click Backups.

    Backups option in iCloud settings
  4. A list of backups you have saved to iCloud will appear. Select one, and then click Delete to remove it. Click Delete again to confirm.

    Deleting an iCloud backup on a Mac
  5. You can repeat this process for any backed up data you'd like to delete by selecting a different heading on the Manage screen.

Manage Your Backup Options per Device

One way of preemptively clearing iCloud storage is by reducing the number of apps you back up, and by not backing up apps that aren't important to you.

  1. Open Settings, and then tap your name and iCloud.

    The iCloud item in iPhone settings
  2. Tap Manage Storage, and then select Backups.

    Manage Storage and Backups options in iCloud Storage
  3. Tap the name of your device. Select Show All Apps at the bottom of the screen (under the Choose Data to Back Up heading) if it's available. Turn the switches by the apps you don't want to back up to white/off.

    Choosing data to back up on an iPhone
  4. You can turn these switches back on whenever you want.

Managing Global Backup Options

If you back up multiple devices to iCloud, follow these steps to turn off app backups for all of them without having to go into their pages in storage.

  1. Open Settings, and then click your Apple ID and iCloud.

    The iCloud item in iPhone settings
  2. Under the Apps Using iCloud heading, flip the switch of the app that you want to stop backing up to off/white. The system will ask if you want to delete the existing backups or cancel.

    Remove apps using iCloud from an iPhone
  3. You have to delete the existing backups to stop backing up an app.

Delete Your Photos

Perhaps the simplest way of managing iCloud storage is by deleting photos, or at least the photos you no longer need. Doing this will result in backups occupying less storage space.

If you have iCloud Photo Library turned on, deleting a photo on one of your Apple devices will also delete it on all others.

Manage iCloud Storage by Visiting iCloud.com

One final method for clearing iCloud storage space involves navigating to iCloud.com and erasing your backed up photos and files there.

  1. Go to iCloud.com and sign into your iCloud account.

    How to erase or wipe iPad remotely
  2. Click Photos.

    Photos on the iCloud website
  3. Click the photo(s) you'd like to delete, and then click the trashcan icon in the upper-right corner.

    Deleting photos from iCloud on a Mac
  4. Confirm that you want to delete the photos.