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ipad memoryThere’s no disputing the fact that iPhones and iPads are very sought after devices, but the price of owning these gadgets can be very costly, especially when Apple charges over $600-$700 for 32GB and 64GB models. So many customers end up getting a 16GB iPad, but what do you do you when start running out of iPad memory space? Or another important question is, do you even need more than 16GB, especially in the era of cloud storage and syncing?

Every user’s case is different, but if you’re running out of storage space or you want to make do with 16GB, the following are some tips for doing so. Freeing up space on your iPad is a lot easier than cleaning out your garage or storage closet. In fact, most of it can be done while lying in bed.

Checking iPad Memory Usage

To find out the current usage of your iPad or other iOS device, launch the Settings app, tap on General, and then Usage in the right column. Under Storage you will see the storage capacity of your device and how much you still have available. How much you want to keep available depends upon your individual needs.

ipad memory

You also get a breakdown of how much memory your individual installed apps are taking up in your device. Apps using 300 or more megabytes of space might be the ones you want to consider checking into to gain back more space.

As you can see on my 16GB iPad mini (which is really only about 14GB after the default iOS and apps are installed), iMovie and Photos were taking lots of space, though I still had about 6.7GB available. Since I’ve only been using the device for a week, storage is not a huge problem, but in 6 months I may have only have a gigabyte or two left to work with.

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Reclaiming Storage

Remove Unused Files

When you determine which files are taking up the most memory, you can begin to figure what files, or even unused apps, need to be moved or deleted from your device. In the screenshot above, one 6 minute movie file I edited together in iMovie took up over a gigabyte of memory. When I saved a copy of that edited movie to my Camera Roll, that file ate up even more space. So first off, just getting rid of the edited file in iMovie regained me about a gigabyte of space.

After the file was edited and saved to the Camera Roll, there was no point in keeping it in iMovie. I didn’t need to do any more editing. But in case I wanted to, I could export the file to iTunes File Sharing on my Mac, where it can be saved and re-imported into my iPad for more editing. The same can be done for other supporting apps and projects.

To do this, select the file in iMovie on your iPad, tap the share button and make a copy to iTunes on your Mac.

free up ipad memory

Notice in the screenshot below that the file you’re saving in iMovie Documents is the project file (iMovieMobile), not a compressed movie file. The edited movie file can also be exported to your Camera Roll, YouTube, Facebook, etc.

free up ipad memory

Note, when you delete a file from an app in your iOS device, make sure to choose the option to not delete it from your computer, but only from the device. In File Sharing, there’s also an option to save and backup that project file outside of your iTunes Library.

free up ipad memory

Photo & Song Files

Image and song files can also eat up space very quickly if you don’t monitor them. There are a few ways to manage these. First off, if you don’t add files to your device using iTunes, you can simply back up and delete your files to an online storage site. So for example, you can copy your photos in your Camera Roll directly to your Facebook account, and then delete them.

Or you can use apps like Dropbox to upload selected photos in your Camera Roll and then delete them. Other online photo storage apps 5 Online Photo Sharing Sites Which Are Free Alternatives To Flickr 5 Online Photo Sharing Sites Which Are Free Alternatives To Flickr Read More , like Flickr, can be used for the same thing.

Music and photo files on your iOS device that you import via the iTunes application on your computer will need to be managed from there. For example, to manage song files, you select your device in iTunes on your Mac and then click on the Music section. From there, select Sync Music > Selected playlists, artists, albums, and genres.

free up ipad storage

Using this method, you select only the song files you want to show up on your iOS device. For my iPad, I keep a “Recently Added” smart playlist that consists of songs I added in the last month. When newly imported songs and albums get added to that playlist, they will show up in my iPad. After a month, they will be removed when the automatic syncing between my Mac and my iPad takes place.

To ensure this happens, launch the Settings app on your iPad, tap on General > iTunes Wi-Fi Sync and enable this feature. This also where you can manually sync your device to update content (see my article on managing playlists A Guide To Easily Managing Playlists On Your iPhone A Guide To Easily Managing Playlists On Your iPhone While I think managing and playing tunes on your iPhone is not as good as doing so on the classic iPod, there are a few advantages with the iPhone and other iOS devices that you... Read More for more tips).

ipad memory

The same can be done for your iPhoto photos under the Photo section for your device. You might choose to only import to your iPad your most recent photos, or a selection of 25 of your favorite photos in iPhoto.

Since song files can take up a lot of memory space, I don’t use services like Apple’s iTunes Match A Closer Look At iTunes Match vs. Home Sharing vs. Web Streaming A Closer Look At iTunes Match vs. Home Sharing vs. Web Streaming With the recent launching of Apple's iCloud and the music streaming service iTunes Match, cloud computing seems to be the future of Apple and other computer companies. If you use multiple Apple devices like I... Read More  which requires you to download files to your device in order to play them. Instead, I prefer streaming music from The Pros And Cons Of Streaming vs Downloading MP3s The Pros And Cons Of Streaming vs Downloading MP3s I've been a long-time user of streaming music services – from Pandora, to the now defunct online music locker, and now as a monthly subscriber to If you have a computer and a... Read More and Google Play Music, which allows you to upload all the music files on your computer and then listen them anywhere you have a Wi-Fi or cellular connection. gMusic is an iOS app that will play your music uploaded to Google Play.

Cloud Apps

For other types of files like eBooks, documents, and PDFs, using cloud storage apps like Dropbox can definitely help you manage and preserve memory on your iOS device. With eBooks A Beginner's Guide To Setting Up An eBook Library On Your iPad A Beginner's Guide To Setting Up An eBook Library On Your iPad The recently announced iPad mini, along with similar digital tablets like the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 make for nearly perfect e-reading devices. From the near paper-like reading to the easy download and archiving of... Read More , you can delete them from your device when you’re done reading them, and they will always be available in your iBooks and/or Kindle accounts.

While mobile devices are becoming the hub of how we consume media these days, making do with 16GB of memory on your iPhone and iPad is possible for most of us. But let us know about your storage management issues and how you handle them. For other ideas on managing memory, see my 2010 article How to Create Your Own Expandable Memory For Your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch How to Create Your Own Expandable Memory For Your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch Read More on this subject.

  1. Patrick
    March 27, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Bakari, great info, but I'm totally perplexed by my Audible app. It's using up the most storage of all my individual apps and items (1.5 GB) even though my library is empty. Or, rather, it appears empty. I have listened to about 20 audiobooks but have deleted (or thought I deleted) every one after I finished it. They all show up as icons that I can redownload if I want to listen to them again. So what's taking up so much storage space?? Please help

  2. Bob Thorpe
    February 29, 2016 at 1:36 am

    Why would facebook be using all of my memory?

  3. Simon gadz
    April 26, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    Why is that when i see my memory usage each of my favorite games are 100-500mb why is it?

    • Bakari Chavanu
      April 27, 2015 at 6:22 pm

      Simon, I'm not sure. I don't play games on my device, so you would need to raise your question in the Apple support site.

  4. Anonymous
    December 14, 2014 at 12:30 am

    Interesting article. Just wondering, I use my photos for my art, so need to be able to go through them looking for ideas, is it easy enough to access them once the are in Dropbox or the other spots, when needed.

  5. SteveZ
    December 10, 2012 at 4:34 pm


    Thanks for a great little article. where can I go to find out more about deleting apps from my IPad. That is what is chewing up space. When I look if at my storage it says I have 77 apps on my Ipad and simple counting does not show 77 so how do I get rid of those useless apps?

    Any help would be appreciated.

  6. Bakari Chavanu
    November 22, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    You're welcome, Kiril.

  7. Qin Tang
    November 22, 2012 at 7:07 am

    Thanks for sharing, it's really helpful. Keep up the good work.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 22, 2012 at 10:49 pm

      You're welcome, Qin. Thanks for the feedback.

  8. Félix S. De Jesús
    November 21, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Do you have an article for iPhone or iPod Touch instead of iPad?? ;)

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 22, 2012 at 10:47 pm

      Félix, many of the same tips for the iPad should work for the iPhone or iPod.

  9. Ahmed Khalil
    November 21, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    very good tips thanks for sharing this article, hope to see more from this type

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 22, 2012 at 10:46 pm

      You're welcome, Ahmed.

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