iCloud Storage Full? How to Free Up iCloud Storage Space – The Definitive Guide

The most common request for help that we receive at iCloud Login is how to deal with running out of storage space in iCloud or on an iPhone or iPad.

Luckily, running out of iCloud storage space is something that we’ve dealt with so often that we have all the answers.

In this article we’ll cover what to do to fix your iCloud storage problems and, in the next article, we’ll give you the answers for the same issue when your iPhone storage is full.

One of our key fixes will actually help with your storage capacity problems both in iCloud and on your iOS device.

Not enough iCloud Storage

You may be reading this article because your iPhone or iPad has shown you the following message:

“This iPhone cannot be backed up because there is not enough iCloud storage available. You can manage your storage in Settings.”

icloud storage space full

What can you do to recover some of that storage space so that you can backup to iCloud or just to enable you to store a little more stuff?

What can you do when your iCloud storage is almost full?

Since Apple only give each of us 5GB of free storage in our iCloud account we need to manage it carefully – and, it has to be said, that some of the more recent options in iCloud don’t help us limit what we store in that free iCloud account.

Although iCloud Photo Library reduces the individual file size of each photo on your device and helps a little, your photos can be a major culprit in snaffling up that available disk space, even when iCloud Photo Library does its thing.

iCloud Storage Quota

The basic iCloud storage quota that we all get for free is 5GB – but it’s woefully inadequate if you start using iCloud the way it is designed. The promise of having all your most useful content, contacts, photos and more in sync across all your devices is awesome, but tricky to do with only 5GB!

So, which of the iCloud options are actually counting against your paltry 5GB limit?

iCloud photo library on iOS devices

In order of likely culpability, these are:

  • iCloud Photo Library – The most likely candidate responsible for your woes. It is the sum total of every video and photo on all your iOS devices (and Macs) that are connected to your iCloud account. Given that many of us have thousands of digital photos, these add up quickly and for us to have 25GB – 50GB of just photos across all our devices is not unusual.
  • iCloud Backup – This is often the other main culprit. It includes the backups of all your iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches that are linked to your iCloud account – and, it may well include backups of old devices that you no longer even have!
  • iCloud mail – If you’re using an iCloud email address then this includes all your emails (plus any attachments) from your @icloud.com email account. This mail is all stored in your iCloud account and accessed by your devices. Again, it can be easy to get over 5GB of mail all on its own.
  • iCloud Drive – Now that iCloud Drive can store all types of files (rather than just the iWork suite of documents and App data that it used to store before iOS9) you may well be using this part of iCloud as a main file store for all sorts of stuff. If that includes large files you’ll need to think about that storage issue.

In addition, almost all of us will have chosen to store our Contacts and Calendars (and, some of us, any Reminders or Notes) in iCloud. These do use up some of your 5GB allowance but even the largest collection of Contacts or Calendar entries will be insignificant users of iCloud space compared to photos and backups – usually less than 50MB in total, or 1% of your free allowance.

toggle to backup to iCloud

It might not seem then that there’s a lot to store in that free 5GB of iCloud storage – since it’s only four main types of files after all – but those add up very quickly as we have seen. A few backups, a large photo collection and an email account could easily take you way past your free allowance.

Buy More iCloud Storage?

The point of this article is to show you how to manage within your free allowance of 5GB of iCloud storage, but many Apple devotees will want to keep everything stored and synced in the Apple universe – as it was designed to do.

We can’t argue with that as an approach but it’s going to cost you a monthly fee and many will think it’s a reasonable cost, given that it starts at $0.99 per month for 50GB.

On the upside you will get the cross device functionality that Apple has painstakingly built, but do you really need it?

If you do, then you simply have to bite the bullet and buy more storage on a monthly basis from Apple.

You can find the latest storage upgrade costs for your country on this regularly updated Apple support page for iCloud storage costs.

And below you can see the current rates for buying more iCloud storage on a monthly basis in the US, Europe and the UK.

cost of iCloud storage in USA and Europe

As the maximum capacity of a current iPhone is 128GB of storage, most users will find that the 200GB option for iCloud storage will probably be enough even for those with a large amount of photos and other files across many devices.

It’s likely that only those running several iOS devices and a Mac and wanting to use iCloud storage for every photo and file will need the 1TB option.

Upgrading iCloud Storage

If you decide to go this route, here’s how you can activate and buy more iCloud storage from any of your devices that are connected to your iCloud account.

Note that the monthly charge will be billed to the card that you have associated with your Apple ID  – the one you use for buying Apps etc.

upgrade iCloud storage

On an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch:

If you’re using iOS 8 or later, go to Settings > iCloud > Storage. If you’re using an earlier version of iOS, go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup.

Tap ‘Buy More Storage’ or ‘Change Storage Plan’.

Choose an upgrade, then tap ‘Buy’ and enter your Apple ID password.

On a Mac:

Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click iCloud.

Click Manage in the lower-right corner.

Click ‘Buy More Storage’ or ‘Change Storage Plan’.

Choose an upgrade, then click ‘Next’ and enter your Apple ID password.

On a PC:

Open iCloud for Windows.

Click ‘Storage’.

Click ‘Change Storage Plan’.

Choose an upgrade, then click ‘Next’.

Enter your Apple ID password, then click ‘Buy’.

That’s all there is to upgrading your iCloud storage. Just note that should you wish to downgrade your iCloud storage at a later date, you can do that as well. Simply navigate to the ‘Change Storage Plan’ option as above and click ‘Downgrade Options’ and follow the clear steps.

Do bear in mind that if you downgrade your available iCloud storage space and your stored data exceeds your new allowance then when the downgrade takes effect (at the end of the last paid period at the higher allowance) your devices won’t upload new photos and backups won’t run.

In other words, check what’s in your iCloud storage and delete the stuff you no longer need before doing the downgrade of your storage allowance!

Check iCloud Storage Space

Even if you think you might just swallow the additional monthly cost and upgrade your iCloud storage, or if you are sure you want to live within the 5GB free allowance, you’ll need to start off by assessing what you currently have stored in iCloud that is using up your allowance.

Go to Settings > iCloud > Storage > Manage Storage.

You can also get to this menu by going to Settings > General > Storage & iCloud Usage > Manage Storage.

Here you will see what data is using your iCloud storage allowance and also what amount of MB or GB each is using.

manage storage in iCloud

Expect to see ‘backups’ of the device you are using and, perhaps, older devices as well as photos (depending on your settings) and ‘Documents & Data’, which is information that you have allowed apps to sync via iCloud – and which will mostly be unnecessary (see later)!

Pretty much at a glance you’re going to be able to see what is taking up the space and what you need to delete (or decide to keep and therefore upgrade) in order to sort out your available space within iCloud.

Delete iCloud BackUps

If you can see any backups of older devices that you no longer use (which is very common), you can simply delete these as long as they have been superseded by a later backup of your current device (which you can see in the list of backups as ‘This iPhone’ and ‘This iPad’).

If that’s the case, use the steps below for the backups of your old device. Do NOT do this for the backups that say ‘This iPhone’ / ‘This iPad’ unless you want to delete your current device backup. It’s OK to delete the current backup of your current device if you have a full backup somewhere else (i.e in iTunes on your computer) or will make a new backup as soon as you’ve cleared your iCloud storage space sufficiently.

Going through these steps turns off the iCloud Backup as well as deleting old ones, so you’ll need to remember to switch it back on again when deleting backups of a currently used device!

On an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch:

Tap Settings > iCloud.

If you’re using iOS 8 or later, tap Storage > Manage Storage.

If you’re using an earlier version of iOS, tap Storage & Backup, then tap Manage Storage.

Tap the name of your iOS device.

Tap ‘Delete Backup’. When you’re asked to confirm, choose ‘Turn Off & Delete’ to turn off Backup and remove all backups for that iOS device from iCloud. Remember, as we just said, when you delete a backup, it also turns off backup of your iOS device.

delete backups in iCloud

On a Mac:

Go to Apple menu > System Preferences, then click iCloud.

Click ‘Manage’ and select ‘Backups’.

Select one of the device backups, then click ‘Delete’. When you’re asked to confirm, choose ‘Delete’ if you want to turn off Backup and remove all backups for that device from iCloud.

On a PC:

Open iCloud for Windows.

Click ‘Storage’.

Select ‘Backup’ from the items listed.

Select one of the device backups, then click ‘Delete’. When you’re asked to confirm, choose ‘Delete’ if you want to turn off Backup and remove all backups for that device from iCloud.

We need to mention that you can backup some files from your Mac or PC with an iCloud backup from that Mac or PC. However, these are not a total backup of those machines and will only backup the files that they share or store with iCloud. If you are backing up any files from a Mac or a PC to your iCloud you’ll see these in your iCloud storage and all the tips we’re talking about for your iOS devices will more or less apply – and, usually, these will be the same synced files across all your devices.

Switch off iCloud Backup of Data you Don’t Need!

We cover what ‘backup to iCloud’ actually means in some detail in point 3 of this post.

It’s important to understand that an iCloud backup backs up data from your iOS device but does not backup music that you added to your device from anywhere other than as a purchase from the iTunes store and it does not back up non-iCloud email. Read that post for more explanation.

We absolutely recommend backing up your iOS device to iCloud as it should be set to run automatically daily (as long as your iOS device is connected to Wi-Fi, is turned on, locked, and connected to a power source).

To Back up automatically

On your iOS 9 or iOS 8 device: Go to Settings > iCloud > Backup, then turn on iCloud Backup.

On your iOS 7 device: Go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup, then turn on iCloud Backup.

You can also run an additional backup at any time by doing the following.

To Back up manually

On your iOS 9 or iOS 8 device: Go to Settings > iCloud > Backup, then tap Back Up Now.

On your iOS 7 device: Go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup, then tap Back Up Now.

Having an iCloud backup of your device (together with the data stored permanently in iCloud such as Contacts and Calendar information) is simply good practice and means that you will have most of your critical data stored in iCloud should you need it.

However, it is critical to note that you will almost certainly have some data on your device that IS NOT stored in that iCloud backup. This is likely to be all your other email accounts which are likely to be stored in their own email servers (Gmail or a ‘work’ email account’) or on your Mac or PC if using a different type of email account and address.

Also unlikely to be in your iCloud backup is all your ‘not purchased’ music and video that you have on your iPhone or iPad.

backup your iPhone to iTunes on a computer

So, it is even better practice to still backup your iPhone and iPad to your Mac or PC using iTunes on a very regular basis – this is the only way to have a complete backup of your iOS device.

If you follow that advice, your iCloud backup will be your ‘safety net’ with most of your critical data and your iTunes backup will be your complete backup.

You can, however, go still further and set iCloud to not backup data that you don’t need and that you certainly don’t need using up your free allowance.

The way I look at this, there are three levels to choosing what is backed up to iCloud.

There is the ‘top level’ in the main settings screen where you select what data is habitually stored in iCloud – the series of toggle switches.

select iCloud sync options

In Settings > iCloud toggle off (white) anything you can do without being stored in iCloud – this could be the new ‘News’ app and perhaps ‘Safari’.

Secondly, you have the option to allow apps on your device to store their accumulated data in your iCloud account.

Many apps automatically back up to iCloud after you install them.

This will usually include data from apps that you might want to keep if they are key to your use of your device, so think before toggling them off. But it may well also be data from infrequently played games or apps you barely use. For example, WhatsApp uses iCloud to store data and you might need that if you’re a heavy WhatsApp user, but if you only use it occasionally you can probably do without that stored data.

You can change which apps back up to iCloud and remove existing backups of that app’s data from your storage.

Use these steps on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch:

Tap Settings > iCloud.

If you’re using iOS 8 or later, tap Storage > Manage Storage.

If you’re using an earlier version of iOS, tap Storage & Backup > Manage Storage.

Tap the name of your iOS device.

Under ‘Backup Options’, turn off any apps that you don’t want to back up. When you’re asked to confirm, choose ‘Turn Off & Delete’ to turn off Backup for that app and remove all of its data from iCloud.

select options for iCloud backup

That covers the apps that you have allowed to back up to iCloud, but you may be left with some other ‘Documents and Data’ that you can also delete. These aren’t deleted when you do the previous step in ‘Backup Options’ as it is not the same data – in this case it’s data that iCloud is storing to sync between devices. Similarly though, you can delete a lot of this data with impunity – just be sensible in judging what you won’t need – e.g. again, you probably don’t need data for basic games and the like!

So, thirdly, in Settings > iCloud > Storage > Manage Storage look in the section headed ‘Documents & Data’ and simply delete (by clicking on the item and then clicking ‘Edit’ in the top left and then ‘Delete All’ or by swiping left) any data being synced by apps that you are sure you do not need to retain.

These three steps will free up a little iCloud storage space but do think carefully about what you’re removing.

Switch off iCloud Photo Backup

You might now have some free space in iCloud, but if not then this is the tip that counts. The one that fixes your iCloud storage and your iPhone storage problems!

Your photos and videos on your iOS device are hogging a huge amount of the memory on the device and, if you are using iCloud Photo Library, a whole bunch of your storage allowance in iCloud. Photo Stream does not use up your iCloud storage but it doesn’t back up your photos permanently either!

I’m not going to explain in depth in this post how the latest version of Apple’s photo storing system – iCloud Photo Library – works. Suffice to say that it stores the original file of every photo you store in iCloud (so without compression or resolution adjustment) and optimizes the version on your iOS device so that it uses less storage space on your iPhone or iPad.

toggle on iCloud photo library

The fact that it stores the original file in iCloud may be essential for some users – who need to know that there is always going to be a copy of the full size original photo file – and not every competing service can say the same.

However, when you use iCloud Photo Library, the ‘Camera Roll’ on your iOS device is replaced with an ‘All Photos’ album. This is now all your photos and they are all stored in iCloud and (in a reduced size) on your iPhone or iPad – but remember that the permanent home is iCloud.

So, if you delete a photo or video from ‘All Photos’ it will also be deleted from iCloud. You can, however, recover any photos deleted from iCloud within 30 days, but the issue for some is that you now have all your photos in iCloud and can’t delete them uniquely just on your devices.

The Problem with Photos on iOS Devices

So, one issue is that you now can’t delete a photo from your iPhone without deleting the ‘master copy’ in iCloud. That makes sense with the way iCloud’s primary function is to keep everything in sync, but I know that many of us (me included) like the idea of having all our photos safely stored somewhere that I can trust to keep them safe whilst deleting them on my iPhone and iPad – partly to free up space but also partly as I just don’t need to have 5 or 6 years of photos on hand at all times.

It’s like the way we used to (and I still do) have all our photos in physical albums and kept a few treasured ones near at hand.

But, the key to that thinking is knowing that if you offload (or upload!) your photos off your device, you need them to be safe and secure so that they are there when you DO need to get at them.

Luckily there are solutions…..google photos vs flickr vs photosync

And these are the three we recommend. Adding one of these to your devices will enable you to delete all your photos from iCloud and your iPad and iPhone (and Mac/PC), thereby creating space in iCloud (to get you under the 5GB limit) and on your iOS devices, BUT will also give you that safe store of all your treasured pictures.

Ultimately, in order to stay under the 5GB allowance, almost all of us will need to switch off iCloud Photo Library, but that means no backup copy of all your precious photos.

The answer is to use one of these three options to automatically copy and safely secure every photo and video on your iOS device (and Mac or PC).

Choose the one that works for you best from the selections below and once you’ve copied across all your photos you can switch off iCloud Photo Library.

Once you are all set, do that by going to:

Settings > iCloud > Photos. From there, turn off iCloud Photo Library at the top by tapping on the toggle switch to the right until it turns white.

Backup Photos to Google Photos

We love Google Photos…..

I know that this article is on a website dispensing advice for iCloud, and we love iCloud, but Google has built a great tool that will work for a huge number of people with the introduction of Google Photos.

It used to be that Google’s photo storage system was part of having a Google+ account. All your photos could be stored there – but it was clunky.

Last year Google revamped this product and made it a killer feature of having a Google account.

The basic info is that you can upload and store all your photos from anywhere (your iPhone, iPad and Mac or PC) into your Google Photos account – which, naturally, is linked to your Google account that you have if you use any of Google’s services such as Gmail.

google photos works on all devices

You can store an unlimited number of photos in ‘high quality’ – no limit whatsoever.

Google says that ‘high quality’ does compress images that are over a certain size and thereby reduces their quality. However, they claim that ‘high quality’ is perfect for any images that are taken with a camera that is less than 16 Megapixel resolution and you won’t be able to tell the difference. Such images would still look perfect printed at up to 24 inches by 16 inches. Video at anything up to 1080p will similarly not be materially reduced in quality.

Given that the latest iPhone 6S has a camera that shoots 8 MegaPixels and shoots video at 1080p, for now at least, storing all your iOS device photos and videos in Google Photos at ‘high quality’ and for free is a perfect solution – with no limits!

If, on the other hand, you have a DSLR and want to store those images you might be better choosing to upload those from your camera or computer and keeping them at ‘Original’ size. These will be stored and not compressed whatsoever. But, storing images like this does use up part of the combined free storage allowance across your whole Google account (for Gmail, Photos, Google Drive etc) of 15GB.

It is nonetheless simple to have all your iOS device photos at ‘high quality’ and any that you specifically need at ‘Original’ size in that resolution – and it’s simple to set those different upload settings across your iPhone, iPad and computer.

There’s more about the file size limits here, but very simply, all you need to know is that unless you have a high quality camera you can store all your photos and videos for free in Google Photos and you can upload them all automatically.

That’s why we love it and recommend it.

You can set this back up of your photos to work automatically from any iOS device by installing the Google Photos app but you can also upload automatically from a computer using Google Photos Backup tool. There’s more on how to set that up here. Suffice to say that it’s a very smart tool that recognises new photos on any device you choose and uploads all photos and videos to your Google Photos account.

With the iOS app, all you need to do is install, open it, login using your Google account details (you can set one up here if you don’t have one – and if you’re new to the inter connected world of Google you are in for a treat!) and set it to backup all photos and videos on your iOS device.

To do this, tap the menu icon in the top left of the screen, select ‘Settings’ and touch ‘Back up & sync’.

backup and sync in google photos app

The app may ask you to allow access to your Photos (naturally) and, if so, click ‘OK’. You should now be all set and the process of uploading your images to your Google Photos account will start automatically.

Do be aware that you should probably not allow Google Photos to use your cellular connection to do the upload – as it could use a lot of data.

In Settings, click ‘Backup & Sync’. Scroll to the bottom and ensure that under ‘When to back up’ both ‘mobile data’ or cellular data’ options are turned off.

cellular uploads off in google photos app

All changes to photos in your account will sync to any device that is connected to your Google Photos account through the app or in your online account.

There’s one more function in the app that you’ll notice. In Settings, there’s a button for ‘Free Up Space’. Clicking this will ask you if you want to delete all photos and videos from your device that have been backed up to your Google Photos account.

free up space in google photos app

This is a cool one touch way to be able to clear out your Camera Roll or All Photos album on your iOS device. Although I’ve never heard of anyone messing up when they do this you might want to have a quick check in the online Google Photos account to make sure everything is there before you hit that button (although you do get asked a second time if you wish to confirm the deletion!).

Alternatively, as we said above (and you’ll need to do this to stop future photos going to iCloud Photo Library as well as to Google Photos), when you are satisfied that you have backed up all your photos and videos to Google Photos you need to switch off iCloud Photo Library:

Settings > iCloud > Photos. From there, turn off iCloud Photo Library at the top by tapping on the toggle switch to the right until it turns white.

On top of the automated backup and sync, there are some amazing things that Google Photos does that iCloud Photo Library doesn’t yet offer. Since it’s a Google product it does amazing content recognition (for example it can usually tell if there is a cat in a photo) and allows you to search your entire photo collection using content words or location and date information.

Then there are amazing edit options and the ability of the system to intelligently and automatically fix panoramic photos, make collage and animated videos and lots more.

Like I say – it’s amazing – have a look at some of its tricks on this page – and watch this video:

Back up iPhone Photos to Flickr (and your iPad, Mac and PC)

Another awesome option for all your photos is to back them up to Flickr.

flickr on iOS

Flickr started out as an online photo sharing website but you can now use it to store all your photos securely and privately.

Flickr gives all users 1000GB of free storage for their photos – which is, quite frankly, pretty amazing!

All your photos are stored at their original resolution so you have a permanent copy of your photo no matter what. There are also other compressed versions created by Flickr for viewing on the web and on devices. There are some limitations on photo and video file size – the most important being that videos must not be longer than 3 minutes. See here for all the details.

In order to use Flickr you need to have a Yahoo ID before you can open a Flickr account – so that might meant setting up a new account and remembering another password (but, hey, that’s what spreadsheets are for right?!) but this is something that Flickr requires.

You can go to the Flickr homepage to get started, or you can go direct to the Yahoo SignUp to get a Yahoo ID.

Once you have that you can login to Flickr on their website, but, more importantly you can start taking advantage of that enormous 1000GB of free storage immediately by installing the Flickr app on all your iOS devices. There’s some useful additional information about the app here.

flickr app auto uploadr

Once the app is installed on your iPhone and/or iPad open it, and sign in with your Yahoo ID. Then simply click on the settings icon (the gear in the top right corner) and click ‘Auto-Uploadr’. This will start the process of uploading all of the photos on your device on either your Camera Roll or All Photos (if you have iCloud Photo Library switched on when you begin this process – you can disable it when it’s uploaded all your photos!).

We’d suggest NOT toggling on the  option to allow the upload to be done over your cellular connection. If you leave this off Flickr will only upload over Wi-FI, thereby avoiding a possible costly data bill.

That’s all there is to it – it’s that simple.

When all your photos and videos are uploaded you can then disable iCloud Photo Library and retrieve all that iCloud storage space.

If you have photos on a PC or Mac, you can also upload those automatically as well to the same account using their tools.

With the combination of the Auto-Uploadr on your iPad and iPhone and the Uploadr on your PC or Mac you can quickly and safely store very image you’ve ever taken in your free 1TB of storage, making it your permanent backup. And it’s free, private and secure.

Backup Photos to PhotoSync

back up photos using photosync

Our third recommended method is to use the Photosync app. This doesn’t give you a free cloud storage space for your photos, but instead allows you to have the peace of mind that you always have safe copies of all your pictures, by making an external physical backup of all your photos.

PhotoSync is a great app which lets you transfer your photos wirelessly from and to your Mac, PC, iOS device (or iCloud but that would defeat the object!).

The thing that makes this app a great fail-safe backup tool is that it is just so flexible. You can drag and drop photos using the free software that you can download from their site, and you can easily transfer between iOS devices or to a laptop or desktop over Wi-Fi – and it’s very easy to do.

But, the killer feature is that you can set the app to automatically transfer and/or back-up new photos when you are at a certain location – automatically and in the background. So, it is simple to set the app to backup all your new photos to a computer at home whenever you return – and it’s a one-time set up – and then you can forget about it.

Get Photosync here.

Other Photo backup options

As well as these three options you can look into Amazon which offers free unlimited photo upload and storage for all Amazon Prime users (as part of Amazon Cloud Drive).
dropbox vs microsoft one drive vs amazon cloud drive

For me the downside with Amazon is that if I cancel Prime I’ll need to start paying (currently $12 per year) to keep my photos in their cloud storage or I’ll have to move the photo library.

It’s also less intuitive than the other options we’ve looked at. It does though have an app that, as with the others we’ve looked at, will automatically upload new photos to your Prime account.

Lastly, Microsoft One Drive and Dropbox also deserve a mention as they offer some of the same functionality, although, in our book they aren’t as sophisticated or as easy to use as our preferred solutions.

Change your Mail to save iCloud Space

We wouldn’t be covering the issue of liberating space in your iCloud storage if we didn’t cover two final steps that you can take.

If you find that iCloud based Mail is taking up a lot of your iCloud storage space, will you consider switching to a different email service?

Depending on which you choose (using your ISP provider, a web service such as Gmail or buying your own domain and email hosting) you will still be able to use the Mail app on your iOS devices, but the mail will be stored somewhere other than in your iCloud storage.

If you’ve decided to rely more on Google by trusting your photos to Google Photos then it might make sense to move your email to Google’s brilliant email service – Gmail. This will run happily in the iOS Mail app or you can move away from that completely and use the excellent Gmail iOS app.

gmail ios app for iphone

I will again reiterate how brilliant interconnectivity across devices is with iCloud – and Mail is a superb part of that – but you can make something just as well synced and with all the same features using a different email provider and Gmail is probably the simplest of all.

Avoid iCloud Drive

Finally, the changes to iCloud Drive with iOS9 mean that you can now use it to store any files you want rather than just those from Mac/iOS iWork programs and app data.

As that is the case you may have found yourself saving folders and files of any type to your iCloud Drive in recent times. These can obviously quickly eat into the available iCloud storage space.

If you’ve embraced this new file store, check what you have saved there by opening the iCloud Drive app on your iOS device, which is a native part of iOS9. Simply open the app and you’ll see what files you have saved to iCloud Drive.

You can also access these from your Mac or PC by using Finder and File Explorer respectively. You can also login to iCloud to access iCloud Drive files.

iCloud Drive on iOS and Mac

In iCloud Drive you can select and delete any files.

If you feel that the content of iCloud Drive is using up too much iCloud storage space, the natural replacement is Dropbox.

Dropbox is a simple to use online cloud store that you can set up to share files and folders across devices. I’m not going to say more than that as it’s very easy to set up and use. You get 2GB of free storage and up to 16GB free from various referral programs. It is unquestionably one of the leading sites for storing and sharing documents so makes a great alternative to iCloud Drive.

There is also an option to auto upload your photos from Dropbox but we think it makes more sense to use one of the dedicated photo services that we’ve discussed.

What Do We Recommend as the Best iCloud Storage Plan?

Here’s a great video from c|net that covers some of what we’ve covered in this article on how to free up space in iCloud. Do note that it was made when Google offered photo backup through Google+ – i.e. before the Google Photos app and storage that is now available and that we recommend.

On balance, we think iCloud is awesome because of the full cross-device sharing and functionality.

If you’re largely storing personal files and are fully immersed in Apple – i.e. you have an iPhone, an iPad and a Mac and you use iCloud as your main or only email account – you would be well advised to consider adding sufficient paid monthly iCloud storage to cover all your needs.

The one caveat we’d have would be what you do with your photos, since they can take up so much drive space and since you probably should consider a secondary secure backup or store. Plus, as we’ve covered, there are lots of great alternatives now available.

Unless you really want to use iCloud Photo Library you can get safe, secure and private backups of all your photos and videos from third party companies – for free!

If you’re a Google account user (for Gmail or Calendars for example) then it makes sense to use Google Photos instead.

But Flickr, or even running PhotoSync or another cloud drive such as Microsoft One Drive or Amazon, is equally worth consideration.

For us both Google Photos and Flickr make the process so easy with their dedicated apps and Backup & Sync / Auto Uploadr that those should be your two to choose between.

And iCloud Drive makes sense for those in the Apple world but if you don’t use that much (and many don’t as it only became a true file store with the advent of iOS9) then Dropbox is a great place to keep all your other shared documents and files.

So, let iCloud share as much as you can within your free limit.

Upgrade if you need to keep more than 5GB inside the Apple eco-system.

But, if you don’t, go with Google Photos or Flickr for your photo storage and backup and Dropbox for your files.

Although that means 2 (or even 3) more apps and accounts to keep track of they are all very simple to run through apps on your iOS devices and very, very easy to set up.

January 28, 2016
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