Free up space on your iPhone

The iPhone can do an incredible amount of things very well and is an amazing device, yet it’s not so useful when you run out of storage space…

Between the plethora of apps available, the ability to shoot high-definition video and bursts of photos, and the ease of sharing content with others in iMessages and other apps storage space often fills up faster than we anticipate.

When your iPhone gives you low storage warnings you usually won’t be able to take many more photos or videos and it’s possible you may stop receiving iMessages and text messages. Other things you may notice is your iPhone running slow, apps crashing, and you may not be able to download attachments, apps, and other content.

On the other hand, you may just enjoy cleaning out your iPhone’s contents on a regular basis even if you’re not running out of room. Let’s take a look at few different ways to free up space and get your iPhone running smoothly.

Before we take a look at some third-party apps and storage options let’s use Settings in iOS to get an idea of your storage space situation (as always it’s best to have your iPhone backed up before deleting content, check out our guide if you’d like help).

Assessing your situation & deleting apps

1. Navigate to Settings → General → Storage & iCloud Usage.

2. Now tap on Manage Storage under STORAGE. You’ll now see all of your apps listed from largest to smallest along with Used and Available storage at the top.

Photos & Camera will usually take up the most space, we’ll come back to that in a bit. As for taking action to clear up space quickly right within Settings, look for third-party apps that you are okay deleting and take a look at Music and Safari.

In the middle image above you’ll notice Safari is storing almost 1 GB of data. Let’s take a look. It turns out my reading list is saving for offline use, but I don’t care about that feature. I can swipe from right to left to clear the offline cache or tap Edit in the top right corner to free up some storage space (the same process applies if you tap on Music as seen in the middle image above).

3. Tap on a third-party app, in the example below I’ve chosen Momento which is decently large at 411 MB. You’ll now see Delete App at the bottom. Use this option to remove any apps that you don’t need anymore (it’s usually faster than bouncing back and forth between Settings and the Home screen). Keep in mind that deleting apps under 100 MB won’t move the needle too much, so it’s better to focus on the larger apps towards the top of the list.

Deleting photos & videos

Okay, now let’s take a look at the Photos app. If you have any videos you can delete that will free up the most space the quickest, then move on to deleting photos. Remember, if you use iCloud Photo Library any photos or videos you delete from your iPhone will also be deleted from your other Apple devices using the same iCloud account (to check if you are using this feature, go to Settings → iCloud → Photos). So make totally sure you’re okay deleting them or have them backed up somewhere else.

  1. Navigate to Photos → Albums (bottom right corner) → Videos.
  2. Delete any videos you don’t need by tapping the trash can icon and then tapping Delete Video.
  3. Navigate back to Albums → Recently Deleted (further down than Videos) → Select (top right) → Delete All → Delete x items.

The easiest way to delete photos is to go to the All Photos album in the Albums tab, tap Select in the top right corner of your screen. You can now select multiple photos at the same time, scroll up and down to select as many as you want, then tap the trash can icon to delete them (you’ll see a running total of the selected items in the top center part of your screen).

There are many options to save your photos and videos before deleting them. You can utilize iCloud Photo Sharing (although uploading videos can take some time), load them into your Photos library on your Mac (if you don’t already use iCloud Photo Library) or use a third-party software/hardware option.

Lightning to USB drives

An external drive can be a good option if you’d like to save a larger amount of videos, photos, or files at one time or would prefer to not use a cloud service. A Lightning to USB drive is also really handy for traveling or times you don’t have your computer nearby. For many years there weren’t really any external flash drives that plugged directly into iPhone and iPad, however, now there are some great choices.

SanDisk’s iXpand Flash Drive is my favorite option that features a Lightning and standard USB connection. These external flash drives are available in 32, 64, and 128GB of storage and work with the free iXpand Drive app. The 32GB option is $35. There are some cheaper options, but since you need to use the manufacturers app to utilize these type of Lightning drives, it’s worth going with a reputable brand that will provide good software.

Google Photos & Dropbox

There are many times third-party software/hardware can be really useful to help with iPhone storage issues. One of the best free options is Google Photos which offers free unlimited storage and a sharp user interface to help you free up space. Keep in mind you’ll need an internet connection to upload your content and be able then free up space on your iPhone. You can also use Dropbox to automatically save the photos you take, but only 2 GB of storage is included for free.

Dr. Cleaner & Power Clean

You’ll notice in the storage settings that we looked at a bit earlier you may see the option to clear the cache for individual apps and some you may not. There are some third-party apps in the App Store that seem to help clear caches across multiple apps and iOS such as Dr. Cleaner. This app also helps you delete photos by finding similar pictures, so you only keep the photos you need. Dr. Cleaner is a free download on the App Store, has 5/5 stars and is even ad free.

Another third-party app that helps you free up storage with a photo and video scan and even a cellular network monitor is Power Clean. This is also a free app with 5/5 stars but does include ads.

Deleting messages

If you noticed in Settings that your Messages are taking up a good amount of space, there are a couple good ways to quickly reclaim that storage. You can delete messages one by one by swiping from right to left and tapping Delete or alternately by tapping Edit in the top left corner, select multiple conversations, and then Delete. 

However, there are a couple tricks to reducing the storage messages uses. The most amount of space is used by the attachments in messages, which are usually photos and videos that are sent and received. Start by going to your most frequently used messages and follow along with the steps below:

  1. In a message tap the circled i icon in the upper right hand corner.
  2. Tap and lightly hold on a photo or video until you see the More… option appear (don’t do a 3D Touch/firm press).
  3. Tap More, you’ll now be able to select as many photos or videos as you’d like.
  4. Tap the trash can icon in the bottom right corner, and confirm the deletion.

This will give you the most bang for you buck so to speak for freeing up your iPhone storage space. One other handy feature to keep your messages cleaned up is found in Settings where you have the option for iOS to automatically delete any messages older than 30 days or 1 year. Follow along below if you’d like to turn on this feature:

  1. Tap on the Settings app and then scroll down to find Messages.
  2. Tap on Messages and scroll down until you see Keep Messages.
  3. Tap on Keep Messages and choose either 30 Days or 1 Year.

Using some or all of these options should help you free up space on your iPhone and get you back in business. If your phone doesn’t seem to reflect more storage after going through these steps or the numbers don’t seem to add up, try restarting your iPhone. If that doesn’t do the trick you may want to restore your phone (make sure it’s backed up first) or get in touch with Apple Support. As always feel free to ask any questions in the comments below!

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About the Author

Michael Potuck

Michael is an editor for 9to5Mac. Since joining in 2016 he has written more than 3,000 articles including breaking news, reviews, and detailed comparisons and tutorials.