How to Save Space on Your iPhone Without Deleting Stuff

Advertising Disclosure: When you buy something by clicking links on our site, we may earn a small commission, but it never affects the products or services we recommend.

Businesswoman looking at iPhone while working at her desk in an office
Stock 4you /

The experience of your phone gradually getting slower and slower is one of life’s modern annoyances.

One of the causes is a lack of storage space on your device. Eventually, you can’t download new apps and music or save new photos. Imagine living in a house packed tight like a storage unit, where you have to crawl over the couch and then squeeze under a table to get to the kitchen — that’s sort of what’s happening.

The fastest solutions are to buy a phone with more storage or to delete a bunch of stuff, but those may not be practical or desirable. Fortunately, you have other options.

Following are ways to free up space on your iPhone without permanently deleting things you want to keep.

How to check your storage level and limits

Bearded man with iPhone and coffee
Halfpoint /

A helpful starting point is to assess what space you have used and for what. Here’s how to check your storage usage:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap iPhone Storage.

Your device may need a few minutes to calculate category sizes, but you should pretty quickly get an overall number of GB used and available. It will be represented in a format like “250 GB of 256 GB Used.”

Eventually, you’ll also see a color-coded bar chart showing what percentage of your storage is being used by photos, apps and messages. That gives you an idea of where to focus your efforts first.

Optimize your photo storage

Couple taking a selfie
Syda Productions /

For many people, photos will take up the bulk of available phone space. Moving some of your photo archives into the cloud is a quick way to address the existing problem, and changing certain settings can make your usage more efficient going forward.

You can use iCloud to back up your photos, and you may already be doing so without realizing it. Learn how to set up iCloud Photos or adjust your settings on Apple’s website. If you’re not using iCloud, you’re missing out on a lot of storage space — you get 5 GB for free and can pay to upgrade to as much as 2 TB. Once photos are in iCloud, they will be easily accessible and you can remove them from your phone’s storage space.

If you’re already using and maxing out your iCloud, you can transfer photos directly from your phone to a computer using iTunes and a USB cable. You can also move things off iCloud to your computer.

To slow future storage issues, you can enable a setting to optimize storage:

  1. Go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud.
  2. Tap Photos.
  3. Choose Optimize iPhone Storage.

This will instruct your phone to send full-size photos to iCloud, but automatically — as needed — identify the photos you look at least often and shrink them, saving space. You’ll still be able to view them on your phone, and you can get the full-size version back from iCloud later.

Offload apps you don’t need right now

iPhone in hand
franz12 /

If your storage breakdown graph from earlier shows you use a lot of space on apps, you can put away the ones you aren’t using to free up space. This is called “offloading.” Here’s how you do it:

  1. Go to Settings > General > iPhone Storage.
  2. Scroll down and you’ll see a list of your apps, sorted by size and with a note about when you last used them.
  3. Tap the largest app you haven’t used in a while. You’ll enter a page with more details and some options.
  4. Select the option to offload the app.
  5. Repeat this process for as many apps as you want.

Your settings and content will be saved, but the app won’t be available until you download it again. But make sure you choose to offload, not delete. If you delete, you’ll lose related settings and content.

Follow Apple’s recommendations

Happy senior looking at his phone
fizkes /

Depending on the ways you use your phone, it may have some other ideas for freeing up space. To see them, go back to the iPhone Storage section in settings.

Directly beneath the graph showing your storage usage and above the list of apps we previously discussed, you may see a section called Recommendations. If there are more than a couple, there may also be a button to “Show All.” Tap that button if it’s there, and then tap Enable on the recommendations that sound appealing.

If you’ve followed the other steps we’ve discussed, it may not have many more recommendations that can save space without deleting things. But it will at least offer up some of the most efficient things to delete, which you may not have thought of — that way you can keep what matters most.

Get smarter with your money!

Want the best money-news and tips to help you make more and spend less? Then sign up for the free Money Talks Newsletter to receive daily updates of personal finance news and advice, delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our free newsletter today.