iCloud Storage Full? Never Pay For iCloud Backup Again.

The Difference Between iCloud Photo Library and My Photo Stream

iCloud Photo Library permanently uploads and stores your photos and videos in iCloud. My Photo Stream uploads your photos to iCloud so they’re automatically downloaded on devices with My Photo Stream turned on. It only works over Wi-Fi and doesn’t fill up your iCloud Storage space.

This is really important: The only thing that’s eating up all your iCloud Storage and preventing your iPhone from backing up to iCloud is your Photo Library. 

Photos are big files and a few hundred photos can eat through your 5GB of free iCloud Storage fast. Videos are huge files and you don’t stand a chance with 5GB of iCloud Storage if you’ve got more than a video or two.

If we turn off Photo Library in iCloud Backup and use My Photo Stream to back them up instead, boom! iCloud problems solved forever. Most people don’t realize that you can choose what backs up to iCloud.

But I Don’t Want To Lose My Photos!

You won’t. If you turn on My Photo Stream on your Mac or PC (yes, Apple makes My Photo Stream for PC too), your pictures will automatically download to your computer when your iPhone and iPad are connected to Wi-Fi.

The limitation of My Photo Stream is that photos only stay up there for 30 days, but if your iPhone is on any Wi-Fi network, home or abroad, your computer will automatically download all your photos as long as it’s connected to Wi-Fi too.

The other limitation of My Photo Stream is this: It doesn’t synchronize your videos. You’ll never have to pay for iCloud Storage again, but you will have to plug your iPhone into your computer every once in a while to back up your videos.

Here’s why this usually isn’t a big deal: Videos are huge and you’re probably doing this anyway. Even the largest iPhone will run out of space after recording a few hours of video. You could spend a zillion years uploading all those videos to iCloud Drive over Wi-Fi (upload speeds are typically much slower than download speeds), or you can quickly transfer them to your computer with your USB cable and be done with it.

In my opinion, your photos and videos are safer stored on your own computer (using My Photo Stream) than on iCloud Drive, as long as your computer is backed up too. (That’s really important.) iCloud Storage is extremely secure and I’m not saying it’s going to get wiped out, but issues with passwords and user accounts can make it difficult to access your own photos if they’re not stored on your computer.

Let’s recap before we move onto the fix: Your Photo Library is consuming all your available iCloud Storage. You can stop your Photo Library from backing up as part of your iCloud Backup (counts against iCloud Storage) and use My Photo Stream (doesn’t count against iCloud Storage) to back up your photos instead. On the next page, I’ll show you exactly how to fix iCloud if your storage is full so you never have to pay for iCloud again.

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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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1 month ago

Is this info still accurate in 2020?


3 days ago
Reply to  Alan

did you hear back?

Helen McMahan
4 months ago

I have an 11 iPhone only because it was free when we moved and changed to bundle at and t. I only have an iPad, how do I download my photos to iCloud photo stream?

4 months ago

Thank you so much for the great article! I’ve been so frustrated with my iCloud storage being full from a previous phone & not knowing how to dump the storage & start fresh.

5 months ago

I can’t find any place where it is labeled photo stream

Denise Sawatzky
1 year ago

Did you find the answer to this question, Im afraid to lose the pictures already in icloud.

Marianna Virides
1 year ago

I cant get second page of yr post….the best bit!!!?

Dana Mc Daniel Clemeaux
1 year ago

I also found I didn’t have all the options you mentioned in the step by step directions in your article. I had to Google some stuff to figure out how to do the steps you recommended. In the end, my iCloud storage did not shrink. My phone is an iPhone 6S . Thank you in advance.

Dana Mc Daniel Clemeaux
1 year ago

I did not have the option to put a check mark to delete photos off my phone after backing them up to my Mac. How can I now delete the photos off my phone?

Muhammad Shafeeq Tahir
1 year ago

Excellent article. Thanks for the help.

May Thomas
1 year ago

This was helpful,I remove Facebook because that was eating up my space but it he beat goes on I am still running out of space.Evin after I add some more. I will follow yr direction and try to free up some space.

David Jay
1 year ago

5 October 2018 – Thanks, but this no longer works, or not for iPhone SE: I backed up my iPhone SE and also transferred all the photos to my PC, but it’s no longer possible to turn off Photo Library as part of iCloud Backup, and PhotoStream has been replaced by the All Photos album. Infuriating! I should be most grateful if you would post an updated version of ‘Never Pay for iCloud Backup Again’ – many thanks in advance – Don

Uyen Pham
1 year ago

do you need to pay for iCloud storage if you’re upgrading your phone to hight GB phone? for 64gb to 256gb. thank you.

Bridget Backus McBride
1 year ago

Any chance you could update these directions for iOS 12? I successfully used this article for my previous iPhone 4S and am in dire need of help again. I hate that Apple changes everything around even though it essentially does the same thing.

Michael G.
1 year ago

Thanks for this write up. Now that Messages are in iCloud, is it possible to update this to include detailed info on managing Messages in iCloud? I’ve never had an issue with my iCloud storage getting full, because I always disable photo library, but now it’s saying Messages is using 3 GB.. I’m sure it’s pics and videos but how can i easily free to this space (without having to use iCleaner) thanks!!

Autumn Morse
2 years ago

If I turn off Photo Library backups for iCloud will it delete the photos already backed up on my iCloud?

Alex Linnae
2 years ago

Wheres the next page? Ill explain why your iCloud storage is always full on the next page.

Elaine Scheer
2 years ago

Thank-you so much! I’ve been trying to figure out why I couldn’t back up my new iphone 8 & it’s because I had to delete the back-up of an old phone that was taking up space!

Toan Tianh
2 years ago

awesome articles, thank you so much!

Leah Harper
2 years ago

Thanks for this article!

I have 0 photos on my phone now but still cannot complete a phone back up. It says I don’t have enough storage for a back up, but have over 2GB of space!
I deleted a past back up to free space so it says I have never backed my phone up, but I also see a back up listed for 2GB, and when I click on it it says 0 bites. So confused!

Tim Hirt
2 years ago

My wife and I both went to settings on our iPhones and neither us can find a tab for icloud. We went user General and found iPhone store where is iCloud?

Theresa Wolmart
2 years ago

i don’t have icloud storage. but my phone is telling me i do. i am confused. i can’t find the manage storage place. i have a 6

William Orr
2 years ago

There is only one word to express my feelings of your posting…..THANK YOU

Peter Baker
2 years ago

Man, THANKS for this article. It’s really helpful.

Suzanne Jansen Yerton
2 years ago

HI! I just did this and my storage still says 49 GB of 50 GB used by Docs any clue on how to free up docs?

Kathy Kilgore
2 years ago

HUGE QUESTION…. why, did when I did my iCloud backup, did I lose. I mean LOSE all of my contacts and many pictures??? It took 4 hours bc I didn’t trust it. I feel like I was right. And now things are lost forever.. and it did not free up any space (on top of everything!!). What do I do??