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How to free up iCloud storage when space is low

Are you getting warned space is running out?
March 13, 2023

Compared to other cloud storage platforms, Apple only offers a feeble 5GB of free space on iCloud. Unless you’re willing to open your wallet and spend cash on upgrading your iCloud account, you will have to get creative on saving space. Here are some quick tips on how to free up iCloud storage.


To free up space on iCloud, first, uninstall any unused apps. Turn off any apps that don't need iCloud sync, and go through each iCloud folder, deleting the files you don't need and moving the ones you want to keep to other storage solutions.


Uninstall unused apps

iphone home screen

Many apps sync their settings to iCloud, both as a backup and to make life easier if you use that same app on another Apple device. So the first step to freeing up iCloud space is to delete any unneeded apps. Go through each one in turn and ask yourself if you really need it. If you like to install lots of apps, you may be surprised at how many unnecessary ones you can uninstall.

Toggle off what doesn’t need to be synced to iCloud

Now go into the iOS Settings app and tap your name at the top. On the next screen, tap iCloud.

apple icloud

On the next screen, you will see Apple features and other apps which sync their data and settings to iCloud. This is shown by the green toggle. Go down the list and if anything doesn’t need to be synced, turn the toggle off to grey.

You can also switch off Apple features like syncing your photo library and automatic backups of your phone (although this is not recommended for obvious reasons). You can also see a breakdown at the top of what is hogging the most space.

ios icloud sync storage

Delete backups

Now it’s time to delete all of the unnecessary backups. In the previous screenshot, you can see an option at the top called Manage Storage. Tap on this, and this is what you will see.

ios manage icloud storage

Everything in the list is backups of that particular app. If you tap one, say Backups, you will see the backups stored in your iCloud account. The following screenshot shows that I have an old backup from an iPad I no longer have. So I tapped it to delete it.

icloud storage ios backups

The next screen will give you a Delete Backup button. Tapping that wipes it from your iCloud account.

ios delete ipad backup free icloud storage

Go through iCloud folders and delete any big unneeded files

Once you have removed any unnecessary apps and backups, it’s now time to go through each iCloud folder and delete any unnecessary files.

On iOS, this includes the Files app and the Photos app.

icloud apps ios

On macOS, you need to check the Photos app, iCloud Drive, and the Shared folder.

icloud drive macos storage

Move big needed files to other storage solutions

When you’re down to the essential files that you can’t delete under any circumstances, you have a few more choices to free up iCloud storage.

  • Upgrade your iCloud storage to the next level. 50GB, for example, is only 99 cents a month. 200GB is only $2.99 a month. Apple is virtually giving it away.
  • Install other cloud storage apps on your phone. If you are reluctant to pay for extra storage, take advantage of the other cloud storage apps and their free plans. The main ones are Google Drive and Dropbox, but Sync is also a good one for security-conscious folks. All three of these services have reasonable free plans.
  • Move your photos to Google Photos. If it’s photos that are taking up most of your iCloud space, consider moving them to Google Photos.
  • Email the files to yourself to a specially set up Gmail address. If you don’t want to use cloud storage, why not email the files to yourself and keep them in your Gmail email?
  • Move the files offline to a removable hard drive. Of course, you could simply just go old-school and invest in a removable hard drive or USB stick. Make sure to have more than one though, in case one breaks.


Yes, but you need to go to in a web browser. Once you’ve logged in, go to iCloud Drive, and click Recently Deleted. Click Recover all to bring back everything, or select individual files and click Recover.