The iPhone and iPad tend to slow down as they gradually get clogged up with unwanted files and apps. In this article, we explain how to clean out the cache, junk and memory-clogging files on your device, which should it turn get it to run faster.
iOS and iPadOS devices don't need the same level of maintenance as Macs (or, heaven forbid, Windows PCs), but they do require a small amount of attention to run at optimum speed; the performance of older iPhones and iPads in particular will benefit from a spring clean. A clear-out also helps on a human level, because it enables you to focus on the apps and files you do use.
Update 10 July 2020: If your iPhone is running iOS 13.5.1 you may have noticed some issues with background activity causing battery drain, we are trying to establish if cache issues may be connected to this. Read: iPhones experience battery draining background activity in iOS 13.5.1
How to clear the cache on an iPhone or iPad
Deleting the cache in Safari is simple.
- Open Settings, and scroll down to the fifth group of options (starting with Passwords & Accounts). Tap Safari.
- Scroll down and tap 'Clear History and Website Data'.
- In the popup, tap 'Clear History and Data' to confirm.
Note that this will log you out of any websites you've currently signed into.
Delete unwanted app data
Data stored by other apps can be cleaned out using the Usage option in Settings.
- Tap Settings > General > iPhone Storage. (On an iPad this option will be labelled iPad Storage.)
- At the bottom of the screen (below recommendations for ways to save space) you'll see your apps, arranged by the amount of storage they take up. Tap an app that's taking up a lot of space.
- Check the figure for Documents & Data. This includes related media such as pictures, songs and podcasts, save games and preferences; in some cases it can be considerably larger than the app itself.
- If the Documents & Data figure is more than 500MB, and you're prepared to lose the above files, consider deleting and reinstalling the app to clear this space. (The app below has just 319KB, so we wouldn't bother. It's a game we've barely started playing.)
- If you decide to proceed, tap Delete App, confirm, then head to the App Store (or your Purchased list) and re-download it. This clean install won't include the data and documents and will therefore be smaller.
Free up memory by restarting your iPhone or iPad
For the most part, iOS does a good job of managing memory without any user involvement. But we do find that restarting an iPhone from time to time is a good way to clear out the memory and ensure important apps have enough to run happily.
Here's how to restart your iPhone:
- Hold down the power button (at the top or top-right of the device) until "slide to power off" appears. If you've got an iPhone without a Home button (a XR, 11, 11 Pro and so on) you'll need to hold down both power and volume up until the slider appears.
- Swipe the power off slider.
- Wait until the device has fully powered down, then press and hold the power button to turn the iPhone on again.
Doing this on a regular basis used to be vital on an iPhone, but is less so these days. Nevertheless, it can still be useful on older models.
Download a cleaner app
There are plenty of apps out there that do a quick and efficient job of getting rid of files you don't need. These are normally downloaded to your Mac or PC; you then connect your iPhone (or iPad) and let the app do its thing.
A cleaner app is normally the most effective way to make space on your iPhone, but if you want a fully featured one they usually cost somewhere in the region of £20/$20. Better that than having to cough up for a whole new phone.
PhoneClean by iMobie can be used to remove junk files from iOS. Follow these steps:
- Plug the iPhone into your Mac.
- Open PhoneClean and click Scan.
- Once the scan is complete, click Clean.
Some PhoneClean features, including Photo Caches, are only available in the Pro version. This starts at $19.99 (around £16), for a single Mac or PC for one year.
Much like PhoneClean, iMyFone Umate for Mac and Windows can be used to quickly remove temporary and junk files from your iOS device.
- Connect the iPhone to your Mac or PC.
- Open iMyFone Umate and click Scan (on the Home tab).
- Check the Junk Files and Temporary Files sections, then clear them to free up space on your device (we managed 4GB on our test iPhone).
- You can also clear out any large files, and see which apps take up the most space, then delete them.
There's a free version if you want to try the application out for yourself. The paid version, which costs $19.95 (£16), adds more advanced features.
That's all for today, but we hope the tips above help you to improve your device's performance. For more general iOS speed tips, it would be worth taking a look at our broader tutorials: How to speed up a slow iPhone and How to speed up a slow iPad.
At some point you may wish to bite the bullet and buy a new device. You can do this direct from Apple, but we'd recommend taking the time to read some advice first; our iPhone buying guide and iPad buying guide should be your first ports of call.