Solved: iCloud Storage Full in 2021 (Easy Steps to Get More Space)

Is your iCloud storage full? In this guide, we'll show you how to free up iCloud space for your Apple device, and we’ll share some alternative cloud services for backing up your data.

Dan Ginn
By Dan Ginn (Writer)
— Last Updated: 2021-11-30T17:34:44+00:00

Is your iCloud storage full? Are you worried about how to recover storage space? If you don’t want to pay for more storage, and need useful tips to free up space, we’ll give you that and more in this easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide.

Key Takeaways:

  • It’s a good idea to clear files before purchasing extra iCloud storage.
  • Old backups take up a lot of space on your iCloud account. 
  • There are fantastic alternatives to iCloud, such as Sync.com and pCloud.

One of the perks of using iCloud to backup your iPhone or iPad is how seamless and simple it is to select individual apps to backup automatically. For example, if you take a photo, rather than worrying about uploading it to the cloud, you can program iCloud to do it automatically. This is a great feature that alleviates the need to constantly upload your data.

Sadly, it has its drawbacks. The 5GB of free iCloud storage is nothing compared to the 15GB given by Google Drive (read our Google Drive review) or 20GB given by MEGA (read our MEGA review). Also, iCloud for desktop isn’t as user-friendly and full featured as some of the best cloud storage services in the space. 

However, for most Apple users, iCloud is the most accessible option and offers enough of what most people need. So if you’re getting the dreaded iCloud storage is full” notification, fear not, because we’re here to help you free up iCloud storage space with some short, easy steps.

Plus, if you need it, we have a guide on how to delete duplicate photos on iPhone.

  • iCloud offers online storage, whereas your iPhone stores files directly on your device. For example, you may only have 5GB of free storage on iCloud, but 256GB of iPhone storage. In this instance, you’ll be able to store more files on your iPhone than in iCloud.

  • Apple automatically notifies you on your iPhone or iPad when your storage is full.

  • If you see the above message, don’t panic. It’s Apple letting you know that you have almost reached your iCloud storage limit. If you want to keep uploading files, you will need to either purchase more storage or use the steps below to free up space.

  • You can delete duplicate photos and videos to free up space. You can also delete and disable any application data that you don’t want to back up to iCloud.

Why Is My Apple iCloud Storage Full?

Several factors contribute to you running out of storage space. Certain files take up a considerable amount of space without you even knowing. For example, emails with large attachments can quickly take up a good chunk of your storage space.

Images and videos take up a lot of space too, especially if you’re uploading high-resolution photos and videos shot in 4K. Attachments sent in the messages app will also be synced to iCloud and begin to eat up your available storage.

What to Do When iCloud Storage Is Full

If you run out of storage space, there are a few ways to fix it. Here are your two options.

  • A) Buy More Space

The first is to increase the amount of storage you have, if you haven’t already. You’ll need to pay for extra storage, which some of you may not want to do.

  • B) Delete Files

The next option is to manually free up space by deleting photos, videos, and any unwanted files.

We will show you how to do both options, breaking down each into smaller steps when necessary. 

You can do most of the steps below on either your iPhone or iPad; however, some steps can only be performed on a Mac or PC.

Option A: How to Get More iCloud Storage? Buy More Space

Getting more iCloud storage space is straightforward and can be done through your iPhone or iPad. 

  1. Manage Storage in iCloud

    To get more storage, select “manage storage” in the iCloud settings.

    manage icloud storage
  2. Upgrade to a Larger iCloud Storage Plan

    Now, select “change storage plan.” Here you will be presented with a selection of upgrade options ranging from 50GB to 2TB of storage. Select the option that’s best for you and tap “buy” in the top right-hand corner.

    buy more cloud storage

Option B: Get More iCloud Space By Deleting Files

Now let’s dive into the different ways you can clear up some extra iCloud storage space, including:

  • Deleting old backups
  • Deleting messages
  • Removing duplicate or unwanted photos
  • Deleting emails

How to Delete Old Backups

If you backup your iPhone to iCloud, great — you have the option to recover your files should anything happen to your device. However, if you have made multiple backups, there’s a good chance you don’t need most of them. In this case, it’s a good idea to delete old, unwanted backups.

  1. Locate iCloud in “Settings”

    Open “settings,” select your name and then tap “iCloud.”

    icloud settings
  2. Select “Manage Storage” and Locate Backups

    Next, select “manage storage.” Here you will see a range of data that is backed up to your iCloud account. Tap “backups” to move to the next step.

    icloud backups
  3. Select the Backups You No Longer Need

    Now you will see a list of all the device backups you have made to iCloud. Identify which ones are no longer useful and select them. Tap “delete backup” to remove the backup from iCloud.

    delete backup

How to Delete Messages

Backing up your messages is a fantastic way to ensure that you don’t lose any important conversations. The only drawback is that if you send lots of photos and videos through the messages app, they too will be stored on iCloud.

If you haven’t set your message app to “low quality image mode” (settings > messages > toggle on “low quality image mode”), then you’ll automatically send high-resolution images to your contacts by default. This means you’ll have larger files taking up space in iCloud. You can free up space by doing the following steps.

  1. Locate Messages in iCloud

    As with backups, locate “messages” in the “manage storage” section of your iCloud settings.

    manage storage
  2. Select “Disable & Delete”

    Select “messages,” then tap “disable & delete.” Doing this will ensure that future messages won’t be stored on your iCloud account, and all current messages will be deleted (you have 30 days to download current messages).

    disable and delete
  3. Select Individual Messages

    If you don’t want to delete all your messages or stop backing them up, you can delete individual messages you no longer want. To do this, remain in the “messages” section and select “top conversations.”

    top conversations
  4. Delete Selected Messages

    Tap “edit,” select the messages you no longer want and press “delete.”

    delete text messages

How to Clean up the Photos App

The files in the photos app are likely the biggest contributing factor to running out of iCloud space. We’re sure that if you reviewed your photo library, you would be happy to delete photos you no longer needed. Duplicate photos or images you wish you never took are your first port of call when you want to free up space in your iCloud storage.

Unfortunately, you can’t manually delete selected photos on an iOS device when in iCloud. You only have the option to delete all your photos, which we imagine you don’t want to do. To delete selected photos, you will need to visit iCloud on your desktop.

  1. Log in to iCloud

    First, head over to iCloud and log in to your iCloud account using your Apple ID and password.

    log in to icloud desktop
  2. Select the “Photos” App

    Next, select the “photos” app to access the iCloud photo library.

    select photos app
  3. Manually Select Unwanted Photos

    Now that you can see the photos on your iCloud, you can select which images you want to delete. For Mac users, hold “command” and right-click to select multiple photos. You can also select videos in this section. Next, tap “delete” and your photos and videos will be removed from iCloud.

    delete photos

How to Delete iCloud Mail

If you backup your emails to iCloud, it’s a good idea to keep on top of them and delete any that you no longer need. Although tedious, deleting emails from iCloud is easy.

  1. Open the Mail App and Select “iCloud”

    Open “mail” on your iOS device. If you have multiple email accounts, select “iCloud” to open your email.

    icloud mail
  2. Click “Edit”

    When you can see your iCloud mail, tap “edit” in the top right corner.

    edit mail
  3. Select the Emails You Want to Delete

    Tap on the emails you wish to delete. You can select multiple emails, rather than deleting them individually. Next, select “trash” in the bottom right-hand corner.

    send mail to trash
  4. Go to Your Trash Folder

    Go back to “mailboxes” and tap “trash.” You can delete the emails again to ensure they’re no longer on iCloud.

    icloud mail app trash

How to Delete Files in iCloud Drive

All files added to your iCloud drive contribute to your overall iCloud storage. In your iCloud drive, you may have GarageBand projects, voice memos and any other media files you added. To delete files, you need to log in to iCloud on your computer.

  1. Log in to iCloud and Select “iCloud Drive”

    Use your Apple ID and password to sign in. Select “iCloud Drive.”

    select icloud drive
  2. Select Each iCloud Drive Folder You Want to Delete

    Select which folders you want to remove and press “delete.” 

    delete drive files

Next Steps: Plan for Future iCloud Backups

Now that you have manually deleted files on your iCloud, it’s time to do some maintenance for going forward. You can do this by selecting certain files to backup, as well as how to manage files using your system preferences.

Select Files for Your iCloud Backup

The steps below will help you select which files you want to store with your iCloud backup.

  1. Locate iCloud in Settings App

    Return to iCloud by going to “settings” > “name” > “iCloud.”

    icloud settings
  2. Toggle off Apps

    Here you will see a range of apps using iCloud. Make sure to scroll to the bottom to see which third-party apps are using iCloud. If WhatsApp is toggled on, for example, it will send WhatsApp backups to iCloud. Press the button to toggle off any apps you don’t want to backup to iCloud.

    toggle on icloud apps

Manage Files on Your Mac Through System Preferences 

You can control which files are sent to iCloud drive on your Mac computer. Here are the steps to do this. 

  1. Head to System Preferences

    Tap the Apple logo in the top-left corner of your desktop and select “system preferences.”

    system preferences
  2. Select “Internet Accounts” and Locate iCloud

    Select “internet accounts” and locate iCloud on the left-hand side of the window.

    internet accounts mac
  3. Tap “Options” and Select Files

    Now select “options,” located next to iCloud drive. On the next screen, you will see a range of applications including GarageBand and iMovie. Select which applications and data you want to backup and press “done.”

    icloud drive options

Cloud Storage Alternatives to iCloud

There are many alternatives to iCloud. Below are some of the best options available.

Sync.com

Sync.com leads the way when it comes to our favorite cloud services. It’s the best for privacy and security, with features such as zero-knowledge encryption and 365-day versioning (read our full Sync.com review).

pCloud

pCloud offers incredibly good file syncing that makes managing files a breeze. Even better than the 5GB of free storage Apple offers, pCloud comes with 10GB of free storage when you open an account. Note that there are some steps you’ll need to complete before you can access all your free storage (read our full pCloud review). 

Final Thoughts

The above steps should settle any concerns you may have when your iCloud is full. By trying out each step, you’ll learn that none of them are difficult nor time consuming. Plus, the benefit is that you get to save the files you want and remove the ones you don’t need. You may not even need to purchase more storage space, leaving you with more money left in the bank.

Do you find that your iCloud storage fills up quickly? Did you find our step-by-step guide easy to follow? We would love your feedback, so let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.