How to free space on an iPhone

Clearing space - deleting old messages, uninstalling apps - is an all-too-common pastime for iPhone owners. Follow these 21 tips next time you run out of storage and can't take a photo or install the app you want

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  • Make space 1
  • Delete apps 2
  • Hard-to-deleteĀ apps 3
  • Space-hogging apps 4
  • Delete data 5
  • Batch-delete messages 6
  • The movie rental trick 7
  • Photo Stream 8
  • Don't share 9
  • HDR duplicates 10
  • iTunes Match 11
  • Delete books 12
  • Photo apps 13
  • Notes 14
  • Delete iMessages 15
  • Delete photos 16
  • Burst Mode 17
  • Photo Stream 18
  • Dropbox 19
  • Space to snap 20
  • Erase and restore your iPhone 21
  • iMyFone Umate 22
  • More stories
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Tip 1 of 22: How to clear space on your iPhone

It's no longer possible to buy an iPhone with 16GB, but plenty of readers will know well how difficult it is to manage with so little storage. (The writer of this article is using a 16GB iPhone 6s Plus as we speak.) Even those with 32GB or more will - unless they are exceptionally parsimonious with the apps, photos and music they put on their device - have run out of space at some key moment. Storage shortage is a reality for many iPhone owners.

But don't worry: help is at hand. In this article we share our top tips for managing the space available on your iPhone and for getting the most out of every last megabyte.

Incidentally, if your iPhone is telling you that there isn't enough space to update iOS, you may not need to read any further: you can now install updates without having to make space! Find out how: How to install iOS 10 without deleting anything.

Plus: Don't miss our top iOS 10 tips article, and if you're struggling with battery life on your iPhone, read our top tips for getting more battery life from your iPhone.

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It's no longer possible to buy an iPhone with 16GB, but plenty of readers will know well how difficult it is to manage with so little storage. (The writer of this article is using a 16GB iPhone 6s Plus as we speak.) Even those with 32GB or more will - unless they are exceptionally parsimonious with the apps, photos and music they put on their device - have run out of space at some key moment. Storage shortage is a reality for many iPhone owners.

But don't worry: help is at hand. In this article we share our top tips for managing the space available on your iPhone and for getting the most out of every last megabyte.

Incidentally, if your iPhone is telling you that there isn't enough space to update iOS, you may not need to read any further: you can now install updates without having to make space! Find out how: How to install iOS 10 without deleting anything.

Plus: Don't miss our top iOS 10 tips article, and if you're struggling with battery life on your iPhone, read our top tips for getting more battery life from your iPhone.

 

Step 2 of 22: Delete apps you don't need

This is an obvious and (mostly) straightforward place to start. There are bound to be apps you downloaded and only used once, or have replaced with something better. Ditch them. The benefit of deleting a few apps is that you could free up as much as 500MB with very little effort.

To delete an app from the Home screen, tap and hold on its icon and wait for it (and the other icons too) to start jiggling about - this means you're in Edit Mode. Then tap on the X in the left corner to delete the app. (Edit Mode also allows you to drag app icons into new positions on the screen.)

Read more: How to delete any app from iPhone or iPad

 

Step 3 of 22: Stocks, Game Center and other hard-to-deleteĀ apps

There are some apps that aren't so easy to delete because Apple ships the phone with them pre-installed - this includes Stocks, Game Center, Notes, Calendar and various more default apps. In the past, Apple has prevented iPhone and iPad owners from deleting these apps from their devices.

The good news is that since the launch of iOS 10 you've been able to delete some of the preinstalled apps, such as Stocks, FaceTime and Mail. Bear in mind, however, that you're really hiding the app rather than deleting it fully. The data associated with that app will be deleted, but this isn't likely to gain you very much space.

And not all apps are included in this feature. Tips, Maps, Watch and Weather can be removed, for example; Safari, Phone and Messages cannot.

For more on all this, read our complete guide: How to delete, remove or hide any iPhone or iPad app.

 

Step 4 of 22: Find out which apps are taking up most space

A handy way of finding and deleting the apps that are taking up the most space is to go to Settings > General > Storage & iCloud Usage, then tap Manage Storage in the first section (STORAGE, rather than ICLOUD). Wait for the apps to appear under storage (it can take a minute or so for them to appear).

Your apps will be presented in order of how much space they take up. Anything near the top of the list that you don't use regularly should be a high priority for deletion.

Scroll through the list and be brutal. You will find the biggest space wasters at the top - probably your Photos and Music apps (the figure includes media that the app stores/organises as well as the app itself), but your Messages app may be there too if you receive a lot of text messages with images in them. 

If an app you rarely use is taking up 300MB of space then delete it - you can always download it again for free if you want to. Once you have bought something it's tied to your Apple ID so Apple knows you own it.

 

Step 5 of 22: Delete app data you don't need

To look deeper into the storage space being taken up by apps, look again at Settings > General > Storage & iCloud Usage > Manage Storage and click on the arrow beside one of the apps listed there. This way you can see how much data is used by the app itself, and how much additional space is being used by documents & data.

For example, our Pages app has 4.9MB of data; with a little tidying up we could ensure that those documents saved on the iPhone were moved to the Cloud where we have a lot more space.

Are there any apps there that have data associated with them that you no longer need on your iPhone? For example, the iPlayer app is 46MB, but we have 512MB of data associated with it, which suggests we have downloaded some programs at some point that are still lurking inside the app.

Go to the iPlayer app and delete them.

 

Step 6 of 22: How to delete lots of messages at once

While we're clearing out documents & data, here's another quick win: delete old messages from your iPhone. With less than a minute's work we reduced the space taken by messages from 2.2GB to just 112MB.

Deleting messages might sound like a long-winded process, but you don't need to do this individually. You can kill them quickly by telling iOS to purge any messages that have been on the device for longer than a stipulated period - anything older than 30 days, or anything more than a year old. You do this via Settings > Messages > Message History > Keep Messages, select a time parameter, then click Delete.

We look at this process in more detail in a separate article: read How to delete messages from an iPhone.

 

Step 7 of 22: The movie rental trick

This tip can create space on your iPhone (from 1/2MB to over 1GB sometimes) using magic. Not really, but we're not quite sure how it's done, only that it works if your iPhone is almost at maximum capacity. And no, your iPhone doesn't need to be jailbroken, nor does it void the warranty. 

Before we begin, head to Settings > General > About and make a note of how much storage you have. Then, head to the iTunes Store app and find a large title - we recommend The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers at a whopping 6.83GB. Once you've found a suitable movie, tap the Rent button twice (don't worry, you won't actually end up renting it) and dismiss the popup informing you that there's not enough space to download the movie.

Now, head back to the About section of the Settings menu and take a look at your available storage. If all has gone well, you should see a difference of a few hundred megabytes, possibly more. While it won't work for everybody, users on reddit report that following the steps several times allowed them to keep freeing up more storage. We're not quite sure what Apple is deleting when it does this, as it's not apps, photos or other important data - instead, we assume that it'll be clearing out caches and other areas that make up the "Other" section on your iOS storage breakdown.  

 

Step 8 of 22: Turn off Photo Stream

If you have Photo Stream turned on you will see photos you have taken on your iPhone or iPad, and those you have uploaded to your Mac from your camera. These images aren't full res, but are still likely to take up a lot of space on your iPhone. If you could really do with that extra space then turn off Photo Stream.

Go to Settings > Photos & Camera and deselect My Photo Stream. This will delete your Photo Stream from your iPhone.

Unfortunately, it also means that your iPhone photos are no longer uploaded to your Photo Stream on your other devices. You can always turn it back on again after the storage issue has passed.

 

Step 9 of 22: Don't join other people's Photo Streams

You can create and share photo streams with other people. This is a nice way to share images of events you attended with friends, or pictures of grandchildren with grandparents, but beware that if you join someone else's photo stream it may quickly fill up your iPhone.

Make sure you have Photo Sharing turned off in Settings > Photos & Camera.

There is also the new iCloud Photo Library, which lets you automatically upload and store your entire library in iCloud to access photos and videos on all your devices.

 

Step 10 of 22: Don't keep both photos when using HDR

Your phone can use an HDR mode to capture better photos when the image would include bright lights and shadow. You can choose for your iPhone to keep the normal photo, which is handy if you have a slower iPhone - perhaps an iPhone 4, which can be a bit hit and miss with HDR mode due to the slower camera.

However, in newer iPhones we think HDR works well enough for you to be confident that the image you take will be better than it would be without HDR. So make sure that you aren't keeping the normal photo - go to Settings > Photos & Camera and deselect Keep Normal Photo.

 

Step 11 of 22: Sign up for iTunes Match

You don't have to have every iTunes track you could ever possibly need to listen to on your iPhone. If you sign up for iTunes Match (for £21.99 a year) you will have every track you own available to you via the cloud. Therefore you can delete your music from your iPhone knowing that every song you may wish to listen to is but a download away.

Once you have signed up for Apple's service, all your music on all your Apple devices will be uploaded to iCloud (even tracks you have imported from CD). This means that you can download any track you fancy listening to on your iPhone whenever the mood takes you.

You can download a track or a whole album, or a whole playlist. Just click on the iCloud download icon. If you then want to delete the track from your iPhone, just swipe left on it, to delete. It will still be available to download from iCloud another time.

 

Step 12 of 22: Remove iBooks you aren't reading

Do you have any iBooks downloaded on your iPhone? Do you need them to be there? If you delete them they will still be available in iCloud to download again, so why not save yourself a few MB by removing the novel you are reading on your iPad from your iPhone.

You can choose to Delete This Copy, rather than delete it from all your devices.

Also, check Settings > iTunes & App Store and stop Automatic Downloads of iBooks when you buy them on other devices.

 

Step 13 of 22: Check your photo-editing apps

Do you use apps for photo editing. You may find that some old images are lurking within that you could delete.

We had 13.9MB worth of data in Camera+ so we loaded up the app and deleted the images in our Lightbox that we no longer needed - after all, we had already saved those ones we had edited to our camera roll.

Having done this we noticed that Camera+ had 17.1MB of data associated with it. Which was even more than we had before deleting the photos. Click to the next slide to find out what to do when this happens.

 

Step 14 of 22: Spring-clean your Notes

We make a lot of notes in the Notes app on our iPhone. We wondered how much space we could save by deleting those we no longer need.

Unfortunately Notes doesn't appear in the Storage Usage list we were accessing from Settings > General > Usage. But we started with 4GB of storage available on our phone and having deleted a good selection, our phone memory still showed 4GB.

However, we managed to clear another 12MB using CM Security (which already claimed that we had 4.2GB to start with).

We'd conclude that for the amount of effort it's not really worth deleting individual Notes, but it may make a bit of a difference in desperate times.

 

Step 15 of 22: Delete old iMessages

You can claim back quite a lot of space if you delete some of your old iMessages.

The iMessage app on our iPhone went from 512MB to 397MB and all we really did was delete marketing texts from the likes of O2 and Ikea.

We're not suggesting you delete whole iMessage conversations that you might want to go back to one day, but there are bound to be a few you really don't need.

 

Step 16 of 22: Delete photos you don't need

Our Camera Roll is taking up 867MB of space on our iPhone. That's 150 photos, 3 panoramas, and 6 videos. If we hadn't turned off Photo Stream we could easily copy these images on to our Mac (we'll discuss various ways to automatically back up images on the next slide).

However, it is likely that you have images on your iPhone that you had no desire to keep. Perhaps, like us, you often take screen shots of train times when you are commuting. There is no need to keep these shots.

Similarly, if you've been using Burst Mode you may have hundreds of identical images you really don't need taking up space on your iPhone. Go through and delete photos and videos that you don't need.

 

Step 17 of 22: Turn off Burst Mode

When you're taking a photo, you can hold down the shutter for slightly longer than normal and the camera will take a series of rapid shots. This is Burst mode. It's great for getting the absolute best action shot, but it does make for a lot of photos to get rid of afterwards, and is easy to activate by mistake.

Unfortunately it's not possible at present to turn off Burst Mode. This has frustrated a lot of people - some complain that their photos are now blurry because they have less control of the shutter, others find that burst mode quickly fills up the storage they have available.

We suggest that rather than tapping on the shutter button on the screen you use the volume control buttons on the side of your phone to take the photo, as it's easier to do a single tap that way.

 

Step 18 of 22: Use Photo Stream to back up photos

We told you to turn off Photo Stream a few slides ago, but it might be the case that 1GB of Photo Stream images is worth the sacrifice for being able to easily back up the photos you take on your iPhone. Go to Settings > Photos & Camera and turn My Photo Stream on using the slider.

Now, as long as you have on Wi-Fi access every photo you take will appear in your Photo Stream on your iPhone and on any of your other devices you have set up to receive your Photo Stream. (When you turn it on the phone will download the last 1,000 images, it's likely to take a few minutes).

Now that the photos you are taking are appearing in your Photo Stream you can delete them from your Camera Roll. They will still be available to download on your other devices (at least until you have taken another 1,000 photos, pushing that one out of your allocated iCloud storage).

When you want to download the image to your Mac open iPhoto (or Aperture if that's what you use) and click on iCloud. You may need to wait for a moment while the Photo Stream updates itself, depending on how often you access the photo library on your Mac. Once the image you want appears, right click and choose Import.

You can also save the image to your iPad by tapping Select picking that image, and then tapping Add To and selecting an Album to add it to.

You can delete all the photos from your phone now without worrying about them being lost forever now. 

Photo Stream is changing. So stay tuned for more information about how Photo Stream will upload all your photos on any device to the cloud so that you can access them on all your devices.

 

Step 19 of 22: Back up photos to Dropbox

Using Photo Stream isn't the only way in which you can back up the photos you take on your iPhone instantly. You can use the Camera upload feature in Dropbox to have captured images copied directly from the iPhone to Dropbox.

We explain how to do this in this article: How to back up iPhone photos automatically. For more general backup advice, see How to back up an iPhone.

 

Step 20 of 22: Get a bit of space for a photograph

Sometimes you may be confronted with a photo opportunity where in order to capture the moment you really don't have time to delete things from your iPhone.

Your camera app may be saying that you do not have enough space to take more photos, but there may still be a way.

If you open another of your camera applications and use the camera through that you may be able to take a few shots that you wouldn't be able to take otherwise. This is because some apps have access to memory that your camera app might not have. Try it, you never know.

 

Step 21 of 22: Erase and restore your iPhone

The 'Other' section of your iOS Storage breakdown can be frustrating, especially when you've got very little space left on your iPhone for your favourite apps, photos and music. However, there is one thing that can be done to remove the Other section, which is usually filled with Safari bookmarks, text attachments and calendar entries, and that is to wipe and restore your iPhone.

Make sure you back up your iPhone first, then head to Settings > General > Reset > Erase all content and settings to erase your iPhone and wipe the 'other' section from the face of the Earth, then restore it from your most recent backup during the initial setup. While there may still be a small Other section on your iPhone, it shouldn't be as big as originally and should offer a few hundred MB of extra storage. 

For more information, take a look at our guide: How to delete and restore iPhone data

 

Step 22 of 22: Optimise storage using iMyFone Umate

As you've probably guessed by now, there are many ways to expand the storage of your iPhone when you start running low, but some methods may take quite a long time. However, there are a myriad of third-party apps available that'll make the process simpler and quicker. One of those apps is iMyFone Umate, an app for Mac and Windows that can free up a huge amount of space on your iPhone.

Simply plug your iPhone in, run the initial scan and the app will tell you how much free space you could potentially gain by clearing out temporary files, junk files, backing up and deleting photos, deleting large files and lastly, showcasing your entire app collection in one place for easy deletion of multiple apps.

Interestingly, the app offers the ability to compress your photos instead of completely deleting them. It backs the original photos up to your Mac or PC, then will compress your entire library to free up extra space (up to 75 percent according to the company).

You can grab a trial of iMyFone Umate for free, or you can pay $19.95 (around £15) for the full app.

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