Get more free space on iCloud for iPhone, iPad and Mac

If you have an Apple Mac, iPhone or iPad, you have iCloud online storage. Is it nearly full? Are you short of free space on iCloud? How to delete the junk and free up online storage.

Unless you pay big money, online storage space is small. Only 5 GB of iCloud online storage is available for free with a Mac, iPhone or iPad. More online storage space is available, but it requires a monthly subscription fee.

The 50 GB plan is very cheap and it costs just US $0.99 or UK £0.79 a month. Upgrade to the next level, which provides 200 GB, and it costs US $2.99 or UK £2.49 a month. It is too easy to run out of space on the 50 GB plan and some people struggle to keep their online storage within the 200 GB plan. Photos, videos and music gobble up storage very quickly. (See iCloud plans and pricing.)

If money is not an issue, the 2 TB plan is excellent of course, and you are unlikely to ever run short of online storage. This article isn’t for you, it is for those people on the 50 or even 200 GB plans who are running out of space and don’t want the extra cost of upgrading.

Paying for a bigger plan might not seem much, but many people are getting subscription fatigue. When everything is a subscription, one more can make or break your budget.

Let’s see how to clean up, remove the junk, and free space on iCloud. Make the most of what you have got instead of simply buying more. First the iPhone, then the Mac.

Free space on iCloud on iPhone

1 Open Settings

Apple ID in iPhone Settings: Screenshot
Go to your Apple account

Open the Settings app on the iPhone and then press your Apple ID at the top of the screen. This is where iCloud settings and features are to be found.

2 iCloud storage

Apple account in the Settings app on the iPhone: Screenshot
Go to your iCloud account

Among the Apple ID items is iCloud and it shows the current plan. I have the 50 GB plan. It would actually be more useful if it showed the free space remaining, but you can quickly find out by tapping the storage value on the right.

3 See storage usage

iCloud storage and management on the iPhone: Screenshot
View iCloud storage usage

The next screen shows how much storage is used out of the total. You need to do a mental calculation to work out how much is free. I have plenty of free space, but what should you do if nearly all of the storage is used?

Press Manage Storage to see more information.

4 View unused data

See how much iCloud storage each app uses on the iPhone: Screenshot
iCloud storage usage by app

Many apps store data on iCloud. The problem is that the data files for apps you no longer use and have deleted from the Mac, iPad and iPhone, may still be using iCloud storage.

It depends on the app, but apps you deleted a long time ago could be using significant storage. For example, AnyBuffer, an app I once used, but have deleted, is still using 86.7 MB of storage. It is not a huge amount, but if I had used the app more, it could have been using several times this amount.

If you have several similar apps, it is quite possible to have over 1 GB of storage used by apps that are no longer used or even installed on any of your Apple devices. It is a waste of space.

Press the arrow to the right of any app you no longer use or have installed.

5 Delete unwanted data

Delete app files in iCloud on the iPhone: Screenshot
Delete app data if not needed again

There is just one option on this screen, and that is to delete the app’s data. In my case, I could regain the 86.7 MB of space used by it. You might need it for something else, like photos.

Repeat this step and delete the data for any other apps you don’t use.

6 View backups

iPhone and iPad backups in iCloud: Screenshot
iPhone and iPad backups in iCloud

Go back to the list of apps using iCloud storage in step 4 and press Backups. This shows a breakdown of the space used by backups of your iPhone and iPad on iCloud.

Look out for backups of old devices you no longer have, like an old iPhone or iPad. They may be taking up space.

More details are available by tapping one of the backups. My iPhone backup is large, so let’s investigate further. Tap a backup to see the details.

7 Deselect backup items

Free space on iCloud by excluding backups you don't need
iCloud backup details

A list of apps that are included in the backup is shown. Here you can see that WhatsApp is using several gigabytes of iCloud storage. The backup space required would be much smaller without it.

Switches at the right of apps include or exclude them from the backup. I could gain an extra 3.43 GB of iCloud storage by turning off the WhatsApp switch. It means that if the iPhone is lost, stolen or broken, I would not be able to restore old WhatsApp chats and media on a new iPhone. However, I have saved any important photos and videos in iCloud Photos anyway, so maybe I could live without the WhatsApp backup.

You may have WhatsApp too, or some other app that is using a large amount of space in the backup. Ask yourself if you can live without it if disaster strikes your iPhone. You could free up a lot of iCloud storage for more important things by excluding it from the backup.

Free space on iCloud on the Mac

1 iCloud storage in macOS

The procedure is the same on the Mac, although the screens look slightly different. Open the System Preferences app and click Apple ID. Click the Manage button next to the iCloud storage usage bar on the next screen.

Storage usage shown in System Preferences on the Apple Mac
iCloud usage in System Preferences in macOS

Now you can browse the storage in the sidebar. The amount of iCloud storage used is shown under the app title in the sidebar. Select an app you no longer use or have on your Mac, iPhone or iPad, and then click the Delete all Files button on the right.

The space used by those unnecessary files is recovered and is added to the total free space.

2 Explore iCloud with Finder

Open a Finder window and select iCloud Drive in the sidebar to see all the folders and files using space in your online storage.

Finder on the Apple Mac showing iCloud Drive
Browse iCloud Drive in Finder. Delete unwanted folders and files

You may find additional folders created here by apps you no longer have. Apps either show up here or when you go to manage storage through your Apple ID, so you have to look un both places.

Delete folders for apps you don’t use to free space on iCloud. Be careful not to delete anything you do need, like documents created by an app.

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