How to Save Storage Space on Your iPad

Free up space on your iPad

There are so many awesome apps and great uses for the iPad, it's easy to fill up the limited storage space, especially for anyone with the 16 GB model. However, you may be using more space than you need. It's not always the big things that get you, like a chunky 1 GB blockbuster game you download from the App Store. Often, it is the little things, when there are a lot of them, that gobble your storage space. Here are a few tips that can help keep your iPad lean and ready for more.

Instructions in this article apply to iPads running iOS 12 or iOS 11, but many of the tips work with older versions of the iOS.

A person using an Apple Pencil on an iPad Pro
Apple, Inc.

Delete Apps You No Longer Use

One of the best features of the App Store is the lifetime membership you gain any time you purchase an app. Whether you're downloading it to the same device or installing it on a brand new device, you always have the option to download any previously purchased apps as long as you use the same Apple ID. You can buy one app and download it to multiple iOS devices including the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, but perhaps more importantly, you can delete any apps that you use infrequently with the knowledge that you can download them again.

If you are running low on space, a simple purge of apps that you no longer use can go a long way toward freeing up storage.

Apple introduced an Offload Unused Apps option with iOS 12. Look in Settings > General > iPad Storage. Tap Enable next to Offload Unused Apps to permit the iPad to offload apps automatically when the iPad is low on storage. Your data and documents are saved.

Turn Off My Photo Stream. Turn on iCloud Photo Library

Your storage problem may not be an app issue. It may be caused by a photo issue. My Photo Stream is a handy feature, but it takes up a lot of space. My Photo Stream uploads a copy of every recent photo you take on your iPad or iPhone to iCloud and then downloads them all to each iOS device. If you have Photo Stream turned on, every photo you take on your iPhone is sent to your iPad automatically.

When Apple introduced iCloud Photo Library, the My Photo Stream feature became redundant. While it offers a slightly different way of synchronizing photos between devices, iCloud Photo Library is a better option in most respects. The Photo Library stores the photos in iCloud, so you can get at them on your Mac or PC as well as your iOS devices. It displays the photos on your iPad as low-resolution thumbnails rather than downloading the highest resolution and biggest photo size for every photo. If you want the higher resolution image, a tap retrieves it from the cloud.

If you've recently deleted a bunch of photos from iPad, go to the Recently Deleted album, where the iPad holds them for 30 days before removing them. Go to Photos > Albums > Recently Deleted. Choose to Delete All to remove all the deleted images immediately.

Another good way to leverage iCloud is to use iCloud Photo Sharing rather than iCloud Photo Library. With iCloud Photo Sharing turned on, you can see photos in your shared folders, but your iPad doesn't download every single photo connected to the Photo Library. This is great for getting a subset of pictures. An excellent way to do this is to create a custom shared folder specifically for sharing photos and videos to all your devices.

Turn Off Automatic Downloads

While it may sound like Automatic Downloads is a big timesaver, it can also be a big space-waster. By default, this feature automatically downloads new apps, music, and books purchased on the same iTunes account to every compatible device. This means your iPad automatically downloads the app you just bought on your iPhone. This sounds good until you run out of space with a bunch of apps you only use on the iPhone. If you aren't the only one using that Apple ID, this feature can get out of hand, so it is best to visit the iPad Settings and turn off automatic downloads. You can get to it in Settings > iTunes & App Store.

Install Dropbox for Photos and Documents

One great way to have access to your photos without having them take up space on your iPad is to keep them in the cloud. Dropbox offers up to 2 GB of free storage and not only does it make a great way to gain access to photos and other documents, but it's also a great way to transfer files from your iPad to your PC.

Enable Home Sharing for Music and Movies

If all you want to do is stream music and movies, there's no need to use up precious storage space on your iPad or go with an expensive solution like an external hard drive. Home Sharing allows you to share music and movies from your iTunes library to your iPad, which essentially turns your PC into external storage for your iPad. The only prerequisite is that you must have your PC turned on with iTunes running, and you must stream over Wi-Fi.

Because many people use their iPads at home, home sharing a great way to save a ton of space on the iPad. Your entire movie and music collection can be at your fingertips without taking up space on the iPad, and if you do want to watch a movie while on vacation or listen to some music while on the go, you can load a subset of your collection onto your iPad.

Stream Your Music and Movies

Home Sharing is a cool feature, but streaming music from Pandora or one of the other streaming apps may be a good solution for you. If you have a subscription to Apple Music, you can stream to your heart's content. You can even download a select playlist for those times when you don't have internet access.

The same works for movies. Any movie or TV show you buy through iTunes is available to stream. You can do the same for Amazon movies and shows by streaming them through the Amazon Instant Video app. When you combine this with Netflix, Hulu Plus, and the other streaming options for movies and TV, you shouldn't need to store videos on your iPad. 

Buy a Compatible External Hard Drive

Another great way to access your music, movies, and photo collection without taking up storage space on your iPad is to buy an external hard drive. The key here is to buy an external drive that either has Wi-Fi or supports being connected to your router. This allows you to gain access to your media and your documents via Wi-Fi. Before you buy an external drive, make sure it is compatible with the iPad. Not all external hard drives have an iPad app that gives you access to it.

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