How to Free Up Space Used By Your iPhone or iPad’s Messages App

If you send and receive a lot of text messages, the Messages app can take up a significant of space on your iPhone or iPad. Not only does it store your text message history, but it also keeps photo and video attachments you’ve received. Here’s how to free up that space if you’re running low.

See How Much Space the Messages App is Using

You can check how much space the Messages app is using on your device from the Storage screen. Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad and navigate to General > iPhone Storage (or iPad Storage) and wait for everything to load (it may take around 20 seconds or so).

Next, scroll down the list and look for the Messages app. You’ll see how much storage space it’s using up. In my case, it’s taking up 1.14 GB. If yours is taking up a significant amount of space, read on to learn how you can free it up.

Automatically Delete Old Messages

To prevent messages from building up forever and taking up a larger and larger amount of storage space, you can set all messages to delete themselves after a certain period of time.

Bear in mind, though, that any messages that do get deleted will be gone forever. So if you want to keep a record of your messages or keep certain messages forever, you probably won’t want to have them deleted automatically. To change this setting, open up the Settings app and tap on “Messages.”

Scroll down and tap on “Keep Messages”.

Choose an expiration period. By default, your iPhone or iPad will keep messages “Forever”, but you can choose to keep them for “30 Days” or “1 Year” if you prefer.

As for audio messages, your device will automatically delete them two minutes after you listen to them. This prevents them from taking up space forever even after you’re completely done with them. To change this, though, you can go back to the main Messages screen in the settings and tap on “Expire” under “Audio Messages”.

From there, you can choose to have them automatically deleted after two minutes or never have them deleted (unless you delete them manually).

Bulk Delete Photos, Videos, and Attachments

You might be familiar with one way to delete messages and attachments in the Messages app, which is by long-pressing on a message or photo, tapping “More”, selecting what you want to delete, and tapping the trash can. But this is the slowest way to do it, and you’ll have to hunt through your conversations to find all those images that you want to delete.

You can also tap on the round “i” button in the top-right corner of a conversation to view all of that conversations attachments, and then delete any media you no longer need. However, this still isn’t the best way to go.

Instead, go back into the Settings app and navigate to General > iPhone Storage (or iPad Storage) like you did before. Scroll down the list and select the Messages app. From there, tap on “Review Large Attachments”.

This will provide you a list of every single photo, video, and other attachment that the Messages app has saved from all of your conversation threads, and it’s in order by largest size first.

To delete one, simply just swipe to the left and hit “Delete”.

Unfortunately, there’s no “Select All” option or even a way to select multiple attachments and delete them in one swoop. However, this is still the best way to get rid of the largest attachments with minimal effort.

If you want to organize this list into specific media types, go back a screen and below “Review Large Attachments” you’ll see “Documents & Data” followed by a list of the different kinds of media.

Tapping on one will only show attachments of that kind. So if you tap on “Photos”, it will only show photos.

If you want to save a photo or video before you delete it for good, you can tap on it and then select the Share button in the top-left corner.

From there, you can AirDrop it to another device, send it in an email, save it to a cloud storage service, and more.

Delete Entire Conversation Threads

If Messages is using a lot of space, image attachments are likely to blame, so simply deleting text conversations may not help enough. However, if you have long conversations full of text messages, they might take up quite a bit more space than you think. You can delete them and free up that space, assuming you don’t want to keep those conversations.

You can delete an entire conversation thread in the Messages app by swiping left on it and tapping “Delete”. This will delete all messages in the thread, as well as all media attachments.

To bulk-delete multiple conversation threads at once, tap the “Edit” button on the main Messages screen and select multiple conversations. Tap “Delete” in the bottom-right corner of the screen to delete them.


Text messages alone don’t really use up that much space. However, if you’ve racked up several years of photos and videos that you’ve sent and received, it’s likely that you’re in need of a messaging audit anyway.

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+.


Craig Lloyd writes about smarthome for How-To Geek, and is an aspiring handyman who loves tinkering with anything and everything around the house. He's also a mediocre gamer, aviation geek, baseball fan, motorcyclist, and proud introvert.