How to Free Up Storage on iPhone

Don't miss a once-in-a-lifetime photo op with your iPhone

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.

The instructions in this article apply to iPhones running iOS 12: iPhone X series, iPhone 8 series, iPhone 7 series, iPhone 6 series, and iPhone 5s.

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, either delete an app outright or offload an app, which removes the app but maintains any documents (saved games or work files) intact.

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

  2. In the Settings menu, choose General.

  3. Tap iPhone Storage.

  4. In the iPhone Storage screen, select one or more of the options 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 used by apps, media, messages, and other data. There are several options to free up storage:

  • Offload unused apps: When enabled, this feature automatically offloads apps that you haven't opened in a while, which saves storage space. When you offload an app, any documents or saved data affiliated with that app are preserved. If you need that app later, you still have all your data.
  • Delete or offload individual apps: If you want to know 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 space. When you tap an app, an app information screen 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. To delete music, select Music in the app list and slide from right to left on an artist to reveal a hidden Delete button.
  • Refresh apps that use data: An app's size isn't the only thing that takes up storage space. Many apps download so much data that the documents become huge. 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

There isn't a quick way to bulk delete photos on iPhone. There is a method to select multiple photos at once, but it is limited:

  1. Open the Photos app and tap Photos to go to the timeline section.

  2. By default, the app separates photos by years. Tap a section to organize it by date ranges and tap again to organize it into individual days.

    Photos, Album select, Select button in iOS Photos
  3. Tap Select to display new Select buttons next to each date.

  4. 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 the individual images.

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

    Deleting a photo moves it to the Recently Deleted album where it stays for 30 days. To free up space, delete it from this album as well.

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

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

  8. In the Recently Deleted album, choose Select, then tap Delete All. You'll be asked to confirm your selection.

    Albums, Recently Deleted, Select buttons in iOS Photos app

You get more space by deleting videos rather than photos. A video takes up more storage space than a photo, so purge videos first.

Increase Storage on an iPhone By Using Cloud Storage

Cloud storage options are a handy place to store photos and videos 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 increase storage on the iPhone and free up storage on the iPhone at the same time.

The Files app on your iPhone provides one location to manage both the storage on your iPhone and the additional space granted by third-party cloud services.

  • iCloud Storage: The iPhone comes with 5 GB of iCloud storage, which can be upgraded to 50 GB or more. This is a good option if you primarily use the iPhone and iPad. While iCloud storage also works on Macs and Windows-based PCs, it's not as efficient as some of the other cloud storage services.
  • Google Drive: 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 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 1 GB in size. A great app to use for this purpose is Hearthstone with its 2 GB 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 more than when you started, and sometimes this trick can clear up 1 GB to 2 GB of extra storage space.

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