How to Clear iCloud Storage: 7 Tips to Free Up Space

Is your iCloud storage full or almost full? Do you need to get more iCloud storage? Maybe not! Here's how to manage iCloud storage and free up space. We'll show you how to delete items from iCloud storage that you no longer need, seven different ways. 

Related: What Is iCloud & How Does It Work? Apple iCloud Basics

How to Clear Apple iCloud Storage: 7 Tips to Free Up Space 

If your iCloud storage is full, you could buy more iCloud storage or an external hard drive. But you could also save money by learning how to free up iCloud storage instead. Here's how to check iCloud storage, and how to reduce iCloud storage seven different ways. For more great iCloud tutorials, check out our free Tip of the Day

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How to Check iCloud Storage

The first thing to know is there's a difference between iPhone storage and iCloud storage. To check your iCloud storage:

  1. Open the Settings app.

    iphone settings app
  2. Tap the banner at the top with your name in it.

    tap the banner at the top of the page
  3. Tap iCloud.

    tap icloud
  4. You'll see the amount of iCloud storage you've used, and the amount available at the top of the screen. 

    icloud storage

As you can see, I decided to buy more iCloud storage and upgrade to 200GB of space. If you decide this was a mistake, here's how to cancel the iCloud storage increase and go back to the free plan. If you'd rather stick with your 5 GB of free iCloud storage, read on to learn how to delete things from iCloud.

1. How to Delete iCloud Backups

When you back up an iPhone or other Apple device to iCloud, those backups are saved, so you don't lose photos, files, and more. But, these backups can take up a lot of storage space. So, it's important to know how to delete iCloud backups. Save your most recent backup or two, but delete old iCloud backups, and you'll be amazed how much iCloud storage is freed up! 

2. How to Reduce iCloud Storage Size

Here's another easy way to clear iCloud storage, just reduce the size of the iCloud backups. You can decide which app data you want to back up on your Apple devices, and which doesn't need saving, so each iCloud backup is smaller. To do this:

  1. Open the Settings app.

    iphone settings app
  2. Tap your name in the banner at the top of the page.

    tap the banner at the top of the page
  3. Tap iCloud.

    tap icloud
  4. Tap Backups.

    tap backups
  5. Tap the name of the Apple device you're using.

    tap the apple device you're using
  6. Tap Show All Apps.

    tap show all apps
  7. Toggle off any apps you don't want to back up.
  8. Confirm by tapping Turn Off & Delete.

    toggle off backups and tap turn off & delete

3. How to Delete Photos from iCloud Photos

If your photos are synced to iCloud, deleting photos from your iPhone is a great way to clear iCloud storage, and the Photos app makes it to delete multiple pictures at once. If you unintentionally delete something, you can also find and get them back. Here's how to delete photos from iCloud, as well as how to retrieve deleted photos.

If you don't use iCloud Photos, the pictures and videos in the Photos app still take up storage space as part of your iCloud backup. You can see how much storage they're using:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap the banner with your name at the top.
  3. Tap iCloud.
  4. Tap Manage Storage.
  5. Tap Backups.
  6. Tap the name of the Apple device you're using.
  7. Tap Photos.

4. How to Delete Emails from iCloud

Looking for another way to free up iCloud space? Here's how to delete emails from your iCloud email account. You can delete all emails from one sender, delete all unread emails, or delete all emails in Gmail, Yahoo, another email provider, or even the entire Mail app. If you don't want to delete emails from a web-based email service such as Gmail, consider turning off iCloud backups for that app instead. You can also delete emails one at a time; here's how:

  1. Open the Mail app.

    apple mail app
  2. Swipe left across the email you want to delete.
  3. Tap Trash if you see that icon.

    swipe left and tap trash
  4. Tap More if you don't see Trash.

    swipe left across email
  5. Next, tap Trash Message.

    tap trash message

Now, you can decide how long to leave these iCloud emails in the Trash. If you want to clear this iCloud storage space immediately:

  1. Navigate back to the Mailboxes page and tap Trash under the email account you deleted from.

    tap trash in mailboxes
  2. Tap Edit.

    tap edit
  3. Tap Select All.

    tap select all
  4. Tap Delete to empty the Trash permanently.

    tap delete

If you don't want to delete emails, you can move email messages from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to your computer, whether Mac or PC, to clear iCloud storage.

5. How to Delete Text Messages & Attachments from iCloud

If you use Messages in iCloud, your text messages and attachments, both sent and received, are stored in the cloud. You can delete text messages on your iPhone automatically, or use the method below to delete selected messages. And  if you accidentally delete text messages, it is possible, although sometimes complicated, to retrieve deleted text messages on your iPhone. Here's how to delete text messages and attachments from iCloud to empty iCloud storage.

How to Delete a Single Text Message or Attachment

  1. Open the Messages app, and tap the text thread containing the attachment.
  2. Touch and hold the attachment, and tap More when the menu pops up.

    tap more
  3. Tap the circle next to the attachment(s) or message(s) you want to delete.

    tap the circle next to attachments and text messages to delete
  4. Tap Delete Message.

    tap delete message

How to Delete an Entire Text Conversation (with Attachments)

  1. Open the Messages app.

    open the messages app
  2. Touch and hold the message you want to delete.

    touch and hold a text thread
  3. Tap Delete, confirm by tapping Delete again.

    tap delete
  4. You can also swipe left across the text thread you want to delete, then tap the Trash icon.

    swipe left and tap trash
  5. Tap Delete to confirm.

    tap delete to confirm

How to Delete Multiple Text Message Attachments

  1. Open the Messages app and tap the text thread with attachments you want to delete.
  2. Tap the contact's name at the top of your display.

    tap the contact's name
  3. Tap See All next to Photos.

    tap see all
  4. Tap Select, then tap to choose attachments to delete.

    tap select, then tap the text attachments to delete
  5. Tap Delete.

    tap delete

6. How to Delete Files from iCloud

Let's get into how to clear up iCloud storage by deleting files and folders on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. *Note* Participating in someone else's shared iCloud folder does not count against your iCloud storage limit. Also, if you make a mistake and delete files and folders from iCloud that you didn't intend to, you can find them in Recently Deleted for 30 days. Here's how to free up iCloud storage by deleting iCloud files and folders.

  1. Open the Files app.

    tap the Files app
  2. Tap the Browse tab, then tap the More icon.

    tap the more icon
  3. Tap Select.

    tap select
  4. Tap the files or folders you want to delete, then tap the Trash icon.

    tap the trash icon
  5. To fully delete this content, tap Browse at the top of the page.

    tap brows at the top of the screen
  6. Tap Recently Deleted.

    tap recently deleted
  7. Tap the More icon.

    tap the more icon
  8. Tap Select.

    tap select
  9. Tap the files you want to completely delete, tap Delete, and confirm.

    tap delete and confirm

7. How to Delete Voice Memos from iCloud

Apple offers an app called Voice Memo on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. With Voice Memos in iCloud, these recordings are stored in iCloud, but you can transfer Voice Memos to a computer, either PC or Mac. You can also delete Voice Memos; here's how:

  1. Open the Voice Memos app.

    open the voice memos app
  2. Tap Edit.

    tap edit
  3. Tap the circle next to the voice memos you want to delete, then tap the Trash icon.

    tap the trash can icon
  4. Now, go back to the main Voice Memo screen and tap Recently Deleted.

    tap recently deleted
  5. Tap Edit.

    tap edit
  6. Tap Delete All.

    tap Delete All

Sometimes if you don't clear your storage and end up running out, you may experience the iPhone pink screen of death. If that happens, do this. Next, learn how to delete photos from your iPhone but not your iCloud Photo Library.

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Author Details

Leanne Hays's picture

Author Details

Leanne Hays

Leanne Hays has over a dozen years of experience writing for online publications. As a Feature Writer for iPhone Life, she has authored hundreds of how-to, Apple news, and gear review articles, as well as a comprehensive Photos App guide. Leanne holds degrees in education and science and loves troubleshooting and repair. This combination makes her a perfect fit as manager of our Ask an Expert service, which helps iPhone Life Insiders with Apple hardware and software issues.
In off-work hours, Leanne is a mother of two, homesteader, audiobook fanatic, musician, and learning enthusiast.