iPhone and iPad

iPhone Storage Full? How to Create Free Space on iOS

Saikat Basu Updated 30-10-2019

Depending on whether you get the base model or the Pro, the latest iPhone models come with a maximum of 256GB or 512GB of storage. Why, then, do we still need to solve the “iPhone Storage Full” problem?


The usual culprits are photos, 4K videos, games, and other digital hoarding habits. You can’t upgrade an iPhone’s storage. That leaves you with three choices—buy a bigger phone, get more cloud storage, or create free space on your iPhone.

The first two don’t work if you want to free up space right now. So let’s look at the ways to free up storage space with a bit of iOS jugglery.

Note: You should make a backup of your device with iTunes before you do anything major, like deleting photos or videos. We cover this below.

Get Familiar With iPhone Storage

Newer versions of iOS have a dedicated iPhone Storage feature. It’s an improvement on the earlier Storage and iCloud Usage section. To find it, go to Settings > General > iPhone Storage.


Here, you get a quick view of the storage space available on your device. The list of apps is ordered by the amount of storage each occupies. iOS suggests space-saving steps such as auto-deleting old messages, erasing large message attachments, and storing messages directly in iCloud.

Some of the Apple default apps will let you delete data from here. For instance, you can delete songs from the Music app, clean all website data from Safari, and review personal videos before you delete them.

But this screen is also important because it lets you target each app and act on them in two ways: offloading and deleting.

Offload or Delete Apps


Tap an app on the list at Settings > General > iPhone Storage to view detailed info about its storage usage. At the bottom, you can choose one of two options: Offload App and Delete App.

  • Delete App removes the app and every bit of its data. It is the same as uninstalling the app from the home screen.
  • Offload App deletes the app’s core files, but keeps your personal data. This is useful for heavier apps (like PUBG Mobile) when you plan to use the app soon but need the space now. It lets you just remove the app; your important data will be there when you reinstall the app later.

Go down the list to pick the lowest hanging fruits. For instance, select the apps you use rarely and can safely offload or delete. You can make a choice according to your needs.

If you don’t want to do either, then go to the individual apps and delete unnecessary files that they save. For instance, you might erase large iMessage attachments or remove some downloaded songs from Spotify.

Delete games you’ve completed, as game files eat up a lot of space. They’re sometimes more of a space hog than photos and videos, which we will nix next.


Delete Photos and Videos

Videos and photos take up a lot of space on most people’s iPhones. You can take a few steps to clear them and make extra space:

  1. Enable iCloud Photos The iCloud Photos Master Guide: Everything You Need to Know for Photo Management Our iCloud photos guide shows you how to access iCloud photos, how to delete photos from iCloud, how to download photos from iCloud, and more. Read More to upload your photos and videos to the cloud and save space on your device.
  2. Copy photos and videos from your iPhone to your computer and use the computer as a primary backup. Then delete them from your device.
  3. After you clean up your photo stream, remember to empty the Recently Deleted album in Photos as well.
  4. Select and delete old Live Photos (and photos taken in Burst Mode). The three-second moving pictures can take up a lot of space. You can disable Live Photos altogether, but we wouldn’t suggest this as they help create wonderful memories. Plus, you can also convert them into GIFs and videos.

If you shoot a lot with your iPhone’s Smart HDR option enabled, there is no need to save the normal photos along with the HDR copies. So…

Take Only HDR Photos

Tack-sharp iPhone photographs taken with High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode come at a price. Your iPhone saves two copies of the image in your photo library—the “normal” image (without HDR) and its HDR counterpart, which is a succession of three photos taken at different exposures.

You can choose to disable the HDR mode by turning off the Smart HDR switch under Settings > Camera. You should also avoid tapping the HDR icon in the Camera app.


Alternatively, you can save space by not keeping the normal photo. To adjust this:

  1. Go to Settings on your iOS device and tap Camera.
  2. Toggle the Keep Normal Photo switch to the off position.

Wipe Browser Caches

In theory, browser cache acts as a speed booster, as the browser does not have to load every element of the page again. But temporary files from the numerous websites you visit every day can add up and clog your iPhone’s storage.

Here’s how you can clear Safari’s cache and free up a bit of space:

  1. Tap the Settings app on the iPhone home screen.
  2. Go down the menu and tap Safari.
  3. Within the list of Safari options, tap Clear History and Website Data.
  4. In the confirmation box, tap Clear History and Data (or Cancel if you change your mind).

If you have Chrome installed…

  1. Tap on the Chrome app to open it.
  2. Select the three-dot menu at the bottom-right. Go to History > Clear browsing data.
  3. In the next screen, select what you want to remove or keep. Then tap the red button to start the cleaning process after the confirmation popup.

Manage Your Messages

SMS, iMessages, and unattended spam messages can add up over time. You can limit the number of messages that get stored by automatically deleting them after some time.

  1. Go to Settings and scroll down the list to Messages.
  2. Drill down to Message History.
  3. Choose either 30 days or 1 year instead of Forever.
  4. Click Delete on the Delete Older Messages confirmation popup.

Optimize WhatsApp

Instant chat apps like WhatsApp and Telegram are sneaky space predators. Their daily use consumes a fair amount of space, which can add up fast. Let’s optimize WhatsApp storage and get back some space on your phone. There are several ways to do this:

  • For the nuclear option, uninstall WhatsApp and re-install it to start from a clean slate.
  • For a selective option, tap on each contact and go down the Contact Info to select Clear Chat.

But if you want to be more surgical about it, then you can see how much storage each message thread is using. Launch WhatsApp > Settings > Data and Storage Usage > Storage Usage.

Use the list of your contacts to find the total storage size of each thread. Tap on any of these contacts and take action on that specific data by hitting Manage at the bottom.

For instance, clearing videos, photos, GIFs, and stickers while keeping documents can save you a lot of space.

Use External Storage With iOS 13

iPadOS and iOS 13 have added external storage support for iPhone and iPad. Though it is more useful for your workflow on an iPad, phone users can also plug in a flash drive and use it with the revamped Files app.

Most thumb drives and memory card readers with built-in Lightning connectors iPhone External USB Storage: The 5 Best Flash Drives for iPhone Searching for the best flash drive for iPhones? Here's what you should know about iPhone flash drives and the best options. Read More should work fine. You can use the extra space to store music, video, and photos using the drive’s additional storage. Then put the Files app to work as a media viewer.

Apple says the exFAT, FAT32, HSF+, and APFS formats are supported. NTFS is not.

Clear the “Other” Space With a Backup and Restore

Resetting your phone is a nuclear option, but it can also be the quickest way to start afresh.

Even if you don’t do this, it’s always a good idea to keep your iPhone data backed up to your computer How to Back Up Your iPhone and iPad Wondering how to back up your iPhone? Here's our simple guide to backing up your iPhone using either iCloud or iTunes. Read More . You should always use your computer as a primary backup for heavier files like photos and videos, and not rely on your iPhone’s storage.

A backup allows you to reset your device and start from scratch with a better plan to re-organize your device. Resetting your phone is also the handiest way to reduce the Other data you will spot on the iPhone Storage screen. It is a holding area for cache files of all kinds, especially those from streaming services.

iPhone "Other" storage space

The Solution to a Space Crunch on Your iPhone

It’s not fun juggling content here and there for a few spare gigabytes. Next time, you should buy an iPhone with more space if you like shooting photos and videos, playing games, or saving music to your device for offline enjoyment.

Otherwise, learn these iPhone photo management tips Improve Your iPhone Photo Management to Free Up More Space Do you have thousands of photos on your iPhone? Is it hard to find the pictures you're looking for? Is your iPhone full? You need to work on your photo management. Read More as a core skill before storage space becomes a problem.

Related topics: iCloud, iOS 13, iPad, iPhone, iPhone 11, Live Photos, Storage.

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  1. Marilyn Acquistapace
    December 30, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    I learned so much reading this article, wish I had known it sooner. Can anyone help with an iPhone 6splus that is full and won't charge, stuck in apple logo mode (or restore mode at the moment). Not wanting to wipe it clean just yet.

  2. Marilyn Acquistapace
    December 30, 2019 at 7:31 pm

    my iPhone 6splus went to a stuck apple logo (won't charge) when I hit full storage. Tried restore mode update, stops after "extracting" IOS 13. Not willing to wipe it clean just yet. Will the new plug and play flash drive (not sure which brand) perhaps at least extract the photos? Phone is sitting in Restore mode and plugged in (Apple reps advice). Otherwise, having to perhaps send it off to a data recovery place. Of course the phone went into the apple icon mode just as I was walking to computer to do a backup. (previous backup was done 9/30 and so would not like to lose data since then. Any ideas or recommendations? Thank you.

  3. Kelly
    June 27, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    I prefer a Third-Party Software, that will be much effective and much more simple. But i choose iMyfone Umate, the same function but much more cheaper, only 9.95$ on makeuseof.com!

  4. Anonymous
    June 8, 2016 at 3:51 am

    Reclaiming space is my biggest annoyance with iOS, and is what I miss most coming from Android. Hopefully iOS 10 has some way to fix this. Even with a 64GB iPhone, I have to watch space.

  5. Samna Ashraf
    June 7, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    Thanks a lot for sharing this.