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How to Free Up Space on an iPhone or iPad

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iPads and iPhones don’t have file systems you can see, but there are still apps and files eating up space. You can see exactly what’s consuming that limited space and free it up.

Each bit of data on your device is associated with an app. For example, downloaded Kindle eBooks are tied to the Kindle app. Music files are part of the Music app, videos are part of the Videos app, and photos are part of the Photos app.

View Per-App Storage Usage

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Your device’s Usage screen shows an overview of the storage space used on your device and exactly how much each app is using. Open the Settings app, select the General category, and tap Usage to view it.

The number displayed to the right of each app includes the app’s application files, cached documents and data, and media files. Tap the app to view exactly what part of the app is using up the space.

ios-7-view-storage-usage-in-settings

Delete Apps

Free up space by removing apps. Games are particularly large, so your installed games will probably appear near the top of your Usage list. Tap an app in the list and tap Delete App to remove it from your device.

You can always reinstall the app later. Just visit the app store, search for the app, and download it again. If the app uses iCloud syncing or its own user account system, your saved settings and data may be accessible even when you reinstall the app later.

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Clear an App’s Documents & Data

Some apps have quite a bit of space used by their “Documents & Data.” In the screenshot below, the Pocket app itself is using up 37.4 MB, while its documents and data are using up a comparatively whopping 191 MB.

what-is-documents-and-data-in-storage-usage

An app’s Documents & Data include any documents and other files the app has downloaded or created. For example, the Pocket app’s Documents & Data include offline copies of articles in our Pocket queue. The Amazon Kindle app’s Documents & Data include any eBooks you’ve downloaded for use offline. Google Chrome’s Documents & Data include your settings and Chrome’s browser cache.

You can’t actually clear an app’s Documents & Data from this screen. Instead, you’ll need to either delete the app and reinstall it or clear the an app’s temporary data from within the app. For example, you can open the Settings screen in Pocket and tap Clear Downloaded Files to remove offline copies of downloaded articles. This will reduce the Pocket app’s Documents & Data usage. Not every app has this sort of option, so you may have to delete and reinstall an app if it’s using too much space for its temporary data.

clear-pocket-app's-documents-&-data-on-iphone-or-ipad

Delete Music, Videos, Photos, and Other Media Files

Videos, music, photos, podcasts, and other media files are stored as part of the associated app. The Music and Videos apps in the storage list show how much space music and video files are taking up on your device.

Tap the Videos app to see a list of videos taking up space. Swipe a video to the left and tap Delete to remove it from your device, freeing up space. The Podcasts app allows you to delete downloaded episodes in a similar way.

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The Music app just shows a total amount of space used by all music on your device. Swipe All Music to the left and tap Delete to remove all music from your device.

If you’d rather remove individual songs, open the Music app itself, swipe a song to the left, and tap Delete.

delete song in music app to free up space on ipad or phone

Photos work similarly. The Photos & Camera app in the Usage list displays how much storage is used by photos on your device. To actually remove these photos, you’ll need to open the Photos app, select the photos you want to delete, and tap the Delete button.

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Erase Browsing Data

The Usage screen displays different types of browsing data when you tap the Safari app. Tap Website Data to and tap Remove All Website Data to remove cache and cookies. Swipe to the left on Offline Reading List or History and tap Delete to delete these other types of data.

clear-safari-browsing-data-on-ios-7

If you use Google Chrome, you can clear Chrome’s cache by opening the Chrome app, accessing the Settings screen, tapping Privacy, and clearing your browsing data. Chrome’s browsing data appears as Chrome’s “Documents & Data” on the Settings screen. Other third-party browsers work similarly.

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If you can’t figure out how to clear an app’s documents and data, just uninstall the app and reinstall it. You may need to set up the app again afterward if it doesn’t sync its settings online.

For Apple’s own preinstalled apps, you can open the the app itself and remove content to free up space. For example, iMessage may be eating up quite a bit of space. You can open the iMessage app, locate message threads containing file or photo attachments, swipe to the left on them, and tap Delete to delete them from your device.

Image Credit: m01229 on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 06/19/14