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

Very informative but a little complicated. I’ll have to read a few times. Thank you!

1 month ago

Fabulous! Thank you for this clear, concise tutorial.

DAvid Michael
2 months ago

The whole Apple backup system is a scam. Both Amazon and Verizon allow free backups. We need a class action suit against Apple for charging on iCloud. They are a rip off organization!

Dorothy P-S
2 months ago

What if I only have an iPad? Can I back up to that instead of iCloud?

Colin Boyd
2 months ago
Reply to  Dorothy P-S

Hi Dorothy! According to Apple’s website, you can only save a backup to iCloud or a computer. If you’d like more details, here’s a link to a page on Apple’s Support website all about backing up both iPads and iPhones: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204136

I hope this helps!

2 months ago

I did all that and now my iCloud is filled with 3 GB of mail and 2 GB of documents!
What do I do now?

2 months ago

I asked a question about an hour ago, and I can’t seem to find my question or a response. Will the response be emailed to me? Thank you.

2 months ago

Thanks for unraveling this mystery!! I figured all this out on my own but was relieved to hear I did it right with your article. Quick question though that I still can’t get a straight answer to: – I was told by an apple rep( as I was trying to figure out how to do all this before I read your artlcle) and they informed me how iCloud saves the full res versions of the photos in the cloud, and leaves a smaller thumbnail size on my phone. My question is: when I plugged my phone into my Mac &… Read more »

2 months ago

Is this information still applicable in 2021?

Colin Boyd
2 months ago
Reply to  Bobbie

Hi Bobbie! Yes, a lot of this information is still relevant! Thanks for bringing the publication date to our attention. I’ll pass this on to some of our editors, it might be time to revamp this post!

3 months ago

I have a question on step #1: “Plug In Your iPhone To Your Computer And Transfer Your Photos”. So what are the steps for doing the transfer? I read that I have to have iCloud on my PC and then I can upload files to iCloud from the PC. How do I do this? Or can I transfer the pictures just to my pc? I would love to stop paying for extra storage. Thank you.

3 months ago

Why is my iPhone still full… even though I bought more storage?

Tony leverton
3 months ago
Reply to  David Payette

Thanks David great advice