What to Do If You Run Low on iCloud Storage Space

By default, Apple gives every iCloud user 5 GB of storage space. That disappears quickly, given how it’s shared between iCloud Mail, iCloud Drive, iCloud Photos, Messages, and iCloud-enabled apps.

Apple will, of course, sell you more iCloud space. $0.99 per month gets you 50 GB, $2.99 per month provides 200 GB, and for $9.99 per month, you can use a whopping 2 TB. The latter two plans can even be shared with others in your Family Sharing group.

As we’ve noted elsewhere, using iCloud Photos almost certainly requires you to pay for extra storage. But if you’re paying $2.99 per month and nudge up against the 200 GB limit, you may not be enthused about increasing your payment to $9.99 per month when you’re unlikely to need anywhere near 2 TB.

That said, you don’t want to run out of storage space. Email to your iCloud email address will be rejected, photos won’t upload from your iPhone, and app data will fail to sync. Happily, Apple alerts you when you’re running low on space, before things get bad.

It’s often easy to recover space that’s not being used in a helpful way. First, check how much space you have and how much you’re using. In macOS 10.14 Mojave, look at the graph at the bottom of System Preferences > iCloud. In 10.15 Catalina, the graph is in System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud. In iOS, you’ll find a similar graph at Settings > Your Name > iCloud.

Then, to clear space, work through these five approaches.

1. Remove Unnecessary iCloud Device Backups

The biggest win comes from deleting iCloud device backups for devices you no longer use. It’s common for these to stick around, so if you recently upgraded from an iPhone X to an iPhone 11 Pro, the iPhone X backup is probably still consuming gigabytes.

Navigate to Settings > Your Name > iCloud > Manage Storage > Backups to see what you have. If you find backups for a previous iPhone or iPad, tap it and then tap Delete Backup.

2. Delete Unnecessary Data from iOS Apps

While you’re in the iCloud Storage screen (the leftmost screenshot above), look through the other apps at the top of the list. The Photos app will likely be using the most storage, but all you can do to minimize its space usage is delete unnecessary screenshots, duplicate photos, and accidental videos from Photos. That will likely require lots of manual effort.

However, some other apps—think about third-party camera or video apps—may be using space unnecessarily. Investigate any apps reporting a lot of usage in the iCloud Storage screen, and if possible, clear out the unnecessary data.

Finally, consider Messages. If you regularly trade photos and videos in chats, it could be another place you can save significant space. In the iCloud Storage screen, tap Messages > Top Conversations to see which conversations are the largest. Tap one to switch to Messages, tap the person’s avatar at the top of the conversation, tap the Info button, scroll down to see the photos, and tap See All Photos. Tap Select, tap photos you have no desire to keep within that Messages conversation, and then tap Delete at the bottom-right of the screen.

3. Avoid Backing Up Apps with Massive iCloud Data Stores

If one of your apps is storing a lot of data that you don’t want to delete, but that you don’t care if it were to be lost, you can prevent it from being backed up by iCloud Backup and reduce the size of your backups.

To find such apps, navigate to Settings > Your Name > iCloud > Manage Storage > Backups and tap the name of the device you’re on. That screen shows which apps consume the most space in your backup. Tap the toggle switch next to an app to stop backing it up and delete its data from your backup.

4. Scan for and Delete Large Files in iCloud Drive

It’s hard to know if you’re likely to be using lots of space in iCloud Drive—it all depends on what iCloud-savvy apps you use and if you store other files in iCloud Drive via the Mac’s Finder or the Files app in iOS.

There’s no need to guess, however, thanks to free Mac apps that help you identify especially large files and folders. Our favorites are GrandPerspective and OmniDiskSweeper. GrandPerspective uses a graphical view so you can see at a glance where your space is going, whereas OmniDiskSweeper opts for a classic text-based approach that gives you hard numbers. In GrandPerspective, choose File > Scan Folder and select iCloud Drive in the sidebar of the Open dialog. For OmniDiskSweeper, choose File > Size Folder.

Whichever app you use, it’s easy to select large files or folders and click Delete (GrandPerspective) or Trash (OmniDiskSweeper). You may have to set an option in GrandPerspective > Preferences to enable deletions if its Delete button is disabled.

5. Delete Old Email from iCloud Mail

All the email you store at iCloud counts against your free space, so it can be worth clearing out unwanted old messages (and their large attachments). To delete individual messages using Apple’s Mail, just select them and click the Trash button in the toolbar. Some messages are much bigger than others, however, and to find them, choose View > Sort By > Size. That puts the largest messages at the top.

Of course, deleting messages normally just moves them to the Trash mailbox; to reclaim the space they occupy on iCloud, choose Mailbox > Erase Deleted Items > AccountName. Once you do that, the messages are gone for good.

If you want to remove an entire mailbox and its contents, select it in the sidebar and choose Mailbox > Delete Mailbox. That deletes all of its messages immediately and can’t be undone.

When you put all these space-clearing techniques together, you’ll likely be able to clear enough cruft that you won’t have to pay Apple for more iCloud storage space. But if you’re uncomfortable deleting such data, there’s no shame in upgrading to a larger iCloud storage plan.

(Featured image by stokpic from Pixabay)


Learn How to Examine Your iPhone’s Battery Usage: IT Support in Los Angeles

A common question we hear is, “Why is my iPhone/iPad battery draining so fast?” Luckily, Apple provides tools that help you see exactly how your iPhone uses its battery over the last 24 hours and—with less detail—over each of the last 10 days. Plus, you can tweak settings that will improve battery life, both in the here-and-now and for as long as you have your iPhone. To access these tools, go to Settings > Battery.

Useful Battery-Related Options

Before we get into what you can learn from the Battery screen, there are two options worth noting:

  • First, on the main screen, you’ll find the Low Power Mode switch. If you’re worried about running out of power before you can recharge on a particular day, enable Low Power Mode. iOS automatically offers to enable it if your battery drops to 20%, and that’s a good idea unless you can plug in soon. Low Power Mode mostly disables background activity like mail fetching and photo syncing. (If you want to enable Low Power Mode regularly, make that easy by adding it to Control Center via Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls.)
  • Second, tap Battery Health, and in that screen, enable Optimized Battery Charging. It lets iOS 13 learn from your schedule to ensure that your iPhone spends less time fully charged unnecessarily, which can cause the battery to age more quickly. Leave this option off if you don’t charge on a regular schedule.

About That Maximum Capacity Percentage

Whenever we hear complaints about iPhone batteries, the first place we look is in the Battery Health screen to make sure the battery is healthy. Apple says that iPhone batteries are designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity after 500 charges. The higher the Maximum Capacity number, the better. Usually, anything above 90% is OK, although we start to hear of problems when the Maximum Capacity is in the upper 80s, and numbers below 85% are fairly likely to cause problems. The only solution to a battery with a low Maximum Capacity is replacement; contact us for our advice on the best way to do that.

Identifying Battery Hogs

Assuming the battery’s Maximum Capacity is high enough, the next place to look for what might be causing excessive battery drain is in the Battery Usage By App section of the Battery screen; look below the graphs, and tap Show Activity for more details.

Scrutinize the entries at the top because they’ve used the lion’s share of your power. In the screenshot above, No Cell Coverage (which causes the iPhone to waste power searching for cell towers) was the worst offender. You can’t do anything about that (unless it’s indicative of putting the iPhone somewhere it can’t receive a signal or a failing cellular radio).

For the apps underneath, make sure they’re not working too much in the background unnecessarily. “Unnecessarily” is key—if you see Photos at the top of your list and Show Activity reveals a lot of background activity, it’s probably related to it uploading or downloading a lot of images from iCloud Photos. But if you can’t imagine why a particular app is sucking down precious power, it’s time to force quit the app or power cycle the iPhone. And if the problem continues, it might be time to reset the iPhone and restore from backup, just to clean things up.

Analyzing Battery Usage

For figuring out which app might be causing unusual battery drain, it’s usually best to keep the time frame in the Last 24 Hours, but if you’re trying to track down a pattern of app behavior, it can be useful to switch to the Last 10 Days using the toggle above the graphs.

Most people don’t realize these graphs aren’t just pretty pictures. You can tap in the graphs to select 1-hour chunks of time in the Last 24 Hours graphs, or 1-day chunks in the Last 10 Days graphs. When you do that, the Battery Usage By App list changes to focus on just the apps used in the selected time period. That’s helpful for tracking down exactly what was happening when the battery drain took place.

We’d like to say that you can use these tools to figure out nearly anything that’s causing your battery to drop precipitously, but there are issues that the Battery screen doesn’t expose. For instance, after you upgrade to a new version of iOS or switch to a new iPhone, background tasks will likely work hard for a while indexing all the content on the device. Most issues like that should go away quickly, though.

Regardless, it’s worth looking in the Battery screen whenever you feel that your battery life isn’t what it should be. Whether it’s a rogue app or the revelation that you need a new battery, it will provide some guidance. And if you’re still in the dark, let us know, and we’ll see what we can do to help.

(Featured image by Tyler Lastovich from Pexels)