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

If you send and receive a lot of messages, the Messages app can take up a lot of space on your iPhone or iPad. Not only does it store your message history, it keeps photo attachments you’ve received. All this data then takes up iCloud space as part of your backups, too.

Messages normally keeps messages and image attachments you’ve received over SMS or iMessage forever, unless you delete them manually. It may also keep audio and video messages around, depending on how you’ve configured it. By default, it quickly deletes audio and video to free up space.

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 head to General > Storage & iCloud Usage > Manage Storage. Scroll down in the list and look for the Messages app. You’ll see how much on-device storage is used by your saved messages.

Automatically Delete Old Messages, Audio, and Video Files

To prevent messages from building up forever and taking up a larger and larger amount of space, you can set all messages to expire after a certain period of time. The Messages app will automatically delete them when they’re old enough.

Bear in mind that any messages deleted will be gone forever. If you want to keep a record of your messages–or keep certain messages forever–you won’t want to automatically delete messages. You may want to delete them manually instead.

To change this setting, open the Settings app and tap “Messages.” Tap the “Keep Messages” option under Message History and choose an expiry 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.

By default, Messages will automatically delete audio and video messages two minutes after you listen to or watch them. This prevents those large audio and video files from taking up space forever. Be sure to confirm the “Expire” options under “Audio Messages” and “Video Messages” are set to “After 2 Minutes” and not “Never”, or they’ll be kept forever and drain storage space until you manually delete them.

Bulk Delete Attachments

You can delete an individual image in a conversation thread by long-pressing it, tapping “More,” selecting the messages you want to delete, and tapping the trash can. But this is the slowest way to do this, and you’ll have to hunt through your conversations to find all those images.

Use the Attachments view to see all the image attachments in a thread at once. To do this, open a conversation and tap the “Details” link at the top-right corner. You’ll see an Attachments list at the bottom of this screen containing any attached images.

To delete an image from here, long-press it and select “Delete.” To delete multiple images, long-press an image and select “More.” You can then tap multiple images to select them and tap the trash can to delete the images all at once. This is a much faster solution than hunting through a conversation to find all the individual attachments.

If you want to save the images, you can tap the “Save Images” option at the bottom of the Attachments view. They’ll be saved to your photo gallery. You can then copy them to your computer, sync them to a photo-storage service like Google Photos, or upload them to a file storage service like Dropbox. You’ll then be able to delete them remove them from both the Messages app and the Photos app, and you’ll still have the copy you placed elsewhere.

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 of space. You can delete them and free up that space, assuming you don’t want to keep those conversations and look at them in the future.

You can delete a thread by swiping left on it and tapping “Delete.” This will delete all messages in the thread and any attachments.

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


Text messages alone don’t really use that much space. If Messages are a drain on your storage, it’s probably all those picture messages you’ve received. That’s the thing to really pay attention to, although even text message will start using a lot of space if Messages is storing a huge amount of them.

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+.