How to Clear iCloud Storage

What to do when that 5GB of free storage disappears

icloud.com

Modern life is tough: we're increasingly obliged to document our every waking second via selfies and social media posts, but Apple gives us only 5GB of free iCloud storage to backup all the resulting data. Given that 5GB isn't all that much, this guide outlines the various steps you can take to free up space on iCloud. There are a number of methods that can be used, from clearing backed up data directly to choosing not to backup certain apps. Whichever ones you opt for, they'll help your 5GB go just a little bit further.

01
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Clear iCloud Storage on iPhone or iPad

Deleting backups
Deleting your backups involves going into the settings for iCloud.

The most effective method for clearing iCloud Storage involves deleting your backups. Here's how you do it on your iPhone or iPad, if you're using iOS 10.3 or later operating systems (e.g. if you have an iPhone 5 or more recent models, or a 4th generation iPad or later).

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap your AppleID name.
  3. Tap iCloud.
  4. Tap Storage.
  5. Tap Manage Storage.
  6. Tap the BackupDocuments or Data you want to delete.

The next few steps vary from here on out depending on whether you select Backups or a particular document or app, such as iBooks. If you select Backups, you then have to select the backup you'd like to remove (e.g. iPhone), and then tap Delete Backup. However, if you pick iCloud Drive, for example, you have to press Delete Documents & Data (in red).

Here's the same process on devices with iOS 10.2 or earlier systems (as pictured above):

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Scroll down and tap iCloud.
  3. Tap Storage.
  4. Tap Manage Storage.
  5. Tap the BackupDocuments or Data you want to delete.

Once again, the steps after #5 vary slightly, with the selection of an iPhone backup next requiring users to press Delete Backup.

02
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Clear iCloud Storage on Mac

Deleting backups using Mac
Deleting iCloud backups on a Mac involves going to System Preferences.

And here's how you clear iCloud storage on Mac, which is a simpler process than it is on an iPhone or iPad.

  1. Launch System Preferences.
  2. Click iCloud.
  3. Click the Manage button in the bottom-right corner of the window.
  4. Click the Backup you want to delete.
  5. Click Delete Documents and Data.
  6. Click Delete when asked by the pop-up window to confirm.

You can repeat this process for any backed up data you'd like to delete. Of course, it's not necessarily the best idea to delete, say, your iPhone backup, especially if that phone contains important photos and files. That said, so long as you continue to connect your iPhone to wi-fi and to a power source, your iPhone will continue backing up automatically every 24 hours.

03
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Manage Your Backup Options

Deactivating backups
You can stop app backups from being made by going to Manage Storage in Settings.

One way of preemptively clearing iCloud storage is by reducing the number of apps you backup, and by not backing up apps that aren't important to you. This can be done using much the same process as above, although the steps are different towards the end:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap your AppleID name.
  3. Tap iCloud.
  4. Tap Storage.
  5. Tap Manage Storage.
  6. Under the BACKUPS subheading, tap your device (e.g. Simon's iPhone).
  7. Scroll down to BACKUP OPTIONS and swipe the apps you don't want to backup into the Off position.

A similar, shorter process can also be completed for first-party Apple apps, such as Photos, Mail, Safari, etc. This involves completing steps 1-3 directly above, and then scrolling to the lower half of the iCloud screen and once again swiping the apps you don't want backed up into the Off position.

04
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Delete Your Photos

Save space by deleting photos
One simple way of clearing iCloud storage is by deleting photos.

Perhaps the simplest way of managing iCloud storage is by deleting photos, or at least the photos you no longer need (who else has taken 30 different versions of the same basic photograph?). Doing this will result in backups occupying less storage space.

Here's what you should do to delete photos on your iOS device:

  1. Tap Photos.
  2. Tap Albums.
  3. Tap All Photos.
  4. Tap Select in the top-right corner of the screen.
  5. Tap the photos you'd like to delete.
  6. Tap the Trash icon in the bottom-right corner of the screen.
  7. Confirm by tapping Delete Photos.

Users who have iCloud Photo Library turned on should note that deleting a photo on one of your Apple devices will also delete it on all other devices.

05
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Buy More Storage

Saving space by buying more space
One cheat for 'clearing' iCloud space is simply to buying more space.

While strictly speaking this doesn't involve clearing iCloud storage, one useful method for freeing up memory on your iCloud involves simply buying more storage space.

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap your AppleID name.
  3. Tap iCloud.
  4. Tap Storage.
  5. Tap Buy More Storage.
  6. Tap the option you want.
  7. Tap Buy in the top-right corner.

Unsurprisingly, prices vary by region. In the US, the 50GB storage plan costs $0.99 per month, while the 200GB and the 2TB plans cost $2.99 and $9.99 per month, respectively. This is slightly cheaper than it is (as pictured above) in the UK, for example, since $0.99 currently converts to £0.75, but Apple are asking £0.79 for the 50GB option.

06
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Delete Files and Remove Apps from iCloud Drive

Deleting files from iCloud Drive
Deleting files from iCloud Drive also can free up storage space.

Another option for those wondering how to clear iCloud storage is to remove files from your iCloud drive. How this can be achieved depends on the version of iOS you have on your device. Users with iOS 11 or later should do the following:

  1. Open the Files app.
  2. Tap Browse.
  3. Tap iCloud Drive (under Locations).
  4. Tap Select in the top-right corner.
  5. Tap the files you'd like to erase.
  6. Tap the Delete icon in the bottom-left of the screen.

For users with iOS 10.3 or earlier versions, the process unfolds as below:

  1. Open the iCloud Drive app on the Home screen.
  2. Tap Select.
  3. Tap the files you want to erase.
  4. Tap Delete.
  5. Tap Delete from iCloud Drive.

Beyond simply deleting files, another option is to limit the number of apps backed up by your iCloud Drive, so that you're not eating up storage space unnecessarily.

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap your AppleID name.
  3. Tap iCloud.
  4. Tap iCloud Drive.
  5. Swipe the apps you don't want to backup into the Off position.
07
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Manage iCloud Storage by Visiting iCloud.com

Visiting icloud.com
Backed up files can be viewed and deleted via icloud.com.

One final method for clearing iCloud storage space involves navigating to iCloud.com and erasing your backed up photos and files there. For example, here's what you have to do if you want to delete a photo saved on your iCloud:

  1. Open your web browser.
  2. Go to iCloud.com.
  3. Sign in to your iCloud account.
  4. Once signed in, click Photos.
  5. Click the photo you'd like to delete.
  6. Click the trash icon in the menu bar.