Apple gives iCloud users 5 GB of iCloud storage space.  At first, 5 GB does not seem like a lot of storage space, however it is. For a majority of users it is plenty. For others, it isn’t. This storage space is for backups, documents and data, and email only if you are using a @mac.com, @me.com, or @icloud.com address…

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To look at your iCloud settings to see what you are syncing and backing up, on your iOS device, open up settings, then tap on iCloud. In terms of storage space, if you have Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, Safari, Notes, Passbook (on iPhone) and Photo Stream turned on, these items do not take up any of the 5 GB of storage space. It is a good idea to have these on, as it allows the content to be synced to another iOS device, icloud.com, a Mac or a PC.  It is also a good idea to turn these on, because what if you don’t have an iCloud backup or an iTunes backup of your iOS device and something bad happens to your device? Backing up and syncing your Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, Safari, Notes, and Passbook is free. Photo Stream is a different ball game.

Photo Stream doesn’t take up part of the iCloud storage space, but you are NOT able to access it on icloud.com. Photo Stream pushes any new pictures you take or import to your other devices for a total of thirty days.  Photo Stream stores your last thousand pictures, in which you can then save them permanently to your other device.

Now let’s discuss how to check and see your iCloud storage. Tap on Storage & Backup.

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On this screen, you will see your Total Storage and how much storage is available. I have used 3.7 GB. Down at the bottom it will ask you if you want to back up to iCloud. I highly recommend doing that, because for the most part it is very hassle free. he iCloud backup will:

Automatically back up your camera roll, accounts, documents and setting when this iPod Touch [iOS device] is plugged in, locked, and connected to Wi-Fi.

If you scroll all the way down towards the bottom it will show you when the device was last backed up to iCloud.

To determine the size of the backup files press the manage storage button.

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If you have multiple iOS devices backing up on iCloud, it will list all of them.  I have “THREE” devices backing up to iCloud.  It will also show you how much space Documents & Data are taking up.  If you are using Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, by tapping on each one, it will show you the size and break down for you how big each file is, and gives you access to delete the file.

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Also down at the bottom, if you are using a @mac.com, @me.com, or @icloud.com email address it will show you how much space your Mail takes.

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Note my mail is on the bigger side of 1.6 GB. This makes sense. I have and been using my account for ten years, have five hundred emails in my inbox, have never deleted my sent email for the past five years, and still have my original welcome to .Mac emails. For a majority of users, their mail size is typically a handful of MB.

If you click on one of the devices that is not the one you are currently using, all you will see is when the Latest Backup occurred, the Backup Size, and will have the option to delete the backup.

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If you tap on the device you are actually using, you will see when the Latest Backup occurred, the Backup size, will have the option to delete the backup but now you also have backup options.

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Here it shows you what on your device is backing up and how big the file is for that app. For the majority of the apps they are rather small. A couple of MB or KB. You can leave everything on. They are so small and insignificant (in terms of storage, maybe not data) that by turning each one off in the hopes of saving room in your iCloud is a waste of time.  What is going to eat up the majority of the room is the Camera Roll.  The Camera Roll is the place on your device where the pictures are being saved after you take them. If that number is close to 5 GB, you will have to make room so that way iCloud can back up your device. Backing up your photos through iCloud is a good idea and it works great, but it isn’t as ideal as one would like it to be. You cannot see the backup file itself. You cannot go into the backup file and just take the pictures out.

However, there are other options for backing up the photos that you take:

1.  In iCloud, if you have the switch turned on for backing up the Camera Roll, it is going to back up EVERYTHING in your camera roll, the photos you backed up to your computer or Dropbox and your new pictures.  iCloud doesn’t know which pictures are saved elsewhere or not.  iCloud is just going to back up all of the pictures in your Camera Roll.  If you then want to continue to use iCloud to back up your device, you would have to delete the photos out of your camera roll.  Then you should be able to do a backup.  If not, delete the ENTIRE backup that contained the huge camera roll, and then redo a backup with nothing in your camera roll.

2.  You can always turn the switch off for backing up the Camera Roll in iCloud, and then you will be able to back up the rest of the files and data on your iOS device.

3.  Use Dropbox to back up your pictures on your iOS device. Next week’s article will be about how to set up and use Dropbox.

4.  Do not use iCloud.  Back up your device the old fashion way.  Plug it into your computer through iTunes. Press the Backup button.

5.  Purchase more iCloud storage space.  To do that you would press on the Change Storage Plan.

The iCloud packages are a yearly subscription.  iCloud will charge the credit card you have on file associated with your Apple ID, or an iTunes gift card you have on file associated with your Apple ID.

My recommendations would be to do scenario 3 and scenario 5, as they are probably the easiest and most worry free.

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11 Responses to “How-to: Manage your iCloud account’s storage space”

  1. While you make some great points, this article does not address what to do for heavy users, who have bought all the iCloud space Apple offers, uses the full capacity available for a given iOS device (57.3GB – iPhone 5), and has completely run out of space. I was forced to stop backing up my iPad about a year and a half ago when my first iPhone 4S (64GB) had reached capacity. The bulk of my storage has become photos(used to be split between my music until I decided streaming it would save space) but there are not any free or cheap alternatives that allow for photos to be synced to another cloud based service without paying $10-20/mo just for additional cloud storage. At that price, I’d rather go through the hassle of manually offloading my photos to an external hard drive every month. Any cheaper or less complicated suggestions?


    • compton333 says:

      I apologise in advance if I come off as a bit of a novice however would be greatful for any advice or help with this matter.
      I don’t currently use my pc to back up photos only iCloud with my free 5GB, the main reason for my use of iCloud is to back up contacts and photos and my understanding of icloud (please tell me if wrong) is i can perform a back up storing all photos on iCloud allowing me to delete the dublicates on my phone and in my albums giving me space to carry on taking photos where I find myself getting stuck is some photos have not automatically synced with iCloud due to lack of space required to continue backing up it seems I have 2.2 Gb available and require 2.8 to back up. what is the best action to take without loosing photos to increase to 2.8 and alow me to back up and delete further dublicates or clearing out my albums completely on phone storage.


  2. macsoto says:

    “At first, 5 GB does not seem like a lot of storage space, however it is. For a majority of users it is plenty.”

    Really? This is the worst argument I’ve seen in favor of the 5gb. The fact that you had to write a guide on how to maximize the amount of storage space, does in itself contradict your premise.

    I am not arguing that Apple should give more space for free. All I’m saying is that due to iCloud’s intended functionality of and its integration with Apple devices, any user needs more than 5gb – paid or free. An average user should not have to worry about the amount of storage in their account and have to link multiple services in order to suffice their needs.


  3. Bear Kyako says:

    “At first, 5 GB does not seem like a lot of storage space, however it is.”

    It’s obviously not a lot of storage space if your final recommendations are buying more space or using an alternate service.


  4. I own 4 iOS devices and have the on one apple ID account. So rather than reward a repeat and loyal customer Apple screws me by giving me 5GB for ALL the devices. Now if I chose to use each device on a separate Apple ID account then they would give me 20GB (5GB x 4) how does this make sense? I am getting tired of Apples attitude toward its customers. I for one REFUSE to pay a penny more for additional storage and as f today can no longer use iCloud to back up all 4 of my devices.


  5. I know this article is mostly geared towards iOS users, but there is a bit of misleading info regarding Photo Stream (a part that pertains to Photo Stream on computers). In the article, it’s stated
    “Photo Stream pushes any new pictures you take or import to your other devices for a total of thirty days. Photo Stream stores your last thousand pictures, in which you can then save them permanently to your other device.”

    The first part is accurate, photos are in Photo Stream for 30 days to download to other devices; however, there isn’t truly a 1,000 photo limit – it’s just an iOS device can only remember 1,000 Photo Stream photos. If you take 2000 photos in 30 days, and buy a new Mac, Photo Stream will import all 2000 photos. An iOS device will remember the last 1000 photos that it saw in Photo Stream, but there may be more than 1000 there, if they were taken within 30 days. An iOS device will also show up to 1,000 photos even if those photos were taken months ago, as it has a memory of what has come through Photo Stream.

    Photo Stream will allow 1,000 photos to be imported in 1 hour — 10,000 photos to be uploaded in 1 day — and 25,000 to be uploaded in 1 month. So you may have up to 25,000 photos in Photo Stream, but only see the the last 1,000 on an iOS device.

    Get a new iOS device – Photo Stream will show up to 1,000 images taken over last 30 days. Get a new Mac and iPhoto will import up to 25,000 images taken over the last 30 days.

    Trust me, I tested this by importing nearly 5,000 numbered images over a week, and then setting up a new Mac the following week. All images from last 30 days, did come over on my Mac, but was only able to see the last 1,000 on my iOS devices.


    • This is hands down the most helpful Photo Stream commentary. So thank you for that —

      I consider myself tech-savvy but have found it an excruciating exercise to confirm that my purchase of the 100GB iCloud storage plan was doing what I intended it to do — i.e., back up ALL my photos. I understand that only the most recent 1,000 will be visible to iOS devices, but am I right to assume that all of my photos from my Camera Roll, which are set to automatically import to my Photo Stream, will all be available to download locally to a PC, etc., at some point in time, provided I don’t exceed my 100GB limit?

      Basically, I just want to make sure that every photo I take is backed up and available for viewing at a later point in time. I have been operating under that assumption, clearing my Camera Roll when I need to free up space, but wasn’t quite clear as to how to VIEW all of the thousands of photos I’m assuming are stored [somewhere] … help! :)


  6. James Whitin says:

    Any idea how to manage the backup(s) of MAIL? My MAIL storage says 7.6 GB. I use 4 e-mail accts, one of which is .me the other three are aol. How can I manage these? I believe that the aol are backed up independently by aol.


  7. Tina Sagers says:

    Since you have 3 devices, as I do (iPhone, iPad, iMac), do you gave to have camera roll turned on for both mobile devices? or since iCloud pushes your photos to each device, it only needs to be turned on on one device. This is where I get confused. Is it redundant to have back up turned on both devices for camera roll, Pages, Numbers, etc…?


  8. Is there a way to get photographs or app data to save directly from icloud onto a pc computer?


  9. spgsamuel says:

    your never going to be able to back up all your media to a cloud and if you ever rely on just that backup your a total moron. thats what external hard drives are for. i think thats the general philosophy behind the storage, no you are not going to be able to upload all your entire porn theres no point and you should stop trying that includes your photos and your films. theres no point in large cloud storage unless you haven’t left home and can’t afford a desktop pc or laptop with huge hd then maybe i can see the point but these items arn’t really aimed at that scope of the market.