How to Free Up Storage on iPhone

So you won't miss that once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity

A person holding an iPhone taking a picture of the beach

Olle Eriksson/Flickr

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 is when you want to snap that perfect photograph or shoot a quick video and your iPhone has no storage space left. We'll take a look at how to manage storage and go over a few steps on how to free up storage on the iPhone.

How to Manage Storage on Your 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, and you can do all of this in the same spot. The iPhone also allows you to either delete an app outright or "offload" an app, which removes the app itself but leaves any documents (saved games, work files, etc.) intact.

A screenshot of the iPhone storage settings
  1. First, launch the iPhone's settings app.

  2. Choose General.

  3. Scroll down and tap iPhone Storage.

The iPhone Storage section will break the amount of storage space being used by apps, media, photos and other documents. This is a great way to find out what is using up all of that precious storage space. You can also delete apps, music and other media directly from this screen.

  • Offload unused apps: This feature will automatically offload apps that you haven't opened in a while. This is a great way to save a lot of storage space without doing much work. Remember, when you offload an app, you save any documents within the app. So if you find that you need that app later, you still have all of your date.
  • Auto delete old conversations: This is another great tool to save space on your iPhone. This purges all messages and attachments that are more than a year old.
  • Delete or offload individual apps: If you don't like the idea of not knowing which apps are being removed, the list is 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 the app, you will go to an app information screen that shows you how much space the app takes up and how much storage is used for 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 from 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 easier than ever to save a little room on your iPhone by only downloading the songs from your favorite playlists and leaving the rest to stream. You can delete music by sliding your finger from right to left on the artist, album or song 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 can download so much data that these documents become a huge data hog. Good examples of this are social media apps like Facebook and streaming apps like Amazon Prime or Netflix. You can 'refresh' an app by deleting it and then installing it again, which essentially cleans out the documents folder.

How to Delete Photos and Videos to Clear Up Space on Your iPhone

Think Apple makes everything quick an easy? Think again. The photo management on the iPhone is a complete mess thanks in large part to how many features (photo editing, memory slideshows, etc.) Apple has packed into the Photos app.

A screenshot of the Photos app

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

  1. First, navigate to the timeline section of the Photos app by tapping the Photos button at the bottom.

  2. By default, it will break photos into years. Tap a section to break this down into date ranges and tap again to break it down further into individual days.

  3. At this point, a Select button will appear in the top-right corner of the screen. After you tap it, new Select buttons will appear next to each date.

  4. You will need to scroll down and tap the Select button on each individual date to select the photos for that day.

  5. When finished, tap the Trash Can button to delete.

But you aren't done yet! Deleting a photo only moves it to the recently deleted album where it will stay for around 30 days. So to actually remove it, you must delete it from this album.

  1. Tap the Albums button at the bottom of the screen.

  2. Navigate to the Recently Deleted album. On iOS 12, this is a link at the very bottom of the Albums section. In previous versions of iOS, the Recently Deleted album appears alongside your other albums.

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

You will 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.

How to Increase Storage on an iPhone By Using Cloud Storage

So where are you going to put all of those photos and videos? Cloud storage options are great because they can give you access to documents, music, photos and video 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 very same time.

A screenshot of the Files app on the iPhone

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 5 GB of iCloud storage that can be cheaply upgraded to 50 GB or more. This is a good option for those 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 great 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: A great 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.
  • Read up on more cloud storage services.

Need Storage Space Fast? The Secret Trick That Can Clear Space Fast!

If you are down to your very 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. And because it is free, this trick won't cost you anything. A great app to use for this purpose is Hearthstone with its whopping 2+ GB file size.

Download the app as normal. The app download may fail, which is actually a good thing. If it successfully downloads, delete the app using the directions enumerated earlier in this article.

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

Why? When you attempt a download that is more than your iPhone can handle, this can trigger iOS to do a clean up of temporary files. And unfortunately, these temporary files can sometimes take up quite a bit of space, which is why you can sometimes get back a lot more than you might expect using this trick.