How to Free Up Storage on iPhone

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A person holding an iPhone taking a picture of the beach

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Storage space on your iPhone is like gasoline in your car. When you don't have any left, you can find yourself in a bad spot. The worst case occurs when you want to snap that perfect photograph or shoot a quick video and your iPhone has no storage space left. Avoid this problem by learning to manage storage and free up space on the iPhone.

How to Free Up Storage on an iPhone

The easiest way to clear storage on the iPhone is to remove apps you no longer use, music you no longer listen to, and messages you no longer need. You can do all this in the same spot. On the iPhone, you either delete an app outright or offload an app, which removes the app itself but maintains any documents (saved games or work files) intact.

  1. Tap the iPhone's Settings app on the home screen.

  2. Choose General in the Settings menu.

  3. Tap iPhone Storage.

  4. Select one or more of the options in the iPhone Storage screen to free up storage on the iPhone.

    General, iPhone Storage, Recommendations in iOS Settings

    The iPhone Storage screen indicates how much of the storage is in use on the iPhone with a color-coded bar that breaks down the amount of storage space being used by apps, media, messages, and other data. There are several options for freeing up storage directly from this screen:

    • Offload unused apps: When enabled, this feature automatically offloads apps that you haven't opened in a while, which saves a lot of storage space without you doing much work. When you offload an app, any documents or saved data affiliated with that app are preserved. If you find that you need that app later, you still have all your data.
    • Delete or offload individual apps: If you don't like the idea of not knowing which apps are being removed, a list of apps that take up space on your iPhone is presented, sorted by those taking up the most storage space first. This makes it easy to go through the apps and clean up a big chunk of space. When you tap an app, you see an app information screen that shows how much space the app takes up and how much storage is consumed by the app's documents and data. You can then choose either Offload App or Delete App.
    • Remove some or all of your music: While you can't delete photos on the iPhone Storage screen, you can clear out music. With so many options to stream music through services like Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora, it is easy to save space on your iPhone by downloading only the songs from your favorite playlists and leaving the rest to stream. Delete music by selecting Music in the app list and sliding your finger from right to left on an artist to reveal a hidden Delete button.
    • Refresh apps that hog data: An app's size isn't the only thing that can take up a lot of storage space. Many apps download so much data that the documents become a huge data hog. Good examples of this are social media apps like Facebook and streaming apps such as Amazon Prime or Netflix. You refresh an app by deleting it and then installing it again, which cleans out the documents folder.

    Delete iPhone Photos and Videos to Free Up Storage Space

    Think Apple makes everything quick and easy? Think again. Photo management on the iPhone is a mess thanks in large part to all the features Apple packed into the Photos app.

    The one feature lacking? A quick way to bulk delete your photos. There is a method to select multiple photos at once, but it is limited:

  5. Open the Photos app and go to the timeline section by tapping Photos at the bottom of the screen.

  6. By default, the app separates photos by years. Tap a section to break it down into date ranges and tap again to break it down further into individual days.

    At this point, a Select button appears in the top-right corner of the screen.

    Photos, Album select, Select button in iOS Photos
  7. Tap Select at the top of the screen and new Select buttons appear next to each date.

  8. Scroll down and tap the Select button on each individual date to mark all the photos for that day. If you only want to delete some of the photos for that date, tap directly on the individual images.

    Select button in iOS Photos app
  9. When finished, tap the Trash Can icon to delete the images you selected.

    You aren't done yet! Deleting a photo only moves it to the recently deleted album where it stays for about 30 days. So, to free up space, you must delete it from this album as well.

  10. Tap the Albums button at the bottom of the Photos app screen.

  11. Scroll to the Recently Deleted album and tap it to open it.

  12. In the Recently Deleted album, choose Select at the top of the screen and then tap Delete All at the bottom of the screen. You'll be asked to confirm your selection.

    Albums, Recently Deleted, Select buttons in iOS Photos app

You get more bang for your buck by deleting videos rather than photos. A video takes up many times more storage space than a photo, so try purging these first.

Increase Storage on an iPhone By Using Cloud Storage

Where are you going to put all of those photos and videos? Cloud storage options are handy because they give you access to documents, music, photos, and videos without taking up much space on your device. This makes cloud storage the easiest way to both increase storage on your iPhone and free up storage on the iPhone at the same time.

This is where the Files app on your iPhone really shines. It gives you one location on your iPhone to manage both the storage on your iPhone and the additional space granted by third-party cloud services.

  • iCloud Storage: The iPhone comes with 5GB of iCloud storage, which can be cheaply upgraded to 50GB or more. This is a good option for those people who primarily use the iPhone and iPad. While iCloud storage also works on a Mac or Windows-based PC, it's not as efficient as some of the other cloud storage services.
  • Google Drive: Another useful storage option, Google's cloud storage service has the Google name behind it, which can be reassuring. Google Drive is also one of the most full-featured cloud services.
  • Dropbox: An alternative to Google Drive, Dropbox may be the best cloud service when it comes to syncing files across many devices. It also has strong features such as auto-backup of photos from your iPhone and a built-in scanner.

Need Storage Space Fast? Try This Secret Trick

If you are down to your last gigabyte and need storage fast, there's a secret tip that might just do the trick: Download an app or movie that is larger than your free space.

This is easiest done using a free app that is over 1GB in size. A great app to use for this purpose is Hearthstone with its whopping 2GB file size.

Download the app as usual. The app download may fail, which is a good thing. If it successfully downloads, delete the app.

Check your space. You should have at least a little more than when you started, and sometimes this trick can clear up 1GB to 2GB of extra storage space all on its own.

Why? When you attempt a download a file that is more than your iPhone can handle, the action triggers iOS to do a cleanup of temporary files. These temporary files can sometimes take up quite a bit of space, which is why you may recover a lot more storage space than you expect using this trick.