How To Use iCloud Storage Instead of iPhone Storage

I can probably say that most of us have suffered through the annoyance that is the “Insufficient Space” prompt delivered to us courtesy of our iPhones or other iOS devices. You go to take a pic or capture a video and your beloved pocket buddy and modeling tool throw out a big fat DENIED.

How To Use iCloud Storage Instead of iPhone Storage

Annoyed may be too soft a word. Downright aggravated is perhaps more suitable. What’s worse is that you go and check your iCloud only to realize there’s barely anything in it.

How is this possible?

Well, my friend, have I got the tutorial for you.


Using iCloud’s Photo Library

You can instantly free up necessary disk space by using iCloud Photo Library directly from your iPhone. iCloud Photo Library uses up iCloud Storage so that your videos and photos remain up to date across all iOS devices. This allows for less irritation when you just have to take those gorgeous landscape photos and in-the-moment selfies. For this to work effectively, you will need to ensure that you currently have enough iCloud storage space. Also, keep in mind that any photos that have been streamed can only be viewed online.

iCloud Photo Library tends to store your recent and most frequently viewed photos. Should you have sufficient enough storage space, iCloud Photo Library will often fill it with additional locally stored photos. Older photos may be removed without your knowledge in order to free up more space.

To enable iCloud Photo Library for your iPhone:

  1. Locate and open Settings.
  2. Search and tap on Photos. For older iOS versions, you may need to look for Camera and Photos.
  3. Toggle “iCloud Photo Library” to ON, which will be indicated by turning green.

  4. “Optimize iPhone Storage” should be marked. If it isn’t, tap to enable it.

With “Optimize iPhone Storage” enabled, your original photos and videos will be replaced by device-sized versions to automatically free up space when you need it. The full resolution versions will be safely stored in iCloud. Depending on the number of photos, it can take iCloud Photo Library considerable time to complete the uploading process.


Manage Storage

All initial iCloud accounts come with 5GB of free storage. This is more than adequate for those who only use their iPhone sparingly. For most individuals with an iPhone and aspirations to become an Instagram model, you’ll likely need more space. The lowest plan starts at $0.99/month for 50GB of storage space and only increases from there. You can share larger storage plans with family if you feel so inclined.

Without enough iCloud storage, your device will not be able to back up anything to iCloud. This includes:

  • New photos and videos
  • iCloud Drive
  • Additional iCloud Apps

Your text messages will not be saved or remain up-to-date and you will not be able to send emails using your iCloud address. At this point, you’ll have to fork over a bit of monthly cash or start deleting unwanted items.


View Available Space

Before making any major decisions, you should check to see exactly how much space is still available on your iPhone. To do this:

iOS 10.3+
  • Head to Settings and tap on your name (underneath should read “Apple ID, iCloud, iTunes, & App Store”). Tap on iCloud > Manage Storage (or iCloud Storage).

iOS 10.2 or earlier
  • Head to Settings and locate iCloud. Tap on Storage.

For those who find it easier to do these things on your computer:

Mac Users
  • Click to open the Apple menu and select System Preferences. Locate and click on iCloud and then click Manage.

PC users can simply open iCloud for Windows.


Upgrading Your Plan

If you’re tired of all the headaches and want to avoid the dreaded “Not Enough Storage” or “iCloud Storage is Full” dialog boxes, you can add a bit more space to your iCloud storage. To do so:

  1. Head to Settings and tap on your name (underneath should read “Apple ID, iCloud, iTunes, & App Store”). Tap on iCloud > Manage Storage (or iCloud Storage).
  2. Select “Change Storage Plan”.
  3. From those available, choose which storage plan works best for your needs.
  4. Once selected, tap on Buy.
  5. You may be prompted to sign in with your Apple ID to confirm the purchase. If you are, you may need to sign in first then select the plan. Finish with tapping Buy.


Deleting Older Items

If you only need a little bit of free space, you can always delete older content like:

  • iCloud Backups
  • Photos and Videos no longer worth keeping
  • Files, mail, and text messages

All recently deleted items have a 30 day recovery period before being lost forever. Though, if you have exceeded your iCloud storage, recent photos will replace the older ones automatically, deleting your recently deleted photos that much faster. If you’re worried about deleting things to free up space, you can always archive the old information to set your mind at ease.

To delete photos from iPhone or another iOS device:

  1. Open the Photos app and select the “Photos” tab, located at the bottom of the screen.
  2. Either click on a photo you wish to delete or, if needing to remove multiple photos, tap on “Select” in the top-right corner of the screen. Here you can check off all photos for deletion.
  3. Tap on the Trash icon to delete the photos selected.


iCloud Management

When backing up your iPhone to iCloud, all of the most critical information is automatically uploaded. This includes all of your documents, photos, and videos. If you would prefer to conserve storage and reduce the space being used, you can decrease the size of your iCloud Backup by turning off the apps you don’t want to be backed up.


Choosing Apps for Backup

Most iOS apps will automatically back themselves up to iCloud after initial installation. You can opt out this by:

iOS 10.3+

  1. Head to Settings and tap on your name (underneath should read “Apple ID, iCloud, iTunes, & App Store”). Tap on iCloud > Manage Storage (or iCloud Storage).
  2. Tap Backups and choose the device being used.
  3. Under “Choose Data to Back Up”, toggle off the apps you don’t want to be backed up.
  4. Choose “Turn Off & Delete” when presented after each toggle. To remove all backups, select “Delete Backup” located at the bottom of the screen.

iOS 10.2 or earlier

  1. Go to Settings and tap on General, then Storage & iCloud Usage.
  2. Under iCloud, tap on Manage Storage.
  3. Choose the device being used.
  4. Choose “Turn Off & Delete” when presented after each toggle. To remove all backups, select “Delete Backup” located at the bottom of the screen.


After your confirmation, each application selected will have backup discontinued and all information stored is removed within iCloud. You have 180 days from the time of disable to restore what was lost.


Manage Messages and Mail

By deleting emails, you can free up iCloud space from your iCloud email account. You can also relocate any email messages from your iPhone or other iOS devices to your Mac or PC, which won’t count against your iCloud storage.

To remove emails and free up space on iOS 11:

  1. Open your Mail app.
  2. Lightly press down to highlight a message. You’ll know it was done correctly when a circled check appears to the left of the message. At this point, you can choose all the messages you wish to delete. Should this prove difficult for you (fat fingers be damned), you can delete each message one at a time by opening them and selecting the Trash icon at the top of the screen.
  3. Now, tap to open your Trash folder. To get there, tap the Menu icon at the top-left and scroll until located.
  4. You can choose to delete messages one at a time or accept the prompt at the top of the screen marked as EMPTY TRASH NOW to delete all items in the folder.


Delete Attachments and Texts

All text messages and the attachments contained within are sent to iCloud storage. Make more space available by deleting texts and attachments that are no longer needed.

To do so:

  1. Open up the Messages app and select a conversation.
  2. Lightly press down on the chat bubble or attachment you want to remove.
  3. From the available options that pop up, select More… This should pull down the pop up and now a blue checkmark is shown to the left of the message or attachment.
  4. At the lower-left of the screen, tap on the Trash icon to remove the messages or attachments selected.

If you’d rather skip over trying to find a specific message or attachment for deletion and just want to delete an entire conversation:

  1. Open up the Messages app.
  2. From this screen, swipe left on the conversation you want to remove and tap Delete.
  3. Reconfirm by tapping Delete again when prompted.

To delete multiple conversations at once:

  1. Open the Messages app and tap Edit in the upper-left corner.
  2. Select each conversation for removal by tapping the circle located to the left.
  3. Hit Delete located at the bottom-right corner.


iCloud Drive

Apple’s definitive solution to document and file management is iCloud Drive. Anyone with an iCloud account has access to the iCloud Drive. The iCloud Drive works in tandem with the Files app and can assist you in storing files and documents of third-party applications like OneDrive and Google Drive.

The Setup

When you first begin setting up your iPhone, you’re also offered to setup iCloud Drive. For those who chose Yes you needn’t worry about a thing and can move passed the next steps.

  1. If you chose No, to now enable iCloud Drive:

    Head to Settings and tap on your name (underneath should read “Apple ID, iCloud, iTunes, & App Store”).
  2. Tap on iCloud.
  3. Scroll to locate iCloud Drive and toggle it on.


Deleting Documents & Files

Easily delete files and free up a bit of space by:

  1. Launching the Files app.
  2. Tap Browse, located at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Open up the iCloud Drive below the section marked “Locations”
  4. Open up the folder of your choice and tap “Select” located at the top-right.
  5. Mark each file you want to delete and tap Delete located on the bottom-right.

You will not receive a confirmation prompt. Once removed, the files can only be recovered through “Recently Deleted”.

For those on a limited plan and wish to save cellular data, you can prevent the Files app from consuming more than is necessary. To do so:

  1. Launch your Settings app and tap on “Cellular”.
  2. Underneath the section labeled “Cellular Data”, locate and toggle off the Files app.

This ensures iCloud Drive will not consume any of your cell data, saving you money in the process. Be sure to toggle it back on when needed.

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