How to free up storage space on iPhone or iPad

Running out of storage on an iPad or iPhone is not a nice feeling. You are downloading a new game, taking a video, or adding some new music, and that message pops up on your screen telling you you are running out of space. Wave goodbye to the useful app or amazing game you were about to enjoy.

If you are desperate you can delete an app you rarely use or a few photos you have backed up, but this will only work for so long. Instead, there is a bigger step you can take that will reclaim that valuable space on your device.

This guide will show you how to permanently delete redundant media files and carry out a trick that deletes cache files, helping you reclaim several gigabytes of storage space. We are using an iPad for this tutorial, but the process is the same for iPhones.

Before commencing, remember to use the iCloud to back up files and images you want to keep. 

  1. Step 1

    Ensure you have the latest version of iOS (11.4.1, at the time of writing). Go to Settings > General > Software Update. If you have the latest version, you will see the message: Your software is up to date. Otherwise, you will see options prompting you to download and install the latest version. Follow the instructions until your device restarts with the latest iOS version. If you do not have enough storage space to update your device, then follow the next three steps to recover some space, before repeating this step.


  2. Step 2

    Go to Settings again, tap General > iPad Storage (iPod Storage) midway down to see your available storage space. Scroll down to see a detailed breakdown of all the apps eating up your space (largest appear first).


  3. Step 3

    Select any apps you do not use, tap Delete App, then Delete App again. This uninstalls the app and deletes all its data.

To permanently delete unwanted media files:

  1. Step 1

    Open the Photos app to see all your photos and videos (videos display a small camera icon).
  2. Step 2

    Tap Select at the top right, then tap to select the files you want to delete.


  3. Step 3

    Tap the rubbish bin icon, then tap Delete 10 Items (or however many you want to delete). Your files are not deleted immediately but are moved to the Recently Deleted folder, where they will remain for 30 days (giving you the option to restore them if you want).


  4. Step 4

    To permanently delete these files and reclaim the storage space they occupy, tap Albums at the bottom of the Photos app, then the Recently Deleted folder.


  5. Step 5

    Tap Select at the top right, tap Delete All, then Delete X Items. You can also delete any podcasts you have already listened to.


  6. Step 6

    Open the Podcasts app, tap Library at the bottom, swipe left across an episode, then tap Delete from Library. Repeat this to delete other episodes.

The trick to delete the files in your device’s cache involves renting (but not paying for) a film.

  1. Step 1

    Check how much storage you now have. Go to Settings > General > Software Update.


  2. Step 2

    Open the iTunes Store and go to the Films section. Find a film that is larger than the available space on your device (each of the Lord of the Rings films are around 6-10GB, for example). Look in the Information section to check the film’s file size.


  3. Step 3

    Ensure HD is selected, tap the Rent button, then tap Rent HD Film. Do not worry, you will not be charged for this because you will not actually download it. Because the film’s file size is larger than the available storage space on your device, you will see a Cannot Download message, with two options – OK and Settings. Tap Settings, General, then Storage & iCloud Usage to see how much space you now have. You will notice that your storage has increased by a few hundred megabytes compared to what you earlier had. This is because your device automatically deletes cache files to try to make room for the film.
  4. Step 4

    Repeat Steps 2 and 3 to reclaim more storage space. Again, ensure that your device’s available storage space is less than the size of the film’s file, as otherwise, you will actually download it. Return to the movie, select HD | Rent | Rent HD Film. You will see the Cannot Download message again. Tap Settings | General | Storage & iCloud Usage to see your new available storage. Every time you do this, you will recover a little more storage space. Repeat the step until you notice you are not recovering any more space. This indicates that your device’s cache has cleared.

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