Here are some quick answers to common questions about dealing with a full iCloud storage:
How do I check how much iCloud storage I’m using?
You can check your iCloud storage usage by going to Settings > [your name] > iCloud > Manage Storage on your iOS device or System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud > Manage on your Mac.
What happens when my iCloud storage is full?
When your iCloud storage is full, you won’t be able to backup your iOS device or add new data like photos until you free up storage space. Existing data like photos may also be deleted from your devices if you have Optimize Storage enabled.
How can I free up iCloud storage space?
You can free up space by deleting backups, photos, documents and other files stored in iCloud. Turning off certain iCloud features like iCloud Photo Library can also help. Upgrading your iCloud storage plan gives you more space.
How much does expanded iCloud storage cost?
Apple offers iCloud+ storage plans from $0.99 up to $9.99 per month for 50GB to 2TB of space. Family plans are also available to share storage with up to 5 family members.
Can I download my iCloud photos and files to my Mac/PC?
Yes, you can use the iCloud website at icloud.com to browse and download your iCloud photos, files, notes, contacts and other data to your computer for backup.
What to Do When Your iCloud Storage is Full
iCloud provides useful cloud-based services for iOS, macOS and Windows users, but one downside is the limited free 5GB of storage you get by default. With the average iPhone photo taking up 3MB of space nowadays, it’s easy to run out of iCloud storage, especially if you use iCloud Photo Library and iCloud backups.
So what should you do when your iCloud storage gets full? Here are some tips to free up space so you can continue backing up and syncing your Apple devices.
Check Your Storage Usage
The first step is to check how much iCloud storage you’re actually using. On your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud > Manage Storage. On your Mac, go to System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud > Manage.
This screen will show a color-coded bar indicating how much space you’ve used for each service like backups, photos, mail, documents and more. Tap on each category to see more details.
If most of your storage is taken up by backups, you may want to delete old backups and just keep the most recent one. Photos and videos also tend to use a lot of space, so check if that content can be removed.
Delete Large Backups
iOS automatically backs up your device to iCloud periodically whenever it’s charging, connected to WiFi and has an active internet connection. Old backups pile up over time and can take up gigabytes of precious iCloud storage.
Go to Manage Storage > Backups and delete any old backups you don’t need. You generally only need the latest 1-2 backups. Tap on a backup to see details like size and device model. Tap Delete Backup to remove.
Turn Off iCloud Photo Library
The iCloud Photo Library feature automatically uploads all your photos and videos from your devices to iCloud so they stay in sync. This is super convenient but also takes up a ton of space.
You can turn off iCloud Photo Library on your devices:
– iOS: Settings > [your name] > iCloud > Photos
– Mac: System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud > Photos
Just keep in mind this will delete the photos from your devices and you’ll need to manually manage backups.
Manage Your Photo Stream
The My Photo Stream feature uploads your latest photos to iCloud so they sync across devices. Photos stay in your stream for 30 days or 1000 photos. You may have old photos accumulating here over time.
Go to Photos > Albums > My Photo Stream and delete old photos you no longer need. You can also download photos to your computer and then delete from the stream.
Remove Devices You No Longer Own
Do you see old iPhones, iPads or Macs taking up iCloud backup space? These may be from devices you no longer own. Remove them to free up storage:
iOS: Settings > [your name] > iCloud > Manage Storage > Devices
Mac: System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud > Manage > Devices
Select the device and click Delete Backup. This will remove any backups associated with that device.
Delete Documents and Data
Check your iCloud Drive storage under Manage Storage > Documents and Data. You may find old documents, spreadsheets, or other files you no longer need. Delete these to free up space.
You can also manage iCloud Drive files at icloud.com. Just delete anything you don’t need anymore.
Turn Off iCloud Desktop and Documents
The iCloud Desktop and Documents feature uploads your Mac desktop files and Documents folder to iCloud so they stay in sync across devices. Turn this off if you don’t need it:
Mac: System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud > uncheck Desktop & Documents Folders
This will delete the files from iCloud but keep them on your Mac. You can then delete anything you don’t need locally.
Download Photos and Videos
If you have a lot of photos and videos in iCloud but want to keep them, you can download the original copies to your computer for backup. Then delete them from iCloud to free up space.
On a Mac or PC, sign into icloud.com and go to Photos to download all your albums and photos. On iOS, use the iCloud Photos app to select images and save them to your device storage.
Disable iCloud Mail
If you use the iCloud Mail service, it stores all your messages in iCloud. You may be able to disable this feature if you only need email access on your devices.
Go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud > disable Mail.
This will remove the mail content from iCloud but keep the mailboxes on your devices. Consider downloading any important emails to your computer for backup.
Manage Storage with Windows/Mac
For Windows users, the iCloud app allows you to manage your iCloud storage. You can browse your photos, documents, emails and other data and delete anything unneeded.
On your Mac, the same management can be done through System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud > Manage or by signing into icloud.com.
Delete iOS and Mac App Data
Many iOS and Mac apps use iCloud to sync app data and settings. This allows you to access the same content across devices, but can also consume storage.
Go to Manage Storage > Apps and delete any app data you no longer need. For example, deleting old gameplay data from a heavy app can sometimes free up gigabytes.
Upgrading iCloud Storage
If you’ve trimmed down your iCloud storage usage as much as possible but still need more space, you can upgrade your iCloud plan for more storage capacity. Here are the pricing options as of 2023:
|iCloud Storage Plan||Price per Month||Storage Space|
To upgrade, go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud > Manage Storage > Buy More Storage on an iOS device. On Mac, go to System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud Storage and click Change Plan.
iCloud+ plans also include premium features like Private Relay, Hide My Email and expanded HomeKit Secure Video support. Family plans allow you to share storage with up to 5 other family members.
Should I Buy 50GB, 200GB or 2TB of Storage?
The amount of iCloud storage you need depends on how you use it. Here are some guidelines:
- 50GB – Good for backing up one iOS device like an iPhone and a small photo/video library.
- 200GB – Supports multiple iOS device backups and a larger photo/video collection.
- 2TB – For users with multiple devices and lots of photos, videos, documents and app data.
Consider how quickly you’re using up your existing iCloud storage. Multiple device users or those with iOS Photo Library enabled may need more than 50GB.
Can I Share iCloud Storage with Family?
Yes, the iCloud Family sharing plan allows you to share an iCloud storage plan with up to 5 family members. Pricing is:
- 200GB: $2.99 per month for everyone
- 2TB: $9.99 per month for everyone
Family members get their own private space plus access to the shared storage. This can save money over individual plans.
Is Extra iCloud Storage Worth It?
Paying $0.99 to $9.99 per month for iCloud storage may seem expensive, but consider the value:
- Automatic backups and syncing of your devices
- Access to all files from any device
- Photo Library and sharing capabilities
- Email, notes, contacts synced across devices
For iPhone users especially, the peace of mind of having backups and access to your photos and data across devices makes the cost worthwhile. Upgrading to 200GB or 2TB is cheaper than running out of space.
Other iCloud Storage Solutions
In addition to upgrading your iCloud storage plan, there are a few other solutions for dealing with limited iCloud storage:
Use iTunes (or Finder) Backups
Instead of using iCloud to backup your iPhone or iPad, you can use a wired connection to your computer and backup to iTunes (Windows) or Finder (Mac). This bypasses your iCloud limits.
Just make sure to regularly connect your device to your computer and run backups. Manage your backups in iTunes or the Finder app.
Use Third-Party Cloud Storage
Services like Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive and others offer cloud file storage and sharing. You could store your photos, videos, documents in one of these services instead of using iCloud.
This gives you another place to store device backups and other files when your iCloud fills up. Just make sure to download important iCloud data before turning off a feature.
Backup to an External Drive
For Mac users, you can backup your entire Mac disk to a high-capacity external hard drive using Time Machine. This lets you create local backups of your computer.
You can also manually copy important photos, documents, videos and other files to an external drive as another form of file backup.
Delete Data You Don’t Need
Before paying for more storage, take an honest look at what’s using up space in your iCloud account. There may be old backups, photos, videos and documents that you can delete to free up gigs of space.
Removing unused data from iCloud should always be your first step before upgrading your storage plan.
Having a full iCloud storage is annoying but solvable. Take time to manage your storage by removing backups, photos, videos and other files you no longer need. Consider turning off some iCloud features entirely if you can manually manage their data.
Upgrading to a paid iCloud+ storage plan gives you much needed breathing room for backups and synced data. For cheaper local storage, use iTunes or Mac backups instead of iCloud.
With a few adjustments to your usage, you can reclaim lost iCloud storage and ensure your devices keep automatically backing up.