Guide to iCloud storage plans: How to upgrade & manage your storage


Apple includes 5 GB of free cloud storage with each iCloud account, yet with iPhone and iPad cameras improving each year and an expanding amount of ways to utilize iCloud, that free storage fills up fast. Let’s take a look at managing your iCloud storage plan along with a few tips and tricks on managing what you’re saving with iCloud.

If you know you’d like to upgrade or downgrade your current iCloud storage plan we’ll cover that first. If you’d like to stick with what you have, feel free to skip below a bit further where we’ll cover some ways to reduce what you’re storing with iCloud. The images used will show how to do this on an iPhone, but the same steps apply for iPad (it will just look a bit different).

iCloud storage pricing

If you’ve run out of the 5 GB of free iCloud space and are getting messages saying your device hasn’t been backed up in x amount of days or weeks it is usually well worth $0.99/month for the 50 GB plan. Other iCloud storage pricing includes 200 GB for $2.99/month, 1 TB $9.99/month, and 2 TB for $19.99/month. Most users will be fine with 50 GB for a good amount of time if you’ve run over the free 5 GB.

The benefit of upgrading your iCloud storage is it will allow you to continue your automatic backups on your iPhone or iPad without having delete content. You also won’t have to remember to plug in your device to your Mac or PC to backup either. When you compare $0.99/month to what you’re already paying for your cellular bill, it’s a worthwhile investment to protect your data.

One last thing to keep in mind if you’re using iCloud Family Sharing, iCloud storage is one thing that is not shared. So if you are the family organizer and pay for 50 GB, you will also have to pay for each iCloud account connected to your family plan that needs additional storage past the free 5 GB.

Changing your iCloud storage plan

  1. On your iPhone or iPad tap on Settings.
  2. Next swipe down until you see iCloud.
  3. Tap on iCloud, then tap on Storage.


Like the image below you’ll now see your current Total Storage and Available storage, tap on Change Storage Plan.

At the top you’ll see your current plan with options to upgrade below. If you’d like more storage, tap on a higher tier and then tap Buy in the upper right corner (you’ll need to enter your Apple ID/iCloud password to complete your purchase).


If you’d like to lower your storage, tap on Downgrade Options toward the bottom of the screen. Enter your Apple ID/iCloud password to continue, then select the plan you’d like. Tap Done in the upper right corner to confirm.


Managing your iCloud storage

One important thing to keep in mind as you think about iCloud storage is that in most cases it’s not intended to be used as a substitute for your local (internal) storage on your iPhone or iPad. You can use iCloud Drive to save your data manually, but iCloud is mostly designed to synchronize and backup your information automatically.

For example, if you’re receiving the message that your iPhone is almost full, buying more iCloud storage doesn’t solve that problem by itself. This is because iCloud Backup mirrors what you have stored on your device locally. If you’d like help managing your storage, read more here.

We’ll cover few different places to look to free up your iCloud storage, but outside of these if the majority is taken up by your device backups you’ll need to reduce the amount of content stored on your iPhone or iPad itself.

Managing backups

  1. On your iPhone or iPad tap on Settings.
  2. Next swipe down until you see iCloud.
  3. Tap on iCloud, then tap on Storage.
  4. Last, tap on Manage Storage.

Once you’re on the Manage Storage section like the image above on the left start by taking a look at the various BACKUPS. In my example there are two copies of my wife’s backup, tap on any of them to get more details.

You’ll notice that the Last Backup date is 11/11/16, which isn’t current, so I’m all set to delete that one in particular and free up some iCloud storage. Go through and delete any old or unnecessary backups.

Managing Mail

Another place to look if you use an,, or email address is the Mail section. This is found toward the bottom of the Manage Storage section (as seen in the image above on the right). Depending on how many messages and especially how many attachments you have, you may be able to reclaim a decent amount of storage.

In my case, I’m using just over 300 MB (or 1/3 GB), so I don’t need to worry about Mail. Compare your Mail usage to your overall iCloud storage to see if you should spend your time deleting email.

Managing iCloud Photo Library

You’ll notice in the image above on the right that my iCloud Photo Library is using 4.7 GB of my iCloud storage. If you notice a large amount of space being used for this on your device, navigate to the Photos app and remove videos first and then photos that you can do without. If you’d like to keep everything it may be worth paying the $0.99/month for more iCloud storage as we covered above.

The alternate option is to turn off iCloud Photo Library, but then your media collection won’t automatically be synchronized across your Apple devices.

iCloud Drive

Once again in the image above on the far right you’ll notice the last section we haven’t covered, DOCUMENTS & DATA. This includes some iOS apps, third-party apps, and also iCloud Drive.

If you’d like to reduce the amount of iCloud storage being used by certain apps you can tap on them in right in settings or go to the app itself and view and delete data.

To remove data you’ve saved to iCloud Drive from any device, navigate to the iCloud Drive app.


Navigate through your folders to see if you’d like to delete anything. Once you’ve found something, tap on Select in the to right corner, tap on the folder(s) or file(s) and then select Delete in the bottom right corner (you can also delete content from iCloud Drive from your Mac or

If after following the above steps to reduce your iCloud storage usage you still don’t have enough space, take a look at either upgrading your plan, deleting more content, or choosing to backup manually instead of using iCloud. Reach out with any questions in the comments below.

However, if it concerns billing or specifics for your account, you can get iCloud support from Apple by calling 800-APL-CARE or telling Siri “I need Apple support.”

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