When you first set up an iCloud account for your iPad or iPhone, you get access to a small free allocation of online storage: 5GB. This can be useful for backups and for accessing photos, documents and mail online, but (particularly if you wish to back up more than one device) it's not a lot of space.

In this article we explain how to manage the storage in your iCloud account. 

We'll show how to see how much space you've got left, and what's taking up all the storage. For those who've decided to take the plunge and upgrade from the free tier, we show how to upgrade a subscription. Alternatively, if you bought the top-priced 2TB tier and realised it's more than you need, we cover downgrading and cancelling subscriptions too.

(If you're open to alternatives, take a look at Best cloud storage apps for iPhone.)

Manage iCloud storage

Open the Settings app and tap your name at the top of the main screen. Tap iCloud in the second bank of options, and then Manage Storage. (If you're on a version of iOS older than iOS 10.3, you'll need to select Settings > iCloud > Storage instead.) 

You'll see a chart at the top showing how much space you're using (out of your total allocation) and the proportion of this being taken up by photos, documents, backups and mail. Below this you'll see an option to Change Storage Plan - of which more in a moment - and then individual entries for each of the apps using space, and the amount of space they're using.

How to manage iCloud storage

You can tap on an app for further details, if available (the entry for Backups lists the actual backups, and how big each one is; Pages lists the documents stored online), as well as the option to delete documents and/or data.

If you're running short of space, this page is a useful resource for identifying the storage hogs and then pruning them as necessary. If this doesn't work, then a more expensive approach is called for.

Managing iCloud on a Mac

Not on an iOS device? You can get a streamlined and altogether less functional version of this page by logging into your account at icloud.com and then selecting Settings - you'll see the usage chart at the top of the page. But if you're on a Mac it's much easier to do this sort of thing via System Preferences. Select iCloud, and then Manage at the bottom right.

On a PC

PC users will have to download and use iCloud for Windows.

Upgrade, cancel or downgrade iCloud storage

It's extremely easy to up- or downgrade the size of your iCloud storage subscription via your iPhone or iPad. Just follow these steps:

  1. On your iOS device, open the Settings app. Tap your name at the top of the main page and then tap iCloud on the next page. (On older versions of iOS, select Settings > iCloud > Storage instead.)
  2. At the top of the next page you will see a chart showing how much of your storage you are using and on what; with this you can make a judgement on whether you should downgrade or upgrade your subscription. Just below the chart you'll see Manage Storage: tap this.
    How to upgrade or cancel iCloud storage subscription
  3. Near the top of the next page, tap Change Storage Plan.
  4. A popup displays the various subscription plans and the cost of each in your country. Select one of the plans and then tap Buy at the top right to upgrade.
    How to upgrade or cancel iCloud storage subscription
  5. You'll be prompted to enter your Apple ID to verify the purchase - once that's done, the changes should take effect.
  6. If you want to downgrade to a cheaper option, choose Downgrade Options. You will need to enter your password, then tap Manage.

A few notes about iCloud subscription plans.

If you decide to downgrade, you'll still have access to the larger storage tier until your next billing cycle - the date when you pay or would have previously paid for the subscription.

Concerned about Apple deleting your data? You may be relieved to learn that it will hold 55GB of data on a 50GB plan. But you won't be able to back up your devices or add any new files until you make space or upgrade.

If you want to cancel any other subscriptions on your iPhone, read this: How to cancel subscriptions on an iPhone.