How to stop getting the 'Storage Full' message on your iPhone

Posted:
in General Discussion
When you get this warning message about your iPhone being almost or entirely full, take these steps to free up the most space in the quickest time.

Apple's way of telling you to buy a bigger iPhone.
Apple's way of telling you to buy a bigger iPhone.


One of the two easiest ways to prevent seeing the 'Storage Almost Full' warning notification on your iPhone is to just not save so much stuff on it. If you are getting this a lot and it is interfering with your day-to-day use then you should consider getting a higher-capacity model the next time you buy an iPhone -- but that doesn't help you now.

Right now, when space is this tight and of course you need to do something with your iPhone, you have to take emergency steps and delete anything you can.

The first thing you must do is to backup your iPhone. We're going to be deleting things en masse, and it'll be photos and videos and documents you can't ever get back. So, have a backup for safety's sake.

Strange days

When your iPhone is insanely low on storage space, peculiar things happen. With no room for temporary files, your device slows down and struggles to cope with tasks.

So while you wouldn't be surprised that a video stops recording when it runs out of space, for instance, you can also find that the last couple of minutes of footage are jumpy with dropped frames.

You think that's low? This is nothing. We've had it down to under 100MB free. Don't do it to yourself.
You think that's low? This is nothing. We've had it down to under 100MB free. Don't do it to yourself.


When it's this tight for space, everything you do takes longer -- including anything that will free up some room.

To clear space the fastest way possible, then, put the phone down and pick up a Mac. Even if you've not switched on iCloud Drive, you're likely to be using iCloud for photos, videos, mail and more.

Log on to icloud.com in a browser and click on the Photos app.

Quick wins

To clear the most space in the shortest time, go to the Media Types album and click on Videos.

You are likely to see a lot of videos there that you've accrued over the years -- we found ones going back a decade -- and maybe you can delete some.

Each video has a duration on it, so you could tap to watch a bit of the longest ones. If you know you don't want them, or better yet you are certain they exist somewhere else, you could delete them.

Notice the download icon at top right in red. This screen also tells you the details of when it was recorded. Your exported copy won't have those.
Notice the download icon at top right in red. This screen also tells you the details of when it was recorded. Your exported copy won't have those.


Click to select them, then tap the delete icon and confirm that you want to erase it. Then when that's done, go to the Recently Deleted album right there in your browser. Select the same video, press Delete again and it will be removed from iCloud right away.

One important thing, though. Even when you've done this on iCloud.com, you will find that your iPhone deletes the same videos -- but puts them in its own Recently Deleted folder. You'll have to go into that on your iPhone and delete yet again.

If you can, it'd be better to download the videos from iCloud.com to your Mac and make backups before you delete anything. The good news is that you can select many items at once -- up to 1,000 -- and download them all.

The bad news is that while you'll get the video safely stored on your Mac at full resolution, it will be a new file which means it'll have today as the created and modified dates. You'll lose all the data about when it was really recorded.

That information is there in iCloud.com, though, right above every video. So you could copy down those details. When you export, iCloud.com does appear to ask you what you want the file to be called so in theory you could rename it "Housewarming Video January 20 1999", but in practice iCloud ignores that completely.

It will save the video as whatever filename it is. But you can at least save it to a folder that you name whatever you need.

Photo finish

When you've got videos out of the way, check your storage. With luck, you've got enough room now to do what you need. And if you're not in luck, you could go do the same export and delete in iCloud.com for still images.

That's going to be a bigger pain, though, because it's likely that you have many, many, many more photos.

They're not gone until you've deleted them in this album too.
They're not gone until you've deleted them in this album too.


There are some more fairly quick wins, though, and this time you do them on your iPhone.

Open the Photos app and scroll down to Bursts. These are the images that look like a single photo but are really two, ten or fifty images that were taken extremely rapidly, one after another. Your iPhone has picked which it thinks its the best, but you can change that -- and you can delete all of the others.

Tap on any Burst image to open it. Above the photo, you'll see the word Burst followed by how many separate photos are in this set. Then you'll see one of the images, and at the bottom of the screen there's a Select button.

Tap that and you'll see a film strip with a triangular icon at the top and a gray dot at the bottom.

The gray dot marks the current image, the one of the burst that the iPhone thinks is best. Swipe left and right to look at the different images, and the triangle will indicate which one you're looking at now.

Tap on the one or more best images in the set, and then tap Done. Your iPhone will ask if you want to Keep Everything, or just the ones you've now marked. Take your pick, and the rest will be deleted.

Emergency measures

This all works and it is the quickest way to clear off some space when you need it. The ideal is to avoid getting into this position in the first place, but when you're on a small iPhone or iPod touch, that can be extremely hard.

This is why Apple has long been criticized for how it sold devices with 8GB and 16GB long after those became an impractical small size. And it's why Apple's being criticized for its miserly 5GB free iCloud space.

You can't do much about Apple's choices, other than give the company more money. But, you can be judicious about what you save to your iPhone and you can take steps to create room in a hurry.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    It is worth mentioning that getting a iphoto/photos dupicate finder can help the situation.  I've had getting a new phone or computer endup where Apple duplicated EVERYTHING and upon getting a app to remove dupilcates freed up a large amount of space.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 12
    TuuborTuubor Posts: 40member
    Or just pay Apple 9,99/month for 2Tb of iCloud storage and have a care free life. I have over 20 000 pictures, over 1800 videos and nearly 300 apps on my phone and never do I have to worry about running out of space. Everything syncs between my devices and everything just works. I mean 10$. I do have a 128Gb model but I’m sure people waste that kind of money on all kinds of stupid stuff and never complain about it. But when it comes to buying digital goods that makes your life easy it’s suddenly wrong. C’mon people.
    edited August 15 macplusplusFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 12
    You removed my post because I was critical of the article but now I am posting again the correct way to make storage space in iOS, without any comment on the article.

    Settings/General/iPhone (iPad) Storage.



    You don’t need to struggle with Photos through a Mac, Photos already optimizes storage for you. iMessage attachments can be deleted through that panel but for other apps such as Whatsapp, Viber, Messenger and alike you may need to delete the media through the app itself.
    edited August 15 FileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 12
    Excellent information on Bursts. They’re easy to create by accident, at least for me, and I didn’t know you could keep a single photo out of the burst. Thanks! 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 12
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 3,171member
    ...put the phone down and pick up a Mac. [...] Log on to icloud.com in a browser and click on the Photos app.

    What, why the hell would you do that? Why would you use the web and not just use the Photos app on iOS or macOS?

    Also, in the Settings > General > iPhone Storage panel which you partially showed, there's literally a "Review x" suggestion to go through all your things that iOS has determined to be taking up the most space, including "Review Personal Videos". Not to mention, also, that it lists all your apps with the amount of storage each is using. 

    Also missing: mention of Music's Optimize Storage setting.


    macplusplusFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 12
    I opted for the 512 GB option last year and, for the first time, I still have loads of space left before the new iPhone is out!
    FileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 12
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,451member
    Tuubor said:
    Or just pay Apple 9,99/month for 2Tb of iCloud storage and have a care free life. I have over 20 000 pictures, over 1800 videos and nearly 300 apps on my phone and never do I have to worry about running out of space. Everything syncs between my devices and everything just works. I mean 10$. I do have a 128Gb model but I’m sure people waste that kind of money on all kinds of stupid stuff and never complain about it. But when it comes to buying digital goods that makes your life easy it’s suddenly wrong. C’mon people.
    Until someone hacks (your) iCloud or the service is disabled or your network doesn't work.
    Being dependent, while you don't need to be is a bad choice. 
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 8 of 12
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 1,007member
    You removed my post because I was critical of the article but now I am posting again the correct way to make storage space in iOS, without any comment on the article.
    They seem to have a habit of that lately. 

    I have a ridiculous amount of "other" on my phone, it's at about 15GB now. It's gradually grown over time and I used to erase my phone and set up as fresh to fix it, but that meant losing most app data. Restoring the phone from backup seems to erase about 20% of the "other", not not most. I used to spend a fair amount of time after erasing the phone with a third party app going through my iPhone backup, restoring things I wanted individually. But Apple has since "fixed" that loophole of usefulness. I especially don't want to lose my health data, so I can't erase the phone and setup as new. 
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 9 of 12
    macplusplusmacplusplus Posts: 1,907member
    elijahg said:
    You removed my post because I was critical of the article but now I am posting again the correct way to make storage space in iOS, without any comment on the article.
    They seem to have a habit of that lately. 

    I have a ridiculous amount of "other" on my phone, it's at about 15GB now. It's gradually grown over time and I used to erase my phone and set up as fresh to fix it, but that meant losing most app data. Restoring the phone from backup seems to erase about 20% of the "other", not not most. I used to spend a fair amount of time after erasing the phone with a third party app going through my iPhone backup, restoring things I wanted individually. But Apple has since "fixed" that loophole of usefulness. I especially don't want to lose my health data, so I can't erase the phone and setup as new. 
    On that iPad above System takes about 7.64 GB, obviously included in the Other category. Showing the System storage at the very end of that list but not separately in the colored graph is an omission IMO and a feedback may be sent for that. At least people might be less concerned once the System storage is excluded from that Other category.

    BTW if you use iCloud Health your health data will be preserved between devices. 10 devices are listed as source in my Health app.
    edited August 16 watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 12
    knowitall said:
    Tuubor said:
    Or just pay Apple 9,99/month for 2Tb of iCloud storage and have a care free life. I have over 20 000 pictures, over 1800 videos and nearly 300 apps on my phone and never do I have to worry about running out of space. Everything syncs between my devices and everything just works. I mean 10$. I do have a 128Gb model but I’m sure people waste that kind of money on all kinds of stupid stuff and never complain about it. But when it comes to buying digital goods that makes your life easy it’s suddenly wrong. C’mon people.
    Until someone hacks (your) iCloud or the service is disabled or your network doesn't work.
    Being dependent, while you don't need to be is a bad choice. 
    How is having your data anywhere else any safer or different? My phone can be stolen, hacked, destroyed etc. Even if I keep everything on my Mac or an external ssd. My house can burn down or whatever. That is the most stupid reason not to have data in the cloud. Anything can happen. I could die if I leave my house but I still do ’cause I take that chance because I want to live a nice life.

    Also I am pretty sure Apple has some very robust ways of backing up and securing my data. 
    fastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 12
    A major contributor to the lack of space on an iPhone is the shoddy way Mail caches attachments. If you use imap, the mail and attachment will be long gone but the cache will stubbornly refuse to reset. Sadly the only solution (short of using a different mail client) seems to be to delete the mail account on the phone, delete Mail, restart iPhone, reinstall Mail and reinstall the account!
    edited August 17
  • Reply 12 of 12
    This headline belongs on an article about toggling a preference to suppress the popup. This article is about ways to free up space in order to prevent the popup.
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