iCloud Storage Full? Never Pay For iCloud Backup Again.

iCloud Storage is one of the most misused and misunderstood features of the iPhone. I love Apple products, but there’s no other way to put this: In most cases, buying iCloud Storage is unnecessary and you should never pay for it. In 99% of cases, you don’t have to pay any extra money to fully back up your iPhone and iPad. I’ll explain the real reason why your iCloud Storage is full, why your iPhone hasn’t backed up to iCloud for weeks, and how to fix iCloud Backup for good.

Most people don’t believe it’s possible, but let me be clear: After you read this article, you’ll understand how to back up your iPhone, iPad, and photos to iCloud without paying for iCloud Storage.

If you’ve seen messages like “This iPhone hasn’t been backed up in weeks”, “iPhone cannot be backed up because there is not enough iCloud storage available”, or “Not Enough Storage”, don’t worry. They’ll be gone by the time you finish reading this article.

I originally wrote this post after a lot of people asked for help with iCloud after they read my viral post about iPhone battery life. Over the 18 months since I published it, Apple has renamed and relocated every feature I discussed in that article, so I’m rewriting it from the ground up.

iCloud Storage and iCloud Drive and iCloud Backup and iCloud Photo Library, Oh My! (Yes, it’s one too many)

There’s no understanding the solution to this problem without understanding the players in the game, so we need to start there. If you’re confused, you’re right where you’re supposed to be. Let’s take them one by one:

iCloud Storage

iCloud Storage is the total amount of storage space available on iCloud. It’s what you pay for. Everybody gets 5GB (gigabytes) for free. You can upgrade your storage to 50GB, 200GB, or 1TB (1 terabyte is 1000 gigabytes), and the monthly fees aren’t too bad – but it’s not necessary. We’re solving a problem now that will become more and more expensive with time.

Once your iCloud Storage is full, your iPhone will stop backing up to iCloud until you purchase additional storage space or free up storage space in iCloud.

iCloud Backup

iCloud Backup is a feature on iPhones, iPads and iPods that backs up your entire device to iCloud, just in case something unfortunate happens. You should definitely use iCloud backup. Whether it’s a toilet phone or you leave it on the roof of your car, iPhones live dangerous lives and you should always have a backup.

iCloud Backups count against your available iCloud Storage. (You’ll see why I’m saying this in a minute.)

iCloud Drive

iCloud Drive is a newer feature that allows apps on Macs, iPhones, and iPads to synchronize files using iCloud. It’s like Dropbox or Google Drive, but it’s more integrated into Apple software because Apple made it. iCloud Drive shares files like documents and user preferences that aren’t that big to begin with, so in most cases it doesn’t have much of an effect on your total iCloud Storage.

Files in iCloud Drive count against your available iCloud Storage.

iCloud Photo Library

iCloud Photo Library uploads and stores all of your photos and videos in iCloud so you can access them from all your devices. There are some important differences between iCloud Photo Library and iCloud backup that you should understand before we move on.

All your devices can access and view individual photos that are stored in iCloud Photo Library. iCloud Backup is different: You can’t see individual files or photos in your iCloud Backup, even if photos are part of the backup. iCloud Backups are one big file that restores your entire iPhone – there’s no way to access individual files.

If you’re using iCloud Photo Library and iCloud Backup, you could be paying to back up the same photos twice: Once in your iCloud Photo Library, once in your iCloud Backup.

Photos and videos in iCloud Photo Library count against your available iCloud Storage.

My Photo Stream (Yes, we’re adding another one)

My Photo Stream uploads all your new photos and sends them to all your devices. Sounds kind of like iCloud Photo Library, right? But there’s a little difference:

Photos in My Photo Stream do not count against your available iCloud Storage.

You’re on your way to the solution, but it’s important to understand the key differences between iCloud Photo Library and My Photo Stream before you dive into the actual fix. I’ll explain why your iCloud Storage is always full on the next page.

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About Author

I'm a former Apple employee and the founder of Payette Forward, and I'm here to help you with your iPhone.

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John imherenothere
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Perrrrrfect, thanks for all the info. Saved a lot of battery power 🙂 And the iCloud info was priceless, massive thanks.

John 🙂

Jonathan Guevarra Robles
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Jonathan Guevarra Robles

what if i forgot my iphone pass key?

CJ
Guest
CJ

I followed your steps and it still wont let me turn off camera roll. it keeps saying “Backups for photo library cannot be turned off at this time.”

David Payette
Guest

Hey CJ, I apologize for the confusion on that point. This article is due for a complete rewrite and although the concepts are still totally valid, Apple has moved or renamed a lot of the features I discuss in the last year. You’re absolutely in the right place: Settings -> iCloud -> Storage -> Manage Storage -> (This iPhone) and turn off Photo Library. The error message you’re seeing is a quirk with iCloud. Apple’s support documentation is wholly unhelpful and suggests waiting a few minutes and trying again. While that’s a good idea, I’d suggest powering off your iPhone,… Read more »

CJ
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CJ

thx David, I powered down my Iphone and tried to disable camera rool again. but got the same message. i will try back a again in a few mins

David Payette
Guest

Cool. If that doesn’t work, try signing out of iCloud and back in again. If you haven’t updated to iOS 9 yet, try that too.

Ashleigh Allan
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Ashleigh Allan

I don’t see a “Storage & Backup” option under iCloud. Could it have changed with the iOS 8.2 update?

Brittany Kayla
Guest
Brittany Kayla

What if your phone has enough storage but still tells you it cannot be backed up and does not give you a reason why?

Laurie Furner Evans
Guest
Laurie Furner Evans

I am having the same issue – I have checked everything and the only phone that it will ring “for” is my home phone, if I am sitting next to the home phone when I dial my cell.

A10TOES .
Guest
A10TOES .

Is there anyway to delete the data which shows which apps have crashed? Looks like thats just taking up space.

A10TOES .
Guest
A10TOES .

thank you for giving some grt tips on saving battery power, I am not smart enough to do this without help LOL I want to ask I looked in applications for iphoto on my macbook pro and can’t find the app, perhaps I accidently deleted it. Where can I download iphoto again? Thanks!!

Lisa Young-Knight
Guest

Thank you so much for the info. As it turned out I had two old phones I don’t even have anymore listed in my iCloud back up. Deleting those took care of my problem as far as I can tell. I will continue to review your article to make sure I always have plenty of storage. Thanks again. Lisa

babeyfong
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babeyfong

I found this post very helpful when it came to my iPhone, and it’s backing up as I’m typing, but my iPad still says iCloud is almost full and won’t let me back it up. I’ve gone through all the steps, so I’m not sure what I did wrong. I turned camera roll off and the only other ones I left on are calendar, reminders and notes. It’s telling me that the next back up size is 570 MB but I only have 464 MB available.

Hoping you can help me out!

Thanks

nikileia212
Guest
nikileia212

Hi David, I’ve been having some issues with my iphone, and when I took it in to the genius bar, they told me I have a very high number of apps “crashing,” and that I need to abandon my iCloud backup and start fresh to alleviate this issue. This means, as I understand it, losing all of the information I have saved to the cloud, including text history and photos. Are there any tips you’d recommend to save my data? I’ve been avoiding having it fixed because I hate the idea of losing everything. Saving a few key text histories… Read more »

Shari Kaufman
Guest

When making space to enable a backup with ICloud what do you do about Mail? Should it be set to backup or not?

Dawn Rietdijk
Guest

Hi David! Thank you for helping my iPhone battery last longer, and now I hope to back it up again too! I’ve followed your directions and my phone and macbook both agree I have 3.8 out of 5GB available, yet my phone is still saying not enough iCloud storage available. Any hints for me? Thank you very much.

ohlobster
Guest
ohlobster

My iphone doesn’t seem to have photostream to choose. What should I do? I’ve turned off camera roll to icloud backup. I also can’t find icloud on my mac even though I just did an update.

ohlobster
Guest
ohlobster

I actually found photostream, but still no icloud on my mac. I went to the link you shared, but with no results.

Why Does My iPhone Get Hot? My Battery Drains Too! Here's The Fix. » Payette Forward
Guest

[…] If you’ve done all the steps above and your iPhone still gets hot, it’s time to hit the problem with the big hammer. You’ve got a deeper software problem that needs to be eradicated. We’re going to backup your iPhone to iCloud, restore your phone using iTunes, and restore using your iCloud backup. You could also use iTunes to backup and restore your phone, but I’ve seen better results “in the field” using iCloud. Apple’s support article shows how to set up and restore from an iCloud backup in 3 steps. If you (like so many others) have run… Read more »

This iPhone / iPad Hasn't Been Backed Up In Wee...
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[…] From a former Apple employee: Learn why your iPhone, iPad, or iPod hasn't been backed up to iCloud in weeks, and exactly how to fix it.  […]

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