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5 ways to free up space on your iPhone or iPad

5 ways to free up space on your iPhone or iPad

Your iPhone and iPad can help you do so much: communicate around the world, play games, take pictures and videos, wake you up, help you sleep, keep your schedule, shop online, the list is endless. Click here to get apps that help you do that and more.

While there's no limit to what you can do with your Apple gadget, there IS a limit to the amount of stuff you can store on your gadget, especially if you have a gadget that only had 16 gigabytes of space to begin with, like this one:

Full iPhone or iPad


You don't want to be taking video of your kid or grandchild's first step only to get an "out of memory" message. I've even heard from a number of people who couldn't upgrade to iOS 8 because there wasn't enough room for the download.

If your gadget fills up, though, don't worry. Clearing out space isn't too hard if you know the steps, and I'm going to give you step-by-step instructions.

1. Clear out apps

Look at your iPad or iPhone now and tell me how many of those apps you really use on a regular basis. I'm pretty sure there are one or two you can live without. If you can't decide which apps to clear out, I've got a trick that can help you decide.

In iOS 8, go to Settings>>General>>Usage>>Manage Storage. For iOS 7 and earlier it's just Settings>>General>>Usage. Here you'll see a list of apps and how much space they use. This helps you make an informed decision about where to go fat-trimming.

The screen you want looks like this:

Manage storage ios

Start with the largest apps (remember that one gigabyte is 1,000 megabytes) and decide which ones you really need them. To delete an app you don't want, simply tap its name. Then tap the "Delete App" button on the next screen.

Bonus tip: Of course, you can always delete an app from the home screen as well by tapping and holding the app icon and waiting for it to wiggle. Then tap the X that appears in the upper right corner of the icon.

Some apps cannot be deleted because they're built into iOS, and others you might not want to get rid of. If they're hogging too much space, however, there is another option.

Tap the app's name in the Manage Storage list and look at the "Documents & Data" area. That will tell you how much of the app is downloads or new information. You might discover you can keep that handy app if you just open it and clean out some of the music, movies, photos, documents and messages it's storing.

Speaking of cleaning out information, let's start with managing your photos.

2. Manage your photos

Look through your Camera Roll. Are there any accidental photos there. You know, photos of the floor, sky or doorway? Are most of your good photos already posted to social media?

To free up space, you can transfer and organize photos and videos on your home computer using iTunes, iPhoto and other programs like Dropbox or Picasa.

For Macs using iPhoto

Connect your phone (or tablet) to your Mac and iPhoto should open its import window showing the gadget's images and video clips. Then, click "Import All" or select which specific photos to transfer. There will also be options here to keep or delete photos.

It will look like this:

iPhoto photo sync menu

Photo from Apple.com

For PCs

For Windows 8 users, connect your iPhone or tablet to the computer then click on the magnifying glass icon in the upper right hand corner. Type "computer" and hit Enter. Right-click the logo for your phone or tablet and click "Import pictures and videos." Selection "More Options," then "Browse" and select where to import the photos to, which is the "My Pictures" folder by default.

From this window, you can select which photos to import, and which ones to delete. Click "Import" and you're all set. You also have the option to delete the photos from your phone or tablet after they are imported.


You can also think about the photos that you've already shared online. When you post to Instagram for example, the Instagram version of the photo is saved to the camera roll along with the original photo. You can clear out some room by getting rid of the duplicates.

And speaking of duplicates, did you know that your iPhone saves your photos not just to the Camera Roll, but to the Photo Stream as well? Photo Stream saves up to 1,000 of your most recent photos. That's a lot of duplicates.

First, see how much space the Photo Stream is taking up by using the steps I showed you earlier. If you've backed up your photos to another device, you can kill the Photo Stream completely. Go to Settings>>Photos & Camera>>My Photo Stream and turn it off.


3. Stream your music

If you have a really large music library, you can still carry it with you without filling up your gadget.

Apple's iTunes Match will hold your entire music library in the cloud and stream to you the songs you want. Sure it costs $25 a year, but that's better than spending hundreds on a new gadget with more storage.

Google Play Music is another one solution. This service can hold your entire iTunes library and stream your music to you whenever you want. The only space it takes up is for the Google Play Music app, not each individual song or album. There's also an option to get a subscription to add new music and movies, much like iTunes.

Of course that's not your only option for streaming music instead of storing it. Click here to start exploring all of your streaming music options. 

4. Stream your movies

Five feature-length HD movies loaded on an iPad will take up 15GB or more of space. A dozen one-minute videos you shot at birthday parties and other celebrations can add another 1GB. There's all of your storage gone, or at least a large chunk of it depending on your gadget's storage size.

If you purchased movies via iTunes, it's safe to assume that those are backed up on your computer. If they are, then you can delete movies and TV episodes from your mobile gadgets with ease.

To remove an entire series, go back into the Usage menu (Settings>>General>>Usage) and tap Videos. Then, select the series you want to delete by sliding to the left. Otherwise, you will need to tap Edit and hit the minus symbols to delete them one by one.

5. iCloud

Let's move on to iCloud. Apple's cloud service backs up your information daily so that if you lose your gadget or upgrade to a new iPhone or iPad, you can make the new gadget nearly identical to the old one.

By default, iCloud backs up data for every app you have, but with only 5GB of space for free, you're probably going to fill it up quickly. You can save iCloud space by backing up data only for your most critical apps.

For instance, it's probably more important to back up an always-changing, critical productivity app, such as Keynote, than to back up the data for a utility app, such as Calculator.

Go to Settings>>General>>Usage again and scroll down to iCloud. You'll see how much online storage you have available.

Under iCloud, tap Manage Storage, then the gadget you want to manage. Now you can choose the data you want to back up. When you deselect an item, it will be removed from iCloud.

The big hog in iCloud is usually the Camera Roll. Whenever you take a picture or video, it gets filed in Camera Roll. If you have hundreds of different files scattered across Camera Rolls on multiple gadgets, iCloud makes a complete copy of each one.

This is why you get a warning about deleting a photo from iCloud when you try to delete photos on your gadget. If you don't need the picture anymore, go ahead and delete it from iCloud and follow the instructions I detailed above for backing up your photos without taking up all this storage space.

Other tips

  • Do you save all of your text messages? If you never clear those out, now might be the time. This goes for voicemails, too.
  • Delete Safari history and cache by going to Settings>>Safari and click Clear History and Clear Cookies and Data.
  • Clear out your Reading List in Safari. Open the Safari app (assuming you browse with Safari), and click the Bookmark icon option at the bottom. It looks like an open book. From there, click on the glasses icon and swipe left on any pages you want to delete.
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