How to manage your iCloud storage and backups

Posted:
in iCloud edited December 2014
Apple understands that device backups are only useful when the process is automatic and done regularly, which is why the feature is baked into iOS and handled by iCloud.




Before iCloud, the prevailing method of backing up an iOS device was connecting it to a computer and syncing to iTunes. As streaming music and other cloud services became more prevalent, the need to sync an iPhone or iPad with iTunes has become obsolete.

As far as ease of use is concerned, iCloud Backup is a better answer than syncing with iTunes as it occurs automatically whenever a device is connected to a Wi-Fi network and charging. That might be every night for most users. Convenient, but with a limited amount of storage, users backing up a lot of content, or users with multiple devices, may see their iCloud allotment quickly fill up.

The iOS device will warn users when their iCloud Storage is full, but managing iCloud storage can be a frustrating process. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to make sure your device is getting backed up regularly, manage iCloud storage settings and apps, and how to make the most of your current space without upgrading to a more expensive plan.




While iCloud is primarily a cloud service, you can only manage your storage settings on an iOS device or Mac. These options are not available on iCloud.com. To begin, navigate to the Settings app on your iOS Device, scroll down and tap on the iCloud section.

On the next screen you will see the iCloud account associated with your device, options for Family Sharing (to be covered in a future guide) available storage, and what services are currently syncing to your iCloud account.




Using the toggle switches, users can choose to stop syncing Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, etc., if another service is being used like Exchange. To manage your iCloud space or upgrade to a new plan, tap on the Storage heading.




Total Storage refers to the total iCloud space you are currently subscribed. If the Available storage section is less than 10GB you will most likely have difficulty backing up your devices.

Apple recently lowered the price of high capacity iCloud Storage plans. To upgrade, tap on the Change Storage Plan option. Plans are now billed monthly rather than annually as they were before. The 200GB plan should be plenty if you're solely concerned with having enough space to backup all your devices.

Should you choose to use iCloud Drive for an increasing number of documents or large amounts of photos, you may want to choose 500GB or even 1TB. Users have the option to downgrade at any time if they are not using the total storage amount.




Going back a screen, tap on the Manage Storage option to see exactly what files and backups are using your iCloud space. Users will probably notice Photos taking up a majority of iCloud. Below that you can see what device backups are currently saved and the amount of storage being taken by each app individually.




If you have recently upgraded your iPhone or iPad, multiple iPhone or iPad backups may appear in iCloud's list of backups. Viewing these settings on your iPhone will show you exactly which backup file correlates to your device by saying "This iPhone" or "This iPad". You may delete old backups of previous devices to free up space while keeping your latest iPhone or iPad backups intact.

Tapping on one of your device backups will display details about that device, what apps are being backed up, and how much memory each app takes during backup. This detail page will also show users how much storage the next immediate backup is going to take and allows you delete the backup file.

Users may notice certain apps taking up a large amount of space in the backup file, like iMovie. You can choose to stop backing up that app's data, but be sure it's not important or back it up elsewhere before disabling.




Tapping on certain apps may even allow you to delete portions of the data in the backup file while keeping some of the backup information intact.




Navigating back to the main Manage iCloud Storage screen, users can tap on the iCloud Photo Library to disable and delete all photos from the cloud. This should be done only if you are confident the photos are saved elsewhere and backed up on another device. Once you've chosen to Disable and Delete these photos, you have 30 days before Apple removes them forever.




After you have managed storage options and deleted superfluous backups, make sure iCloud Backup is on and has a recent save. From the main iCloud settings screen, scroll towards the bottom and tap on Backup.




If the iCloud Backup toggle is off, be sure to turn this on. In the light grey area, you will see the "Last Backup" date and time. If this is not a recent backup, tap on Back Up Now to have your iCloud brought up to date.




While you're adjusting these iCloud Settings, it's a good idea to double check that Find My iPhone is enabled. With this option on, in the event your phone is lost or stolen users can go to iCloud.com and see their iPhone on a map, remote wipe or lock the device, push a message to the home screen, and enable "Lost Mode" which will make iCloud continuously try to reach your device and email you when it's found.

Enable Find My iPhone under the iCloud Settings, scroll to the bottom and tap Find My iPhone. Users can also enable Send Last Location which will automatically track the device's location and send it to Find My iPhone if the battery is critically low. Your device's location is not available when turned off.




Users can also manage iCloud Storage Settings on a Mac. To do this, open System Preferences and click on the iCloud symbol.




Here you will see a similar listing of what iCloud services are currently syncing to your Mac. Click on the Manage... button in the lower right corner.




On the next screen users can upgrade or downgrade their storage plan, see what apps are using space in iCloud and delete backups of iOS devices.




Clicking on some apps in the left column (like Mail or Photo Library) just describes where users should go to manage this storage. Other apps like Pages, Numbers and Keynote, will allow you to delete those documents from iCloud right in System Preferences.





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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,379member
    Nice job but IMHO iCloud Drive, used manually or with 3rd party back up software, needs mentioning in more detail in such an article. It has some strange quirky behaviors, especially for those of us with tiny internal SSD drives on the new Mac Pro.

    I have encountered the situation where anything I copy from any external drive e.g. all Photography data is on external RAID 0 drives, to the iCloud Drive is immediately added to my internal SSD which if it doesn't have the room (Aperture Library in my case as I wanted to back up the RAW data), it just gives a 'not enough room' warning, even with plenty of room on the iCloud Drive. In addition I think it is weird the way anything you copy down from the iCloud Drive on another Mac removes it from the iCloud Drive by default instead of copying by default. These experiences are all from running the developer version of 10.10 so perhaps this isn't how life is on the release version.
  • Reply 2 of 22
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,311member
    Seems the article link on the front page is broken :(
  • Reply 3 of 22

    Personally I see no need for iCloud paid backup until Apple releases OS X's Photos app. To me, that will be the real test as to how well iCloud will work, and how useful it will be in the long term.

  • Reply 4 of 22
    Seems like a good addition to the article would be mentioning that not everything is backed up when using iCloud for backup.
  • Reply 5 of 22
    herbapouherbapou Posts: 2,227member
    Is there a way to share an icloud drive between 2 itunes account? I have family sharing between the accounts
  • Reply 6 of 22
    Apple needs to admit that a fair bit of their users are idiots and do some workshops and such on backing up, I am in the stores frequently and every time I hear at least one passed off person screaming about how they run their business off their first phone, or a similar tale of woe, and have no backups. Yea the terms say it's not's concern but educate folks and then let the, hang them selves
  • Reply 7 of 22
    stephenroblesstephenrobles Posts: 90member, moderator, editor



    I'll be doing an entire article addressing iCloud Drive specifically. There's a lot to cover, and many bugs/quirks to warn people of. Thanks for the comment.

  • Reply 8 of 22
    stephenroblesstephenrobles Posts: 90member, moderator, editor



    The backup issue could definitely use more education towards the user. I also hear of many friends getting the "iCloud Storage full", not knowing how to fix it, then going months without backing up.

  • Reply 9 of 22
    stephenroblesstephenrobles Posts: 90member, moderator, editor



    What items specifically are not backed up?

  • Reply 10 of 22
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,856member
    macgizmo wrote: »
    Personally I see no need for iCloud paid backup until Apple releases OS X's Photos app. To me, that will be the real test as to how well iCloud will work, and how useful it will be in the long term.

    I'm waiting on this too. Also waiting to update three out of four iDevices to iOS 8 since I can't figure out how the iPhone 4 is going to interact with the new cloud system. Might have to break down and get a used 5S and give the 5 to wifey. :\
  • Reply 11 of 22
    cornchip wrote: »
    I'm waiting on this too. Also waiting to update three out of four iDevices to iOS 8 since I can't figure out how the iPhone 4 is going to interact with the new cloud system. Might have to break down and get a used 5S and give the 5 to wifey. :\
    iPhone 4 is not supported by iOS 8.x and is EOL (end-of-life), so that device would need to be replaced if you want to take advantage of everything iOS 8 has to offer.
  • Reply 12 of 22
    I don't see the Backup in my Mac's iCloud Control Panel. I do have Backup up and running on my iOS devices.
  • Reply 13 of 22
    What I don't get is how Yahoo can let me upload my photos to 1TB of FREE storage space on Flickr, but Apple can only offer me 5GB. What's up with that? I love the idea of iCloud Photo Library, but my photos are going to take anywhere from 200GB to 500GB to store.

    I just hope that Apple doesn't force me to move off the standard "Photo Stream" when iCloud Photo Library comes out.

    Right now, my last 1000 photos flow nicely from my iPad and iPhone to iPhoto in my Mac and are backed up to Time Machine and CrashPlan. I'm afraid that this whole notion is going to go away once iPhoto becomes deprecated. Maybe the Mac "Photos" app will support the standard "Photo Stream" behavior.... maybe.
  • Reply 14 of 22
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,609member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by macinthe408 View Post



    I don't see the Backup in my Mac's iCloud Control Panel. I do have Backup up and running on my iOS devices.

    Press the "Manage..." button in the lower right corner of the iCloud control panel. Backups will be in the menu screen that pops up (a green icon to the left).

  • Reply 15 of 22

    This is a great article to get started, but unfortunately can't cover all the 'boundary cases' and ancient cruft that can cause major confusion and problems managing iCloud storage.

     

    For example, when I upgraded to Yosemite, I began getting alerts that my iCloud storage was full. I would check my iCloud storage setting and see that there were several free gigs remaining. Huh? Finally the light bulb went on that it was complaining about the old iCloud account I have for my old/primary email account that I don't use for anything else.

     

    I'm one of the poor souls with two iCloud accounts. I have one that I've been dragging along with me for the past 10 - 15 years from the .Mac days that has my primary email address as the user ID. It is also 'stuck' with different country/credit card info and an 8 cent credit that prevents me from switching it to the current country where I live. Then I have my 'real' day-to-day iCloud account used for recent music, iPhone apps, photos, etc. I would love to merge the two accounts but of course that's impossible without losing either my ancient primary email address or my current music and apps, etc.

     

    Managing two iCloud accounts, one as your primary email account and one for iTunes-related data, is a major pain...

  • Reply 16 of 22
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by MacGizmo View Post

     

    Personally I see no need for iCloud paid backup until Apple releases OS X's Photos app. To me, that will be the real test as to how well iCloud will work, and how useful it will be in the long term.


     

     

    Me, too.

     

    My iPhoto library will require me upgrading my iCloud storage. I'm not prepared to risk my photos to a beta service. I look forward to using it when it comes of age. I've recently gained a fibre service of 100Mb, so uploading my photos and videos will be feasible.

  • Reply 17 of 22

    The article could also benefit from mentioning that contrary to reasonable practice Apple only gives you 5 gig free no matter how many devices you buy from them which makes the hassle free backup idea break pretty much instantly.

  • Reply 18 of 22
    Toward the beginning of the article, you said, " . . . and how to make the most of your current space without upgrading to a more expensive plan." But then you go on to tell us we need to buy at least 200 GB of storage. That was misleading.

    But my real question is about backing up the iCloud Photo Library. If Photo Stream is already copying everything to my Mac, I don't need it, right? If I'm missing something, I'd appreciate someone letting me know.
  • Reply 19 of 22
    Ever since Apple announced that you could do wifi sync when you plug your device in I thought it was great. However, it never really worked fully. My wifi sync only works when the computer is awake. Once the computer falls asleep wifi sync is useless. If I manually trigger the wifi sync from the iOS device I hear the hard drive spin up but it does not wake the computer to complete the wifi sync. I have the wake computer on network access turned on in the settings. This issue has plagued the wifi sync for several generations of iOS, I believe it worked briefly on iOS5 and then it was all downhill. If anyone knows how to fix it, I would be glad to hear it.
  • Reply 20 of 22
    epelba01 wrote: »
    Ever since Apple announced that you could do wifi sync when you plug your device in I thought it was great. However, it never really worked fully. My wifi sync only works when the computer is awake. Once the computer falls asleep wifi sync is useless. If I manually trigger the wifi sync from the iOS device I hear the hard drive spin up but it does not wake the computer to complete the wifi sync. I have the wake computer on network access turned on in the settings. This issue has plagued the wifi sync for several generations of iOS, I believe it worked briefly on iOS5 and then it was all downhill. If anyone knows how to fix it, I would be glad to hear it.
    Enable iCloud backup. It's Settings>iCloud>backup. Make sure you are using wifi and when the device is plugged into the wall power or whatnot, and the screen is off (locked) it backs up to the cloud. No computer to worry about keeping active. There's a timestamp to tell you when it was last backed up so you know you are good or not.

    You are having issues cause the computer goes into a power save state that turns off things like usb power. You can adjust the settings on your computer but it's still nice to have the backup happen when plugged into whatever power. It's also secure in case your laptop messes up or something tragic. Though an encrypted iTunes backup on a machine isn't a bad thing to have either for the extra security.

    I don't care to connect to a computer for my devices so that is what I do and recommend so I'm kinda pushing my personal opinion but hopefully it helps.
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